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How to Clean Laptop Screens

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What is Your Screen Made of?

There must be little computer gremlins running around. It seems there are always fingerprints on computer screens even though no one ever touches them. Truthfully, no matter how careful you are, computer screens, especially laptop screens, are bound to get dirty.

Why can’t you clean your laptop screen with whatever is handy? Knowing how they are made and what they are made of makes it obvious why you must be careful.

Your laptop screen starts with a piece of material like glass or plastic, but it doesn’t stop there. Laptop screens have to be altered so that users will not be bothered by glare or a distracting reflection. There are several chemicals and methods that can be used.

One way to reduce glare is to roughen the surface. Solvents like buffered hydrofluoric acid (HCl) accomplish this by changing the surface of the screen microscopically. The result can’t be seen with the naked eye, but the surface is no longer plain glass or plastic. Another technique involves laminating a rough layer to the surface to achieve the same result.

Change Screen Composition

There are other reasons to change the composition of your laptop screen. Enhancing brightness, controlling gloss, and polarizing the surface are all ways to make sure the screen is more user friendly.

A newer technology involves coating the surface of the screen with an anti-reflective chemical like magnesium fluoride. This decreases the amount of reflected light which makes the screen easier to see. Whatever the reason, these changes mean that the screen must be treated with care when selecting a cleaning material and liquid.

As the technology has improved, users have become more sophisticated. Different types of screen preparations provide benefits for a variety of uses including offices and other areas that use artificial light, gaming and multi-media applications, naturally lit areas, or other environments. It is a matter of personal preference and might include such factors such as the condition of an individual’s eyes including the use of contact lenses or glasses.

It is highly probable that you will never know the chemicals that were used to create your personal laptop screen. Try calling the manufacturer if you are curious about your screen. It is unlikely anyone will be able to answer the question about your specific screen.

No matter which process was used, cleaning the screen will require special consideration. What you do need to know is how to care for your screen so that regardless of its composition, you won’t cause any damage. The more you know about the choices you should avoid or consider, the less likely you are to encounter a problem.

Avoid Using Certain Cleaning Agents


While most people agree that ethyl alcohol can damage a laptop screen, there is a question as to whether rubbing alcohol (91% isopropyl alcohol) is safe. Can it damage the screen? Does it cause the screen to turn yellowish? An Internet search on the subject will demonstrate that there are a number of opinions.

Some sing the praises of isopropyl alcohol while others suggest staying away from it. Commercial products use it. Many people may believe it is safe, but why take the chance? It’s probably safer to stay away from all kinds of alcohol. Then you don’t have to be concerned that you have selected the correct kind.

You should stay away from all strong solvents and anything with ammonia, acetone, ethyl alcohol, ethyl acid, and methyl chloride. These chemicals can etch the screen or cause it to turn cloudy. Carefully read labels on any cleaning products you are considering using before you unintentionally ruin your screen.

If you are not 100% certain, don’t use it. If you feel you must give it a shot, try it on a small portion of the screen. That way, you will only cause damage to that small part. It is worth the effort when you consider the risk. Considering the ramifications, it seems more sensible to wait until you have the proper materials to clean your screen.

It is possible you have heard of petroleum benzene and its effectiveness in cleaning laptop screens. You should understand that this chemical is a known carcinogenic and, thus, extremely dangerous to humans. It has been connected to aplastic anemia, acute leukemia, and bone marrow issues. It is not worth considering its use because there are safe alternatives. It is unlikely you will be able to find any benzene because it has fallen into disuse for the most part.


Materials to Avoid

If the material leaves lint behind or is anything less than as soft as melted butter, it can scratch or otherwise damage your screen. Napkins, paper towels, toilet tissue, newspaper, and many common rags can hurt the screen. They have wood fibers in them that can scratch the delicate surface of the screen. Many dish towels and wash clothes are too rough. A towel or other piece of material that is lying around may have some dirt or grease that could add to the problem rather than eliminating it, so make sure it is clean.

If you notice something on the screen that is distracting, resist the urge to grab whatever is near. Instead of a bit of annoying dirt, you could end up with a ruined laptop screen. It doesn’t seem worth it for a moment of convenience.

Products You Can Buy to Protect Your Screen

There are plenty of professional products to choose from when it comes to cleaning your computer screen. They are all similar, especially when it comes to price. There are spray bottle products that include pieces of cloth. There are individual wipes that are even more expensive per application.

These can be especially frustrating because they often dry out before you have a chance to use them especially if there are several in the same container. While you can add water, that just gives you something else to do. It is also important to use distilled water. That seems like a lot of work for something you have paid so much for.

