How to clean your computer monitor without destroying it

Samsung CF791 monitor review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

There are a few certainties in life: Death, taxes, and dirty computer screens. That’s just an unavoidable fact of life, as dust, fingerprints, and assorted detritus gathers on your monitor. While all that grime on your screen might not cause damage, it can certainly be an eyesore, filtering your movies, games, and other media through a layer of grime. We’ve got you covered with some pointers on how to keep your screen clean.

Some words of warning

While it may be tempting to reach for a bottle of Windex or some other general cleaning product, don’t! Harsh chemicals may be fine for windows or countertops, but they can wreak havoc on computer monitors, wearing away coatings. There are many cleaning fluids on the market geared specifically toward computer monitors, and while these products certainly work, you don’t need to spend the money on them if you don’t want to; distilled water should work for most monitor cleaning, and you can mix in some white vinegar for tougher grime.

Additionally, avoid paper towels, rags, old t-shirts, or many of the usual materials you use to wipe down surfaces in your home. Monitors are more delicate than they look, and these fabrics — even paper towels — are abrasive enough to scratch your screen, particularly if you have used them for other jobs where they might have accumulated grit. A microfiber cloth, the kind you might use to clean your glasses or vinyl records, is the safest choice, and make sure it’s free of any dirt or grime before swiping across your display.

Step 1: Turn Off the Monitor

First of all, it’s easier to see smudges and stuff on a black screen, so turning off your monitor makes it easier to see what you are doing. It’s also safer for you and for your computer. Cleaning your monitor while it’s on and the pixels are all fired up could damage your screen or potentially give you an unpleasant electrical jolt. So turn it off!

Step 2: Wipe Monitor with Cloth

If dust is the only thing defiling your screen, a quick wiping should be enough to clean it. Take a microfiber cloth and gently brush the screen in long motions. We cannot stress enough that you should be gentle; pressing too hard on the screen could damage the pixels within.

If the offending filth is tougher than dust — maybe some dried mucus from a sudden sneeze, or mysterious gunk from who-knows-what — then you can use some sort of safe fluid. You can use gentle cleaning fluid designed for monitors, but as mentioned earlier, water should suffice. It is best to use filtered or distilled water, as tap water may contain minerals or other substances that can harm the screen or leave annoying streaks. Add distilled white vinegar to the water if the grime is tough.

Whatever fluid you use, do not spray it directly on the monitor, as it may trickled down to the edge of the screen. If this happens, it could seep into the monitor and damage the electronic components within. Spray or dab the liquid onto the cloth, wringing out excess fluid, and gently wipe the monitor with broad strokes.

Step 3: Let It Dry

Gently dry your monitor with a microfiber cloth or let nature do the work for you. To avoid any moisture or electrical damage, make sure your screen is completely dry before turning your computer back on.

Updated 4-19-2017 by Will Nicol: Updated to provide safer tips.