Whether you are working on a laptop or sitting in front of a monitor at work, it is likely that your computer screen will become a little sprouted. For the most part, dust is a major concern – it can silently cover the screen of a computer or monitor and disturb the colors or brightness of the screen. You may also need to deal with fatty fingerprints. Others might be concerned about viruses and bacteria during the flu season – especially since most can potentially live on surfaces for several days, including the new coronavirus, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people disinfect “high contact surfaces” when possible. But cleaning the screen is more delicate than wiping the rest of your laptop; some cleaners can be abrasive, and using too much liquid can cause your laptop and monitor to short out completely. And yet, unlike other electronic devices, a glass screen or LCD monitor can easily attract annoying streaks (just like stainless steel).
The most important thing, says Carolyn Forte, director of the cleaning laboratory at the Good Housekeeping Institute, is that people should avoid Windex or any other glass cleaner you find in the cleaning aisle. “Windows are very different from laptop screens. More so, the most common form of Windex [the plain variety] is not intended for disinfection, so it does not kill germs like a real disinfectant would, “she explains. Although it is certainly effective in removing streaks from glass, Forte says the using a clean microfiber cloth before and after you try to clean your laptop screen is the right way to remove any traces or imperfections – and ta real disinfectant could better kill and remove germs from your screen.
A note on the different degrees of cleaning: Some laptop users may only disinfect their screen, which the CDC defines as “[lowering] the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level “, due to commercial cleaners containing certain chemicals. Others, depending on the type of screen they use, may be able to completely disinfect the surface, which “completely kills germs on surfaces or objects” and “further reduces the risk of spreading the infection” as a whole.
Here, Forte addresses some issues regarding cleaning your laptop or computer screen, which can be a very different process for Mac and PC users. In addition, it shares a process that should allow you to safely get rid of dust, oily marks and germs without endangering your machine.
What cleaning product can I use to clean my computer screen?
It’s a common question, but the answer is complicated, because there are hundreds of laptop manufacturers and even more when it comes to displays, and they all advertise different solutions. The question is whether or not glass is part of your laptop screen: for Mac users, this is often the case, but some PC models may not have glass on their LCD screens . If in doubt, refer to your user manual if possible, or contact your laptop manufacturer online via email or on-site support chats for more information, says Forte.
Apple has just updated its advice to customers due to inquiries about the regular rise of the new coronavirus, stating that products like Clorox brand disinfectant wipes are safe to use on their products if used with care – but some devices, such as the Apple Pro Display XDR, may have their own instructions independent of the general advice of the manufacturer.
That being said, Forte says that most Apple laptops and monitors – or any laptop with glass-protected screens – can be wiped down with Lysol disinfectant wipes, which have been easily advertised as safe to use with electronics for years. Since laptops are routinely handled, Forte says you shouldn’t aim to disinfect your device completely, as it won’t stay disinfected for long. Although Lysol wipes in particular need to stay wet on hard surfaces for 4 minutes to kill viruses and bacteria safely, you should only let your screen dry after you have wiped it enough. The simple act of wiping the surface will significantly sanitize your screen in the first place.
Remember: Like any other device, you never want to spray a cleaning product directly on the screen – it could seep into cracks and crevices in your laptop, says Forte. “You want to make sure that no excess water, cleaner, or liquid gets into your laptop. Always spray a cloth first if you’re trying to use aerosols or sprays.”
Here’s how to safely use Lysol wipes to disinfect a non-LCD laptop screen:
- Make sure you unplug your laptop from its power source and turn it off if possible (do the same for the monitors).
- First, use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe your screen; remove dust, scratches and other fingerprints from the surface if possible.
- Then wring a Lysol disinfectant wipe to make sure it is not oversaturated. You can gently wipe your laptop screen once, taking care not to touch any openings (including ports or speakers).
