Tablets

Keep your tablet screens clean with this handy DIY method

Jack Wallen shows you how to help prevent fingerprints, smears, and smudges on your tablet screen.

If you're an admin in a company that deploys tablets to users, you know that they're typically returned with grimy fingerprints and smudges -- or you've grown accustomed to users complaining about the smeary screens. Well, I have a nearly foolproof way of preventing streaks and fingerprints on end-user tablets. Not only will it save you the headache of hearing about this issue, it'll lower the amount of time you have to spend cleaning screens when they're returned.

Now, I'll preface this by saying that the obvious method to protect tablets is to purchase screen protectors. They won't keep smudges and greasy fingerprints from making their way onto the screen, but they help prevent scratches. And when the tablets are returned to you, all you have to do is peel off the protector and replace it. Of course, that can get expensive, and everyone knows how much a pain screen protectors are to get "just right."

Two additional notes:

  • This method works for both resistive and capacitive screens
  • Do NOT use this method if you have a screen protector on your device

Here's what you'll need (this can all be purchased at your friendly neighborhood Target store):

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Rain-X (the basic kind, not one of the specialty formulas)
  • A little water

That's it. As for the microfiber cloth, make sure you purchase the best one your local store has to offer. I would highly recommend testing the cloth on an old smartphone (if you have a non-functioning iPhone or Android device lying around) or even an old pair of glasses. The key is that the cloth should actually do a good job of removing both smudges AND dust.

With everything ready, let's list out the steps. It's important that you don't skip any of these, otherwise it really won't work. Also, make sure to use extreme caution, at all points, when liquid is used. Do not soak the cloths such that liquid can make its way into any possible breaks in the casing or buttons of the tablet. There is no specific formula for this -- just err on the side of caution.

  1. Completely clean the tablet screen with a corner of the microfiber cloth and just a little bit of water.
  2. Completely clean the tablet screen again. The screen must be out of the box perfect or this will not work.
  3. Check the screen from different angles and in different light. You need to make sure there are zero spots, smudges, or dust on the screen.
  4. If you find anything on the screen, repeat step one again! Take the tablet outside and check it in the sun. Make sure this baby is perfect.
  5. Apply Rain-X to a wet corner of a clean, soft cotton cloth.
  6. Using a very gentle swirling motion, apply the Rain-X to the entire screen. At first, the Rain-X will bead up, but this is normal. Continue to swirl the product onto the glass for about twenty to thirty seconds, until it starts drying to form a uniform, hazy coating.
  7. Wet one corner of your microfiber cloth again, getting it damp (not dripping), and buff off the hazy coating.
  8. Once most of the haze is removed, switch to the dry end of the microfiber cloth and buff the glass again to make sure it's completely clear of haze and moisture.
  9. Check the glass under bright lighting (and multiple viewing angles) for missed areas. If you find any missed areas, either re-buff or re-apply the Rain-X and go again.

You should notice far less fingerprints, smears, and smudges on your screen. Those marks that do find their way to the glass should wipe off far easier than they would without using this method.

This isn't a perfect solution, but anything and everything you can do to prevent the build-up of smudges and fingerprints will go a long way to keep end users from complaining and you from spending more time than necessary cleaning equipment. Give this little DIY trick a try, and see if makes a difference for your company's tablets.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

26 comments
gilligansisland
gilligansisland

Non biased I believe what pickle is saying is that we should use common sense when it comes to exposing ourselves to chemicals, when possible avoid. And actually there have been studies that show lack of sleep has a significant effect on immune system response and an increases risk of cancer. Go ahead and slather yourself with rain-x

SubgeniusD
SubgeniusD

Nothing of any value here, just bored nerds blowing off steam. Reminds me of the Linux section of Digg back 5 years ago.

Kevin Robinson
Kevin Robinson

So, what would you suggest for cleaning off a tab with a (Zagg) screen protector? I use the cloth that came with mine, but it really doesn't do the job, completely.

ThePickle
ThePickle

Yeah...that's right...let's take a product filled with chemicals which were never intended to come into contact with human skin, and let's apply it to our tablets so that we can be in CONSTANT contact with it. And then when your dumb ass gets cancer, you'll be sitting there all shocked and wide-eyed wondering how this could happen to you. Seriously, is it really THAT hard to wipe fingerprints off your device at the beginning of each day before you start using it? It takes me all of 10 seconds to do it with nothing more than two or three hot breaths onto the screen and a microfiber cloth. And then about once a week, I wipe the screen down with water. Problem solved.

GSG
GSG

I'm not sure how other tablets are built, but mine came with Gorilla glass, and the manual was careful to point out that cleaners should not be used on it as there was a thin film of oil applied to help with fingerprints and "swiping". Well, after about 6 months, I had to use a mild cleaner on it, and it did remove some of that oil film. I usually use a good quality cloth that I got from the optometrist that's recommended for the more fragile lenses. I give it a good buffing before I use it. The problem is that the film of oil is wearing off as the manufacturer said it would and the finger doesn't glide as well. I might spot test this RainX solution to see what happens.

burruss
burruss

Why not just leave RainX out of the equation, clean with water and the micro cloth when required (you will know when), and eat our potatoe chips with the other hand?

