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Are your devices covered in dust, fingerprints, and smudges? It’s tempting to spray and wipe them down during your next cleaning sprint. Hold on! You may accidentally scratch your LCD, damage your touchscreen, 5 Tips to Resolve Your Tablet's Touchscreen Problems 5 Tips to Resolve Your Tablet's Touchscreen Problems Tapping, swiping or zoom-pinching, there's often a moment when the touchscreen display on your tablet refuses to respond. How do you overcome this, and achieve tablet-tapping Zen? Read More  or cause a short circuit.

So what’s the proper way to clean a dirty screen? The advice you find when turning to manufacturers for cleaning instructions How To Safely Clean Your Tablet Or Smartphone's Touchscreen How To Safely Clean Your Tablet Or Smartphone's Touchscreen Cleaning a touchscreen is simple. You don’t need a special cleaning kit or cleaning solution to safely clean your tablet or smartphone’s touchscreen – you can do it with materials you probably have on hand.... Read More is littered with warnings, and worse, some recommendations may even be conflicting. We shall focus on what you should do and why.

What You Need

You really only need one thing; a good microfiber cloth. The rest is optional. Here’s a list:

  • microfiber cloth
  • optional: lukewarm water
  • optional: spray bottle
  • optional: dishwashing soap

Why Should I Use A Microfiber Cloth?

For a flawless result, we recommend using a microfiber cloth because they are lint-free and won’t damage your screen. You can easily get a pack of six microfiber clothes from Amazon for under $9. Non-microfiber cleaning cloths, paper towels, or other fabrics (yes, I’m referring to your shirt) may leave traces like streaks, lint, and micro-scratches. If you don’t have a household microfiber handy, a cleaning cloth for glasses will do, too.

Glasses

I Can Use A Dry Cloth?

Yes! The fabric is designed to work like a dust and dirt magnet, so you can easily remove dust and light stains with a dry microfiber cloth.

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Microfiber Cloth

A damp cloth might help getting some more persistent smudges off. This is where the spray bottle comes in. Use it to dampen the cloth (not the display!) by covering it in a mist of lukewarm water.

If you’re dealing with displays covered in greasy stains, you can add a drop of liquid dishwashing detergent to the lukewarm water. While a damp cloth can remove the grease by itself, the soap will help with dissolving and thus loosening any grease on the surface.

Why Should The Water Be Lukewarm?

Physics. Warm water has more heat and therefore higher kinetic energy than cold water. This energy is transferred to anything that comes in contact with the water, meaning it will dissolve dirt or soap faster. If the water is too hot, however, it could damage plastics, which is why we recommend lukewarm water.

What You Should Never Ever Do

Simply put, you should not use anything other than what’s recommended above and you should use common sense. More precisely:

Scratched Glass

How To Clean Your Monitors, TV & Touchscreen Displays

We recommend that you turn off the device before you start.

Assuming your display is only lightly covered in dust and fingerprints, we recommend using a dry microfiber cloth. Start in the top and gently wipe the screen from one side to the other and back, slowly moving down until you have wiped the entire surface. Lightly rub any remaining spots until they’re clean and wipe the screen down one more time.

Screen Cleaning

If your display is slightly more dirty, dampen one end of the cloth by spraying it with lukewarm water. To take off the bulk of the crud, carefully wipe down the entire surface in small circles using the damp end. Gently rub remaining spots until they’re gone. Should you struggle with removing grime using a damp cloth, add some soap to the lukewarm water before spraying the cloth again. Pre-treat stains individually before giving the entire screen a thorough cleaning. Finish by wiping the screen down one last time from one side to the other and top to bottom with the dry end of the cloth.

What Else Needs Cleaning?

Don’t forget to clean your microfiber cloth after you’ve used it! Soak it in warm, soapy water, thoroughly rinse it out, and let it air dry.

By the way, The Wall Street Journal tested cleaning products and found that when it came to cleaning screens, water and a microfiber cloth were just as effective as dedicated kits. For taking off gunk and stains from keyboards and touchpads, however, they did recommend the tested cleaning products.

So while you’re at it, why don’t you clean the rest of your hardware A Spring Cleaning Checklist For Your PC Part 1: Hardware Cleaning A Spring Cleaning Checklist For Your PC Part 1: Hardware Cleaning With the arrival of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, houses across the globe get a nice cleaning to rid them of dirt and clutter that has accumulated over the past year. Dust and junk also... Read More ? What item will be your biggest challenge? And when was the last time you cleaned your windows?

Image Credits: Feature Image by IntelFreePress via Flickr, Glasses by mayeesherr via FlickrMicrofiber Cloth by Steve A. Johnson via Flickr, Scratched Glass by borealnz via FlickrClean Screening by IntelFreePress via Flickr

  1. gdv
    May 24, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Water mist from spray bottle on a microfiber cloth works well... ...but regardless of the original (hot, lukewarm, or even ice cold) temperature of water in the spray bottle, a fine mist will likely be close to ambient temperature by the time it hits the cloth and certainly by the time it is applied to the screen (if not slightly below ambient temperature due to the cooling effect of evaporation). The tiny droplets in the mist simply do not have sufficient mass to retain the original bottled water temperature in their journey through the air to the cloth.

    Personally, in spite of there being some ammonia in the mix, I've never seen any adverse effect from a mist of Windex® (or similar glass cleaner) applied to a microfiber cloth and used on glass or plastic screens of any phone, laptop, desktop monitor (LCD or CRT), or TV. Works better than plain water, as well as or better than soapy water, and is already present in a spray bottle in most households (with no mixing required). It has been completely benign on any plastic screen I've tried it on and generally dries more streak-free than plain water.

    Nevertheless, if something is needed to cut oily smudges (or the sometimes very tenacious small splatters from coughing or sneezing on a screen), a small amount of dishwashing soap in water would be a safer (or at least more cautious) approach on plastics.

    • Tina S
      May 24, 2014 at 9:33 am

      Thank you for this well thought out comment!

      Touché on the cooling effect of evaporation. I'd add that water will also evaporate from the cloth, taking heat energy with it. This, however, is more than compensated by a warm hand handling the cloth.

  2. Bniedem M
    May 20, 2014 at 7:32 am

    I think the article should have dealt with cleaning the keyboard. This is more difficult to clean than a flat monitor screen.
    Should one use a soft dry brush or a slightly-damp brush? Liquid soap solution?
    What is recommended for taking off gunk and stains from keyboards and touchpads?

  3. A.O. Sarabia
    May 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Wow! You sure have a great soapbox to stand on, don't you?

    This article is nonsense. Aside from harsh chemicals (the only worthy point), these screens are tough as nails. If I spent $9 for micro-fiber cloths to clean my screens, I would prefer to be checked by a good physician for sanity.

    • Tina S
      May 19, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Ha! I actually don't remember adding the Amazon link. Must have been done by my editor. I just use the free microfiber cloths you get with new glasses (and for free if you go for service) or monitors.

      I do stand by my recommendation for microfiber cloths. They just pick up dust and remove dirt more efficiently, while not leaving lint behind.

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