How to clean a laptop screen

Laptop screens get dirty — that’s just a fact of life. This is even more true when it comes to touch displays on 2-in-1s and even clamshell laptops. Chances are that you’re constantly wiping away pesky fingerprints — but you need to be careful how you do it.

Device Cleaning Guides

Some grime just needs a microfiber cloth, while other types demand a bit tougher cleaning. We have picked our favorite tools for each type of cleaning job. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to clean a laptop screen without inflicting damage.

For dust: Microfiber cloth

How to clean a laptop
Jon Martindale/DigitalTrends

People who wear glasses or own a camera know about this little tool all too well. After all, it’s the best way to clean a camera lens or eyeglasses.

Designed to remove dust and debris without producing lint or scratching delicate surfaces, microfiber cloths are the best place to start when cleaning a laptop screen. You can use other cloth-based materials, too, but they are more likely to leave behind debris.

Warning: Absolutely do not use a paper towel or tissue. They might seem soft when blowing your nose, but they are rough when it comes to scratch-prone displays.

Step 1: Acquire a microfiber cloth. Specifically, choose one designed for glasses or lens cleaning.

Step 2: Shut down your laptop. Not only is it safer, but having a blank screen can help you see dust.

Step 3: Pressing gently on the display, wipe in one direction. Don’t scrub or wipe in circles, as this could damage the display or just move the dust particles around.

Step 4: Continue wiping across the display until it’s dust-free.

What about using a duster? This is also a safe way to remove dust if the coating is extremely light. Avoid feather-style products, which simply push dust into a cloud. Instead, find one that collects dust and doesn’t cause static, like those made by Swiffer. There’s no set method for removing dust, though you may want to move in an X motion from top to bottom. Be sure to turn off the laptop before dusting the screen.

For dirt and grime: Damp sponge

How to clean a laptop
Jon Martindale/DigitalTrends

Sometimes you’ll end up with more than dust on your display. Instead of rubbing at it with your microfiber cloth to no avail — and potentially dirtying the cloth in the process — you can use the damp sponge method instead.

What you need:

Warning: Absolutely avoid standard tap water. Minerals can scratch your display.

Step 1: Shut down your laptop and unplug it from its power source. If possible, remove the battery.

Note: If you’re worried about potential drips falling onto your keyboard, place something light over the keys that won’t absorb liquid.

Step 2: Wet the sponge with water and wring it out to eliminate drips.

Step 3: Use the sponge to gently wipe the screen’s affected area. Watch for drips and clean them up immediately.

Step 4: Once the area is clean, wait for the display to completely dry before closing the lid or using your machine.

For oils and sticky stuff: Cleaning solutions

How to clean a laptop
Jon Martindale/DigitalTrends

If the cloth and sponge methods failed to clean your laptop’s screen, it’s time for a safe screen-cleaning spray. However, you can’t clean your screen with just any substance. Specific chemicals scratch the surface even if you’re using a microfiber cloth. Avoid these substances at all cost:

  • Acetone
  • Ammonia
  • Ethyl acid
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Methyl alcohol
  • Methyl chloride
  • Surface cleaners
  • Toluene
  • Window cleaners
  • Any other corrosive substance

You can still purchase third-party cleaners, but they absolutely must not include the chemicals listed above. Alternatively, you can create a cleaner using the following:

  • 50% distilled water and 50% white vinegar.
  • 50% distilled water and 50% isopropyl alcohol.
  • 100% distilled water and a drop of dish detergent.

Step 1: Shut down your laptop and unplug it from its power source. If possible, remove the battery.

Note: If you’re worried about potential drips falling onto your keyboard, place something light over the keys that won’t absorb liquid.

Step 2: Spray or apply the cleaning fluid onto a microfiber cloth. Make sure the cloth is damp, not wet. Do not spray directly onto the screen!

Step 3: Gently rub the cloth over the affected area. Rub in small circles to avoid streaks, and avoid heavy pressure, as that can damage the display.

Step 4: Repeat as necessary, making sure not to drip any fluid onto your laptop’s display or keyboard.

Step 5: When finished, wait for the display to dry completely before closing the lid or powering on your laptop.

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