We have all been there before. You gather your family around the television. The popcorn is popped, the lights are dimmed, and you press play on the remote control. And then you see it. The giant smudge in the middle of your screen! You’ll never enjoy the film knowing that it’s there, so stopping everything to clean it is your only option.
But before you go for the paper towels and Windex, you need to stop and think about the best tools for the job. By using the wrong solutions or products, you could do irreparable damage to your TV, which could be very costly in repairs or replacements. To help you out, we have provided the ins and outs of screen cleaning so you can enjoy your favorite movie or video game without the hassle.
Which Products to Avoid While Cleaning Screens
While we still have your attention, it is important that we tell you what you should never use to clean your LCD television or computer monitor. Most television screens these days have an LCD, or Liquid-Crystal Display, which gives us the vibrant picture that we are all used to these days. However, the display is also more fragile and easier to scratch, so careful cleaning is a must.
Keep the following items far away from your LCD screen:
Do Not Use Windex on Flat Screen TVS
Back in the day, our old CRT televisions were made of glass so Windex would leave a smudge-free shine like it would on the windows of your home. However, the chemicals that give Windex its cleaning power (alcohol, ammonia, and lauramine oxide), can also be the downfall of your TV as these components will likely damage the top layer of your screen, which will reduce the protection your screen provides and potentially distort the picture.
Paper Towels WIll Scratch Your TV or Computer Screen
Even if you clean your TV screen using the proper methods we mention below, you must never use paper towels to do the job. Even if you don’t push hard, paper towels will easily scratch the screen of your television, and once it is scratched, fixing the damage is just about impossible. For the same reasons, you should also avoid using toilet paper or a rag to clean the screen.
Some people might believe that using soft baby wipes is the best choice, but these should also be avoided. Even if they don’t scratch the screen, they will leave a residue that will be hard to remove and will only lead to frustration.
How to Properly Clean Your Flat Screen TV
Now that you know what not to do, let’s get into the best process for cleaning a flat screen LCD TV as agreed upon by most tech experts.
- The best way to scrub your screen is with a soft, microfiber cloth, preferably one that is new and clean.
- Next, you will need a cleaning solution. There are products that you can purchase online that are specifically made for LCD screens or you can make your own cleaner at home. A few recommended products include EVEO Screen Cleaner Spray, Endust Pop-Up Wipes, and ZEISS Mobile screen wipes.
- Find a spray bottle and mix eight ounces of distilled water with eight ounces of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, simple plain vinegar will work as well.
- Before you start using our spray, turn off and unplug the television so you don’t get liquid where you’re not supposed to. Getting it into the wiring of the TV could damage it for good. Not only that, but the black screen will allow you to more clearly see the dirty spots and the camouflaged smudges so you can clean more effectively.
- Once you do turn off the screen, give it time to cool down, as a hot screen will make cleaning more difficult, and mixing liquid with the warm texture could damage the TV.
- When you clean, it is generally not recommended to spray the solution directly on the screen. In addition to the possibility of staining your screen, the fluid could also leak down into the frame of your TV and cause damage to the electronics within. Instead, spray the solution on the microfiber cloth and then gently rub the cloth on the screen. Make sure not to apply too much pressure as doing so could disrupt the top layer of the screen, burn out essential pixels, and create a permanent mark that will not come off.
- For small marks, you may even be able to use the cloth without any solution.
Different TVs Need Different Cleaning Methods
The instructions above are a general guide for how to clean your television. However, all TVs are different, so you should always read the paperwork that came with the device to ensure that you don’t cause any damage.
For instance, Sony recommends using a combination of mild soap and warm water, while LG recommends not using any solution at all. Samsung recommends a dry microfiber cloth, but says you can dampen the cloth with distilled water if necessary to remove tough spots.
You should treat plasma screens like flat screen monitors when it comes to cleaning. While plasma TVs may have a glass screen, they also have anti-glare coatings that regular glass cleaners could strip away or damage. It’s best to avoid household cleaners and any other type of window cleaner unless it specifically says it is safe for LCDs and flat screen monitors.
Tips for Cleaning Your Computer Monitor
When it comes to cleaning your computer monitor, you can follow a similar method as you do when cleaning flat screen televisions. It is also the method recommended for your touch displays, flat screen monitors, laptop screens, and other delicate screens. So if cleaning your Macbook, iMac, or Kindle, this is the method you should follow. However, caution is necessary, especially for all-in-one laptops that can be damaged by leaking liquid solutions.
Before you use any cleaning products, turn off and unplug the computer. The last thing that you want is to drip water down into the keyboard or the buttons and destroy the electronics within.
- Before you use any cleaning products, turn off and unplug the computer. The last thing that you want is to drip water down into the keyboard or the Before you use any cleaning products, turn off and unplug the computer. The last thing that you want is to drip water down into the keyboard or the buttons and destroy the electronics within.
