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    How to Clean Your Flat-Screen TV

    Don't overthink it. A soft cloth may be all you really need.

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    Person wiping TV screen with cloth
    Never use a paper towel to clean your TV screen, and avoid chemical cleaners.
    Photo: iStock

    With many of us now turning our TV-watching attention to spring and summer sports, we want to see all the action as clearly as we can. But TVs, like other electronics, attract dust and get marred by fingerprints.

    Cleaning your flat-screen TV is a straightforward process that doesn’t require any pricey chemicals.

    While you’re at it, also pay attention to the remote controls for your TVs, cable boxes, and streaming players. These get handled much more than TVs and can harbor pathogens along with plain old grime. We have advice for cleaning both TVs and remotes below.

    The current market is dominated by superbright big-screen LCD (LED) and OLED TVs. But some of us still have older sets, including plasma TVs, which companies stopped manufacturing in 2014, and even CRTVs—also called tube TVs—which started disappearing around 2008.

    If you’re cleaning an older tube TV, you have a bit more flexibility because the screen is made of glass and can be cleaned like other glass items in your household. In this instance—and only this one—it’s okay to use a window cleaner such as Windex.

    More on TVs

    More modern TVs are far more sensitive and need to be cleaned carefully to keep the screens from getting scratched or damaged. Plasma TVs also have glass screens, but manufacturers often apply a sensitive anti-glare coating, so they should be treated like an LCD or OLED TV rather than a CRTV set.

    For all of these TVs, the advice is the same, and it’s simple: Clean with a soft, dry cloth to avoid scratching the screen.

    In all cases, turn off the TV—or even unplug it—before cleaning, says Claudio Ciacci, who heads Consumer Reports’ TV testing program. “In addition to it being safer for the set, it’s usually easier to see dirt or finger smudges when the screen is dark,” he says. “It also gives the TV a chance to cool down.”

    If you have any doubts about which type of TV you have, you can always consult the owner’s manual. Most manuals and manufacturer websites have instructions for the best way to clean their sets.

    Here are all of our tips for cleaning your flat-screen TV.

    Consumer Reports is a nonprofit member organization with a mission to create a fairer marketplace. We buy every product we rate, including laptops and electric lawnmowers.

    Start With a Dry, Soft Cloth

    Screens can scratch easily, and even paper towels and tissues contain fibers that can do damage. “Your best bet is to use a soft, anti-static microfiber cloth—the kind used to clean eyeglasses and camera lenses—and wipe in a circular motion,” says John Walsh, who cleans more than 250 TVs a year in his role as a CR photographer. (Some TV manufacturers will include a cloth for this purpose.) “Gently wipe the screen with a dry cloth to remove dust and other debris, but don’t press too hard.”

    You may also want to wipe down the TV’s cabinet and make sure dust isn’t clogging the vents that help dissipate heat. If the TV is on a stand and not tethered to a wall, Walsh suggests cleaning with one hand while supporting the TV with the other to prevent the set from tipping over. But CR strongly recommends anchoring all stand-mounted TVs using anti-tipping straps designed for this purpose.

    If there are hard-to-remove stains, you can dampen the cloth slightly with distilled water and gently clean the screen. Don’t spray water directly onto the screen because that could cause a shock or component failure if water seeps into the inner workings of the set.

    For the most stubborn stains, you can try using a solution of very mild dish soap highly diluted with water, once again applied to the cloth and not to the TV itself. (As a guideline, Panasonic used to recommend a 100:1 ratio of water to soap.) LCD screens in particular are very sensitive to pressure and can scratch easily, so don’t press hard.

    Walsh suggests that if you use a dampened cloth, go over the screen one more time with a dry one to remove any swirls or streaks.

    Avoid Harmful Chemicals

    Alcohol and ammonia, found in window cleaners such as Windex, can wreak havoc on your expensive flat-screen TV, so don’t use cleaners that have them. If you decide to use a packaged screen cleaner—which you don’t really need (see below)—choose one that doesn’t contain alcohol, ammonia, or acetone. Also, don’t use any cleaners that contain an abrasive that can scratch the screen.

    Skip the Cleaning Kit

    Some of these kits cost $15 to $20 for just a microfiber cloth and a small bottle of cleaning solution, which is probably mostly water. Instead, buy the cloth at an office supply store or online and use distilled water or a solution of your own making according to our advice above. If you opt for a kit, make sure it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals.

    Don't Forget to Clean the Remote Control

    Remote controls can get dusty and also harbor a fair number of germs. Think of how many fingers have pressed the buttons on that remote recently and whether all of them were squeaky clean. Then there’s the issue of coughs and sneezes.

    Here’s some basic advice about cleaning your remote controls. We also have more details on how to sanitize your remote control if you’re really worried about spreading viruses.

    Remove the batteries before you start cleaning. Then start by turning the remote upside down so that the buttons are facing downward, and tap the remote against your palm to dislodge any debris that might have fallen between the buttons. Wipe down the entire remote with a soft cloth that has been sprayed with a tiny bit of alcohol diluted with water. The cloth should be damp, not wet.

