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Published: Saturday, 9/13/2003

A cry for help under grit

Clean Me! Please!!

Someone wrote it with a finger tip in the dust and grime clinging to the surface of a computer screen down the hall.

Computer screens are magnets for dirt, even in offices with good air conditioning systems that filter out most airborne dust. Home computers are a bigger problem, especially in places where people smoke cigarettes, do a lot of smoky cooking, or use fireplaces or wood stoves.

In addition to run-of-the-mill dust, monitors in smoky environments will quickly gather a film of greasy smoke particles. The grime can get thick enough to dim screen images and make colors seem washed out.

Clean me? Sure. But how?

First of all, don't scribble “Clean Me” or anything else on a computer monitor, especially one of those new liquid crystal display (LCD), or flat-panel, monitors. The LCD's surface is plastic, not glass like a standard cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor. That index finger can rub grit into the surface and leave scratches. It also can damage the surface coating on a CRT monitor.

If you want conflicting advice on how to clean a computer monitor, search the Internet.

You'll find individuals boasting that they've broken all the rules for years - using ammonia-based window spray and a paper towel, for instance - with no problems.

Don't follow those bad examples. That monitor is one of the most delicate and costly parts of a computer. And it's the part you see the most. Damage it during improper cleaning, and your eye will be drawn to the flaw a hundred times in each computing session.

Rule No. 1 for safe cleaning is to follow the manufacturer's recommendations. If you've pitched the computer's documentation, go to the manufacturer's Web site and search for directions with terms like “clean monitor.”

Dell, for instance, recommends the following procedure for cleaning a standard CRT monitor: First, disconnect electric power to the monitor. Then use a soft cloth lightly moistened with plain water to clean the screen.

Also recommended: Special commercial screen-cleaning tissues, “wipes,” or sprays, which are available in local stores. Always spray the cloth with the cleaner, just enough to wet it, and gently wipe the screen clean.

For LCD screens, disconnect the electric power. Then use a commercial LCD cleaner, and follow the package instructions. Alternative recommendation: Make your own LCD cleaner from a 50-50 solution of water and isopropyl alcohol, or “rubbing alcohol,” which is available in stores. Lightly dampen a soft, clean cloth with he solution, and then wipe the screen gently.

Never use commercial window cleaners or other products that contain ammonia, or solvents like acetone, ethyl alcohol, toluene, or methyl chloride.

Laptop LCD screens fold closed next to the keyboard, and pick up dirt from the keys.

Clean the keyboard with a commercial compressed air spray can, or turn it upside down tap gently. Then clean the keys with a cotton-tipped swab lightly moistened with a mild detergent.



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