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HDTVs and Monitors

This is the number one cleaning question I get from friends and family, and it's one of the simplest to answer. HDTVs and monitors are the worst kind of dirt magnets, begging to be touched—by your boss who wants to show you something on your computer screen, by your greasy little cousin who's getting restless during his umpteenth viewing of Finding Nemo, by your drunk old buddy from college who somehow still thinks it's funny to grope actresses onscreen on his way to the bathroom—and sitting in total vulnerability: in the case of your LCD screen, within sneezing range; in the case of your flatscreen TV, in your dusty living room.

The tempting, nearly instinctual response to a oily, dusty, mucousy panel of glass or glasslike material is to reach under the sink, grab that bottle of Windex and the paper towels and spray that stuff down. Do not do this. There are some TVs and displays for which Windex will do the job—CRT televisions, for example, and some glass-paneled screens—and if you've been using Windex in the past without incident, don't worry too much. But also, stop.

Spraying any kind of cleaner onto a screen isn't a great idea. These panels aren't weatherproof, so if your sprayed solvent runs into the crack between the panel surface and the display bezel, there will be tragedy. Furthermore, Windex is a glass cleaner: a lot of your screens' outer layers aren't glass, or have some kind of delicate coating. Ammonia-based cleaners, for example, can microscopically abrade some plastic surfaces, causing your screen to become slightly foggy over time. And for your cleaning tool, paper towels aren't terrible, but they're also somewhat risky—screen coatings can be extremely delicate, and paper towels can sometimes be a little rough. Plus, they're prone to leaving streaks, no matter what liquid you're using.

So, what's the trick? Water. Water and a soft, lint-free (ideally microfiber) towel. To clean your panel, dampen your cloth and strain it out as best you can—you don't want any drippage here—then run it, folded, gently across your screen, repeating until the screen has been thoroughly covered and any sticky residue has been removed. (For larger displays, perform cleaning in sections, so as not to let the water dry or collect and run.) Now do the same with a dry cloth, applying slightly more pressure, to lift away the dirt and moisture. Repeat if there are still grease deposits. That's it! A few bucks for some soft cloths, a little bit of water, and your screen is as good as new.