Your television is probably one of the last things you think about adding to your "to clean" list, but the difference between a smudgy screen and a crisp picture isn't one to shrug at. Every day, our TVs accumulate dust and fingerprints, and the buildup occurs so slowly that it's hard to notice. That is, until you take a quick 10 minutes to clean your TV and revel in a far more satisfying cinematic experience.
We asked a couple cleaning pros for the full rundown on how to clean TV screens of all types, including flat plasma and LCD screens, along with some common mistakes people make when cleaning their TV screens so you know exactly what to avoid.
How Often You Should Clean a TV Screen
To prevent buildup from accumulating on your TV screen, aim for a once-weekly TV cleaning. "It's important to clean your TV screen not only to prolong its lifespan, but also to provide the clearest picture possible—smudges, dust, and fingerprints be gone," says Kathy Cohoon, a cleaning professional with Two Maids & a Mop. "It can make a big difference in the aesthetic of your TV and the picture on screen."
What You'll Need
Rubbing alcohol (for tube TVs)
Disinfecting wipe (for remote control only)
How to Clean Flat Plasma, LCD, LED & OLED TV Screens
You can clean any modern TV using the same process.
Power down. Before breaking out any dust cloths or cleaners, make sure your TV is off. If you want to take an additional precaution, Cohoon says you can also unplug the TV, but it's typically not necessary for modern TVs.
Dust the screen. Dry dusting your TV is a crucial step in the cleaning process. "Removing dry debris will ensure that you don't accidentally create scratches by scrubbing a rough piece of dirt or buildup into the screen," Cohoon says. She recommends using a microfiber or soft cloth to gently dust the entire screen. If needed, flip the cloth over (or get a second cloth) in order to completely remove all dust, pet hair, and other loose debris. You can use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the speakers and cords as well.
Use screen-safe cleaner. Spray a small amount of screen-friendly cleaning product onto a soft cloth—never directly onto the screen itself—and wipe the TV down in a methodical, back-and-forth motion. Check that the cleanser is safe for the specific type of screen you are cleaning. Repeat as necessary to remove oily areas or fingerprint smudges. Also, don't forget to gently wipe down the top and base of the TV.
Clean smudges on the screen. "For tougher spots, make sure not to apply too much pressure, especially on more delicate screens," advises Leanne Stapf, the chief operating officer for The Cleaning Authority. "If microfiber cloth spot-cleaning doesn't work, I recommend adding a bit of warm water to the cloth and then cleaning the spot with the dampened cloth."
Air-dry. Let the screen dry completely before turning it back on. This shouldn't take more than 15 minutes.
How to Clean Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TV Screens
Older tube TVs can be cleaned in a similar manner as above, but with a few variations.
Unplug the TV. For safety, it's best to unplug your CRT TV before cleaning.
Dust. Use a microfiber cloth to gently wipe away loose dust, dirt, or any other debris. You may need to turn the cloth over or get a second one to adequately remove everything.
Wipe down the screen. "Since these screens are a bit sturdier, you can mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and lukewarm water to create a cleaning solution," Cohoon says. "Using a small amount of solution on a soft cloth, wipe the entire screen, base, and top." Spot-clean any stubborn areas with caked-on messes or heavy fingerprints. You can also remove fingerprints by rubbing with a microfiber cloth in a circular motion.
Air-dry completely. After cleaning your TV, allow it to air-dry completely before turning it back on. This should only take about 15 minutes.
How to Clean a TV Remote Control
To clean and sanitize a remote, Stapf says to simply use a disinfecting wipe to remove bacteria, germs, fingerprints, and any other residue. Make sure the cleaning wipe is damp but not soaking wet to avoid getting liquid inside the remote control. Spend some time cleaning between the buttons since gunk can easily accumulate here.
It's also a good idea to remove the batteries first, or you can take the remote to a different room so it doesn't inadvertently change the TV settings as you clean the buttons.
Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning TV Screens
To keep your TV in excellent shape, note these common TV cleaning mistakes:
Forgetting to Dust First: "A big misstep when cleaning a TV is forgetting to dust the screen before using a cleaning agent," says Cohoon. This can lead to tiny scratches that slowly degrade picture quality.
Scrubbing Too Hard: Modern TV screens are delicate and require a gentle touch. Wiping too vigorously or using a rough cloth can damage the screen quickly.
Spraying Solution Directly Onto the TV: All wet cleaners should be sprayed onto a cloth and then wiped over the TV. Spraying directly onto the screen can create spots that are hard to remove. It also puts you at risk of damaging the speakers.
Using Non-Approved Cleaners: Using store-bought glass cleaners on OLED or LCD TV screens is a big no-no. Stapf says, "These products contain harsh ingredients like alcohol and ammonia, which can damage the panels of the screen."
Using Too Much Cleaner: You only need a small amount of screen-friendly cleaner; too much can potentially lead to moisture damage.