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Want to repair a scratched smartphone screen? Some articles online recommend using sandpaper, Turtle Wax, toothpaste, baking soda, or even vegetable oil. Don’t fall for these insane tips — there’s only one way to actually fix your problem. These crazy-looking tips will just damage your screen even more.
These tips are all from Daniel Johnson over at The Telegraph. Articles like this one are written by authors who didn’t actually try these tips on their own devices. They don’t understand how these methods actually work — if they did, they wouldn’t spread bad information.
The One Good Tip – Replace the Damaged Display
First, there’s one good tip here. If your screen is damaged, you can fix it by replacing the display. Your manufacturer may do this for you if your device is still under warranty. If it’s not under warranty, you can try replacing the screen yourself. You’ll need to buy a new touchscreen display for your device, take your device apart, and install the new display. This will be easier on some devices than on others, so whether it’s worth it is up to you. Bear in mind that you could damage your phone or tablet by performing this repair.
We’ve previously covered replacing a damaged touch-screen display on your own.
We’ll start with the most obviously crazy tip. What exactly does sandpaper do? It grinds against a surface, removing material. For example, you might use sandpaper to remove a layer of old paint from furniture. If you used sandpaper to erase a scratch on a wooden chair, it would erase the scratch by sanding down all the material around the scratch until everything else is level with the scratch.
So, if your screen has a scratch and you start sandpapering it, you’re not fixing your screen. You’re really just scratching your entire display. Even if you use super-fine sandpaper, you’re removing an important layer of coating. You’re better off living with a few scratches than scratching the entire surface of your screen.
“Turtle Wax, and Other Oils and Creams”
The author correctly notes that using Turtle Wax will remove the oleophobic coating on modern touchscreen devices. Oleophobic coating is an oil-repellent coating that repels the oils on your fingers and helps reduce unsightly smudges. Removing the coating means your phone will pick up more oil and smudges.
So, how do Turtle Wax and other “scratch repair kits” designed for cars work? Most of these scratch repair kits are intended for metal and paint problems, not even the glass windshields or windows on a car! Turtle Wax does offer an “intensive cream glass polish” product that “uses ultra-fine particles to remove ingrained dirt, light scratches, and wiper haze from windscreens.” In other words, Turtle Wax and similar products work by removing the top layer of your phone’s touchscreen display. This is basically just like using sandpaper.
Toothpaste is occasionally used to fix scratched CDs. Here’s how toothpaste fixes scratched CDs:
“You are essentially “sanding” down the imperfection on the surface of the polycarbonate plastic layer [of the CD]. By sanding away the imperfection, you’re removing deflection of the laser beam, and by doing so you’re correcting the problem.”
In other words, you’re sanding down the bottom surface of the CD. This results in a flat surface, so the laser beam will be able to read the damaged CD. This may work on CDs. But, if you do this on a smartphone display, you might as well be using Turtle Wax or sandpaper. It’s a bad idea for the same reason.
This ridiculous article also recommends mixing baking soda and water and rubbing the paste on your screen. You’ve probably guessed why this is a bad idea by now — baking soda is abrasive, so you’re just sanding down your screen again.
“Egg and Potassium Aluminum Sulphate Mixture”
This is the most bizarre tip here. It’s basically a little chemistry project — you need an egg white, aluminum foil, and alum. You combine the egg white with the alum in a saucepan on your stove, cook it, soak a microfiber cloth in it, wrap that cloth in aluminum foil, and bake it in the oven. You then rinse the cloth and bake it a few more times.
If this sounds insane to you, you’re not alone. We’re not chemists here, so we’re not really sure what is going on. The author grabbed this method from a Yahoo Voices article. No website online explains why this method is supposed to work. This isn’t a magic spell, so at best it will just work like all the other methods and sand down your smartphone’s screen. At worst, it could cause even more problems.
This tip is just silly. The author notes that “this really is a temporary and a cosmetic fix.” The idea is that you apply a small drop of vegetable oil to your screen. The oil will fill in the scratch and makes it less visible. But the vegetable oil will leave the cracks on your phone when you put your phone in your pocket or just swipe your finger over it. You’ll end up with vegetable oil on your hands, in your pocket, and over the surface of your display. Now you have two problems.
We’re not sure why anyone would ever do this. Someone might try applying oil to their scratched smartphone before attempting to sell it so the buyer wouldn’t notice the scratch, but the buyer might just ask why there’s oil all over the phone’s screen.
It’s never a good idea to sand down your smartphone or tablet’s display. Even if you had amazingly fine sandpaper and you did a perfect job, you’d be removing an important layer of coating on top of your smartphone’s display. In the real world, you won’t have perfectly fine sandpaper so you’ll end up with more small scratches all over your screen. You might not be able to notice them, but your display might appear a bit cloudier — those are the scratches.
We hope none of The Telegraph’s readers actually took these tips seriously.
Image Credit: Debs (ò?ó)? on Flickr, Removing paint from chair via Shutterstock, Jayson on Flickr, Toothpaste via Shutterstock, Baking soda via Shutterstock, Whipped egg whites via Shutterstock, Vegetable oil via Shutterstock