HomeHome : Monthly Tips : Feb 2013

Clean Your Screen

February 2013 — Tip of the Month

When I used to work at a computer store, one of the most common questions people asked me was, "How should I clean my computer screen?" It seems like an obvious question, but when you consider there are dozens of different cleaning liquids and cloths available, the best method is not so clear.

Many computer stores and other retailers sell screen cleaning kits, which typically include a sprayable cleaning liquid and a soft cloth. These work well, though I am not a big fan of them since they are overpriced and the liquid gets all over other things when you spray it. Some stores also sell disposable cleaning cloths, which also do the job, but they are even more overpriced and less friendly to the environment.

My recommended way to clean your screen is with water and a hand towel. Simply wet part of the towel to clean your screen and use the dry part to dry it. Since fingerprints, dust, and other grime wash away with water, you really don't need anything more powerful. The terry cloth material works great at removing smudges without damaging your screen. I remember one time I tried cleaning the bezel of my flatscreen TV with several different cleaning kits I had lying around the house. None of them left of streak-free finish. Finally, I just used a bath towel and it did the job perfectly.

If you find that some spots don't rub off to easily, you can let the liquid sit on your screen for awhile to let the grime loosen up. If your screen is not protected by a hard material (e.g., a matte laptop screen), you should not press to hard. If you are cleaning your smartphone or tablet, you can of course press a lot harder without damaging the screen.

Perhaps the most important screen-cleaning advice is what not to use. While you can use Windex to avoid streaking on large screens, you should stay away from more potent solutions, especially liquids containing ammonia. Strong cleaning products can eat away at the screen material and may cause permanent damage to your screen.

Also, avoid using paper towels. While paper towels may feel soft, they are made out of wood particles and therefore can be surprisingly abrasive. If you rub a paper towel too hard on plastic or glass, you can scratch the surface. Therefore, next time you are tempted to use a nearby napkin or paper towel to wipe off your screen, reach for a microfiber cloth or cotton towel instead.

- Per Christensson