How to properly clean your computer screen

Last Updated September 2019

Screen cleaning is arguably the most neglected part of computer maintenance. Keyboards, mice, and computer internals tend to be cared for relatively regularly, but monitors often sit for months accumulating dust and oil before being properly attended to. And while a dirty screen won’t cause long-term damage, it can be incredibly distracting when editing media or playing video games. Was that an enemy over there or just the remnant of a messy taco Tuesday? Take the guesswork out of the equation with our guide on how to properly clean your computer screen.

Screen cleaning is not complicated, but if done improperly, it can potentially damage your machine and make the problem worse. That makes it all the more important to know the type of attention your screen needs and what tools you can use to make the most out of your resolution.

For light dust

Even in the cleanest homes, dust will accumulate over time. Dust is easy to get rid of, but one of the most common mistakes is using a paper towel to get rid of it. Do not do this. Paper towels can be rough and abrasive for heavy scrubbing jobs, which raises the risk of scratching and scoring your monitor. Instead, follow these steps:

  • Purchase a microfiber cloth. Often used to clean camera lenses and glasses, these cloths are incredibly soft and will not scratch your screen if used correctly. Other cloth-based materials can do the job in a pinch, but in this case, microfibers are your best bet.

  • Turn off your monitor. Or, if you’re using a laptop, shut it down. A blank and black screen is much easier to clear up as the dust particles become more visible.

  • Wipe the screen in one direction. Scrubbing in circles can cause damage to your display. Also, don’t press too hard — it’s just dust, after all. Continue until clear.
     

For grime and dirt

Whether it’s from sitting in storage, moving, or being near messy food, computer monitors and laptop screens have a knack for accumulating grime. These jobs require something a bit heavier than a thin microfiber.

  • Use a new, clean, and lightly-wet sponge. Use filtered or distilled water if possible, as mineral deposits from the tap can cause marks on your display. Wring the sponge out to prevent dripping.

  • Turn off your computer. This is more essential for this method than others, as you’re using water near electronics. If you’re cleaning a laptop, consider removing the battery.

  • Gently wipe the screen down. Let it air dry before using it again, and use a microfiber to finish if there are any smudges.

EXPERT TIP

A clean computer screen keeps your focus sharp and your work clear. Follow our guide to make yours feel like new again.


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For oil

Oil and fingerprints can be extremely tricky to remove, as they won’t come off with a dry microfiber, and a sponge can result in smudges. They are extremely common, however, because computers are frequently moved, often feature touchscreens, and are regularly near food. Who hasn’t eaten dinner over YouTube? Thankfully, there’s an easy solution.

  • Purchase cleaning solution. These products are specifically designed to clean computer screens without damaging them.

  • Turn off your computer or monitor.

  • Lightly apply the solution to a microfiber cloth. Make sure the cloth is damp without being wet.

  • Gently rub the microfiber over the smudged area. Repeat as necessary and let the display air dry before using it.
     

The screen-cleaning shopping list

You now have the proper steps, but there are several tools you’ll need to keep your computer screen clean and crystal clear.

  • A microfiber cloth to polish away dust, oil, and fingerprint marks. These are fantastic for computer screens but can also be used on eyeglasses, sunglasses, televisions, telescopes, binoculars, camera lenses, and other delicate surfaces. Another advantage to microfiber is it doesn’t have threads, strings, or coarse edges that could potentially cause damage.

  • A sponge for heavier dirt and grime. Clean household sponges can work fine so long as they are new. The softer, the better; of course, don’t use the rough side.

  • Compressed air. If your computer screen only has a light layer of dust, consider using one of these products to remove it. Why hassle with cleaning solutions, sponges, and cloths if you don’t have to? Remember, though, don’t stick the nozzle into seals or dividing areas, as the pressure could cause harm. A safer option is a hand-operated air-blower.

  • Cleaning solution makes getting rid of oils and fingerprint marks a snap, and all-in-one kits usually include a microfiber cloth of some sort. If you’d like to make your own solution, mix 50% distilled water with 50% white household vinegar. Avoid corrosive substances like alcohol or ammonia, as these can dissolve anti-reflective and protective coatings and cause clouding.

Written by:
  • Andrew
    Andrew
    Writer