    To clean in and around the buttons, you can use a cotton swab dampened with the alcohol/water mix. More stubborn debris lodged deeper into the keys can be dislodged with a dry toothbrush or a toothpick.

    Last, wipe down the whole remote once again with a dry, soft cloth and reinstall the batteries.

    Great Big-Screen TV Bargains

    While we’re on the subject of TVs, if you’re thinking of shopping for a new set, you can check CR’s TV ratings, which are available to CR members. We buy every set we rate at retail, just like you would, then evaluate it using a rigorous testing protocol. Here are four 65-inch sets that combine big screens and strong performance, all at a price of about $1,000 or less. Note that prices this time of year are volatile and can change significantly, so get a price-match guarantee if you can.

    install the Roku Mobile App<\/a> on an iOS or Android smartphone. All other settings should be set to \"off\" or zero \"0\". Any individual R,G, or B color subcontrols, if present, should remain at their default settings.<\/div><div><br><\/div><div><strong>TV FIRMWARE<\/strong> All models are evaluated using the latest firmware version available at the time of testing. The firmware version of the Roku 65R6A5R was: 11.5.0 Build 4602<br\/>Our data and scores reflect the feature-set that the TV had at the time we tested it. The manufacturer may choose to issue software updates that could add or remove various features.<\/div>","sortOrder":12}],"recommendationUpdateDate":"2023-03-17T13:47:10.000Z","bestBuyUpdateDate":"2023-03-17T13:47:10.000Z","scoreUpdateDate":"2024-02-05T19:38:54.000Z","overallScoreSortIndex":78,"walmartId":5493766024,"modelLink":"\/electronics-computers\/tvs\/roku-65r6a5r\/m409043\/","criteria":[{"attributeId":4645,"attributeTypeId":1,"attributeTypeName":"TEST_RESULT","sortOrder":2,"name":"HD picture quality","displayName":"HD picture quality","description":"Evaluated using basic HD content (non-HDR). Based on objective tests and subjective evaluations by expert testers after TV is adjusted using standard picture controls to achieve the highest-fidelity image possible. Tested image attributes include detail, color accuracy, and contrast, using videos from a Blu-ray player, cable box, and professional broadcast equipment. All video content is played through the TV's HDMI inputs. Some tests are also performed via the TV USB input.","attributeDataTypeId":3,"attributeDataTypeName":"numeric-rating-score","isProductGroupMainAttribute":true,"isAttributeArchived":false,"isFilterSuppressed":false,"weightedSortOrder":1,"value":5,"ratingsBlobScale":"5pt"},{"attributeId":7527,"attributeTypeId":1,"attributeTypeName":"TEST_RESULT","sortOrder":3,"name":"UHD picture quality","displayName":"UHD picture quality","description":"Evaluated using basic, non-HDR, 4K-UHD content. (HDR content is tested separately) Based on objective tests and subjective evaluations by expert testers after TV is adjusted using standard picture controls to achieve the highest-fidelity image possible. Tested image attributes include detail, color accuracy, and contrast, using signals from a Blu-ray player, cable box, and professional broadcast equipment. All video content is played through the TV's HDMI inputs. Some tests are also performed via the TV USB input.","attributeDataTypeId":3,"attributeDataTypeName":"numeric-rating-score","isProductGroupMainAttribute":true,"isAttributeArchived":false,"isFilterSuppressed":false,"weightedSortOrder":3,"value":5,"ratingsBlobScale":"5pt"},{"attributeId":10424,"attributeTypeId":1,"attributeTypeName":"TEST_RESULT","sortOrder":4,"name":"HDR","displayName":"HDR","description":"HDR (High Dynamic Range) indicates how effectively the TV can reproduce the enhanced quality of HDR content. The benefits of HDR are best revealed on a display with a high peak brightness capability which allows them to present images with more realistic lighting and highlights. Very effective HDR can also reproduce fine gradations of shadow detail from black to white, and display a wider range of colors. Ineffective HDR presents images that are no better than regular standard dynamic range (SDR) TVs.","attributeDataTypeId":3,"attributeDataTypeName":"numeric-rating-score","isProductGroupMainAttribute":true,"isAttributeArchived":false,"isFilterSuppressed":false,"weightedSortOrder":6,"value":3,"ratingsBlobScale":"5pt"}],"description":"","ratingsLink":"\/electronics-computers\/tvs\/c28700\/"}]" />

    Here's How to Get the Job Done

    No harsh chemicals, please.


    Don't waste money on a cleaning kit for your flat-screen TV. Learn more at #learnontiktok #moreyouknow #flatscreentv #tip

    ♬ original sound - Consumer Reports

    James K. Willcox

    James K. Willcox leads Consumer Reports’ coverage of TVs, streaming media services and devices, broadband internet service, and the digital divide. He's also a homeowner covering several home improvement categories, including power washers and decking. A veteran journalist, Willcox has written for Business Week, Cargo, Maxim, Men’s Journal, Popular Science, Rolling Stone, Sound & Vision, and others. At home, he’s often bent over his workbench building guitars or cranking out music on his 7.2-channel home theater sound system.