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How can I Clean a TFT Computer Monitor?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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Many laptop and notebook computers now feature a type of screen called a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) monitor. It is not unusual to find the terms "LCD monitor" and "TFT monitor" used interchangeably by computer experts, but the same basic advice applies to either type of screen. To clean one properly, you should use a lint-free cloth and very gentle pressure. If the screen is very dirty, plain water or water with a small amount of vinegar can be used to clean it, but the liquid should never be sprayed directly on the monitor.

Putting pressure on a TFT monitor can cause permanent damage to the electronically sensitive crystals pressed between two thin sheets of plastic, which makes cleaning it a trickier process than cleaning its glass-encased CRT cousin. It can also draw moisture into itself through capillary action, so spraying a liquid cleaner directly on the screen can also be problematic. Any moisture absorbed through the screen surface will not come out voluntarily, and could ruin the entire display.

To clean a TFT screen properly, it is important to remember you are dealing with plastic, not glass. Traditional glass cleaners usually contain alcohol or ammonia, which is harmless on glass but bad for plastic. Never use household glass cleaners, since the ammonia or alcohol will eventually cause the plastic to turn yellow and degrade.

Instead, many experts suggest using clean water and a lint-free microfiber cloth designed for cleaning optics. A small amount of a weak acid, such as vinegar, could be added to the water if the monitor is heavily contaminated with surface dirt or other substances. The cloth should only be slightly damp, and wiping should be in a vertical/horizontal direction. A dry cloth should be used to remove any trace of moisture. Use a very light touch, and only clean a TFT monitor when the power has been turned off.

Some manufacturers of computer peripherals market cleaners intended specifically for LCD, plasma, or TFT monitors. These cleaners usually contain no ammonia or alcohol, although it pays to read the labels before purchasing any commercial cleaning product. Some cleaning kits contain a spray bottle of solution and optical-grade wiping and drying cloths. One or two sprays of the cleaning solution should be sufficient for routine maintenance, although many experts recommend spraying the cloth, not the monitor. It is still important to use a very light touch when wiping the screen with a commercial cleaner.

Some computer users purchase a glare reduction screen or a Lexan® screen protector to prevent the monitor from getting too dirty. When a laptop or notebook computer is folded for storage, the screen may come into contact with the keyboard and pick up traces of skin oils, dirt, or other contaminants. It might be useful, therefore, to wipe down a portable computer's keyboard before closing the lid. Keeping the monitor out of the reach of young children or inconsiderate co-workers may also help keep it clean as well. Curious people are often tempted to poke at a flat screen monitor, so you may want to take steps to discourage this behavior.

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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to EasyTechJunkie, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon130118 — On Nov 27, 2010

Problem with alcohol is that is can degrade the plastic if you are not careful. Hot water to dampen cloth and dry straight after with kitchen towel/lint free cloth.

By FootballKing — On Oct 11, 2010

@tumbtack is right about using rubbing alcohol as a good grease cutting solvent when cleaning TFT screens. I use a combination of rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs on my TFT display monitor. I think the cotton swabs are a lot less likely to scratch the plastic surface then the alcohol pads that are really meant for human skin.

All 15 TFT LCD monitors are just fine to use with alcohol but you might want to check your instruction manual to make sure that the plastic on your screen can handle the strong chemical properties of alcohol.

By thumbtack — On Oct 11, 2010

I have to say that the most effective means of cleaning dirt and grease off of the plastic surface of a TFT screen is the use of alcohol rubbing pads. The soft texture means that you won't scratch the surface and the alcohol is capable of wiping away oily substances that you though might never come up.

The key is to thoroughly wiping the surface and making sure to go in a pattern so you are able to cover the entire surface. If you don't, when the solution dries you will be able to see the parts that you missed.

Some people think that this method can still scratch the surface but I can say that I have never experienced this effect and recommend it highly.

By anon33877 — On Jun 13, 2009

So, there is no hope for abrasions on the TFT film caused by the contact/scraping of the keyboard (IBM)?

Very informative anyway! Thanks! -Rocket

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to EasyTechJunkie, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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