How to clean your TV screen the right way

You'll find as many methods for cleaning a TV screen as there are people you ask. Here's our perspective.

(Credit: David Fulmer, Old Crosley TV, Flickr CC)

You'll find as many methods for cleaning a TV screen as there are people you ask. Then, just to add to the confusion, consult your TV's owner manual and add another method or two.

The mission, when cleaning a flat screen TV, is:

  1. DON'T SCRATCH IT

  2. Don't damage its special optical coating

  3. Don't let fluids enter the internals

  4. Don't crack the screen or pixel elements beneath it

  5. Leave it dust, spot and streak free

So, the approach needed must be gentle, thoughtful and as passive as possible. TVs should not be attacked with the same cleaning gusto you might apply to most other appliances. However, the nice HDTVs we love deserve to be beautiful, and to be in tip top condition ready to display an image that looks as good as possible.

The kit

(Credit: Steven Depolo, Feather duster, Flickr CC)

A feather duster

TV screens are a magnet for dust. A simple weekly flick-over with a soft duster reduces the frequency you need to actually get stuck in and do a proper clean. That's a good thing. And when you do need to do some polishing, the duster removes potentially dangerous particles that could be rubbed in and create scratches.

In the world of feather dusters, the best are considered to be those made from ostrich feathers — and not just any old ostrich feathers — black feathers from the male ostrich are softer and allegedly are better at trapping dirt.

A micro-fibre cloth

You'll actually need two of these — one for 'damp' initial cleaning, and another perfectly dry one to give the screen its final buff.

Many, if not most, consumer electronic devices come with one, and the odds are very high that there was one in the box your TV came in. They can often be small and thin, though — the type that comes with cameras, for example — and for a big TV a large cloth is easier to use, so next time you're in an electronics shop pick up a couple of large ones.

It's very important that the cloth be washed regularly — something most people probably don't do. Any trapped grit equals disaster when rubbed across your precious screen, and built-up gunk reduces their effectiveness, so just drop them in the washing machine after each use.

Besides being super soft and non-abrasive, micro-fibre cloths are also lint-free, and will pick up any lint or dust on your screen as you wipe.

Dry electrostatic cleaning cloth

This is optional. If regular dusting does the job, great. But many people swear by these. They act like dust magnets and a gentle sweep over the screen can lift the dust completely. Pledge Grab It dry electrostatic cloths are popular and are available in most supermarkets.

Cleaning solution

Here's where the arguments really start. Most TV manufacturers recommend using a dry cloth only. Some very few will tell you it's ok to use a barely-damp cloth if you absolutely must.

But the fact is you simply cannot get a TV streak-free unless you use a bit of dampness. The odd Catch-22 is that for the first few months of owning a new TV only a light dusting is needed to keep it beautifully streak-free. It's only after the first mystery household blobs and bits start to appear than the owner takes to their screen with a damp cloth — and that's when the first streaks appear.

You can buy any of a billion or so HDTV/computer monitor cleaning solutions. If you do make sure there is no alcohol, acetone, acetate or ammonia in the solution. They will strip the screen of its magical chemical coating which helps reduce screen reflection.

However, in our experience there are two simple and excellent 'ideal' cleaning solutions. Either a 50/50 vinegar/water mix, or, just distilled water.

Because we always have vinegar in the house, that's what we use at home, though a container of distilled water will cost peanuts and last several years if you happen to remember next time you're at Bunnings.

Cleaning the TV

(Credit: Vincent Chow, Screen Cleaning Cloth, Flickr CC)

Turn the TV off

Mostly because a dark screen makes it easier to see faint streaks or grime. Also, because it's the sensible thing to do when introducing even tiny amounts of liquid to an electronic device.

Dust

Give it a gentle swish with a duster or a dry electrostatic cloth until all the dust is gone. Even small amounts of dust can act like sandpaper under a cloth, so be thorough. If there are no grubby bits or streaks on the screen after dusting then congratulations — the job is complete!

Wipe

Apply a small amount of your cleaning solution directly to a micro-fibre cloth (never spray directly on to the screen) and wipe evenly across the screen starting from the top and working down. Catch any drips or streams if they start to flow downwards.

Be especially careful around the edges so absolutely no liquid enters the gap between the screen and the frame.

Buff

This step is only needed for faint traces of streaks which may remain. Use your second, dry micro-fibre cloth and very gently polish out the streaks. Do not apply any pressure to the screen as you polish. Your TV is comprised of several thin layers and it's all too easy to permanently damage your set by pressing too hard against these delicate components.

Removing scratches

(Credit: nseica, Scratch, Flickr CC)

If the worst thing in the world has happened and your beautiful HDTV has a scratch, all is not lost.

Scratch removal kits are sold at most hardware and larger electronic stores. Alternately, the DIY solution is to apply a tiny amount of petroleum jelly to the scratched area and gently rub it in before cleaning off any surrounding jelly.

Scratch 'removal' kits don't actually take the scratch away, but they will fill the little valley the scratch is made of and diffuse any light so it's far less noticeable.

Your warranty may even cover scratches so check the details.



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