Pros: Removes light-to-medium grade plastic damage and reduces light metal damage.
Cons: Unlikely to restore iPod plastic or metal to factory gloss, adds tiny scratches while removing others, two of three Creme bottles not especially useful.
Scratches and iPods are incompatible, yet inevitable. Even if you pamper your iPod with a soft, protective case, the device’s high-gloss clear plastic and mirror-polished metal will eventually attract small scrapes and scuffs.
Now, according to two makers of iPod case polishes, these blemishes can be reversed. We contacted both companies – iCleaner and RadTech – after seeing their web sites boast that even chewed-up iPods can be restored to their former glory. For the most part, our results were positive. But as with many products, these polishes have interesting strengths and weaknesses that should be understood before you depend upon them for your own personal needs.
They Can’t Perform Miracles
Of the three types of damage an iPod can suffer – blemishing, deep physical damage, and mechanical damage – iCleaner and Ice Creme are only guaranteed to help with the first. Neither product will remedy chipped plastic or a caved-in corner, or for obvious reasons repair defects in the buttons, ports, scroll wheel or internal components of an iPod. Rather, both are designed to remove scratches and scuff marks in originally shiny surfaces, without stripping off an iPod’s engraving or removing first-generation or second-generation iPod button labels unless misused.
It should be noted, however, that blemishing and “deep physical damage” fall at opposite sides of a spectrum, and there’s a possibility that these polishes may be able to remove your scratch even if it’s at a medium level of severity – say, more than a hair’s thickness deep. For reasons explained below, your chances of success are far better if the deep scratch in question is in the plastic rather than the metal.
We tested a total of five polishing solutions from iCleaner and RadTech, three of which were plastic-specific and two of which were designed primarily for metals. Our test hardware included three different iPods – one each of first-, second- and third- generation iPods, each possessing scratches of varying severity in both plastic and metal surfaces. The most serious plastic damage was in our test third-generation iPod, which had been slightly chipped while reviewing a metal case from ProPorta. Our second-generation iPod had the most serious metal damage, a couple of scrapes in the back case that were clearly more than a hair’s thickness. Our first-generation and second-generation iPods had slightly scuffed front faces.
Polishing Off Vanilla Ice Creme
RadTech sent a total of three polishes: Ice Creme A and Ice Creme B are one-ounce bottles of thick, creamy fluids used in tandem to restore plastic surfaces. Ice Creme M is also a one-ounce bottle of cream, but is used solely on an iPod’s metal back surface. The full Ice Creme set includes all three creams, four small square polishing cloths, and a single page of instructions, all packaged inside a cool plastic shipping tube.
Our results with the Ice Creme plastic polishes were decidedly mixed. Ice Creme A is used to work out scratches in preparation for Ice Creme B’s softer polish, which is supposed to “restore the high-gloss” of the iPod’s acrylic. We followed RadTech’s directions to a T, applying sufficient pressure on the polishing cloth and iPod to work out scratches with the A Creme, easily spending the recommended 30-45 minutes of polishing time to work out our second- and third-generation iPods’ surface scratches. It removed the major scuffs and scratches, but left small, thin scratches of its own. Next, we applied the B Creme and continued polishing repeatedly to try and bring back the acrylic gloss, working for 15 minutes as suggested by RadTech.
At the end of the A Creme’s plastic polishing procedure, we had eliminated the small and medium surface scratches on each iPod’s plastic, but could not – as we expected – repair the plastic chip in the 3G iPod. But disappointingly, by the end of the B Creme’s procedure, the high gloss had not come back as promised, and though some of the scratches had become less visible, numerous small surface scratches were still visible on the iPod’s acrylic face – perhaps more than were there when we had started. We tried repeated applications of the B Creme with successively gentler polishes, but saw little to no improvement.
We flipped over to the metal side and tried Ice Creme M on both our second- and third-generation iPods, noticing that RadTech’s instructions surprisingly downplay M’s strength: “We’ve purposely kept the metal compound sufficiently mild to avoid polishing through the chrome plating.” And that’s an understatement. With successive applications of M, we saw little to no improvement in any of our old scratches, and then there were plenty of tiny new scratches to accompany them. We were disappointed. But the Ice Creme story wasn’t over quite yet.
