A Stinky Old iBook that Smells Like Sweat

Last time, I discussed my purchase of a used Dual USB G3 iBook (see eBay No Longer Your Best Source for Low-end Macs). When the iBook arrived, I unpacked it from its tight bubble wrap cocoon, pushed the latch button, and opened it. Immediately, my olfactory sense was stimulated in an astonishingly negative way.

smelly iBookThis iBook reeked of strong, stale male sweat. It “backpacking in the same clothes for a week” reeked. It “90° in the shade, split two cords of wood, and haven’t showered in three days” reeked.

You get the picture.

My first thought: Maybe you can buy novelty synthetic sweat in an aerosol can.

There was a slight chemical quality to the scent. Had this ‘Book been the object of a malicious practical joke, or had someone actually wrung their perspiration-soaked T-shirt out on it?

I booted the iBook, and the smell got worse. When my wife came through the door to the living room, she exclaimed and took a step back.

“It’s not me!” I barked.

This Is Normal?

I emailed the retailer who had sold me the used ‘Book and asked about the cause and projected longevity of the smell. “I am sorry, but that is normal on those older iBooks,” was the brief reply.

I wondered at his use of the word “normal”. This stench was anything but normal.

A search on the words “iBook” and “sweat” verified the technician’s statement. Apparently an adhesive used in the labeling and construction of the keyboard would begin to out-gas about 12-18 months after the iBook was manufactured. This gas smells remarkably like ripe, testosterone-enriched perspiration, and it only gets worse with age.

Somehow my research into G3 ‘Books had missed this tidbit. Who would’ve thought to add “sweat” or “stinks” to the search terms?

The only complete cure for the stinking defect is to replace the keyboard with a brand-new one at the owner’s expense.

All in all, I still felt that the iBook had been a bargain. This particular one had come with a hard drive that was three times the capacity advertised, a strong battery, and a working modem. Since my only connection option from home is dialup, that’s a plus.

I also believed that the odor could be eliminated – or at least lessened – with little or no expense.

I revel in my childlike naiveté.

After a day of leaving the iBook out and open, the smell had eased a little, but it was still very present.

I was able to get close enough to install some applications and updates. I gave the iBook the network name: “Stinking Kevin”, after a character in a Terry Gilliam film.

Thanks for Not iBooking

Knowing what the cause of the odor was didn’t make the situation any better. Granted, this is an unpaid-for extra measure of antitheft protection, but there will come a time when I want to use this ‘Book in a public place.

This conjures thoughts of Internet cafés where entering patrons are asked, “G3 iBook or non-G3 iBook?” If you reply in the affirmative, you are escorted to a special section where you won’t offend the other customers.

A Partial Solution

Not being one to replace a malfunctioning part if I can fix it, I lifted the offending keyboard and closely examined the source of the problem (Imagine placing your nose in an stranger’s unwashed armpit).

Removing the label on the underside of the keyboard proved to be a bad idea. The label lifted, but the adhesive remained firmly stuck in place. This would leave more of the material exposed, creating the necessity of getting it off somehow without damaging the keyboard.

I abandoned the idea after lifting one corner of the label. Working in close proximity to the fumes was also making me feel physically ill.

Removing the smelly label inside the iBook

The offending stinky label sits beneath the iBook’s keyboard.

I purchased a car air freshener and placed it under the keyboard after carefully perforating the label in several places. The end result is an iBook that smells like sweaty bayberry, which is better – at least I think it is. I have read of people using dryer sheets in a similar manner. I may also try placing a small cloth bag of activated filter carbon in the AirPort card bay.

Be sure to read my follow-up article, Deodorizing a Stinky Old iBook that Smells Like Sweat.

Further Reading

Keywords: #smellyibook #sweatyibook #stinkyibook

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