How to Clean a TV Screen Safely — The Best TV Screen Cleaner

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How to Clean a TV Screen Safely — The Best TV Screen Cleaner

The last time I bought a TV, I spent a fair amount of time deciding whether to get a plasma, LCD or LED screen and debating between HD, 4K and 8K resolution. But to be honest, I spent much less time thinking about how to clean a TV screen. I quickly learned that’s a big mistake, and here’s why: When I failed to include my TV screen in my regular cleaning schedule, I found that the vivid colors and sharp details on my favorite shows and movies grew faded and dull.

Thankfully, a proper cleaning changed that—and now, I can save you from the same fate. I spoke with four cleaning and tech experts to learn the safest and most effective way to clean a TV screen. Whether you have an LCD, LED, OLED or plasma TV screen, these methods can help you avoid damage and make your screen sparkle again.

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Reviewed for accuracy by: Burton Kelso.

Before we dive into the details, let’s brush up on the different types of TV screens. Most of today’s flat-screen TVs have either LCD or OLED screens, which are lit with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The difference is that OLEDs use organic light-emitting diodes, which boast better contrast, darker blacks and brighter whites. Plasma screens, which were popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, were discontinued in 2014, but they are still in many homes. Truly old-school TVs, which relied on bulky cathode-ray tubes (CRTs), had glass screens, which are generally more forgiving when it comes to cleaning methods.

No matter which TV screen you have, make sure your TV is turned off before you start cleaning it. Not only is it safer, but you’ll be able to see smudges better. Then, gather your supplies and follow the expert-approved recommendations below for cleaning your TV screen.

Do an initial dusting with a clean, dry microfiber cloth, gently wiping away any built-up dust from the screen. Also address any crevices that surround the screen, as well as the frame itself.

“TV screens, particularly LCD, LED and plasma screens, are sensitive and can be easily scratched,” says Brandon Pleshek, a third-generation janitor and the creator of the YouTube channel Clean That Up. He recommends using a microfiber cloth, like one you use to clean eyeglasses, regardless of whether your screen is LCD, OLED or plasma. In addition to trapping dust and dirt without scratching the surface, microfiber cloths won’t leave lint or streaks behind on the screen.

What to avoid: Paper towels, tissues and other materials like newspapers can contain fibers that may scratch and damage the screen, according to Burton Kelso, owner and chief tech expert at Integral, a tech repair company. Even if you need to clean a TV with an old-school CRT display, a microfiber cloth is still the way to go, he says. You can also use an electrostatic duster.

When using any type of liquid, spray it on the cloth first in a fine mist to avoid damaging any internal parts; never apply it directly to the screen, says tech expert Chris Capelle, who’s worked with Apple products for the past three decades. He suggests using enough cleaner to lightly dampen your cleaning cloth without leaving it sopping wet.

As for the type of liquid cleaner to use, our experts recommend sticking with distilled water, which doesn’t contain minerals or particles that could scratch the screen. If you have a really tough spot—maybe your toddler’s juice splashed and dried on the screen—they say you can try a very diluted mixture of distilled water and mild dishwashing soap or vinegar. You can also use a commercially formulated TV screen cleaner, but check your manufacturer’s website for specific recommendations.

What to avoid: When cleaning a flat-screen TV, you should never use harsh chemicals like acetone, toluene or ammonia. It might seem intuitive to use a window cleaner like Windex, but those products often contain ammonia, which can permanently discolor your screen. Don’t use pretreated dusting cloths either, because their oily finish—intended for wood products—can leave a residue.

Pleshek and Capelle also warn against using too much liquid cleaner. Not only could this cause streaking, but “liquid can seep into the edges or internal components of the screen, potentially causing damage,” Pleshek says. “By spraying the towel instead, you can control the amount of liquid and ensure it’s evenly distributed without risking damage to the TV.”

To avoid streaks, use even, circular strokes to wipe down the screen, recommends Lydia Cho, Head of Product Marketing, TV, for Samsung Electronics America. Then, go over the surface one final time with a dry microfiber cloth to eliminate any residue.

This is what Pleshek calls the “two-towel system”: using one towel to apply the cleaning solution and a second, dry towel to buff or dry the surface. “This method ensures that dirt and the cleaning solution are not merely spread around but are effectively removed,” Pleshek says. It also helps avoid streaks and ensures a thorough clean without over-saturating the screen. 

What to avoid: Don’t apply too much pressure when wiping the screen; gentle is the way to go. “Screens are fragile and can be damaged if pressed too hard,” Cho says. If you use too much pressure, you could actually burn out the pixels on your TV screen.

While you’re cleaning your TV, don’t forget to de-gunk your germ-saturated remote control. Capelle recommends taking the following steps to sanitize it:

If you have external speakers, they’re probably also collecting dust, which can lead to dampened or fuzzy sound. Here’s how to clean them:

You can purchase a commercially formulated TV screen cleaner (check your manufacturer’s website for specific recommendations), but if you’d rather save some money or prefer to use a more eco-friendly solution, it’s just as effective to make a DIY cleaner for your TV. Capelle recommends the following solution:

Pleshek advises dusting your TV screen every week to prevent dust particles from accumulating, which could dull the display and scratch the screen. But he recommends cleaning the screen with water or a cleaning solution only as needed, because overcleaning can potentially lead to damage.

“By cleaning only when necessary, you minimize the risk of scratches or other damage from repeated wiping,” Pleshek says. Capelle agrees: “The general rule is similar to washing your car; do it when you see it needs it.”

The process for cleaning a tube TV is the same as cleaning an LCD, LED, OLED or plasma screen. The only difference? You can use glass cleaner on tube TVs, as they have glass screens that can stand up to a spritz of Windex, according to Kelso.

At Reader’s Digest, we’re committed to producing high-quality content by writers with expertise and experience in their field in consultation with relevant, qualified experts in the tech-repair and cleaning industries. For this piece, Brooke Nelson tapped her experience as a tech and consumer-products writer, and then Burton Kelso, the owner and chief tech expert at Integral, a tech repair company, gave it a rigorous review to ensure that all information is accurate and offers the best possible advice to readers. We verify all facts and data, back them with credible sourcing and revisit them over time to ensure they remain accurate and up to date. Read more about our team, our contributors and our editorial policies.

Additional reporting by Laurie Budgar.

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How to Clean a TV Screen Safely — The Best TV Screen Cleaner

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