And Then There Was iCleaner
That’s when we first tested iCleaner’s products. The company’s Scratch Remover is a single fluid ounce of thin green liquid intended for plastics, while their Back and Deep Scratch Polish is a 1/4 ounce container primarily intended for metal polishing. iCleaner also makes a third product, Maintenance Polish for tiny plastic scratch removal, which we have not tested.
iCleaner products are available in several bundles: the iCleaner Pro set includes the Scratch Remover and Deep Scratch Polish, plus a terrycloth towel and rubber glove for application of the polishes. The company also sells a bagged set of iCleaner Super Cloths, five microfiber polishing cloths claimed to help polishers achieve “the best results,” and the Maintenance Polish is sold separately with a single Super Cloth. We primarily used the Micro Fiber cloths during our testing, but as per the instructions, had to rely on the rubber glove for Deep Scratch Polish applications. Unlike Ice Creme M, the Deep Scratch Polish is a skin irritant, and because of its glove is a bit less comfortable than Ice Creme M to apply.
We tried iCleaner’s Scratch Remover first on our first-generation iPod, which had a fair amount of scuffing near its screen and other clear acrylic surfaces – problems notably far more visible on first- and second-generation iPods than on the thinner third-generation versions. And we were amazed. Using the Super Cloth and the Scratch Remover as instructed, the smaller scratches quickly faded and disappeared – an improvement noticeable enough that we then pulled out the other two iPods, complete with the residual Ice Creme scratches, and used the iCleaner on them. All three iPods’ faces were restored to their original high gloss. We were thrilled with this result.
iCleaner’s Back and Deep Scratch Polish performed inconsistently. Like RadTech’s Ice Creme M, we found it to be ineffective at restoring the originally pristine beauty of the iPod’s mirror-polished surface, leaving similar small surface scratches in the metal that were visible to the naked eye, a major disappointment given that the Scratch Remover had fixed the plastic so perfectly. It did, as advertised, reduce our second-generation iPod’s medium-depth metal marks, leaving only the most serious metal damage slightly visible on our iPod, and did so more easily than Ice Creme M.
But the Deep Scratch Polish’s results with plastic were comparable to RadTech’s Ice Creme A, with one major difference. Unlike Ice Creme A, the Deep Scratch Polish is supposed to be applied using the fingertips of an included rubber glove. Not only was this application process more cumbersome than with the Ice Creme A, but the glove tore after five applications and the results on plastic never seemed superior enough to RadTech’s to strongly recommend iCleaner’s Polish over the easier Ice Creme A for that purpose.
After hours of polishing our three iPods, we felt that RadTech’s Ice Creme A and iCleaner’s Back and Deep Scratch Polish both did a good job of removing major plastic scratches, but only iCleaner’s Scratch Remover was able to satisfactorily restore our iPods’ factory-fresh front gloss. The overall improvement with iCleaner was the most significant, and we would expect that the average person would have a substantial likelihood of bringing an iPod’s face back to perfection with that product alone.
However, an iPod’s face is only half of the product, and metal polishing is an equally important part of the equation. Even when we followed both companies’ instructions, used their included and recommended cloths, and spent significant time and effort in polishing, we found that neither company’s metal polish did a satisfactory job of restoring factory-quality mirror glossyness to an iPod’s backside, and both products actually added hundreds of tiny swirl scratches to the back of each iPod. This was unquestionably the biggest disappointment in our testing.
We hoped that perhaps since iCleaner’s Deep Scratch Polish did a much better job overall of reducing the scratches, the milder Ice Creme M might work as a superior finishing polish to remove the swirl scratches, but it didn’t. As a result, the backs of our iPods look better than before, but still not as good as they looked when we got them.
In sum, though neither company’s offerings did everything we had expected, iCleaner’s products delivered superior overall results across both metal and plastic, and if we had to recommend just one solution, it would be iCleaner’s. But with that said, under ideal circumstances, our favored combination of products solely for plastic repair purposes would be the easier-to-apply Ice Creme A as a scratch remover, with iCleaner’s Scratch Remover as a follow-up high-gloss polish. We’d prefer to avoid the Deep Scratch Polish for anything but metal polishing, and even then, we wouldn’t want to use it without spare gloves and additional Super Cloths.
Jeremy Horwitz is a consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school -ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.
Company and Price
Model: Ice Creme A and B Set, Ice Creme A, B, and M Set
Price: $19.95, $24.95
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, nano