Why you can trust us

Engadget has been testing and reviewing consumer tech since 2004. Our stories may include affiliate links; if you buy something through a link, we may earn a commission. Read more about how we evaluate products.

How to clean all the screens in your home

And maybe more importantly, what not to do when your phone’s touchscreen has seen cleaner days.

Photo by Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Whether you’re talking about your aging laptop’s screen or that brand new OLED TV you just bought, all of them will get dusty and dirty over time. You may be hesitant to give the screens in your home a thorough cleaning, and the fact that there are so many products out there that claim to do it best doesn’t help. But we’ve found that the best route is actually the simplest. If you want to refresh all of the screens in your home, we'll outline the best methods that will help you do so properly without damaging any of your gear.

How not to clean your screens

Igor's desktop
Igor's desktop (Photo by Igor Bonifacic / Engadget)

Before we get to how to clean a screen, there are a few ways you don’t want to go about the process. The first, and most important, is that you don’t want to clean a display using substances like isopropyl alcohol or Windex. Alcohol- and ammonia-based cleaners can damage your screen’s anti-reflective coating. Using those substances repeatedly can lead to clouding and the coating becoming uneven.

Companies like Whoosh make cleaning agents that won’t damage your screen, but in my experience, you’re best off using distilled water. It’s more affordable than a dedicated cleaning agent and more versatile too since you can use it on a variety of surfaces. It also won’t leave behind any residue on your display, which is something I’ve seen products like Whoosh do occasionally. You can buy distilled water at a grocery store or make it yourself with some simple cookware.

In a pinch, you can use tap water, but we recommend against it. Depending on the hardness of the water in your area and how your municipality treats it, there may be minerals and chemicals that will again either leave behind residue or, worse yet, damage your display’s coating.

Once you have some distilled water, you’ll want a separate spray bottle. One option is to reuse one you already have at home, but if you don’t have a spare, Muji makes these handy travel bottles in 100ml, 50ml and 30ml sizes that are perfect for the task, and you can find similar bottles on Amazon.

Next, be mindful of what you use to wipe your screen. You want to avoid using paper towel, dish rags and anything else that may have an abrasive surface that will damage the coating on your screen. You can use the sleeve of an old but clean t-shirt. That said, you’ll get the best results using microfiber cloths. That’s because the fabric they’re made from is extremely soft and good at attracting dust. We suggest buying a pack of them so that you always have a clean one on hand. The last thing you want to do is use a dirty one and transfer any dirt and grime onto your display.

Lastly, avoid spraying any liquid directly on a display. You’ll have a lot more control if you deposit it on your microfiber cloth and it’s much easier to avoid any of it making its way into the more sensitive parts of the display.

How to clean your screens

Igor's monitor
Igor's monitor (Photo by Igor Bonifacic / Engadget)

With all that out of the way, the actual process of cleaning a display is straightforward. If you’re only dealing with some dust, use a can of compressed air or an air blower to dislodge it. You can also turn to a dry microfiber cloth.

For anything more than that, dampen your microfiber cloth with a small amount of distilled water and then gently wipe the display. Once you’ve gone over the entire surface, turn over the cloth and use the dry side to remove any excess water. At this stage, avoid buffing the screen or using excessive pressure. You don’t want to work any particles into the surface of the screen.

That’s it. You should have a clean display now. Obviously, it will take longer to clean a bigger screen, but you can put to use the tips mentioned for all types of displays, including TVs, monitors and glass smartphone displays.