How to clean laptop screen, without damaging it, according to pros

Our cleaning experts advise on how to clean your laptop screen, and keep it clean, avoiding scratches and liquid damage

Laptop screen being cleaned
(Image credit: Alamy)

There's nothing worse, when you're staring at a laptop screen all day, than for it to be dirty. But how to clean it without damage?

Laptop screen cleaning needs to be done with care because, if you use the wrong methods, you can ruin or damage it. 

So, we asked our favorite cleaning experts to weigh in – and the good news is that these methods for cleaning a laptop screen work for cleaning a TV screen or monitors, too. 

How to clean a laptop screen

Before you start cleaning, Jill Koch of Jill Comes Clean says it’s important to make sure you have the most effective products on hand.

'These days, you can find various gadgets to clean a laptop screen, but really all you need are microfiber cloths and some distilled water,' Koch says. 'I find the tighter weave microfiber cloths work best, but any will work.'

These microfiber cloths, from Amazon, are our favorite buy and highly rated. You can also buy distilled water from Amazon but if you want to make your own at home (you will only need a small amount), you boil water, collect the condensation, allow it to cool, and use the cooled, condensed (or, distilled, water). 

Marcia Sloman of Under Control Organizing agrees that microfiber cloths are necessary, but she also gave us a tip on what not to use. 'Do not use rags or paper towels. If your laptop screen is glass, you can use a small amount of glass cleaner on the cloth, but I have found that wipes tend to streak the screen,' she says.

You can also buy laptop screen cleaner kits; Amazon's best selling screen cleaner kit, with over 23,000 ratings, includes a spray and microfiber cloth.

1. Power down

Before you start spraying your screen, Kathy Cohoon of Two Maids & a Mop warns of an extremely important first step – one that people often ignore. 

'For best results and to avoid any damage, power down your laptop before cleaning,' says Cohoon.

Sloman agrees though she takes it one further than just simply powering down. 'Always turn off and unplug your device before cleaning,' she says. 

2. Remove dry debris

Once your laptop is definitely powered off, Koch says you still shouldn’t spray anything yet. Instead, give your screen a gentle, dry wipe. 'Start with just the dry microfiber cloth,' she tells us. 'Wipe it gently over the screen to remove dust and smudges.' 

Cohoon agrees, noting that this is an important step to ensure you don’t inadvertently damage your screen. 'Removing dry debris will ensure that you don’t accidentally create scratches by scrubbing a rough piece of dirt or build up into the screen,' Cohoon explains. 'Using a microfiber or soft cloth, gently dust the entire screen. If needed, flip the cloth over and repeat to remove all dust, pet hair, and other debris.' 

3. Use a screen-friendly cleaner

Once you’re confident your dry debris has been fully removed, Cohoon says it’s time to bust out a screen-friendly cleaner such as distilled water – but be conscious that a little goes a long way here. The last thing you want to do is drench your laptop! 

'Using a soft cloth and a small amount of screen-friendly cleaning product, wipe the screen down,' says Cohoon. 'Repeat as needed to remove fingerprints.' 

If you’re not sure of which screen-friendly cleaner is best, Koch recommends keeping it as simple as possible and using distilled water. 'For stubborn smudges or dirt that the dry cloth can't remove, add a little bit of distilled water to your cloth. Not too much – just lightly damp,' she says.

If you’re thinking distilled water is practically the same as tap water, Koch warns this is definitely not the case. 'You want distilled water over regular tap water because tap water can contain minerals that can scratch the screen,' she says. 'Distilled water is free of these minerals and safer. Apply a little to your microfiber cloth then gently wipe over the screen. Never use rubbing alcohol or harsh cleaners on your laptop screen as these can damage it.'

4. Dry the screen

After you’ve used your cleaner, it’s time to bust out the second microfiber cloth – because you need to dry your screen, according to Koch. This should help prevent any watermarks or streaking. 

5. Repeat as needed

Now that you’ve finally tackled a deep screen clean, Cohoon says the next step is key: make it a habit.

'To prevent dust build-up that could lead to screen wear and tear, aim to clean your screen weekly – more if needed or if there are obvious smudges or marks,' says Cohoon.   

Sloman agrees though you might not have to do the full deep clean quite as often. 'Although it is recommended to clean laptop screens every three to six months, I keep a small eyeglass cleaning cloth handy so that it is easy to give a quick wipe after shutting down each day,' she says. 'When you talk during your video calls, a vapor lands on your screen and keyboard. That mist creates a build-up that needs cleaning.'

Our laptop cleaning experts

Jill Koch
Jill Weaver Koch

Jill Koch is an expert in all things organizing and cleaning. She’s a mom, wife, nurse, and former news reporter who never lost the sharing side of reporting, and thus her blog, Jill Comes Clean, was born.

Kathy Cohoon headshot
Kathy Cohoon

Kathy Cohoon works as a representative and cleaning expert for Two Maids & A Mop, a Tallahassee, Florida-based company that provides residential house cleaning services. 

Marcia Sloman's headshot
Marcia Sloman

Marcia Sloman has been a professional organizer for more than thirty years. By helping individuals during and after times of life’s transitions, Marcia is particularly well suited to work with those facing personal or professional shifts, as well as anyone coping with the avalanche of tasks and stuff. Her specialty focuses on help for individuals challenged by ADHD, anxiety, medical issues, or life changes such as job changes, birth, death, moving, or divorce.


What is the best thing to clean a laptop screen with?

Microfiber cloths and distilled water are the best things to clean a laptop screen with. Any other cloth might scratch your screen, and even tap water, which contains minerals, can scratch it. Amazon's best selling screen cleaner kit is also highly rated amongst cleaning experts.

What you should never do when cleaning a laptop screen?

Never spray liquid directly on to your laptop screen; always apply it to the cloth. Don't use anything other than a microfiber cloth or purpose-made wipe; anything harsher, even kitchen paper and tap water, can scratch a laptop.

Prevention is better than cure, so avoid touching your screen, fold the laptop shut when not in use to avoid dust buildup, and if you are not using your laptop for more than a few hours, put it away into a zipped up bag since dust can settle on the screen even when it is closed.

Ashley Chalmers
Contributing Editor

Ashley Chalmers is a freelance writer for Homes & Gardens with over 10 years' experience as a digital writer and content creator. Ashley started her career in entertainment and fashion PR in New York, before moving to the French countryside and taking up travel blogging. Now, Ashley lives in London. Her passion for travelling is only matched by her love of making her house feel like a home, and she loves to include her finds from around the world in her decor.