There’s a wrong way to clean your TV or monitor screen. Mess it up and you’ll be looking at scratches, smears, or worse for a long time. Get it right and your display will gleam like the day you bought it.
Before you reach for a duster or cleaning solution, make sure you read this.
First: Consult The Manufacturer’s Instructions
While these manufacturer guides often err on the side of caution and recommend very little in the way of cleaning products, you may also find some specific advice for your particular display and the types of coatings used on it.
Some manufacturers, like Dell, recommend 70-90% isopropyl alcohol on some products. Others like LG recommend never even moistening the display. If your display is still under warranty, you might want to carefully follow these instructions to avoid any problems if you have to make a claim later on.
Avoid Harsh Cleaning Chemicals
By far the most important thing to remember is to avoid any harsh cleaning chemicals, including glass cleaners like Windex, polishes, and even isopropyl alcohol unless you have specific clearance from the manufacturer that this will not damage the screen.
Such cleaning products are usually made with ammonia, and alcohol, and contain other products and fragrances that could damage the display. These screens often have protective coatings on them to combat glare and reflections, or oleophobic coatings to repel fingerprint oil in the case of touchscreens.
If you’ve already used something like this will no ill-effect, consider yourself lucky and avoid using it again in the future. Many displays will be utterly ruined by the application of these household cleaners, leaving streaks and clouding that could render the display worthless.
Air and Microfiber Cloths Are Your Friends
Canned air is a great way of removing dust from a display surface without causing any damage. Dust particles, though small, may scratch sensitive surfaces when pressure is applied. By not touching the display, you’re minimizing your risk of scratching the delicate surface. This is especially true of glass TV and monitors, like those that use OLED technology.
Second to canned air is high-quality microfiber cloth, ideally, one with deep grooves to catch all of the dust without moving it over the screen. Use the lightest of touches when cleaning to avoid undue pressure on the display. You may need to turn to a microfibre cloth when canned air simply won’t cut it.
Avoid any paper-based cleaning products like tissues or kitchen towels since they contains lots of small fibres that can scratch the display. This is good advice in general when cleaning anything reflective, whether it’s a shiny plastic gadget or a pair of reading glasses.
You should take care when cleaning the microfibre cloths too. Avoid putting them in the wash with any fabric softeners or in the dryer with a dryer sheet since these products contain oils and waxes that may transfer to any surfaces you wish to clean. This will leave unwanted streaks on your display.
Lastly, if your microfibre cloth has a tag then be aware that the tag probably isn’t made of the same microfibre material and may cause damage to your display. For peace of mind, snip off any tags with a pair of scissors before using the cloth.
Use Distilled Water Where Necessary
When air and dry microfibre cloth don’t cut it, you may need to turn to distilled water instead. While tap water often contains particles and minerals that may scratch your screen, distilled or “pure” water does not.
Use a pump spray bottle to mist a microfibre cloth until just damp, then spot-fix any stubborn grime that has adhered itself to your screen. This will likely only work for dry matter. Oil and other streaky marks will likely need a different approach.
Be aware that some manufacturers will never recommend using any moisture near your display. LG is one such display manufacturer that dissuades customers from doing so, though the company does not acknowledge that a dry microfibre cloth is often not enough to remove stubborn dirt.
You’ll have to use your intuition at this point. We’ve used distilled water and a microfibre cloth to remove dried-on grime from a glass-panel LG OLED with no ill effect since the alternative was a distractingly dirty screen.
Screen Cleaning Products Exist if You Need Them
Some experts recommend using a small amount of dishwashing liquid dissolved into distilled water to remove oily stains with a microfibre cloth. Once you’ve attacked the effective area, a clean microfibre cloth that’s been moistened with distilled water should remove any remaining residue.
If you’re not comfortable doing this, there exist purpose-built cleaning solutions like AudioQuest CleanScreen that promise to safely clean display surfaces without damaging them. There’s always a risk of damage when using any product, though purpose-made solutions are a lot safer than household cleaners and tap water.
Don’t Forget About the Back Too
LCD screens use LED backlights which can kick out a fair bit of heat, while OLED displays also generate heat as a byproduct of the chemical reaction that lights up individual pixels. Plasmas and CRTs were also notorious for heat production, so cleaning the back of a display is equally as important as cleaning the front.
Make sure you take the time to blow out any dust from vents using canned air or use a microfibre cloth to remove any material that may hinder cooling. Take care not to use a vacuum or similar since static electricity can build up and cause damage to internal components.
Clean Sparingly for Best Results
While you should take care to make sure dust buildup at the back of the unit is kept to a minimum, you’re better off cleaning the front of the display as sparingly as possible to avoid scratching glass or wearing down panel coatings.