How to Clean a Laptop Screen

Student looking at laptop screen as teacher completes lesson

Ridofranz/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Total Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Everyone is spending more time staring at their laptop, tablet, or computer screens these days—which means more chances for finger smudges, accidental coffee drips, or even a wayward sneeze. All things considered, we could all be cleaning our laptop screens more frequently.

Fortunately, cleaning a laptop screen takes only a few minutes and a few basic supplies. The key to successful screen cleaning is that less is more. It's important to use the least amount of cleaning products and the gentlest pressure possible to prevent damage to the screen.

The Two Types of Laptop Screens and What to Use on Each

There are two basic types of laptop screens: glass-covered LCD (liquid crystal display) screens and nonglass-covered LCD screens. Glass-covered screens, featured on many Apple products, are more durable and can withstand more moisture and stronger cleaning products like disinfecting wipes when cleaning. LCD screens that are not protected by glass can be permanently damaged by many cleaning products.

Tip

Before you attempt to clean your laptop screen or any electronic device, take the time to read the manufacturer's guidelines on cleaning and maintenance. If you've lost or tossed the owner's manual, you can find them online.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Nonabrasive sponge

Materials

  • Distilled water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Disinfecting wipe

Instructions

  1. Unplug Your Laptop

    Before you do any cleaning—even simple dusting—make sure to always turn off your device and unplug it from its power source. This should be done for safety, but also because a dark screen will help you see dust and grime more easily.

  2. Wipe Away Dust

    Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to wipe away dust and as many smudges as possible. The fibers in microfiber cloths have more surface area than cotton cloths to trap dust and grime. Microfiber is also lint-free, so you won't be leaving any debris behind.

    Fold the microfiber cloth into a square. Start at one corner of the screen and work down the screen, lightly overlapping each line as you dust. If the screen is exceptionally dusty, move to a clean area of the microfiber cloth as you move across the screen. Do not use excessive pressure or scrub in circles which could leave scratches.

    Warning

    Never use a paper towel or newsprint to clean a laptop screen. They are too coarse and can scratch the screen, especially a nonglass-covered LCD screen.

  3. Remove Smudges and Grime

    For smudges, bits of food, or other messes left on the screen after dusting, you may need a bit of moisture and a cleaning solution to loosen dried-on grime. As always, turn off your laptop and disconnect it from its power source before using any wet cleaning process.

    Dip a new or very clean non-abrasive sponge or a microfiber cloth in distilled water and wring until nearly dry. There should be no water dripping, and if so, be sure to protect the keyboard with a bit of plastic wrap to capture any drips.

    Lightly wipe the screen, starting at the top and working toward the bottom. Stay away from any ports to prevent moisture from damaging the laptop. Dry the screen with a microfiber cloth.

    Tip

    Never use water directly from the tap. The minerals contained in unfiltered water can permanently scratch laptop screens.

  4. Remove Sticky Messes

    If plain water didn't remove every problem (oily smears or sticker residue), you can move on to a commercial LCD cleaner or a homemade cleaner. It is very important to read product labels, as there are ingredients that can permanently damage laptop screens.

    Never use commercial window cleaners or products that contain these chemicals to clean a laptop screen:

    • Acetone
    • Ammonia
    • Ethyl acid
    • Ethyl alcohol
    • Methyl alcohol
    • Methyl chloride
    • Toluene

    To make a homemade screen cleaner, mix one of these solutions in a small spray bottle:

    • One part distilled water and one part isopropyl alcohol
    • One part distilled water and one part distilled white vinegar

    Again, turn off and unplug the laptop from the power source, and protect the keyboard with a bit of plastic wrap to prevent any moisture from seeping in.

    Whether you are using a commercial cleaner or a homemade solution, lightly spray a microfiber cloth with the product. Never spray any type of cleaner directly on a laptop screen. Lightly rub the areas that are not clean, moving to a clean part of the cloth as the mess is transferred to the cloth. Allow the screen to air-dry thoroughly before closing or powering up the laptop.

  5. Disinfecting a Laptop Screen

    Glass-protected LCD screens, like those on many Apple products, can be sanitized with a disinfecting wipe to remove bacteria.

    Warning

    Always check the manufacturer's recommendations before using a wipe, and do not use a disinfecting wipe on an unprotected LCD screen.

    If your screen is protected by glass, unplug the device and wring the disinfecting wipe until it is nearly dry and lightly wipe down the screen. Allow the screen to air-dry before powering on.

  6. Don't Forget the Rest of the Laptop

    Just like your laptop screen, it's a good idea to clean the keyboard and peripherals regularly to clean away crumbs, dust, and oils from our hands.