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Check out the letter "A" in the image. Why is it smudging / wearing off?

MacBook Pro keyboard

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  • Are you right-handed? After years of apple keyboards with this problem I time-lapsed my left hand for a day. I found that when my right hand departs for the mouse, I unconsciously "anchor" my left with friction from the 4th and 5th finger tip/nail. That and I frequently lean forward-left in my chair, which curls the left fingers under, causing more nail grind than the right. Mar 3 at 21:29
  • For context, just lurked this question out after being on replacementlaptopkeys.com for A S and D on a magic keyboard I bought 4 months ago Mar 3 at 21:31

4 Answers 4

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The keys on Apple's laptops are translucent plastic, with black paint applied on the surface. The letter is 'reversed out' of the black paint, backlit through the translucent portion. So it's not white paint smudging, but black paint wearing off.

Those keys are pressed millions of times. And each press involve some degree of friction, which means the removal of matter. The sweat from your fingers is slightly acidic; and who knows what other oils and particles might get transferred from your sandwich. It's possible - or even likely - that a laptop keyboard might get other 'matter' spilt or splashed onto it.

Any or all of these things might act as a combination of solvent and abrasive. If you use a microscope or macro lens you will see this chipping clearly.

Obviously, the designers know this, and try to make a keyboard whose paint will resist the rigours of a lifetime's use. However, nothing is impervious. How old is your Mac?

As to why this key and no others? A is certainly a key that's going to get more finger-rest and usage than others. It's just the perfect storm of the right amount of wear with a particular mix of particles and chemicals.

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younger
⤅ +25y ⤅
older

True! No real answer but easy to understand...

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I've had this exact same issue, and it is always those 3 or 4 keys. It happened to me just 6 months after owning the Macbook Pro this year (2020). They replaced the board, but by Oct it started again.

I don't accept that it is based on how you type tho. I had a Macbook Air for about 7 years or so, and sold it looking almost like new. It is how they are made. Whether they are made cheaper, I don't know.

Anyway, it happened again and Amazon came to the result as I got it from them. I've now got a replacement unit. Different keyboard too, so hopefully it's better quality.

For Apple you expect it to be the best. They always say they do the best, not the cheapest.

But yes, I've had that issue, TWICE within 12 months.

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  • It is not how you type, it is a combination of the pH of your sweat (you can’t do anything about this) and skin oils (or this), how clean your hands are, and how much other particulates there are to settle on the keyboard. Some brands or models are better for some people than others. I have a friend who can wear the labels off a MBP keyboard in 6 months while I have one that is 12 years old and the keyboard looks basically brand new.
    – lbutlr
    Dec 31, 2020 at 23:07
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    A £1,200 laptop should not have keys wearing through in just 6 months. There must be a better way to make it, if the market leaders can only make them last that long. If the MBA can last 6-7 years with NO wear, why can a 2020 MacBook Pro only last 6 months. Interesting.
    – Simon_a6
    Jan 2, 2021 at 0:03
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Seen this on many keyboards of many manufacturers - it’s about how you “hit” the keys...

With a slight sliding action you will eventually wear away the material.

You could use a keyboard cover to protect the keys from further wear, but some say they don’t like the different feel - that’s a choice to make.

And, you are not alone - been happening on mine as well... As in the shift key and the command key.

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