Alan_
Alan_

Seems to be a rather involved process. I'm not cleaning screens for users. Once they've got the device they clean their own screens. When it's returned the screen gets cleaned once with screen cleaning wipes then the device is stored until reissued. This method adds a lot of time (cost) to the process. Unless I'm supporting very finicky high $ employees this won't get done because of the cost. OTOH, for a home user it seems a good project for the folks who don't like having a smudged screen.

bgoodgion
bgoodgion

It should be noted that Rain-X, on their website, clearly states that their product should NOT be used on plastics - formulated and intended for use on automotive glass only. It's not recommended for any glass which has a special treatment applied; e.g. scratch-resistant coatings, UV protective coatings, etc. If the tablet screen is made of plain, non-coated glass, it MAY be OK to use Rain-X. Various blogs and discussion forums on the internet support the warnings from Rain-X. There are other products which are specifically formulated for protecting plastic surfaces; I suggest a little more research is warranted before risking the long term effects on an expensive tablet screen...

jarris
jarris

Thanks for the article. I've been conducting surveillance for 25 years and have used Rain-X since it first came out to get clear video when it's raining. I also use it on mirrors, glass table tops, etc., but have never thought to use it on my phone and iPad. Works great. Definitely LESS fingerprints.

jimbritttn
jimbritttn

WHY don't the put REAL GLASS on these devices so we can use old-fashioned Windex to clean phones, tablets, laptops, etc? That would solve all the problems.

PeterM42
PeterM42

Why would you want to prevent less fingerprints? - indeed. Also, why would you want to "Check the screen from different ANGELS" - I would suggest checking from different ANGLES. FEWER fingermarks means LESS mess. As a writer for "over 12 years" Jack Wallen should have learnt grammar and spelling by now, so he could make FEWER mistakes and appear LESS incompetent. I halve a spelling chequer, It came with my pea sea, It plainly marques four my revue Miss steaks eye kin knot sea. Eye strike a quay, right a word, I weight four it two say Weather eye am wrong oar wright It shows me strait a weigh. As soon as a mist ache is maid I nose bee four two late And eye can put the error rite Its rarely, rarely grate. I've run this poem threw it I'm shore your pleased two no, Its letter perfect in it's weigh My chequer tolled me sew.

sam
sam

Why would you want to prevent less fingerprints?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

But then the gloom and doom "cancer" angle came out. I'll admit that you may be the first to think of it and post. The question it causes me though; how do you avoid all the other carcinogenic chemicals you come into contact with every day? Is a screen cleaner more or less carcinogenic than the environmental threats you are constantly exposed to already? Has there been enough test data to provide evidence based discussion of the cancer causing affects of rain-X and if so, why is it still being applied to automotive glass where it will be in close proximity if not contact through evaporation? Health concerns should not be over looked. I'm just considering if they've been overstated.

Kenp1980m
Kenp1980m

These products that come with gorilla glass have a special coating on them to resist fingerprints. After months or a year of use, the coating is gone. RainX is a known substitute for the original oleophobic coating.

miken5678
miken5678

I have the same concerns that you noted as well. It all depends on the touchscreen type. I wont be using this on my nook as the top layer is plastic. It might be good for something like an iphone with the gorilla glass on top but then again who knows what coatings are used.

PeterM42
PeterM42

If you were educated, you would know that the correct usage is FEWER for things (such as fingerprints). I quote from Dictionary.com: "How do I know whether to use less or fewer? There is a basic rule that is used to guide the choice of less or fewer. Less is supposed to be used with uncountable nouns (mass nouns), such as paper and paint. Fewer is to be used with things that can be counted (plural count nouns), like books or days. So, according to this rule, we should write or say "fewer dollars" but "less money."

sperry532
sperry532

I suspect you mean non-capacitive, insulating glass of the type used in windows and such. They don't use it because it would not work as a touch-screen. It would require a surface coating that would react poorly to Windex and other such products.

miken5678
miken5678

Why do you even post when you continue to provide nothing beneficial to the article itself other than playing the role of the grammar nazi?

ThePickle
ThePickle

Just because there hasn't been a specific study linking cancer to Rain-X doesn't mean that Rain-X won't give you cancer. How many decades (not years) was it before a direct link was found between smoking and lung cancer? The same "doom and gloom" train of thought was very prevalent in those days too. Everyone who was trying to warn people about the dangers of it were immediately deemed "joykills" or "doom and gloom-ers". As for Rain-X....why should anyone do a study between it and cancer? It's meant to be applied to your windshield where it will NEVER come into direct contact with your skin. But as soon as you start rubbing it all over your tablet - where it was never intended to be used - you're suddenly going from no skin contact to CONSTANT skin contact. If you think there's absolutely nothing to worry about, then by all means, continue using it. Oh and while you're at it, you can also slather some mercury on there too. I hear it really brings out the shine.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If you were better educated, you'd be able to determine when it is fitting to correct grammar and spelling mistakes, and when to ignore them and instead focus on the content of a post.

PeterM42
PeterM42

.....gives professional results. Most important when it comes to computers. Having been in the computer industry since 1967, I know how true that is.

maj37
maj37

He is right a professional writer should do better.

non-biased
non-biased

Just because there wasn't a study doesn't mean it won't give you cancer? It also doesn't mean that it will. There is no study that shows sleeping does or doesn't give you cancer either but are you going to stop sleeping because it could? Rain-X is designed to be applied to the windshield where it will never come in direct contact with skin? Really? You have never touched a windshield in your life or never seen anybody else touch one? Slather some mercury? Just because he isn't afraid of everything in the world doesn't mean he is going to do something that is proved to hurt us. By all means live your life in fear of everything as it's your life but I am going to live life avoiding known hazards and enjoying whatever I can without constant fear. If living this way ends up shortening my life slightly so be it because I actually got to live life not hide in fear of it.

PeterM42
PeterM42

.........Is a sign of a true professional. Sloppiness is the sign of of a sloppy worker.

PeterM42
PeterM42

Sloppy spelling and grammar reflect badly on the author.