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Document: How to clean LCD screens | Last modified: May 02, 2005
How To Clean LCD Screens
(from a posting; 8/02)

The majority of the exterior of a portable computer is plastic, except in the case of computers like the Power Book G4. The idea behind cleaning is to protect and preserve. Cleaning though can have consequences as well. For example if abrasive materials and cleaning agents are used then your once dirty portable can begin to look rather aged.

Once of the most important pieces of advise when cleaning a portable is 'take your time.' Rushing raises the possibility of damage to the portable either by mistakenly using improper cleaning agents or putting way too much pressure on surfaces that may crack and break under stress.

LCDs can get dirty for any number of reasons. Fingerprints and dust are typically the main two contributors. However, as in the case of more recent portables, marks may develop on the screen as well.

Keyboard marks
These marks are the result of the edges of the keycaps on the keyboard touching the glass that covers the display due to the tight tolerances required by the slim profile and lighter weight of computers such as the Power Book. These marks are not permanent and can be removed by gently wiping off the display with a clean cloth. Periodically wiping off the keyboard and display will reduce the visibility of any marks on the display. Sheets are available commercially to protect against such marks.

If the keyboard in your Power Book has been lifted up to install RAM (or for any other reason), you should check to make sure that the keyboard is properly seated. When reinstalling the keyboard make sure all the tabs on the leading edge are fully inserted into their corresponding slots. Also ensure that the heat sink or heat exchanger are installed correctly otherwise the keyboard will sit high thus coming into contact with the LCD surface.

A good way to reduce the marks and potential abrasion whenever two surfaces meet is with the introduction of a cloth laid between the LCD and the top case and keyboard. A clever solution but make sure once again that the cloth used is not abrasive otherwise the cloth may become a contributor to LCD scratching.

Fingerprints, dust, etc.
So how do you clean fingerprints, dust or marks from a LCD? Firstly try water on a soft cloth. It is important that you do not use a cloth that may be abrasive. For example, cloths made from synthetics may be abrasive. Make sure the cloths you use are wood-pulp and lint-free with extremely low polyester content. Never use paper towels.

It is important to note that the surface of the LCD is coated with an anti-glare coating. This surface also offers scratch resistance to a good degree. This surface is not however scratch proof. Likewise it is important to note that chemical agents can react with this surface as well therefore be very careful when selecting which chemical cleaners you intend to use.

So which chemicals can you use to clean the LCD? Water is naturally the best however there will be times when water will just not do the job. Regrettably, water alone is not very good at removing oils and other contaminants left behind on a LCD.

Some people use vinegar with water as an all over plastics cleaner for portables. Vinegar & water is the only "safe" glass cleaner for plastics, but this has no anti-static properties, does not resist finger-printing and cannot prevent scratching or extend the life of your LCD display screen surface.

Be very careful of glass cleaners. LCD display screens are almost universally made of plastic. Plastics and computer manufacturers consistently do not recommend alcohol or ammonia - based cleaners. Repeated applications of alcohol on plastic will turn your screen surface "yellow," make it brittle and cause "stress cracking" (hairline scratches) on your screen surface.

While there are many commercial products available that will work without damaging the plastics, Apple has tested a product called Klear Screen made by Meridrew Enterprises ( and found it does not cause any harm to the plastics.

Isopropyl alcohol can also be used to clean LCDs without the worry of damaging the anti-glare coating on a LCD. The only caution though is that you do not use this option regularly. However, from time to time you may need to remove that stubborn oily fingerprint or marks that just seem to not want to come of the screen.

The use of isopropyl alcohol however does leave streaking behind. Streaks are easily removed afterward with a cloth damped with water.

The best and easiest way to clean a LCD with isopropyl alcohol is with the use of Isowipes manufactured by Kimberly-Clark (order code: 6835). These wipes comes in a bottle dispenser with 75 wipes. Isowipes are available through most chemists.

Whenever cleaning an LCD it is always best to use water unless of course you need to remove stubborn dirt thus simply cannot be removed by water alone.

If you choose to use a window cleaner on the LCD make sure that it does not contain any ammonia.

Lastly never spray any cleaning agents directly onto the LCD. Always spray onto a cloth and then using a circular movement rub the cloth onto the LCD surface thus removing dirt and grime. Spraying directly onto the LCD surface may produce running. I suggest using 'microfiber' cloths. These are specially made to remove finger prints and oil for the surface of glass and plastic lens in glasses. You can get these from any eye doctors office , and most have free samples-but if they don't they only cost about 5 bucks. They are re-usable!! Just wet the cloth and gently wipe down the screen (you usally don't even have to wet the cloth)!! When it is dry I just set mine on top of my keyboard and close the screen, and the cloth keeps it from getting marks on the screen!

Exterior plastics
Water on a damp cloth is always best. But again water may not be enough at times. Be careful not to use chemical cleaners that react with plastic that can result in the dulling of the plastics.

Excluding the Power Book G4, the exterior plastics and keyboards can be cleaned with the use of isopropyl alcohol. These wipes will clean away all unwanted dirt and grime and leave a great finish without streaking. Also these wipes will not fade the screen printing on keyboard keycaps.

On the Power Book G4, however, the use of cleaning agents other than water is not recommended since any many cleaning agents have the potential of fading the colour on these portables.
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