Screen Cleaners – A De-messifying Review
From the impulse-buy hangers in the checkout line to the hard-sell from the salesman on the showroom floor, screen cleaners are in your face with their promise to remove all the dust, fingerprintsÃ‚Â and leftover spaghetti from your flat panel.
But do any of them even work? We test out three leading brands to see how well they, you know, clean screens.
The small E-cloth package includes a roughly 12-inch square cleaning cloth and a small spray bottle of cleaner. The cloth has a slightly coarse texture, like soft jeans, and is 80% polyester/20% polyamide. The cleaner is claimed to be environmentally friendly and contains no chemicals, ammonia, or alcohol. The website goes so far to list everything the cleaner doesn’t have, it begs the question what it does have.
The company claims the cloth/spray combo are safe for just about every type of screen including plasma and LCDs with anti-reflective coatings. They list companies that “tested and/or approved” use of CleanSafe that include all the big names like Apple, Dell, HP, Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic and so on. Though which companies tested and which companies approved is not specified.
My first test was a small corner of my own computer screen that had some sort of gunk accumulated in during its long, hard life. It’s a 24-inch Sony CRT monitor that was a gajillion dollars when new, $400 when I bought it, and probably worthless now. Such is progress, I guess.
The cloth on the screen alone is hard to move around, seemingly having a lot of friction. Adding in a small squirt of the spray acted mostly as a lubricant. Low and behold, I made a clean spot on one section of my monitor. Success! Ã‚Â So far it was working quite well.
My next test was oily fingerprints on a Panasonic 42-inch LCD. For this and all the other HDTV tests, I used the same organic source of oil for consistency. This source is self-regenerating, sadly unlike the hair previously found there.
The cloth alone did an OK job wiping up the fingerprints, but with a squirt of the cleaning fluid, the smears disappeared. The story was the same with a Panasonic plasma. A glossy screen Sony LCD (from the Google TV line, FWIW) barely needed any cleaning fluid, but best results were achieved with it.
My last test was on my laptop’s screen, which in 5 years I don’t think has ever been cleaned. It’s one of the glossy types that seems to spawn fingerprints spontaneously. I sprayed and cleaned a third of the screen with the E-cloth CleanSafe. The result was a definite success, though a few hardened spots remained. At a level of pressure that I was comfortable with on my own computer (the LCDs and plasmas were review samples), I wasn’t able to rid my screen of a few of the spots.
Because only a small amount of cleaner is needed, the little spray bottle that comes with the kit should last a while. Even better, the cleaning cloth can be washed (even in a washing machine or boiled in water).
All in all I’d say it’s a good product and worth the $20 if you’ve got dirty screens.
I’ve heard for a long time that Monster’s first screen cleaner was their #1 bestselling product, for years. True or not, you certainly can’t avoid seeing them in every store.
I reviewed the Dual Pack, which comes with a microfiber cloth, an antibacterial Clean Cloth, a big spray bottle of cleaning gel, and a smaller spray bottle for portable electronics. All were neatly contained in a lovely, difficult to open, laceration-impending, plastic packaging.
I have to admit, after seeing how well the very simple E-Cloth CleanSafe was, the sheer amount of stuff in the Monster kit seemed excessive. But would anyone expect anything less from a company that overcharges by $118 for $2 HDMI cables?
I started with the portable electronics cleaner. Anyone who drives a Camero will be right at home with the cologne-sized bottle and chrome sprayer.
My Blackberry was the first subject, having gathered some spots on the screen from some poorly-remembered Saturday night escapade. There are very few instructions on any of the ScreenClean products or packaging. It seems they want to spend most of their words getting you to buy the product, and precious few helping you use it.
So I did my best to aim the sprayer away from my face, and sent a fine mist towards my Internet-surfing device that occasionally makes phone calls. I wiped the cleaner away with the microfiber cloth, and the screen was clean. I repeated the process on my iPod touch and it was free of fingerprints for what seems like the first time ever. So not bad, not bad at all.
On to the big stuff. The cleaning gel for the big TVs has the consistency and color of mouthwash, but a little goopier. It says it’s ammonia and alcohol-free, and the bottles says to spray onto the microfiber cloth first, then rub onto the screen. I tried out another corner of my CRT screen, and it made another clean spot. No drama there.
With both LCDs and the plasma, the Monster ScreenClean creates a wet film as it goes on, but is then wiped away with a dry part of the cloth. This is in contrast with the E-cloth CleanSafe in which you spray on the wet directly. In all it seemed like the ScreenClean took about twice as many cleaning rotations to get the same level of clean. CleanSafe was spray and wipe, ScreenClean was more rub and rub and wipe.
