by Kevin O'Brien
If you purchased a tablet or notebook in the past couple of years, chances are pretty good that you were stuck with a glossy plastic finish whether you liked it or not. These notebooks look great when new, but they get full of fingerprints or worse, scratches. Just the act of sliding the notebook or tablet into a backpack can scratch some of these delicate surfaces, and from then on they look horrible. All hope is not lost though, as you can lessen or completely remove the scratches with a bit of elbow grease and some plastic polish. This guide covers all the basics and hopefully shows you how to get your notebook looking great again.
No brand is immune from this problem, with most manufactures offering at least one notebook with a glossy plastic exterior. Below is a small list outlining some popular tablet/notebooks that have glossy finishes:
HP: tx series, almost the entire consumer lineup
Toshiba: Satellite and Portege
Fujitsu: LifeBooks, U810
Dell: New Vostros and XT tablet
Not all scratches will disappear; this guide isn't about making a notebook look as if the wrapper just came off. That would be almost impossible without a great deal of work and running the risk of creating permanent damage. We hope that if you follow this guide your outcome will be a notebook in better condition than before you started. However, any application of polishing liquids will likely expose your notebook to abrasive compounds that could, in theory, cause additional damage to the finish. Proceed at your own risk.
I chose Novus plastic cleaner for this guide since I had good luck with this polish in the past. You probably won't find it at your local autoparts store, but it can be easily and cheaply purchased online. I went to McMaster-Carr for this purchase, where it cost $17 plus shipping. The Meguiar's Scratch-X came from my local Advanced Auto store for $8, but it can be found online as well. The Scratch-X polish was added to the mix since it was a finer polish than the Novus cleaners and helped give the notebook a much smoother final look.
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Cleaning the notebook
Before you even touch the notebook with some of the fine rubbing compound to buff out scratches, you want the notebook to be clean enough to eat off of. You need to remove any leftover dust or fine grit that might re-scratch your notebook during the polishing process, which would make it look much worse than when you started. A damp cloth sprayed with the Novus Step 1 polish (just a cleaning spray) will work, or plain soap and water.
Polishing the notebook
Start off with the Novus #3 or Novus #2 depending on how bad the scratches are. If you have a very mild scuff that you can't feel with your fingernail, start with the #2 fine scratch remover. If it is deep enough to catch your fingernail, you will need to start with the #3 heavy scratch remover. Apply the polish to a clean cloth and gently rub the surface of the notebook. A circular motion or just up and down will work fine. Continue rubbing the polish onto the surface until it starts to dry and absorb into your cloth. When barely anything is left on the surface, wipe the dried polish bits off the notebook and inspect the surface.
Don't be alarmed if you see many fine scratches. If you started with the number 3 cleaner, it will leave a mild haze. The important thing are the original blemishes on the notebook, and if they have been removed or greatly lessened. Deep scratches will be impossible to completely remove unless you polish away a good deal of the plastic layer. I prefer to just smooth off the rough edges and let them blend into the notebook surface.
Move onto the finer polish once you find the original blemish to be acceptable. Apply it in the same manner, with a gentle motion and continue until the polish completely dries and absorbs into your cloth. Continue this step until the original polished area matches the surrounding notebook surface. It might take a few reapplications before all of the haze and fine scratches are gone. If you had deep scratches when you started, you will still see them, but they should be less noticeable and blended into the glossy finish.
Below is a quick example of a line of fine scratches being removed from the lid of a glossy Acer notebook. First picture is before, second is after the #3 polish, and last is after the fine polish.
Before (view large image)
After #3 polish (view large image)
After both #3 polish and fine polish (view large image)
Notice how the bulk of the scratches were removed, and you are left with the deeper marks. Once the highly scuffed area is polished the visibility of the scratches is greatly reduced. You are only left with deep blemishes that are only visible under close scrutiny. Each stage of the polishing took about 30-45 seconds and the entire process took roughly five minutes. Additional polishing effort (much greater time) might yield better results.
Results may vary
Depending on the exact glossy surface and the process used you might remove all marks or be left with some leftovers from an abusive past. While our example shows the process with regular "by hand" application, some of our more adventurous readers might experiment with power buffers or additional applications. This could yield much better results, but also runs the risk of wearing away more of the surface with the possibility of damaging the glossy notebook further.
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