If you use products especially marketed for this task, you end up paying a lot of money to have someone else do your homework. What you really want is something that you always have on hand, is inexpensive, and will do the job without causing harm.

While it would seem that water is safe to use, it is better to rely on distilled water. Tap water can have trace minerals that might cause problems. While it is fairly unlikely that it will cause any significant damage, why take the chance? You have spent hundreds or, perhaps, thousands of dollars on your laptop. Why risk that investment to save a few cents on distilled water.

Frequently, water and a proper cloth will be enough to clean your laptop screen but, in the event it is not, there is an alternative. A solution of distilled water and white vinegar should do the trick. Be careful because vinegar is pungent and, if you spill it, the odor will be strong enough to get your attention.


Using the Right Cloth

As with chemicals, if a cloth is safe for polarized glasses, it is safe for your laptop screen. Believe it or not, cloth diapers are great for the job. They leave no lint and are incredibly soft. They are not that expensive, and they can be washed and reused for many years.

Microfiber cloth is the more common alternative. It is a synthetic material that is suited to cleaning a laptop screen because it is soft, absorbent, and has electrodynamic properties that make it specifically well suited to the requirements for cleaning a laptop screen. Monitors often build up some electrostatic charge. Rubbing the screen with a regular cloth can contribute to the problem, so microfiber cloth works in a way that reduces or eliminates the charge. Static electricity can work like a dust magnet, so managing it properly can mean less dust.

While some people prefer to use a new cloth every time they clean their laptop screens, it is not critically necessary. It is more of a personal preference. If you decide to wash the cloth, do so between every use. Make sure your dryer’s lint filter is kept clean. Do not use softeners or other chemicals which might damage your laptop screen. Check the cloth for lint, and remove any you might see.

How to Clean Your Screen

Some people really care about getting their laptop screens perfectly clean. If you are that particular, you may care about the order of your cleaning ritual. There are those who recommend turning the screen off before beginning. There is no denying that it is easier to see the dust and streaks. Others even go so far as to suggest unplugging the laptop from the power adapter and even removing the battery. Apparently, it is possible to damage the LCD pixels if the laptop is still connected, in any way, to power.

Be careful to maintain a light touch when cleaning the screen. If you press too hard or scrub the screen, there is a significant chance you will cause damage to the display. Some people like to wipe their screens with a dry cloth before applying the cleaner. Others like to use the canned air to blow the dust off the screen. Make sure you don’t get too close to the screen. There is no reason to chance causing damage even though it is unlikely.

It is not a good idea to spray the screen with whatever solution you are using. It is better to use a piece of cloth that is dampened with the liquid even if it is in a spray bottle. That way, you avoid drips that can cause damage to the keyboard. A great deal of liquid is not necessary to properly clean your laptop screen.

Using a Circular Motion

Some people suggest moving the cloth in circles when cleaning the screen. Others recommend moving either horizontally or vertically across the screen. There are those who use Q-tips for the edges of the screen. Those leave lint behind, so it is not clear that is such a good idea. A fingernail covered with the cloth does just as good a job and leaves no lint.

While you are cleaning the screen, you will probably notice it dries almost as soon as the cloth leaves the area. Distilled water and diluted white vinegar tend to evaporate quickly when the cloth is only slightly dampened. There is little chance of streaking. If your screen is really dirty, it may require a few clean pieces of cloth to complete the job. However, when you are on the last pass, it should evaporate quickly and leave behind a clean, streak free screen. If you feel it necessary, a clean, dry cloth can be used for one final pass across the screen. Make sure the screen is perfectly dry before you close the lid.

Regardless of the cloth you use, make sure you don’t apply too much pressure. Your laptop screen could be an LED (Light Emitting Diode) screen but is most likely an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). There are delicate components around the edges of the screen. Pressing too hard could damage the part of the screen that does the actual work. The damaged areas would no longer produce the clear images that are necessary for it to be useful.

Getting a Clear Screen

It is a good idea to keep your laptop screen clean. A clean screen is easy on the eyes. It keeps dust, which can be abrasive, from causing damage to the screen.

Depending on the environment, clean your computer screen every two to four weeks. That will help it last longer and have a better chance of providing years of worry-free service.

Keeping your screen clean is especially important for laptops. A dusty screen can contribute to dust on the keyboard. Laptop keyboards are more delicate and difficult to clean. Keeping the screen clean can help keep you laptop clean. Laptops are more expensive to repair than desktops, so keeping the screen clean is a cost-effective idea.

Now that everything is crystal clear, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy your laptop.

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This page was last modified on 3 August 2013, at 17:50.
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