How To Clean Your Tech

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The Proper Care and Feeding of Your HDTV, Phone, and Camera

You have to take care of your stuff--all of it. Like your car and your house, your electronic gadgets big and small need to stay clean and protected from accidents.

I've already described how to care for your laptop and laptop battery, and we've covered tips for cleaning out your dusty desktop PC before. So this time around, I'll concentrate on your flat-screen HDTV, your smartphone, and your digital camera. But before I discuss these items separately, I'll tell you about the one maintenance chore they all have in common.

Cleaning Your Screen

Your HDTV, your smartphone, and your camera all have screens, and they're probably all LCDs. A dirty screen won't give you much pleasure--or much information.

Screens are delicate, however. Clean them the wrong way, and you ruin them for good.

Magic Cleaner cloth, courtesy of VisibleDust (visibledust.com)
The main tool you need is a microfiber cloth. You can get a very small one, perhaps even for free, at your optometrist's office. That's fine for a camera or phone, but if you're willing to clean a 50-inch TV with a 2-inch cloth, you have more patience than I do. You can buy larger ones for a few dollars at camera stores, electronics stores, hardware stores, or online.

Wipe the screen gently with the dry cloth. Don't press hard on it, but for particularly stubborn dirt you can apply some gentle pressure.

Most of the time that will be sufficient, but if a dry cloth doesn't do the job, you'll need to use a wet one--and that can be tricky.

Never use a glass-cleaning product like Windex. Avoid anything with alcohol in it. Don't apply the liquid directly to the screen. And don't do any of this while electricity is coursing through the device.

Distilled water is the safest and cheapest liquid for a screen. If that isn't strong enough, mix it half-and-half with white vinegar. You can find commercial LCD-cleaning fluids, but I haven't encountered any that clean better than distilled water and white vinegar.

First, turn off the device. If it's a television, unplug it. If the phone or camera's battery is removable, take it out. If you can't remove the battery, simply turning the device off will probably do.

Put the liquid into a spray bottle, and spray it onto the microfiber cloth. Wipe the display as described above, and then wait until the screen is completely dry before turning the device back on.

How to Clean Your HDTV

Your HDTV won't look this good if it's covered in grime.
While we're on the subject of cleaning, you might want to freshen up the TV's frame. A dirty frame won't interfere with your viewing pleasure, but it hurts the room's aesthetics, and dust can bring on allergies.

Use a soft cloth; the microfiber one you use on the screen will do, but so will an old T-shirt. Dampen the cloth with water, and unplug the HDTV before applying.

Let your HDTV breathe. Make sure you don't block its ventilation openings, and don't install it near a heater.

Keep the set dry, too. Make sure that anything that might spill stays away from your television. Humidity can also be a problem, especially if you live in a tropical environment and want to watch television on your semi-open patio. As a general rule, an HDTV shouldn't be subjected to more than 80 percent humidity.

A direct hit to your home by lightning can get through your surge protector and fry your television. If a thunderstorm is coming, unplug the HDTV. Unplug it if you're going away for a few days, too, just in case a storm comes during that time.

Burn-in isn't the problem it was a few years ago, but it can still happen, especially with plasma sets. Check your TV's setup menu for a screen saver or an automatic turn-off option; if you find it, enable it. And in the unlikely event that burn-in occurs, leave your television on for a few hours with a constantly changing image that fills the entire screen. A photo slideshow--provided that the photos fill the screen--will do.

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