How to Clean a Computer Monitor

How to Clean a Computer Monitor post image

No matter what, our monitors get dirty. Not just dusty, smudgy. And in addition to the smudges, sometimes there are little splatters on them. I have no idea how, since we all respect and take care of the computer; however, let’s put it down to ‘these things happen’. Our little netbook is worse, and that one is understandable. Many times it’s due to being too close to the kitchen counter…

We set out to find the best way to clean a monitor. Our monitors are LCD (liquid crystal display), like the majority of monitors these days, and this means that they have these features:

1. They are soft plastic, not glass
2. If you press on this soft plastic, you can damage the electronics underneath, and cause either a dead pixel (a spot that remains dark on the screen) or a hot pixel (a spot that remains bright on the screen)
3. Some have a special anti-glare coating on top

We had three questions regarding how to clean our monitor: What kind of cloth should we use? What kind of cleaning liquid (if any)? How do we rub the screen?

Sometimes when we test tips, we’ll test out all sorts of ideas that people have. However, in this case, we were very particular about what we were willing to use on LCD screens, even for testing purposes. There were sites where people suggested using products such as glass and mirror cleaner and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Never, never, never.

Doing our research, here’s the first thing we found, as supported by Apple and Dell’s support information. Do not use acetone, ethyl alcohol, methyl chloride, ethyl acid, toluene or ammonia. That rules out a lot of household cleaning agents, including Windex. Why? Although these products may clean the screen quite well, the chemicals can damage the anti-glare coating, react with the plastic of the screen, yellow the plastic, or cause other damage. Likewise, some cleaning cloths can easily scratch the surface, so avoid using paper towel, toilet tissue, or tissues to clean the surface. Believe it or not, the fibers in these products are harsh and can scratch. And please note, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works like a very, very fine sandpaper. Never use it on a screen.

Different manufacturers have their own recommendations for screens; however, we were looking for general recommendations. So let’s assume that we have the most sensitive screen with anti-glare coating, because anything that is good for cleaning that will be good on any LCD screen.

Here’s the other advice we found from various computer sites: use a soft, lint-free microfiber cleaning cloth, such as those you would use with eyeglasses or camera lenses. Those are the ones that feel almost silky. We found the soft lens cloths to be much softer than the the big fluffy microfiber cloths that you see in the cleaning aisle at the store, (although they’re great for other uses). The ones you want are much softer, and will not scratch the surface of the LCD monitor. Note: this is not the same as using your soft cleaning rag, or your favourite old t-shirt. The cloth is very important. If you want to order some larger ones online, there are some recommended ones available here: Klear Screen iKlear Micro Chamois Kloth. Tip: when washing microfiber cloths, wash with gentle soap and hang to dry – they will work better, longer.

If you’re like us, you have marks that won’t come off with simply a dry cloth. In that case, you’ll have to very lightly dampen the cloth with either LCD cleaner or distilled water (distilled water, not to be confused with regular bottled water – you can buy it inexpensively at any pharmacy or grocery store). Tap water has many minerals in it, and the salt in tap water can leave a fogginess on your screen. We put distilled water in a little spray bottle, so that we did not get too much water on the cloth – you just want a light misting of water on the cloth for the cloth to be effective. Never spray liquid on an LCD screen – liquid and electronics do not mix.

Many websites recommend using a 50% mixture of water and isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) on a soft cloth. However, the websites of Apple and Toshiba do not list this among the recommended ways to clean a monitor, and in fact, Apple recommends not using isopropyl alcohol on its LCD monitors (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3226), so despite the prevalence of this advice, we’re staying away from all alcohol products for our recommendations. Ironically enough, some commercial LCD cleaners contain isopropyl alcohol.

There are many LCD cleaners out there, sold in a small spray container or in wipe form. They vary in their composition (some have isopropyl alcohol, some do not), and they vary in whether they leave an anti-static coating (users vary in their satisfaction with the coating that is left behind). Some of them contain a grease cleaner.

We tried spraying the microfiber cloth with distilled water and (softly, lightly) cleaning a monitor. We then tried spraying the microfiber cloth with commercial alcohol-free LCD cleaner and cleaning a monitor. We tested these methods on 6 computer monitors and 2 LCD TVs (after turning all screens off). In all cases, after cleaning the screens were clean, streak-free, and we could not tell the difference between the area cleaned with distilled water and that cleaned with commercial cleaner. Perhaps in some cases, the grease-cleaner would be useful, in which case you can purchase a recommended one here RocketfishTM – LCD Cleaning Kit RF-LCDKIT

That’s what we found. Sometimes there’s no need for expensive cleaners. In this case, it comes down to the type of cloth you use, a light touch, and a bit of inexpensive distilled water.

Money-saving tip: Many times, in eyeglass departments, you will see inexpensive little travel spray bottles of eyeglass cleaner sold paired with a little microfiber cloth. Buy this, empty the little spray bottle and fill it with your distilled water that you bought in the pharmacy for $2 (keep the remainder for refills). Label it, and you have your own chemical-free computer or tv-side cleaner and cloth for a fraction of the price of the commercial ones.

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