4 Real Solutions To Keyboard Fading, Wearing Off And Greasy Marks + Why This Happens

4 Real Solutions To Keyboard Fading, Wearing Off And Greasy Marks + Why This Happens

by Sebastian Kończak, updated at 13 May 2024, 0 comments

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The more you type, the more your keyboard wears out. Over the last 10 years we saw thousands of keyboards with damaged surface, coming off paint and faded letters. Even the newest MacBooks, HPs, Dells (and other popular brands) were not saved from experiencing ‘shiny keys syndrome’. We literally received tons of photos  from our customers that shown worn-off, greasy-like keys, and if we didn’t know that these devices were the latest models, we would have thought that some keyboards used to have a very tough life.

Sounds like a drama? We have remedies! Be sure to check these, no matter if you just got a new laptop or consider buying a refurbished one. 

Why do keyboards have faded keys?

Before we dive into the solutions, let's see why keyboard letters wear out in the first place. This would also help to understand how can one prevent it from happening. 

Example of keyboard wear and tear effects
Example of keyboard wear and tear.

The main reason is the friction caused by your fingers typing (moving, hitting, sliding). Moreover, the following reasons make the wearing off process much faster (or visible at all):

  • Poor quality materials: Most keyboards are made with low-quality plastic and paints that easily wear off with use. It even doesn't really matter if you buy an expensive laptop or not. It's probably expensive because of the internal stuff or display, but the keyboard will still be most of the time a plastic with a cheap paint on it. It can happen even for Macs or Lenovo ThinkPads (although newer models would have keys that lose their matt-finished surface and start to "shine").
  • Constant use: Over time, the friction from your fingers can wear down the letters and background paint on your keyboard. This can happen especially to heavy keyboard users - gamers (especially on WASD keys), bloggers, researchers, writers.
  • UV exposure: Prolonged exposure to sunlight or artificial light can cause the letters to fade or change in color. This is especially visible on white keyboards (hey, hey Magic Keyboards) which turn yellowish, or dark blue ones turning greenish/grayish.
  • Long fingernails: Uncut fingernails, and especially artificially lengthened fingernails contribute to additional scratches and cracks on keys.
  • All of the above together: You can now clearly see that combining low-quality materials, constant use and light exposure will make your keyboard keys fade, sooner or later, with smaller or greater visible "effect".

4 types of keyboard wear and tear + REAL SOLUTIONS

1. Faded letters and keys

These are the extreme examples of keyboard wear and tear combined with poor quality keyboard materials. Symptoms include worn off paint, paint discoloring and fading in intensity, illegible letters and blobs of gray/white plastic seen underneath, usually with equally-shaped blobs of keyboard backlight.

Solution: replacement keyboard stickers

Our customers invest in these for two reasons: their keys are faded or worn-out, or they're switching the keyboard layout. 

Replacement keyboard stickers perfectly mimic how your keyboard looks brand new. They can have a background color of your choice (most commonly black) and the symbols (letters, digits, icons, arrows etc) are printed. This can be customized too by choosing the symbols color and keyboard layout (maybe you want to type in Colemak after all). 

Replacement keyboard stickers

These stickers have also a protective clear layer on top (which most cheap stickers online doesn't have), which prevents the stickers from wearing out. It's silly to buy wearing-out stickers to fix the wearing-out keyboard problem, don't you agree?

2. "Shiny Key Syndrome"

This is a common syndrome at the beginning of the wear and tear process. On the most durable laptops and keyboards it can be the final stage and never reach the "faded keys" stage. It looks like glossy or shiny spots on the otherwise matt or satin-matt keys in the areas where keyboard is used most. It is very common in newer MacBooks, Lenovo ThinkPads and Dell XPSes.

Solution I: transparent keyboard stickers

These serve as a clear, barely visible barrier to your finger oils and frictions from typing. They don't change how your keyboard looks. They don't affect how you type and won't thicken up your keyboard significantly. They don't block the backlight in any way. They can be custom made to perfectly fit any keyboard you have. They are easy to apply and remove (without any goo left). 
Transparent keyboard stickers
We have many repeat customers who purchases another transparent set when they switch a laptop. This is especially true for MacBooks, where spending $35 for stickers to protect a keyboard in a $1500-2500 laptop is a wise investment for many folks.