- For LCD and LED computer screens, you can use a mixture of equal parts vinegar and distilled water. Again, it is highly advised that you spray the liquid onto a microfiber cloth and then use the damp cloth to clean the screen. Be careful not to get much liquid into the ridges on the side of the screen. Just like on TV screens, you should not use Windex of similar products to complete this cleaning due to their harmful components.
- At this point, you can typically let the screen air dry. When you get back to it, if there are any residual streaks, wipe them clear with the cloth. To ensure a lack of streaks, look at the computer screen from different angles. Once the screen and computer are dry, plug it back in and turn it on.
Don’t Forget to Clean Your Gadgets with Screens
Since you are working on getting your computer screen spotless, you should clean the connected devices, so you have an all-around presentable machine.
Keyboards are especially susceptible to dirt and dust, especially if you spend a lot of time working on your computer, eating over your desk, you often have kids in the room, etc. When dirt gets under the keys, it can be difficult to clean, but you can do it with the right tools.
- Tip the keyboard over and give it a shake to get rid of any easily removable loose pieces.
- Then, use a can of compressed air and spray it down and behind the keys to remove any remaining debris.
- If you have stains on your keyboard or hard to remove grime, you can again return to your cloth and your 50/50 solution of isopropyl alcohol and water and give them a scrub.
As for your computer mouse, you can use a toothpick in all the nooks and crannies under the mouse and remove any dirt. You can then use the compressed air to clear out what remains. While during all of this, avoid touching the sensor under the mouse. Finally, go to your trustworthy 50/50 solution and gently wipe away any stubborn stains.
Again, read the owner’s manual for either product prior to cleaning and follow their recommendations.
Cleaning Tube Televisions & CRT Monitors
If you have an older tube-type television or a retro CRT computer monitor then you can likely use a glass cleaner on the screen. It is important to avoid using glass cleaner on any screen that has an anti-glare coating, so check your owner’s manual. If you do not have the owner’s manual or are uncertain, use the same methods as you would with a flat screen television or monitor, since these methods are safer overall and will still work well on glass front CRTs.
To clean a tube tv or CRT with a glass cleaner:
- Spray a small amount of Windex, Invisible Glass, or Rain-X glass cleaner onto a microfiber cloth.
- Gently wipe the screen with the cloth using a circular motion.
- Check the screen from an angle to look for smears or smudges.
- Allow the screen to dry for several minutes before using.
Additional Screen Cleaning Tips
Dry Methods to Clean Smudges or Dust Off Screens
The safest method for cleaning your television or computer is to use no cleaning solution, just a dry microfiber cloth and duster. Just dust your screen well with your Swiffer and then wipe the screen carefully with a dry cloth. If your screen isn’t very dirty then this method may be the best.
You can also blow dust away from the screen to clean it using compressed air dusters. You can often find this under many brand names in electronics departments. Some common brands you may see are Endust, Fellowes, and Dust-off. Some stores like Office Depot sell their own store brands.
There are also electric-powered air dusters, such as the Sin Shine and Wincooll electric air dusters.
Use Distilled Water vs Tap Water to Clean
Any time you are mixing your own cleaning solution, such as those described above, it is best to use distilled water when possible. Tap water can include minerals that could streak or leave deposits on your screen. If you don’t have distilled water, filtered water is the next best choice, followed by tap water.
Turn Your Television Or Computer Off Before Cleaning
It’s always best to turn off your device before cleaning. This should give you a dark surface, which makes it much easier to see streaks and marks on your screen. Be sure to check the screen from multiple angles to improve your odds of seeing those smudges.
Avoid Household Cleansers on Screens
Don’t get typical household cleaners near your flat screen television or computer monitor. Some of the ingredients in those cleansers could damage your screen or the plastic casing of your monitor or television.
Always Spray Cleaners Onto the Cloth, Not the Screen
It is always best to spray the cleaner onto your microfiber cloth, not on the screen. If you spray directly onto the screen some of the cleaners may seep past the bezel and make its way into the electrical components of your screen.
Don’t Press Too Hard When Cleaning
Stubborn deposits or hard-to-remove stains on your screen may tempt you to push hard to rub them away. Avoid that inclination, especially on any flat screen. You can damage your screen by pressing too hard. Instead, just use the proper cleaners and go over the goo a few extra times. If you have a particularly tough sticky spot then make sure to try the essential oil and vinegar mixture mentioned above, since it’ll help break down deposits on your screen.
Your Screen is Clean and Shiny Again!
You now have a clean screen on your most sacred devices. Remember to use caution when cleaning screens and don’t overdo it. You’ll be left with a vibrant viewing surface that will allow you to enjoy your movies and TVs shows as they were intended.