Cleaning a smartphone touchscreen is simple. You don’t need a special cleaning kit or cleaning solution to safely clean your tablet or smartphone’s touchscreen – you can do it with materials you probably have on hand. However, you do need to know what to avoid – many common types of cloths and cleaning solutions can damage a touchscreen.
Once you understand what to do and what not to do, you can safely clean a smartphone or tablet’s touchscreen in just a few seconds, removing the build-up of oil, dust, and other grime that can accumulate on these devices as we rub our fingers over them all day.
What Not To Do
Before we go over a quick and easy method to safely clean your device’s touchscreen, let’s cover some things you should never do to clean a smartphone touchscreen:
NEVER use harsh chemicals, including Windex, anything with ammonia, or alcohol-based cleaners. If a liquid is necessary, you should only use a small amount of water on the cloth. You can also purchase special cleaning solutions, such as iKlenz, which is recommended by Apple, but these solutions are not necessary.
NEVER use abrasive cloths, paper towels, or tissue paper, which can scratch the touchscreen. The scratches will be small and build up over time, damaging and dulling the screen. Instead, use microfiber cloths, which are specially designed to clean sensitive surfaces.
NEVER use a large amount of water. If water is necessary to clean the screen, you should make your microfiber cloth slightly damp instead of putting the water directly on your screen. If any water at all is necessary, it’s also a good idea to power off your device ahead of time.
NEVER press too hard while cleaning the screen. This can damage your device.
This process will be different if you have a screen protector on your screen. The method below is for cleaning glass screens – if your screen is covered in a plastic screen protector, you have more leeway and can use other types of cleaning solutions.
Get a Microfiber Cloth
To clean a touchscreen, all you really need is a microfiber cloth. For dirtier screens, you may also need a small amount of plain water (soap is not necessary).
The term “microfiber cloth” may sound a bit fancy, but they’re extremely common and cheap. If you have a pair of eyeglasses, they probably came with a microfiber cloth for cleaning the glasses. This cloth can safely clean sensitive glass surfaces without scratching them, whether it’s a pair of glasses or a glass touchscreen. You may also have received a microfiber cloth with another device. (In a pinch, you can use cotton, such as a cotton cloth or the corner of a cotton t-shirt, but this won’t work nearly as well.)
Why a microfiber cloth? They contain very small fibers which won’t scratch your touch screen. They also attract dust and oils, pulling them off your device’s screen instead of rubbing them around the screen. A few quick wipes with a microfiber cloth is generally all you need.
How To Clean a Touch Screen
Now that you have the appropriate cloth to clean your screen, the process is very simple:
Turn off the device. This step is actually optional, but if you’ll be using any water, this is a good idea. At the very least, turning off the device’s screen allows you to see the dirt more easily.
Wipe horizontally or vertically across the touchscreen in one repeating direction with the microfiber cloth. For example, start at the left side of the screen and wipe straight across to the right side of the screen. Next, move the cloth a bit lower and repeat this process to clean the entire screen. Some people recommend rubbing in small circles, which can help remove more stubborn grime, but this can also rub the dirt into your screen, damaging it. The wiping-across motion sweeps grime off the screen, and is the safest way to clean the screen.
If necessary, use a small amount of water (don’t add soap or anything else to the water) to make a corner of the cloth slightly damp. Use the damp part of the cloth to clean the screen in the same way. (Rubbing in a small circle may be necessary if grime refuses to come off.)
Wipe the screen with the dry part of the microfiber cloth — in the same way you cleaned the touchscreen above — to dry it off a bit. Leave the rest of the water on the screen to air-dry; don’t try too hard to dry it with the cloth.
This is the most complicated way to explain the process. In most cases, simply turning the device’s screen off and giving it a few wipes across with a microfiber cloth will be enough to remove any dust and oil in just a few seconds.
To clean the microfiber cloth itself and prevent build-up of dirt, soak the cloth in warm, soapy water, rinse well, and let it dry. Don’t use any harsh chemicals to clean the cloth, either. These can damage the cloth.
You can buy cleaning kits and expensive cleaning solutions like iKlenz and Monster CleanTouch, but a simple microfiber cloth and some water will work just as well in most situations.
Remember to wash your hands regularly to keep your device’s screen clean – less oil on your hands means less smudges and dirt on your touchscreen.
To safely clean your other computer hardware, check out our guide to cleaning keyboards, mice, computer fans, and LCD monitors.
How do you clean your smartphones, tablets, and other touchscreen gadgets? Do you prefer some sort of cleaning solution? Leave a comment and share your tips!