Even if somehow these transparent stickers get damaged, you can just replace them with new ones. It's easier and cheaper way than leaving your keyboard unprotected and deal with worn out keys later.
  • keeps matt surface and reduces screen glare
  • allows 100% backlight
  • prevents from getting more keyboard damage
  • long-lasting solution, but not permanent
  • safe to apply and remove anytime
  • thinnest possible, 50 microns only
Solution II: replacement keyboard stickers

These are the same as in point no 1. Replacement stickers bring back the flawless, uniform matt or satin-matt finish to your keyboard. No more shine. You can watch a comparison review of silicone cover and our replacement keyboard stickers done by Jerry Schulze below to fix "glossy" keys. 
  • replaces the whole key surface, you can barely notice that there's a sticker
  • covers and hides the damage with new symbols and color
  • prevents from getting more keyboard damage
  • long-lasting solution, but not permanent
  • safe to apply and remove anytime
  • include protective, clear surface: up to 100 microns in total thickness
3. Mechanical and chemical damage

Sometimes bad things happen and that knife falls on the keyboard. Or that soldering iron you're using to wire electric circuits slipped. Or maybe you spilled some acid, which gobbled up the keyboard surface. These damages have one thing in common - an uneven key surface, with dents, holes, or scratches.
Keyboard mechanical and chemical damage
Solution: keycap or whole keyboard replacement

You can replace the damaged keycaps with new ones. Some laptop/keyboard manufacturers offer replacement keycap sets. This is a great option if only a few keys are affected. 

It can be a problem installing it though, as key mechanisms are tiny, delicate, and can be damaged easily. Probably only a mechanical keyboard with replaceable keycaps is the "easy" option here.

You can also replace the whole keyboard. There are few problems though: 
  • You have to find the keyboard for the right laptop model, in your desired layout. Unfortunately, some manufacturers block the availability of some keyboard layouts in certain countries and regions. You can't easily buy a Japanese keyboard in Europe. This could be a serious problem for expats living in another continent.
  • You have to replace the old keyboard. In modern laptops this means disassembling the whole device, which should probably be done by professionals with the right tools and knowledge.
  • This is economically sound for a severely damaged keyboard. Most of people would prefer to dump the whole thing.
  • It's money intensive and time consuming. You have to buy the new keyboard, wait for the delivery, pay for the repair, wait for it to be repaired and returned to you.

4. Yellow stains on Magic Keyboard & white ABS keyboards

White keyboards - especially made with ABS plastic - given the sunlight or artificial light and time, will turn yellowish. It may look like dirt or dust, but it's the dye itself and unfortunately cannot be "cleaned".

Solution: replacement keyboard stickers with white background

These are the same as in points no 1 and 2, but they mimic white keyboards. They have white background and (usually) black symbols printed on them. Again, these stickers have also a protective clear layer on top (which most cheap stickers online doesn't have), which prevents the stickers from wearing out. Even if the white dye in stickers gets yellowish, you can just easily replace them with a new, fresh set.

White keyboard stickers

Myths on preventing keyboard fading

Now that we know the reasons behind fading keyboard letters and solutions to that, let's explore some common myths related to keeping the keyboard from wearing out and why these advices don't work.

1. Cleaning your keyboard regularly will prevent fading

Regular cleaning will remove the oils and dirt and definitely doing that will make typing more comfortable. But it has almost nothing to do with keys wearing out. Keyboards fade and wear out mainly because of friction caused by your fingers moving, hitting and sliding over keys, over time.

2. Avoid eating and drinking near your keyboard

Accidental spills can be disastrous for your keyboard. Preventing any liquid from seeping into the keys and causing damage is advisable. But again, spills and crumbs have nothing to do with wear, they will only cause your keyboard look dirty, and maybe non-working. Very small crumbs, sand, or sharp dust can contribute to keyboard wearing out, because they add friction to your finger movements.

3. Use a keyboard cover

A keyboard cover acts as a thick protective silicone barrier between your fingers and the keys. It can help reduce the effects of spilling liquids or spreading crumbs. Keyboard covers have their serious disadvantages though, and they don't prevent keyboard fading. 

You will still need to clean the dust from keyboard under the cover and remove it from time to time. This will expose your keyboard to elements and - again - frictions. Also, silicone covers are flexible, which means that you will still cause frictions - not from your fingers - but from flexing and moving silicone. Add some dust between silicone and keys, and you will have more friction. 

Also, silicone covers thicken up your keyboard and change the way you type - so if you type a lot - this could be frustrating.

The ultimate solution to prevent the keyboard from any damage

Got a brand new laptop or keyboard and you're wondering what to do to prevent any wear and tear? Simply invest in transparent keyboard stickers. Here's why it's worth spending additional money:
  • Have clean and aesthetic look for years to come
  • Keep the maximum value of your equipment
  • Brand new look = easy to sell once it's time for a change
  • Perfect-fit size and full backlight compatibility
For a record: transparent keyboard stickers aren't great for preventing yellow stains on white keyboards, because they let all the light through to the keyboard surface. White replacement keyboard stickers would be the best solution in this case. 

What if you want something more personalized? Check out these decorative keyboard stickers or go wild and create your custom set.

By utilizing the solutions mentioned above, you can keep your keyboard keys looking vibrant and legible for a long time. If you find this article useful, please spread the word by using the icons below. Thanks!

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Sebastian Kończak
Sebastian Kończak

Multi-discipline man and co-founder at Keyshorts. I write about working from home, productivity hacks, e-commerce and keyboards.

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Keyshorts keyboard stickers
Keyboards are made for masses. Keyshorts are made exactly for you. Cover existing symbols, add languages while keeping backlight, decorate your keyboard and prevent keys from fading.


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