Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 9 Issue 5
May 2015
A Cheap and Careful Way to Clean Your Computer Screen

Is your computer screen covered in dust, carpet fibers, fingerprints, and other debris? Read on for my advice on how to clean it cheaply and thoroughly.

What you'll need
You won't need anything fancy, just the following:
  • Some distilled water - a gallon will probably cost you less than $2 at a local grocery store or drug store.
  • An old, clean, soft cotton T-shirt or handkerchief, no printing or logos.
  • About 15-20 minutes of your time.
What to do
The monitor-cleaning process that I recommend is very straightforward.

First, the preparation:
  • Save your work and Shut down your computer. If it's a Windows machine, you can use Hibernate instead of Shutdown. Don't use the Sleep function. If you're cleaning an external monitor, you should turn its power off as well.
  • Wait for the computer (and monitor) to turn off completely. The monitor screen should be black.
  • If the monitor feels hot to the touch, give it a few minutes to cool down.
  • Take the T-shirt and distilled water away from the computer, ideally to a sink.
  • Gently wet the T-shirt (or a cut segment of it) with the distilled water. You may need to "work" the water into the fabric.
  • Wring it out to be absolutely sure it's not dripping. The last thing you want is to drip water into your equipment, or onto the papers on your desk.
Then, figure on doing the following steps 3 times:
  • Gently wipe the screen using horizontal or vertical motions, not circular. If you can tell that you're picking up dust or carpet fibers, one technique is to "gather" them into a lower corner.
  • As one section of the T-shirt gets dirty, shift to another clean and moist part in order to avoid putting the dirt back onto the screen or simply moving it around. If you run out of T-shirt, rinse it and wring it out again.
In my experience it's useful to repeat the above 3 times in order to clean the layers of accumulated stuff you're likely to find:
  • On the first pass you'll wipe off the outer layer of light, airborne stuff - dust, carpet fibers, pollen, etc.
  • If anyone eats at the computer, on the second pass you may get lumpy or crusty bits of old, accumulated food. You may have to bear down just a little bit to remove them, but don't press hard or scrub.
  • On the third pass you'll get the oil deposited from your fingers where you've touched the monitor.
As you're cleaning, you may find it helpful to look at the monitor from a side angle instead of straight in front so you can better see the spots or fingerprints you may have missed.

Finishing up:
  • Wipe the dust from the frame around the monitor, especially the small "shelf" across the bottom (at the hinge if it's a laptop computer), as well as the top and the base of the monitor if it's an external unit.
  • When you're all done, let everything dry for a few minutes before turning your monitor and computer back on.
  • Don't throw out that T-shirt! Wash and dry it with your laundry, and then store it with the distilled water as your "screen-cleaning kit" for next time.
What not to do
Don't spray or splash anything onto the screen, you'll risk that liquid dripping down inside and damaging your equipment.

Don't use:
  • Materials that might be abrasive or add more dust than they remove: Paper towels, napkins, facial tissues, T-shirts with printing or logos, terrycloth towels, gauze, sponges, pencil erasers, etc.
  • Chemicals that might stain or damage your monitor: Vinegar, bleach, ammonia, acetone, rubbing alcohol, tap water (may have minerals), window cleaner, wet-naps, detergent, soap, etc.
  • Improvised elements: Your hand or fingers or fingernails.
Screen-cleaning wipes, "microfiber" cloths, or other products that are specifically labeled as safe for cleaning a computer screen are ok. They're certainly convenient, but more expensive to use over time than the materials I prefer to use.

Where to go from here
  • google: clean computer monitor
  • Stop touching your computer monitor with your fingers. Not only will the oil from your fingertips accumulate, it will help your screen collect more dust.
  • When you turn off your monitor, consider putting a sheet or towel over it to reduce the amount of dust that will accumulate overnight. Only do this with a monitor or laptop that is powered off to avoid excessive heat build-up.
How to contact me:
phone: (617) 484-6657

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to and I'll add you to the list, or visit

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Copyright (C) 2015 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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