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We’ve all had that moment: You’re sitting at your computer or laptop and the light hits your screen in a way to reveal an unsightly accumulation of streaks, fingerprints, and dust.
You could ignore it, but the fact is that the screen isn’t going to clean itself.
To help, we round up the most important things to know about cleaning your computer screen, whether it’s a Mac or PC. While it’s a simple process, there are a few important rules to keep in mind to make sure you’re doing it safely.
Computer screens are not all made the same, and thus can’t all be cleaned the same way. You’ll want to be careful no matter your screen type, but it’s helpful to know that displays come in two categories:
Since there are so many computers, laptops, and monitors out there, each with their own set of variables and specificities, it’s smart to just simply err on the side of caution.
To clean a computer screen, you really just need two things: A microfiber cloth and filtered or distilled water. That’s to say you don’t need a special store-bought cleaning solution.
If you’d like some extra sanitation power, an equal parts mixture of water and vinegar is safe no matter your screen type. If you know that your display is glass-coated, you can also use an equal parts mixture of water and 70% rubbing alcohol.
Two lint-free microfiber cloths
Distilled white vinegar (optional)
70% isopropyl alcohol (optional, for non-LCD/LED screens only)
Disinfecting wipes (optional, for non-LCD/LED screens only)
Turn the computer or laptop off. For safety reasons, begin by letting the device cool down completely. Dust, fingerprints, and smudges are also easier to spot on a black screen.
Wipe off dust with a dry cloth. Use a dry, lint-free microfiber cloth to gently wipe away any visible dust and dirt. If necessary, apply gentle pressure to remove surface-level smudges.
If any marks remain, wipe with a lightly moistened cloth. For glass-coated screens, you can use a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar or rubbing alcohol. For LED or LCD screens, use only water. Spray or lightly dab the solution directly onto the cloth and carefully wipe the screen from left to right.
Buff with a dry cloth and air-dry. If any streaks remain once the screen dries, gently buff them with the dry cloth. Before you turn your computer or laptop back on, allow the screen to dry completely.
Note: Apple claims that you can use 70% isopropyl disinfecting wipes to clean any Apple product. Just remember not to get any liquid into the device’s ports or openings — to avoid this, you might want to wring out the wipe to remove any excess liquid before using it.
For the best advice for cleaning your screen, it’s a smart idea to check your owner’s manual, which provides the manufacturer’s specific recommendations. But since screens are especially susceptible to damage, there are a few general guidelines that apply, no matter the type of screen you own.
Turn off your computer before cleaning the screen. This is just safe practice where any amount of liquid is involved, but more specifically, any static on the screen could create a shock and damage the internal components.
Do not use abrasive cleaning solutions. This includes bleach (or any products containing bleach), hydrogen peroxide, or all-purpose spray cleaners. Using an abrasive cleaner can ruin the finish of your screen.
Use filtered or distilled water. Especially in areas with hard water, water containing minerals like calcium and can damage your screen or leave even more streaks.
Use only soft microfiber cloths. Even a fabric as soft as a cotton shirt has snags and uneven particles that can scratch a computer screen. For this reason, avoid T-shirts, towels, and paper towels. The exception is the Apple Pro Display XDR or iMac, which requires a special polishing cloth.
Never spray cleaning solution directly onto the screen. To avoid any risk of damage from excess moisture, mist the solution directly onto the microfiber cloth instead.
Do not wipe in circles. Wiping in circles can create uneven pressure and ultimately lead to screen damage. It’s also more likely to create streaking. Wipe in tight, Z-shaped motions, or in broad strokes from side to side.
Do not scrub. Apply gentle pressure only. Hard scrubbing can damage the internal components of the screen and could leave scratches or spots of discoloration or dead pixels that won’t go away.