On my laptop screen, the ScreenClean was even able to get out the hardened spots the CleanSafe couldn’t. I used the gel and microfiber, and then the electronics spray, both of which worked well. The spray, though, has a tendency to run, so be wary if you’re cleaning the screen without it being flat. On first application of the gel, there is that worrying film, but it buffs out with a dry portion of the microfiber.
The smoother cloth is labeled as anti-bacterial, for I guess some sort of maniacal hypochondriac terrified of “germs” on their TV screen. It’s not a bad polishing cloth, but I didn’t find much need for it.
None of the products had any noticeable smells, though unlike the free-love, good on everything, CleanSafe, the ScreenClean gel had a caution warning to keep the bottle away from children, and to make sure that ScreenClean was compatible with your TV. There is no indication on how to determine this other than a cryptic “If the product you are cleaning requires soap and water only, do not use ScreenClean.” So I guess using it on my forehead is out. There’s a comment on Monster’s website claiming the gel left a film on his TV, though whether this is a PEBKAC issue or an actual issue with the gel I can’t say. I didn’t find a problem, but your mileage may vary.
Other than the overkill aspect of the whole thing, I didn’t find anything wrong with the Monster ScreenClean. The price is a little excessive at $35 ($30 on Amazon), but a smaller version of the gel and the main microfiber cloth are only $20, and that seems reasonable.
Klear Screen invented the first non-alcohol, non-ammonia screen cleaner in 1992. They make many of the cleaners sold by other companies under their brand names.Ã‚Â The Klear Screen HD Screen Cleaner comes with a big spray bottle of cleaner, a micro-chamois and micro-fiber cloths, and four individually packaged, moist towelettes. They are contained in a hermetically-sealed, plastic vault that could double as a missile defense shield. I couldn’t open it so I decided to stare at it for a while.
This being ineffective, I pried it open with my Sawzall.
One ER visit and a dozen or so stitches later, the product was free of its now shredded carapace.
The cloths themselves are larger and of thicker quality than either of other two cleaners. The micro-fiber one specifically is nicer than the towels I put in my guest bathroom.
Thankfully unlike the Monster ScreenClean, there are directions on the bottle and in the packaging (what’s left of it). Like the E-cloth ScreenClean, the cleaning formula is claimed to be environmentally safe, and human and pet friendly. They say it’s non-toxic, non-flammable, chemically and physically inert, and can’t be absorbed by the skin. Cool.
According to the instructions, either the micro-chamois (ultra-soft and smooth) or the micro-fiber (like a soft towel) can be used to clean a TV, but that the micro-fiber is better for larger screen sizes because of its extra absorbency.
On my CRT screen, the Klear Screen worked pretty similar to the E-Cloth CleanSafe. Spray on, wipe till dry. Using the micro-fiber cloth, it took a little longer than the CleanSafe to wipe off, but not as long as the Monster. There was a faint, but not unpleasant, odor for the few moments after the screen was cleaned, but it dissipated rapidly. I cleaned off the rest of my screen using the Klear spray and micro-chamois. No noticeable difference as compared to the micro-fiber.
With the LCDs and the plasma, the story was the same. Easy on, clean off. No drama. While Klear Screen makes a specific product for computers, I used the HD Screen Cleaner here as well for consistency. It cleaned the screen without a problem, though it didn’t get out all the hard spots like the Monster did (though better than the CleanSafe).
Like the E-cloth CleanSafe, the cloths in the Klear Screen kit are washable (by hand and with soap).
It should be noted, though that if you’re looking to clean your laptop screens, Klear Screen sells the iKlear which is recommended by Apple ($23 on Amazon). I used this as a final cleaning of my laptop screen and for this it works the best out of the bunch. It was a little better cleaning than the Monster, without the worrying moist-film of initial application. It also worked on the plasma, so if you have a bottle laying around it seems you can use it for TVs too.
Which to Buy?
All the products cleaned the LCD and Plasma screens perfectly. They also did a great job on the bezels. In reality, any will work.
Personally, I like the E-cloth ScreenClean’s over-the-top envrio-message. They can’t seem to say enough how environmentally friendly their product is. It’s also the one with the least amount of, and least annoying, packaging. The KlearScreen kit was substantial, performed very well, and offered the most for your cleaning dollar. The iKlear was definitely the best on my laptop. There was nothing wrong with the Monster kit, though the application is a little nerve-wracking, given that it has the most visible liquid once on screen. This buffs clean, though, so really the only issue is it’s price.
A few words of warning, though I didn’t encounter any problems, there are many, many different types of displays. Will every cleaner work with every glass and coating? Probably not. ALWAYS check a small portion of your screen first to be sure nothing adverse happens. Make sure you check with each cleaner’s manufacturer website to see if there are any notable exclusions to their cleaning products. Your TV’s owners manual will also likely have something to say about cleaning, though who am I kidding. No one reads those.
By Geoff Morrison
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