How to Clean a Computer Screen

Get the low-down on how to safely remove dust, fingerprints, smudges and streaks from any type of laptop screen or computer monitor.

January 14, 2021

We’ve all lived that moment when our computer monitor is met with the perfect stream of daylight, and the thought crosses your mind as you squint to see through the scattered fingerprints and dust: “Whoa, when was the last time I cleaned this thing?”

Let’s get your screen clean, pronto.

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1216553084

Photo by: Getty Images/Oscar Wong

Getty Images/Oscar Wong

There are a few different types of screens, and your cleaning options vary between the surfaces. It’s critical to know how to clean your specific screen because, if you do it wrong, the active ingredients in the cleaning agents could affect the display of sensitive crystals or cause permanent damage in the form of streaks and scratches.

Important cleaning tips:

  • Always turn off your computer and monitor before cleaning.
  • Avoid excess moisture, especially if you’re cleaning around plugs and ports.
  • Use soft, lint-free microfiber cloths and nothing rough or abrasive.
  • Never spray cleaner directly onto your screen. Mist it onto a cloth, and use the cloth to wipe down the screen.
  • Be aware of the type of screen you have, and refer to manufacturer guidelines for cleaning if there’s any doubt.
  • It doesn't hurt to wipe down the surface of your keys and your mouse at the same time you're cleaning your screen, since many germs are housed on those surfaces. Using a dry microfiber cloth is always safest when it comes to removing dust.
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Photo by: Getty Images/d3sign

Getty Images/d3sign

Mac Screens vs. PC Screens

Are there different considerations for cleaning a Mac screen versus a PC screen? In short, yes. We know that there are hundreds of different computer and monitor models to consider, but in general, screens are either backlit LED made with LCD (liquid-crystal display) pixels, or a non-LCD glass-coated surface. And just to note, some of the newer matte glass screens are nano-texture glass, which require a special polishing cloth from the manufacturer and should be cleaned with nothing else.

LCD screens are more susceptible to damage by cleaning agents, but because they’re commonly used on PC laptops and standalone computer monitors, there are lots of easy-to-use products available to clean them. It’s not that they’re hard to clean, but you’ll have to be careful and diligent so you don’t damage the surface or any of the LED elements. Any cleaners that include ammonia will leave a film. Soap and water can cause damage. It’s always safest and most effective to use an LCD cleaner free of alcohol, ammonia and acetone to clean an LCD screen, but if you need a DIY fix, you’ll be successful if you use a microfiber cloth that’s sprayed lightly with a mix of vinegar and distilled water.

Most Mac computer screens are glass-coated and can be cleaned and resolved streak-free more easily than LCD products using glass cleaners, like Windex, or a cloth lightly sprayed with rubbing alcohol. Nano-texture glass screens on products like the Apple Pro Display XDR or iMac require use of the special polishing cloth sold by Apple.

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Photo by: Getty Images/Ugur Karakoc

Getty Images/Ugur Karakoc

How to Clean a Non-LCD (Glass-Coated) Computer Screen

  • Turn off your device and unplug it.
  • Start by removing any dust from the screen with a dry microfiber cloth.
  • For fingerprints and smudges, spray 70% isopropyl alcohol onto a cloth, or use a pre-moistened alcohol wipe or a Clorox Disinfecting Wipe, to clean non-porous surfaces like the screen; do not use bleach.
  • Wipe the glass surface and corners, being careful not to let any excess moisture wick from the wipe or cloth.
  • Allow the screen to air dry.
  • If any residual streaks remain, use a microfiber cloth to buff them away.

How to Clean an LCD or LED Computer Screen

  • Turn off your device and unplug it.
  • Remove dust with a dry microfiber cloth.
  • To clean spots and streaks on the surface of the screen, mist an LCD cleaning spray onto a dust-free side of your microfiber cloth; an easy DIY solution is 1:1 parts of white vinegar and distilled water.
  • Wipe the surface thoroughly but avoid saturation into the edges of the screen.
  • Allow the screen to air dry.
  • If any residual streaks remain, a dry edge of the microfiber cloth will also help to buff them away.

Woman using phone and laptop in a coffee shop.

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