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How to clean any flat screen TV or monitor

We spend so much of our days staring at screens for work, school, and entertainment that we're often blind to just how filthy they can get. Then, when the light hits one just right, you see the true horror revealed and wonder "how do I clean this thing?" Let us show you the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to do just that
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Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer on

Monitors and TVs are one of those things you tend to set up and then forget about, despite how much of our lives we spend staring at them. As the days and weeks wear on, these invaluable parts of our daily routine collect dust, pet hair, liquid droplets, and other debris, just like any other surface in your home.  You probably paid hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for the device, so you want to be sure you're cleaning it the right way, without doing any damage to it. We're here to show you the simple, dirt-cheap method that's still the absolute best, safest way to get your flat screen TV or monitor sparkling clean.

How to clean a flat screen TV or Monitor

A squirt bottle full of distilled water and cleaning cloths held in hand

Behold the horror of our before image!

Michael Gariffo

Materials needed

  • Estimated time: 15 minutes

  •  Estimated cost: $11-18 for dozens or hundreds of cleanings

Watch our step-by-step video below and skip ahead to read instead.

Several cleaning cloths held in hand

From left to right: A lens cloth included with prescription eyeglasses, an inexpensive microfiber cloth, a cleaning pad, and a cloth included with a monitor, some or all of which you probably have laying around.

Michael Gariffo

Step 1: Dusting

The first step is to remove any loose dust. This will make the wet cleaning that comes later much more effective. It will also prevent any scratches during the cleaning process by removing grit that may be lurking in the dust on your display. 

To do this, turn off your display and grab one of your clean microfiber or lens cloths and apply the minimal amount of pressure necessary to wipe away any loose dust. Don't press too hard, and don't scrub at any stubborn spots. Doing either could damage your display. Instead, brush across the display beginning at one and and moving across, making sure to reposition the cloth to a clean spot if it becomes noticeably soiled.

A one gallon jug of distilled water held in hand

Some distilled water is literally all the cleaning fluid you'll need for most jobs.

Michael Gariffo

Step 2: Dampen your cloth

You never want to spray your distilled water directly onto your display. Doing so could severely damage it, and could be dangerous for you. Just use a tiny amount of distilled water from your bottle of choice to lightly dampen a clean cloth (not the one you used to dust). It should feel wet, but not drip if you squeeze it. 

It's also important to use distilled water here. This type of water has had the impurities and minerals that exist in most locations' tap water removed, prevents any haze or residue from lingering on your display after cleaning. 

Never use any harsh chemicals like window cleaner or lens cleaner. They're not necessary, and could actually damage your display.

A cleaning cloth and squeeze bottle of distilled water held in hand
Michael Gariffo

Step 3: Wet cleaning

Use the dampened cloth to begin wiping your display, using the gentlest pressure possible to remove any visible smears, fingerprints, or dust. It helps to have a bright light aimed at your display from above or below to reveal hidden dirt and dust. Even your smartphone's flashlight works great here. 

Work you way across your display, making sure to get every bit of the screen. If you come across a stubborn spot, gently hold your dampened cloth over it for a few moments, then wipe again. If it still won't come clean, see our note below. Don't forget to re-wet your cloth as needed. 

For stubborn spots: If distilled water alone can't get off a particularly resistant smear, you can add a tiny amount of very mild dish soap to your water before dampening your cloth. Most manufacturers advise using a 1:50 or 1:100 ratio of dish soap to water, but even just a drop or 2 in a full spray/squeeze bottle should do the trick. Remember to be patient and keep your cloth damp. It might take some time and a few passes, but it's best to always be gentle to avoid damage.

An image of a PC monitor after cleaning

And here's the after... 

Michael Gariffo

Step 4: Drying

Depending on your local temperature and humidity, this step may not even be necessary. If your display looks dry enough for you, you're done. If you notice any droplets on it, it's probably worth grabbing one more clean, dry microfiber cloth and going over it gently to remove any lingering moisture. 

It can sometimes be helpful here to turn the monitor back on and put something bright white on the screen. The "rainbow" effect you see will show you where any wet spots might be. Distilled water is pure enough that either air drying or cloth drying should never leave any residue behind. If you notice any spots you missed, head back to step 3. 

FAQs

Is it safe to clean my TV or monitor while it's plugged in?

Yes. The reason why we specified that you should only very lightly dampen your cleaning cloth is to prevent any drips or droplets from entering your TV or monitor. At no time should you see any drops rolling down your screen. If you do, immediately use your cloth to absorb them and unplug the unit. 

You could just as easily clean the display with it turned on as well, but the darkened black screen makes it easier to see the dirt without the backlight and on-screen images interfering. 

Can't I just buy a TV or monitor cleaning kit?

Only if you like overpaying for things. Most cleaning kits come with a cleaning cloth and a bottle of solution that is, itself, mostly water. While some will likely due a decent job of cleaning your display, you can't always be sure what goes into the provided solution, and could risk damaging your display by using a product from a less-than-trustworthy manufacturer. 

Even if it works great, you're still likely to pay $10-$20 for way fewer cleanings than you'll get out of a single gallon jug of distilled water that can be had for $1-$2.

Does this process work for glossy flat screen displays, like OLED TVs?

Absolutely! Just be even more careful with the extra delicate OLED panels. The technology they use is even more fragile than other LCD displays due to the thinness of the panel. Taking your time and using a very light hand will still produce great results on whatever type of flat panel display you might have.



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