Clean your Screen!

laptop-screen-cleaning-image-from-youtubedotcomClean your Screen: a reader asks…

Hello, I’m not sure if you work around the edges of tech support, but I’m wondering how I can clean the screen on my laptop without scratching it. I’ve heard that laptop screens are made of plastic and scratch easily, and I just noticed my screen is really dirty. Got any good tips?

I don’t try to limit myself on the kind of advice I give, and yours is a common concern and need among consumers. After over a dozen years of working with all brands and models of laptops (literally hundreds of them), I’ve decided on the best way to clean them, and let me share that with you. I should note that not only the screen needs cleaning, but also the keyboard and surface of the laptop (trackpad, wrist rest, etc.). Most manufacturers warn against using water, but I’ve found that a little goes a long way.

Clients bring me their laptops for repair – from operating system errors, malware, system slowdown, and crashed systems. After I complete the repair and before I return the laptop to the client, I do a standard cleanup. Laptops get very dirty over time with use, and often we (the users) don’t really notice the buildup of grime. The same happens with desktop computers – any monitor screen can get dirty, and so too keyboards and mice. A periodic cleaning may not matter much to the service life of your consumer technology, but it certainly helps to reduce the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, not to mention screen visibility. Here’s what I do (make sure the computer is turned off for this):


compressed-air-image-from-amazondotcomFirst, I use a can of compressed air to blow out dust, crumbs and other detritus from the laptop. I do this outside, as this step often creates a lot of dust. You can get cans of compressed air at any office supply or hardware store (or online). Using the long, skinny tube, I carefully blow air around every key on the keyboard, and into all slots on the sides, back, or underside of the laptop. Same for desktop keyboards. Keep shooting air till there’s no more dust emerging from the laptop’s ports. I often use a half-can of compressed air just on one laptop to make sure (those cans aren’t very expensive). One note is that you must keep the can of compressed air with the top up, to keep the air dry. You’ll notice the can gets very cold the longer you spray, so I’ll often switch cans halfway through the process (saving the cans for later use after they’ve warmed up).

Second, I take some paper towels and slightly dampen them. I use one just for all laptop surfaces other than the screen, and rub all over to remove marks and grime. Same for every key on the keyboard. Dry towels finish the job and remove any moisture left on the surfaces.

microfiber-cloths-image-from-amazondotcomFor the screen, I use damp paper towels and wet the screen, but rub very lightly, using circular motions and changing towels often. I follow that up with a microfiber cloth (like these), and carefully rub in a circular motion, switching to a different patch on the cloth often. I’ll rotate the laptop to look at the screen on-edge so I can tell where the spots are for extra rubbing. If there are any really hard-to-remove spots, I’ll repeat the process with more damp paper towels. I’m kind of a stickler for clean, and it may take extra time to get it clean – because I never press hard on the screen for fear of scratching.

Of course, you can always buy those ready-made screen-cleaning wipes, but I find my process is just as effective and quick. Plus the microfiber cloths are machine-washable (don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets on them!).

So there you have it, a clean screen makes me happy! And this same process works for any screen you have, tablet, smartphone, and even that big flat-screen TV.


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