Don’t clean your smartphone with your eyeglass cleaning cloth!

Many use eyeglass cleaning cloths for smartphone care and don’t know that it will break the screen in the long run. atechbook shows you how to do it right.

On many glasses cleaning and wiping cloths you read that you should not clean the smartphone display with it. The explanation is simple: The damp cloths contain isopropyl alcohol, which can attack the “oleophobic” coating of the display. Some manufacturers, such as Apple, usually explicitly advise against cleaning the screen with a solvent containing alcohol. Well-known household remedies like vinegar should also be avoided at all costs because they are too aggressive for the thin coating. Only in exceptional situations, such as we are currently experiencing with the Corona pandemic, can the use of stronger agents for disinfection be necessary.

What is an “oleophobic” coating anyway?

Almost every smartphone user gets upset about unsightly fingerprints on the screen. But what most don’t know is that it could be much worse. Smartphone displays have a so-called “oleophobic” – i.e. oil-repellent – coating, which ensures that not every smudge sticks immediately. After all, fingerprints are no different than grease stains, which are caused by sebaceous glands in our fingers. While this doesn’t completely prevent fingerprints, it makes them much easier to wipe away than from a normal glass surface. Try wiping a fingerprint off your window pane with a bare cloth – the greasy fingerprint will only spread further across the glass.

The oleophobic coating also has another advantage: It gives the glass a slightly slippery and soft feel when touched. That’s why new smartphones are often significantly more slippery than those that have been used for some time. This is because the coating wears off over time – a process that depends on many factors, such as the quality of the coating and the acidity of the finger’s valley. Normally, however, the coating should last well over two years unless it is exposed to the wrong treatment.

Alcohol is bad for smartphones

Damp cleaning cloths, many cleaning agents and some cleaners that are explicitly advertised as “suitable for smartphone displays” contribute to accelerating the wear process. It is all the more surprising that many supposed advisors still recommend eyeglass cleaning cloths and water-alcohol mixtures as an insider tip for gentle smartphone cleaning. I can only advise against this and recommend a soft microfiber cloth instead if you want to clean the display as gently as possible. Water-based solvents, which mainly contain water, but also aggressive substances like acetic acid and alcohol, are also generally not recommended. However, these solvents are much less harmful for the display and can be used in extreme cases. However, to treat the screen gently even then, apply the water-based solvent to the cleaning cloth beforehand instead of spraying it directly onto the display.

How to clean your smartphone properly

In most cases, a microfiber cloth is quite sufficient to get the smartphone clean again. Unlike a paper towel, which can leave scratches on the surface, a microfiber cloth leaves no marks thanks to its fine fibers. In addition, the microfibers absorb grease and dust better.

Other items can also be cleaned with microfiber cloths, including such things as eyeglasses, PC monitors and televisions. Eyeglasses often come with such a cloth from the optician, which you can then also use for your smartphone.

It’s best to turn off the screen, so you can better see dirt on the glass. If necessary, dampen the cloth a little, but only with pure water, no additives like soap or the like. Wipe the screen vertically or horizontally in even hand movements to get a flawless result. After wiping, clean the microfiber cloth to avoid dust particles or other dirt that could leave scratches on the next wipe. To do this, simply rinse the cloth thoroughly in a mixture of warm water and soap, then let it air dry. Done.

Did I break my screen with an eyeglass cleaning cloth?

If you have already cleaned your smartphone a few times with a wipe containing alcohol or acid, don’t worry. The oleophobic coating will withstand even this treatment for a while – just don’t make a habit of it.

You still want to use the practical damp wipes for smartphone cleaning? There is a solution for that as well: screen protectors made of plastic or tempered glass.

What you need to know about screen protectors for smartphones.

You can easily change the protective films. They come with their own coating. They also have the nice side effect of protecting the screen from scratches and even cracks in some cases. Since protective films need to be changed more often anyway, you can also simply wipe them with an eyeglass cleaning cloth without having to consider the long-term consequences – problem solved.