The Cinephile's Guide to Cleaning Plasma Screens

How do you make those remastered, special edition DVDs shine on your plasma screen? See more pictures of tv evolution.

The image on a big, shiny, new plasma screen can be breathtaking. Movie buffs love plasma televisions with their crisp, bright displays that allow viewers to fully appreciate the elegant combat in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" as well as the gritty battles of "Gladiator." You can immerse yourself in sweeping landscapes and see the detailed costumes of period pieces much better than with old-fashioned tube televisions or even oversized projection screens.

However, you might even be shocked at the clear image on your neighbor's new plasma screen compared to the one you've had at home for only a few months more. But don't get too jealous: It's probably not that the technology has made strides in the past few months. Rather, your screen's probably gotten a little dirty.

The screen's static electricity attracts dust as strongly as its bright picture attracts children's fingers. And both dust and smudges can dirty up your screen quickly. Soon, the picture you paid so much for will suffer significantly. Instead of paying attention to Martin Scorsese's subtle camera movements in "Goodfellas," all you'll be able to focus on is the smudge your 3-year-old made when he was watching "Blues Clues."

But before you grab the glass cleaner and spray it all over your expensive plasma screen, take heed of some important advice. You'll be doing more harm than good by soaking the screen in cleaner and wiping it with a paper towel. There are right ways and wrong ways to clean a plasma screen. Don't worry, though: We'll go over the proper procedure step-by-step to make your screen look like new again without hurting the equipment.

And when you're done, you might consider mounting that plasma screen out of the reach of little hands.


How to Clean a Plasma TV Screen Safely

Before you even reach for a cleaning product, read your television's user manual. It should have a section specifically on cleaning and the best method that won't hurt your screen. If you don't follow these directions carefully, you'll probably be violating the warranty. Don't despair if you've lost the original manual -- most manufacturers make them available online for download. You should find it easily by performing an Internet search of your TV's make and model.

First, unplug your television to prevent against electric shocks. Wipe the screen with a microfiber cloth instead of a paper product like tissue or paper towel, which can scratch the screen. Many plasma televisions now come with a microfiber cloth included in the package.

A few wipes with the cloth should be able to take care of all the dust and fingerprint smudges. But if your 3-year-old had peanut butter on his hands when he wiped them on your beautiful new screen, you'll want to use some moisture. However, manufacturers warn against spraying water or cleaning product directly on the plasma screen. Instead, dampen the cloth with water (mixed with mild soap if necessary). Don't use thinner, alcohol, benzene or any volatile solvent. Quickly dry the screen to prevent any moisture from dripping down into the housing of the television. Some manufacturers also warn users not to press too hard against the screen when cleaning it or to scratch the screen with your fingernail or anything sharp.

You may also find in the care section of your TV's user manual a section on "image cleaner." One phenomenon of plasma technology is that it can cause a still or paused image on a screen to "burn" or stick to the screen, leaving an impression of the image that remains. This quirk is not a serious problem, since it disappears after a little while. Nevertheless, some plasma TVs come with a function that cleans the burned image. To help prevent the image burn, which typically only happens within the first 100 hours of the TV's use, lower the contrast level on the screen to less than 50 percent [source: Katzmaier].

With proper care, your beautiful plasma screen should last for many years, and you'll be able to fully appreciate "Goodfellas" without the distracting peanut butter smudges.

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  • Katzmaier, David. "Quick Guide: Four Styles of HDTV." (Nov. 12, 2011);rb_mtx
  • "WEGA: Flat Panel Color TV Operating Instructions." (Nov. 12, 2011)
  • "Operating Instructions: High Definition Home Theater Plasma Display." Panasonic. (Nov. 12, 2011)
  • "VIZIO P50 HDTV20A User Manual." (Nov. 12, 2011)