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How to clean a laptop screen

Laptop screens get dirty — that’s just a fact of life. Whether it’s a 2-in-1’s touchscreen or the traditional screen of a clamshell laptop, there’s always a collection of mystery dots and fingerprints littering your view. It’s an annoying distraction.

Device cleaning guides

You can’t just wipe it all away, either. Some grime needs a microfiber cloth, while other types demand tougher cleaning. In this article, we list our favorite tools for each type of yuck removal and teach you how to clean a laptop screen without inflicting damage.

For dust: Microfiber cloth

How to clean a laptop
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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 or Clorox wipes alternatives, 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 extremely rough on scratch-prone displays.

Step 1: Shut down your laptop. Not only is it safer, but having a blank screen can help you see dust.

Step 2: Pressing gently on the display, use a microfiber cloth to 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 3: 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 pattern from top to bottom.

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 a damp sponge instead. And you can always microwave a sponge to disinfect it first.

What you need:

  • A brand new household sponge.
  • Distilled, deionized, or filtered water.

Warning: Absolutely avoid standard tap water. Unseen 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 use 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 to avoid any electrical problems.

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

Step 2: Spray or pour the cleaning fluid onto a microfiber cloth. Make sure the fabric is damp, not wet. Do not spray directly onto the screen. Applying liquids to your screen — even if they evaporate quickly — is a surefire way to damage it.

Step 3: Gently rub the cloth over the affected area. Rub in small circles to avoid streaks. Don’t use heavy pressure, as that can permanently damage the display.

Step 4: Repeat as necessary until your screen is clear. Make sure not to drip onto your laptop’s display or keyboard.

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

No matter how well you protect your laptop, odds are, it will get a bit messy. From dust and debris to fingerprints and pet messes, no computer is safe from environmental conditions. Fortunately, with these steps, you can clean it up safely in no time.

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