How to Clean Your Mac's Display

Step Away From the Glass Cleaner!

Mac computer screen

Cleaning a Mac's display is an easy process, with only a few don'ts but a lot of do's to consider. We're going to talk specifically about Apple displays, but these cleaning instructions will work for most LCD displays. For general instructions for cleaning LCD displays, Tim Fisher, About's Guide to PC Support, has a great write-up called, appropriately enough, How To Clean a Flat Screen Monitor. I highly recommend Tim's guide for general cleaning guidelines.

We're going to break Mac displays into two categories: naked LCD displays and glass LCD displays.

Naked LCD displays are used on many of the older portable Macs and most third-party desktop monitors.

Glass LCD displays, like the ones used in recent iMacs, are really just naked LCD displays with a glass panel in front of them. Because the LCD panel is protected, you may think it's OK to use normal glass cleaners on your iMac. Well, the answer is no, it isn't. Apple recommends distilled water for cleaning these displays. So far, I haven't found any dirt, smudges, or cat or dog nose prints that can't be cleaned off our iMac with just distilled water. If I had a stubborn spot, I would try the distilled white vinegar/distilled water combination.

Cleaning Your Mac's Display

What you will need:

  • 2 microfiber cloths.
  • Distilled water.
  • Distilled white vinegar.
  • About a minute or two of your time.

I recommend two microfiber cloths so you can use one for a dry cleaning of the display, and dampen the second one with distilled water for any stubborn spots. You can use a single microfiber cloth, just be careful to dampen only a small area of it.

  1. Start by using a dry microfiber cloth to gently wipe down the display. Don't press hard against the LCD panel, because this can cause problems with the individual pixels that make up the display. If you're cleaning a glass panel, you can apply a bit more pressure, but you should still go lightly.

  2. Once the dry cleaning is done, check the display for any remaining spots or dirty areas. In most cases, a light cleaning with the microfiber cloth is all that is needed.

  3. If you still have areas that need cleaning, dampen the second microfiber cloth with distilled water and gently go back over the areas that are still dirty. Wipe dry with the first cloth, then inspect the display.

  4. If any dirt is still stubbornly hanging on, use a commercial LCD cleaner or mix up your own distilled white vinegar/distilled water mixture. Never use a mix that is more than 50% vinegar. I've had good results with a mix that is 25/75 (one part vinegar to three parts water).

  5. Dampen the second microfiber cloth in the cleaning mixture, and wipe the display, concentrating on the areas that are still dirty.

  6. Wipe the display with the dry cloth, and then inspect the display again. It should be clean by now, but you can go over it one more time with the damp microfiber cloth if necessary. Be sure to finish with the dry cloth.

It's possible, though unlikely, that a smudge or spot on the glass panel on your iMac's display is actually on the inside surface. If that's the case, then the best thing to do is to take the display to an Apple Store for cleaning. They will pull the glass panel, clean both surfaces of the glass, as well as the underlying LCD panel, and then seal it all back up.