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The Best Way to Clean a Flat Screen TV

If you see more dust, fingerprints, and smudges than the actual show you are watching, your flat screen probably needs a good wipe-down. But wait: Chemicals and paper towels can actually harm your flat screen TV. This guide explains a better way to clean your tube without the risk of damaging the screen or the electronics behind it.

Woman cleaning a flat screen TV iStock

There are few things more frustrating than sitting down for a movie or a new series and being distracted by fingerprints and smudges on a flat screen TV. But you can’t just pull out a bottle of window cleaner and go to town—that could cause more harm than good. The following steps detail the optimal way to clean a flat screen TV so you get a streak-free finish without the risk of any damage.

Tools and Materials

The Best Way to Clean a Flat Screen TV

There’s more to cleaning a flat screen TV than dousing it in window cleaner and scrubbing it with paper towels. The following is the best way to clean a flat screen LED, LCD, or plasma TV that won’t damage them or leave streaks behind.[WY1]

Note: Be sure to check the owner’s manual before cleaning the TV. There may be some model-specific instructions included in the manual that require attention to prevent damage.

Step 1: Power Down

Never clean a TV that’s turned on or plugged in. Doing so may cause a short or damage. It’s also easier to see dirt if the screen is off.

Power the TV off and then unplug it from the wall. Even leaving the TV in “standby mode” still allows electricity to flow from the outlet to the power supply unit inside the TV, so it’s best to unplug it entirely.

Step 2: Wipe the Screen

Start with a dry, tack-free microfiber cloth. It is designed to attract dust particles and won’t leave any lint behind. Using very light pressure, wipe the screen in circular motions to remove debris.

This step prevents the screen from scratching in the subsequent steps, as dirt and dust can cause microscopic scratches that accumulate over time. Just this one action alone could be all it takes to return a crystal-clear picture to the screen.

Step 3: Remove Smudges

If wiping the dust and dirt revealed some stains or smudges, now is the time to take care of them. Fill the spray bottle with distilled water and spray a different, clean microfiber cloth. Use the moistened cloth to gently polish the screen in circular motions until the stains or smudges disappear.

Do not spray the screen directly with the spray bottle. Spraying the screen can cause the drips and moisture to sneak behind the seal around the screen and cause an electrical short or corrosion to form on the electronic components. Instead, always spray a cloth first.

Step 4: Do a Deeper Clean

If stubborn marks remain, employ a cleaning solution. Mix distilled water with a very small amount of mild dish soap. Aim for a ratio of 1:100, as in one part soap to 100 parts water. For reference, with a 32-ounce bottle of water, you would add roughly two teaspoons of dish soap.

Spray the cleaning solution onto the microfiber cloth used in Step 3, and gently polish the screen to remove any stuck-on stains, smudges, or oily residue. Use circular motions and reapply the solution whenever the cloth begins to dry or leave streaks.

Step 5: Clear the Vents

There are typically vents along the bottom, top, or back of a flat screen TV, and they can get clogged with dust or gunk, which can cause the TV to overheat. While removing all the dust inside the TV isn’t feasible, it’s a good idea to eliminate as much from the vents as possible to prevent the TV from running too hot.

With the TV still unplugged, use a handheld vacuum or wand with a bristle attachment and gently brush the dusty areas. This will loosen the dirt and dust while the vacuum sucks it up, preventing it from landing on components inside the television.

Step 6: Clean the TV Stand and Surrounding Area

Dust that settles on or around a TV stand can kick up and land on the screen, so it’s wise to clean it up while you’ve got all the supplies out.

For most stands (the actual arm holding the TV), the cleaning solution used previously on the screen is more than sufficient. Just spray the microfiber cloth and wipe the stand down. For real hardwood surfaces surrounding the stand, such as an entertainment center or console, use furniture polish and a microfiber cloth to remove any excess dust.

Note: Be careful cleaning cable boxes, game consoles, or media players. A wipe with a lightly-sprayed microfiber cloth is all it should take.

That’s the best way to clean a flat screen TV to prevent shorts, corrosion, or streaks. With the screen and stand spotless and the vents clear, feel free to plug the TV back in and turn it on. Kick back on the couch and test the screen’s cleanliness by looking for any left-behind smudges while watching the game or the latest superhero movie. After all, it’s important to make sure that the screen really is as clean as it seems, so don’t skip this extremely critical step.