Soft-touch surfaces - what to do when they turn sticky?!

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Soft-touch surfaces - what to do when they turn sticky?!

Post by Downunder35m »

Back in the day natural rubber was used to protect handles and similar when it was a heavy duty tool.
This nice feeling made it into our daily life in the form of synthetic rubbers.

Be it you old tablet, certain camery gear or just your nice kitchen knife - once the softener drains out and they go sticky it is often a bin case.
No one likes to touch it anymore and worse if it was something you packed away and forgot about it.
I guess it is one of the nightmares we have to endure in our modern world - or do we??

I had a few cases of long term neglect turned sticky mess.
And I tried the entire book on some of the cheap culprits.
I could make a really long list of obvious cleaning and rubber/plastic care products that simply don't work - or that will make the problem worse shortly after.
No fun in that, so what to do to fix it?

The chemicals used to make the fake rubber soft are usually not listed anywhere and there is a lot of options.
So I decided to limits them on the base of the material under the sticky surface.
For tools it is often ABS, for electronics it can be some metal, ABS, PS and PC.
If you can take the housing apart, cleaning is much easier as you don't have to worry about cleaning solution getting inside and damaging electronics.
Plus you might find a hint in the form of some enrgaving or embossing with a code or name of the plastic used.
For the rare case that you are certain about the kind of plastic and that is neither ABS nor PS you could use Acetone.
But I don't like it too much as it evaporates too quick and just stinks.
An alternative that works on all synthetic rubbers and plastics underneath is citrus oil.
Does not matter much if it is orange or lemon based here.
Simply rub it in for a minute or so using a brush or lint free cloth and then wait.
After about 10 minutes check if you can drag the sticky stuff off with some paper towel.
Not all might come off in the first go, especially is the coating is a bit thicker, so if in doubt repeat.
Once the thin coating is dissolved and rubbed off you will notice the paper towel just slides over the surface when you take the oil off - you are done and can clean the oil off with some soapy water.
Another oil than can work really good is eucalyptus oil.
However you should really do a spot test with it first and use the least important and smalles area possible!
Apply same way as the citrus oil but don't waste too much time.
Using a lint free cloth keep rubbing the oily surface.
If the oil starts to turn black from the rubber coming off continue until it starts to feel tacky.
Change the cloth or area of the cloth and kepp going, add a tiny amount of oil if running dry.
The spot check is important as I notices that eucalyptus oils can affect certain hard plastics, especially acrylic ones - they turn milky or get brittle.

Ok, but my thing is covered by a thick rubber that has gone sticky and that also feels soft and somewhat sluggish !!??
Some things come with really thick covers, not just surface coatings.
If they are black there is a high chance it is a natural rubber, but it does not mean anything on cheap stuff (could be anything here).
Trying to remove the sticky stuff would be next to impossible with the entire cover or sleeve being the same soft material.
And if the soft touch surface is colored removing it could mean ending with a pale grey or worse.
The solution here is cheat.
If we can not remove the stick stuff then we have to turn sticky into soft and no-stick again.
In some cases talcum powder (still used in some baby powders) can do real magic but it needs to be applied properly.
First use a sponge or lint free cloth and a sodium bicarbonate solution (baking powder and water) to clean off dirt and lint that might already be stuck on the surface.
Let air dry.
Now put a SMALL amount of talcum poweder in your hand and dip your finger in it.
Rub the finger off on the sticky surface and repeat until you covered all.
Sound time consuming but is surprisingly fast as you really only need tiny amount of powder.
Now all loks a bit pale and far from shiny :(
Still some powder left in your hand? ;)
Rub it over your palms and shake off - blow off if you do it in a dry fashion.
Now rub your part with your hands - the will acts like a polisher.
The powder disappears into the surface and blends in.
As it is a really slippery stuff you get the siftness back but you will no longer stick to it.

It is really, really soft and always was soft, talcum powder doesn't cut it!
I had such a rare case and was about to toss it out anyway until I tried something out of the blue.
Filtering pwder, as used for making bio fuel of filtering commercail deep fryers.
It is magnesium silicate and has a similar surface porousity as activated carbon.
Unlike the talcum powder the silicate is more like a binder.
It absorbs the softener but is itself a quite hard material (compared to activated carbon).
Means it "sticks" to the rubber and the softener - a win-win situation.
You could use it on surface coatings but in these thin bits you have a good chance that the result is more plastic like surface with way less softness over time.
But unlike the talcum powder it keeps some of the grippiness in the soft stuff.
Exploring the works of the old inventors, mixng them up with a modern touch.
To tinker and create means to be alive.
Bringing the long lost back means history comes alive again.
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