How to Clean an LCD Screen

When cleaning an LCD screen, be sure to use the proper materials and technique for a perfect picture.
When cleaning an LCD screen, be sure to use the proper materials and technique for a perfect picture.

It's the end of a long day,and you want nothing more than to flop down in front of your flat-screen television and watch an episode of "Modern Family" or indulge in 60 minutes of "LA Ink." Or, if the TV isn't calling, maybe you want to do some late-night online shopping -- the dress you saw yesterday on "What Not to Wear" is calling your name. But your end-of-the-day unwinding won't be nearly as enjoyable if you sit down and come face-to-face with a dusty, dirty LCD (liquid crystal display) screen.

Whether it's just dust that inevitably settles on the screen or something worse (like smudgy little fingerprints), a less-than-pristine LCD screen means less-than-ideal picture quality. "Dirt or dust particles can appear like dead or stuck pixels because they block the light shining from inside of the LCD panel," says Dave Chipman, manager of product quality at Sharp, one of the leading manufacturers of LCD screens. "A coating of dust or dirt can reduce overall brightness and create a dull-looking picture."


So, though you may feel ready to relax, it's worth taking a few extra minutes to clean off the screen and get it looking its best.

Cleaning Products: What to Use and What to Avoid

Don't make the mistake of thinking that LCD screens work like your nifty new iPad. In general, touching should be off limits because pressing too hard on the screen can actually break or crack pixels. So the first rule to cleaning an LCD screen is don't do it unless you have to (i.e. unless it's actually dirty).

Rule No. 2: do it gently. Once you have those rules squared away, you need to know which cleaning materials to use and which to avoid.


Many retailers offer special cleaning solutions for LCD screens, but the truth is that most of these are made up primarily of water. So, if you don't want to take the time to go buy a cleaner or you want to save the money (maybe to put toward that "What Not to Wear" dress), you can just make your own LCD cleaner by mixing water with some vinegar or isopropyl alcohol -- the solution should be no more than 50/50.

You could even start with plain water and see if you need the vinegar or alcohol, which will come in handy when you're trying to wipe away greasy fingerprints. Some people recommend only using distilled water, but regular water works fine, according to Dave Chipman from Sharp.

Unless you want to end up with a melted, discolored, hazy or scratched LCD screen, steer clear of all spray cleaners. In particular, don't use any solvent cleaners that include acetone, ethyl alcohol, ethyl acid, ammonia or methyl chloride. You also want to avoid using any materials that could potentially scratch the screen's delicate surface. Opt for a soft, clean, cotton cloth instead of wood-based products like paper towels and tissues. Chipman suggests using a microfiber cloth for best results.

Now that you're armed with the proper cleaning supplies, you're ready to get down to cleaning technique.

How to Clean LCD Screens Safely

Spraying the cleaner onto a cloth rather than the screen will keep your TV free from damage.
Spraying the cleaner onto a cloth rather than the screen will keep your TV free from damage.

You've mixed your cleaning solution and you have your microfiber cloth ready. All you need to do is apply the solution to the screen and swipe away, right? Actually, there's more to it than that.

An LCD screen is part of a complex electronic device, either a television or computer, and you don't want any of that solution running down the screen and into your keyboard, controls or other places where it could wreak havoc. To prevent this kind of accident, first make sure you turn off the screen. You have less chance of damaging the screen when it's off, and a black screen will help you to see the dirty spots more easily.


Once the screen is turned off, dip your cloth into the solution or spray it onto the cloth, taking care not to use so much that it drips. Use the cloth to apply the cleaning liquid to the screen with gentle strokes moving in one direction. Try to avoid haphazard strokes across the screen and instead work your way clockwise or counter-clockwise. For the sake of your screen's pixels, don't push too hard and don't try to rub out a particularly stubborn spot by applying more pressure. Just keep swiping the soft cloth across the screen, reapplying cleaning solution if you're having trouble.

In less than five minutes, you should have a pristine LCD screen ready to dish up your evening entertainment. Your eyes will thank you for making the extra effort.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Chipman, Dave. Sharp, manager of product quality. Personal interview. Nov. 4, 2010.
  • Farleigh Dickinson University. "Care and Maintenance of LCD Screens." 2004. (Nov. 4, 2010)
  • Johnson, Joel. "How to Clean an LCD Screen." Popular Mechanics. March 1, 2007. (Nov. 4, 2010)