The $19 Apple Polishing Cloth is a parody of an Apple product in that it perfectly embodies the concept of a brand premium. And, unlike my college favorite burrito joint, which joked about its fine-dining goals by offering a $50 menu item, the Polishing Cloth is absolutely real (and currently back-ordered until 2022). It was released in conjunction with Apple’s redesigned MacBook Pro lineup earlier this year, and my cloth arrived much later than the MacBook Pro I ordered at the same time. Aside from its absurd price, the cloth does a good job of cleaning dust, stains, and fingerprints off most electronics, but it struggles with glass surfaces.
From Poverty to Prosperity
The Polishing Cloth isn’t Apple’s first pricey item, and it’s unlikely to be the last. The Apple Mac Pro Wheels Kit, a $699 pair of four rubber wheels for its Mac Pro computer, is the most notable recent example.
Apple isn’t the only company that raises component prices, but its markups are notoriously high. For example, Apple charges $600 for 32GB RAM chips for a 27-inch iMac, yet Other World Computing charges only $132.75. (OWC). A 2TB iMac SSD costs $600 at Apple, but $409 at OWC. Despite this, Apple’s markup for its cloth (which costs around 32 times more than comparable products) appears to be particularly excessive.
Feels Like Alcantara
The Apple Cloth comes in a slim box with a cardboard insert declaring it “safe for use on all Apple displays and surfaces.” This is the only cloth Apple recommends for use with the “nano-texture” matte panel on the $5,000 Apple Pro Display XDR and the optional $300 nano-texture add-on for the 27-inch iMac from last year. Yes, I have severe reservations about the product’s price, but if you’re buying a monitor for several thousand dollars, a $19 cleaning cloth won’t seem so absurd.
A translation of “polishing cloth” in seven different languages may be found on the back of the box. “Poliertuch,” in particular, amuses me in German. While “tuch” in German clearly means “cloth,” it reminds me of the Yiddish term “tuchus,” which has a completely different meaning.
The gray cloth has two layers that are held together by a flatter edge surrounding it. The lower right corner has an embossed Apple logo. The microfiber material has a similar feel to Microsoft’s Alcantara. In comparison to lesser cloths that are textured or just soft, it feels a little sticky and nearly greasy to my fingers. The varied texture is probably what keeps it from causing damage to the nano-texture monitors. I was disappointed to discover that my cloth had a wrinkle, but after laying it flat for a while, it smoothed out.
Is It Polishable?
Phones and laptops function better with the Apple Polishing Cloth than eyeglasses or glass tables. On an Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max, a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, a 27-inch iMac, and a particularly greasy Huawei P30 Pro, a rapid, clean swipe removed fingerprints. It doesn’t appear to clean Apple products any better than non-Apple products, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try it on a nano-texture monitor.
Both jam and mayonnaise smudges on the iPhone 13 Pro Max required some effort to remove: I used one side of the towel to pick up the majority of the mess and the other to polish the screen to a smudge-free shine. Although the cloth continued to glide smoothly, some oil from the mayonnaise spot was taken up. Apple recommends hand washing the cloth with dish detergent and water and then allowing it to dry for 24 hours.
When I went to wipe my glasses with the cloth, it really rubbed against the anti-glare coating, which I’m quite sure it is. By contrast, the complimentary cloth provided by Warby Parker glides much more effortlessly. When I tried to use the cloth on a glass coffee table, I encountered comparable resistance, probably due to a coating.
Only for true Apple aficionados
Microfiber cloths don’t usually cost $20. For reference, a bag of six highly rated Koala Cloths costs $8. For less than $15, Amazon’s AmazonBasics brand sells 24 cloths. Even the ShamWow, famous for its TV commercials, is only $8.
Even while Apple’s official page on how to clean your iPhone just recommends using a “clean, wet, lint-free cloth,” the Apple Polishing Cloth perfectly displays the power of the company’s branding. Fans will buy everything that Apple sells that fulfills the definition.
We evaluate products primarily on their usefulness and value. The Apple Polishing Cloth is incredibly useful, however it has very little value (unless you have one of those rare nano-texture monitors). The experience is worth the $19 for tech completists with disposable income. Everyone else, on the other hand, should save their money.