How to Clean a Flat Screen TV

By: Contributors  | 
Man cleaning a flat screen TV with a rag.
Be careful of what you use to clean your flat screen TV. PeopleImages/Getty Images

Flat screen TVs and computer monitors are known as LCD screens or high-definition flat-panel displays. Regular cleaning of your TV screen is essential, not only for maintaining the visual clarity and longevity of your device, but also for ensuring a hygienic viewing environment. If you're wondering how to clean a TV screen without inadvertently damaging it, you're in luck.

Over time, screens can accumulate dust, fingerprints, and other residues that can obscure the picture and potentially damage the screen's delicate surface. In this article, we'll detail the cleaning products you'll need, the safest cleaning solutions to use, and offer maintenance tips to keep your entire screen looking picture perfect.


Step-By-Step Guide for Clean TV Screens

Here's how to clean a TV screen:

  1. Turn off the monitor. If the screen is dark, it will be easier to see the dirty and oily areas.
  2. Use a dry microfiber cloth — the kind you would use to clean your eyeglasses and very gently wipe the screen in a circular motion. If this doesn't remove the oil or dirt, do not press down harder and try to remove the dirt. Pressing down on the screen will cause the pixels to burn out. Rather, proceed to the next step.
  3. Make a solution of equal parts water and vinegar (or water with a tiny amount of dish soap). Dampen a microfiber cleaning cloth in the solution and gently wipe the screen to remove dust. Again, rubbing and scrubbing will damage the screen.


Choose TV Screen Cleaners Wisely

Here are some important tips you should know:

  • Not any dry cloth will do. Avoid using paper towels, toilet paper, or something like your shirt to wipe the screen, as these may cause permanent damage to the screen.
  • Do not use products that contain ammonia, ethyl alcohol, acetone, or ethyl chloride. These harsh chemicals, which are often found in commercial window cleaners, can cause the screen to turn yellow.
  • Avoid using any scouring powder or you may scratch the screen beyond repair.
  • Never spray water (or any liquid) directly on the screen as it can run inside the monitor and cause damage [sources: Morrison, Bright Hub].


Cleaning Methods Have Evolved Since the Days of Tube TVs

Keep in mind that these instructions are specific to modern TVs, which feature flat screens. They're very different from the screens found on old CRT or "tube" TV models. Those older models had thick glass which could easily be cleaned with window cleaner and a paper towel.

Not so with an LCD or plasma screen. The LCD panel is made of specially designed flexible plastic and is very sensitive to chemicals. If you apply cleaners with chemicals in them, you may end up with a blank flat screen. Even using ordinary kitchen towels or paper towels may scratch the screen and leave lint.


Make Your Own Screen Cleaner

As you can see, it's important to know how to clean your flat screen TV without causing damage. You can, of course, buy bottles of special cleaner, but why bother when you can make the solution yourself? By mixing a cleaning solution of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol (aim for a 70% concentration), you can then spray a clean microfiber cloth and gently wipe the screen.

For cleaning sensitive electronics like flat screen TVs, isopropyl alcohol is often preferred due to its rapid evaporation and effective cleaning properties. Do not use tap water, as it can leave mineral deposits on the screen. Also, make sure you test your homemade solution on a small area before lathering the entire screen with it!


This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.

Clean Flat TV Screen FAQs

How do I clean my flat-screen TV without leaving behind streaks?
Wipe the screen with a dry microfiber cloth that has been dipped in water. Squeeze out excess liquid before getting started.
Can I use Windex to clean my flat-screen TV?
No. Windex and other window cleaners contain ammonia and alcohol that can wreck your TV screen.
What will happen if I wipe my flat-screen vigorously?
There are liquid crystals inside all flat-screens that can get affected if you scrub too hard, and impact picture output.
How do I clean smears off my flat-screen?
Use a microfiber cloth dampened with a vinegar-water mixture. Carefully wipe over any fingerprints and smudges.
Can I use rubbing alcohol to clean my flat-screen TV?
A solution containing distilled water and rubbing alcohol may be used, however isopropyl alcohol is preferable. Dip the edge of a piece of cotton cloth in the solution, making sure to remove excess liquid. Gently wipe the screen all over, especially spots where you can see smudges. Once this is done, take a dry piece of soft cloth for a final wipe.