As the onset of coronavirus makes us more aware than ever how dirty our screens are, we show you how to safely clean the screen of your Mac, iPhone or iPad screen, or the display on an Apple Watch.

You might think that all you need to do to clean your monitor or screen is grab a cloth and a bottle of disinfectant or glass cleaner, but that could actually damage your screen. In this tutorial we will discuss how you should clean the screens of your Apple products - including which products are safe to use.

If you are concerned about the germs and bacteria on your handset we have advice about how to safely clean your iPhone or iPad - and what you can use to clean those devices - here: What you can safely clean an iPhone with. We also discuss how to clean a Mac here if you are gazing at your keyboard and thinking it might need a bath.

Alternatively, take a look at How to clean iOS junk files and cache and How to speed up a slow Mac if you want to 'clean' the software rather than the hardware.

Get the right equipment

Computer display cleaning kit

First of all, make sure you get the right equipment. It doesn't cost much compared to the cost of a Mac to buy a decent cloth and some cleaning solution that's designed for computer screens. Here's what you need:

  • A microfiber cloth. You can use any non-abrasive cloth but buy a microfiber just to be sure.
  • Screen cleaner (make sure it is ammonia free) or Isopropyl Alcohol. You can often buy a Screen Cleaner and Microfiber kit, like this ECO Cleaning kit.
  • Isopropyl cleaning wipes. Apple says you can also use 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes.
  • Apple also recommends Clorox Disinfectant Wipes, which is an American brand that don’t include bleach and are therefore ok to use on an iPhone. In the UK we don’t have Clorox Disinfectant Wipes, but Dettol Cleansing Surface Wipes are also bleach-free and hopefully ok to use.

The Moshi Teraglove (US$19.96, around £16) is another neat screen cleaning accessory we would recommend. It's essentially a square pocket with a grey microfibre cloth on one side that removes dust and soft black linen on the other side that removes smears with a light spritz of water (the glove comes with a small spray bottle). Just pop it in the wash when it gets too dirty.

Some people also suggest using Isopropyl Alcohol and diluting it with 50 per cent water solution. This will certainly clean your computer, but it's powerful stuff and normally used for removing serious junk (like sticker resin or thermal grease). It's handy stuff to own, but we consider it overkill for screen cleaning.

Alcohol wipes

Just make sure you don't get any of the items below.

Things to avoid

Stay well away from these items:

  • Paper towels
  • Dishclothes
  • Tissue paper
  • Window cleaners
  • Household cleaners
  • Compressed air
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Solvents
  • Ammonia
  • Abrasives
  • Hydrogen peroxide

We'd also advise you to stay away from any other general-purpose cleaning ingredients. Some people suggest various household items and combinations of vinegar and vodka. It's cheaper and safer to just buy a dedicated bottle of screen cleaner: a bottle lasts a long time.

The important thing to keep in mind is that if liquid gets inside your iPhone, Mac, iPad or Apple Watch it could cause havoc with the components. You should be vary careful not to get the ports or any gaps or openings wet.

How to clean a Mac or MacBook display

Microfiber cloth

You might think it's easy to clean something. But there is a right order to cleaning a screen properly. Follow these instructions when cleaning your Mac:

  1. Power down the device. On a Mac choose Apple > Shut Down. 
  2. Use the dry microfiber cloth to wipe the dust from your screen. Wipe in a slow, gentle circular motion. Do not scrub the display.
  3. Place a small amount of cleanser on the cloth (don't soak the cloth). Wipe the cloth gently around the screen in a circular motion. Keep using small amounts of screen clean at a time and wiping gently until the screen sparkles.

Follow these tips and your Mac display will sparkle and shine like new.

How to clean an Apple Watch

Cleaning Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is different to other Apple devices, in that it is splash- and water-resistant (but not waterproof). As such you can be a bit more freewheeling with your Apple Watch. Apple recommends using a damp cloth with fresh water to clean the Apple Watch.

It's important to remember that different straps respond to various cleaning materials. If you have a leather strap, we'd advise removing it before cleaning the Apple Watch.

Can I clean my Apple Watch under a tap?

Some readers wonder if they can just clean an Apple watch by rinsing it under a tap. The answer is yes, but you should consider wiping it down with a cloth instead. Apple recommends rinsing the Apple Watch under a running tap for 10 to 15 seconds to remove debris clogging up the Digital Crown. Be careful to remove leather straps, and dry the watch afterwards with a non-abrasive, lint-free cleaning cloth.

On the whole, we prefer to wipe down the Apple Watch with a cloth rather than run it under a tap. But the Apple Watch is splash-proof and we have used one under a tap and it carries on working fine.

How to clean an iPad or iPhone screen

How to clean iPhone screen

Cleaning an iPad and iPhone screen is much the same as the Mac. