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What’s the best way to clean, disinfect, and sanitize my monitor?

BenQ
2020/04/09

In times of heightened public health awareness and also just overall, it’s good to keep your monitor as clean as possible. Even without thinking of germs and microbes, a monitor covered in dust, fingerprint smudges, and dried droplets from the occasional cough won’t look its best. Given enough time, dust on its own will accumulate to lower brightness and dull colors.

Additionally, every time you sneeze or cough in front of your monitor, bacteria, viruses, and other germs happily make the screen a new home for themselves, and we know many of them gladly survive on exposed surfaces for quite some time. Your monitor doesn’t exist to make germs happy. It’s there to make you happy. 

Sanitize vs. disinfect

Based on official definitions from various health organizations like the CDC and the WHO, disinfection means the near total removal of germs from a surface or an area. Sanitization refers to lowering germ populations to reasonably safe levels. Safe for humans that is, not so safe for the germs.

Realistically speaking, you’ll most likely be able to sanitize your monitor at best, because no matter what material your screen is made of, the tough chemicals and ingredients needed to aggressively kill off germ populations en masse will also destroy your screen. Use stuff like ethanol, rubbing alcohol, or bleach and you’ll most probably leave permanent scars on your screen or at the very least ruin the monitor’s lustrous glossy surface or beautiful matte finish. You also want to stay away from any window cleaner product.

By most accounts, regular soap isn’t much better and may also damage monitor surfaces because of the presence of lye, which is very caustic. Monitors don’t do caustic very well. 

Glossy and matte – there’s a difference in cleaning, too!

If your screen is glossy and to your knowledge made of glass, then you may get away with light usage of ethanol and other types of rubbing alcohol to sanitize the monitor. That’s because glass, like metal, tolerates harsh chemicals quite well. However, even glass screens get treated with glare-reduction layers, and those will rub off and become damaged if you use harsh chemicals. Also, as most PC monitors use finely-etched matte surfaces to resist glare, LCD coatings absolutely hate everything from alcohol to your average all-purpose home cleaner. Keep those away from matte monitor surfaces. As mentioned above, you’re very likely to permanently damage your screen by using those. Buying a new monitor every time the old one gets a little dirty isn’t the most reasonable approach we can think of, and we’re the ones making monitors, so take it from us, don’t do it.

Bottom line for this section: glossy monitors may tolerate traditional cleaning fluids and the like, but do check with your manufacturer or the manual. Matte surfaces should never be exposed to mainstream cleaning fluids and materials, as that’ll ruin the monitor. Also, LCD cleaning solutions as sold by many shops and retailers only serve to clean, that is remove smudges and dust. They neither sanitize nor disinfect. 

So what about matte LCD surfaces?

The best you can hope for here is a good cleaning with a cloth slightly dampened by water only, or ideally a microfiber cloth. Microfiber cloths do a decent job of manually picking up germs and lifting them away from the screen, and because they’re not abrasive, there’s almost no chance of scuffing or scratching of that lovely glare-free monitor surface.

The slightly damp part works to remove fingerprint smudges without much rubbing, and is also effective for dust

The basic 3-point procedure for celaning all monitors

  1. Unplug the monitor from power: electronics and fluids don’t mix, and in any case it’s best to not clean an active LCD. The transistors that control each pixel don’t take kindly to pressure while active, so it’s best to clean a monitor when it’s completely powered down
  2. Not too much liquid: if the cloth or wipe you’re using is dripping fluid, wring it out. Whatever you’re using, even if it’s just regular water, don’t use too much. Electronics and liquids don’t live together very well
  3. Apply VERY mild pressure: don’t press on the screen as you’re wiping it off. It doesn’t matter if you use circular motion, up down, left to right…just don’t press on the screen. Essentially allow the cleaning cloth to glide on the monitor. Too much pressure may lead to dead pixels, uniformity issues, dirty screen effects, and even light bleed

Don't worry about a perfectly clean monitor

Unless you eat dinner off your monitor, which we strongly and completely disavow and would never condone, there’s no inherent need to keep your monitor germ-free. It’s not practical to try and do so, and overdoing it defeats the point of owning a monitor since you’ll just damage it.

Keep your monitor reasonably clean at all times with a gentle wipe down once a week as described above to minimize the presence of germs as much as reasonably possible, while removing the far more important accumulation of dust which will hamper your viewing experience.

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