- Let your screen air dry. If streaks have developed later, Forte says you should wipe it down again with a clean microfiber cloth, as this extra friction can help remove more germs and smooth out streaks. If you don’t have a clean microfiber cloth, you can immerse one in boiling water to remove germs (by letting it air dry), says Forte, or just go through a wash cycle using a laundry disinfectant (like the Lysol version).
Can I use soap and water to clean my laptop screen?
If you have a laptop with a standard LCD screen, you should do not use disinfectant wipesbecause manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard claim that the active ingredients in Clorox and Lysol wipes can damage your screen. This HP Customer Support web page explains why: “Do not use any of the following chemicals or any solution that contains them: Acetone, ethyl alcohol, toluene, ethyl acid, ammonia, or methyl chloride,“he reads.” Plastic and glass cleaners containing ammonia can leave a dazzling film … ”
Should you use soap, then? Strong specifies that you shouldn’t bother using soap and water to clean an LCD screen if you can’t use a Lysol wipe on it in the first place. Some varieties of soap may contain the ingredients known to affect LCD screens – and even then Forte explains that dry microfiber cloths do better than soap to actually lift and kill germs. Microfiber cloths are made with specialized fibers that have more area to trap dirt, grime and germs, says Forte, and they are best designed with edges to repel bacteria from your screen. While a dry microfiber cloth does not disinfect an LCD screen, or disinfect it like a Lysol wipe, using one to wipe your screen habit endanger permanent damage that cleaners could pose.
“LCD screens accumulate stains and scratches all the time. To clean them, choose a non-abrasive cloth or towel. Turn off the computer and unplug the power cable. Gently wipe the LCD screen with a soft cloth and dry, “says the recommendations on the HP support page. “If there are any marks left, moisten the cloth with an LCD cleaner, then gently wipe the cloth over the screen in one direction, moving from top to bottom.”
There are products designed to clean LCD monitors available at online retailers like Amazon or in computer stores, but Forte recommends checking the product’s ingredient list to make sure none of the active ingredients above is not included. And like Windex, she says it’s probably not meant to disinfect or disinfect your LCD screen.
Do I have to worry about my keyboard?
Since your keyboard is attached to your laptop, you may be wondering if you shouldn’t use disinfectant on this surface as well. Apple maintains that you should not use abrasives or cleaners containing solvents “that could damage the finish”, while PC laptop manufacturers all have different instructions (HP once said soap is good) . Forte says you shouldn’t be afraid to wipe your keyboard with a rubbing alcohol pad after taking the time to clean your laptop screen. Despite official recommendations, keyboards are made with non-porous plastic keys, and Forte explains that they should not be affected by controlled amounts of rubbing alcohol if you are careful that liquid or water does not get into your real keyboard.
Just like when you clean your screen, you need to make sure your computer is turned off and not plugged in, and you’ll start over with a clean microfiber cloth. You will wipe away any dirt, dust or particles that have lodged between or under your keys. Experts from Forte and Apple recommend holding your laptop at a 75-degree angle and using a can of compressed air to ensure that any flying debris that gets caught between the keys is swept away before wipe it more. Finally, dip a clean microfiber cloth or large cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol to disinfect your keyboard.
You will need to make sure that everything you use to wipe your keys is not wet (again, you don’t want any liquid to spill!). Gently wipe the top of your keys and let them air dry by themselves. If your keys are not as high as traditional keyboards – sometimes the case for Apple products in particular – you can take extra precaution by using a Q-Tip rather than a cloth or cotton swab. You will find that you can apply alcohol directly to each individual key this way, avoiding the key openings directly on its sides.
In summary: It is clear that manufacturers of laptops and computer accessories have various recommendations when it comes to cleaning surfaces with disinfectants. While these cleaners may contain solvents or other potentially abrasive cleaning agents, they are designed to kill germs. Soap and water or a microfiber cloth alone do not have the same cleaning power as disinfectants, but may be a safer alternative if you are concerned about affecting the operation of your computer.