Touch Screens: Cleaning Dos and Don'ts

Touch Screens: Cleaning Dos and Don'ts

Jeff Heaton
Mar 20, 2012

There are a lot of ways to get the grime off of your touch screen, but the wrong ones remove the good with the bad. Many manufacturers have started including special coatings to improve the look and use of these devices (often by keeping away smudges from your grimy fingers) that are sensitive to chemicals. Here are the rules we follow to keep 'em clean.

1. Read the Manual for Suggestions
Your device should come with some kind of cleaning suggestions, even if it's in that little booklet with the tiny print you probably threw in a drawer. We rarely look at that thing other than for this, but it'll give you a good idea of what kind of coatings your device may have and how to get the crusties off without destroying them.

2. Try a Clean Cloth First
Oftentimes you don't even need a chemical, just some good old fashioned elbow grease and a microfiber cloth. The one you use on your glasses is probably good. We like these little Neato squares by Moshi that fit almost anywhere and clean easily with water. If you're really worried about it you can blast the screen first with canned air like we do our camera lenses.

3. Consider a Protective Screen
Yeah they're probably a bit overpriced for a piece of specialty plastic, but if you really love your device you'll probably get a ton of use out of it right? We just include one of these in the price of the gadget from the beginning. When we apply it to a device that's already been used we get to a room without a lot of circulation, clean the screen with compressed air and then slowly roll the screen on using the box it comes in to prevent/remove bubbles.

1. Use Abrasive Chemicals on Oleophobic Screens
Many touch screen devices have oleophobic (anti-smudge) coatings that help prevent build up of the oil from your finger tips on the screen. Cleaners like Windex will slowly erode this coating and it'll lose its sheen and eventually be more prone to collecting fingerprints. A damp cloth should suffice for most situations.

2. Spend a Ton on Special Cleaners
As we mentioned above, a microfiber cloth, dry or damp, will often take care of most issues. If your device doesn't have a special coating (and those are becoming more rare) you can create many of the device cleaners at home with water and a gentle detergent, alcohol or a little white vinegar. You can even make your own wipes. We tend to stray away from the heavier stuff like bleach and ammonia, use those at your own risk.

3. Go Overboard
It can be hard to resist the urge to keep your device looking shiny all the time, but it's going to get dirty from your fingers again soon anyway. We're not saying you shouldn't scrape the junk off, we've just found there's a certain level everyone can live with and it's important to find yours. Plus that need to keep it clean at all times will likely lead you to going a little heavy on the abrasives. If you must, maybe make your device slightly self cleaning.

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(Image: Flickr user Lars Plougmann under creative commons.)

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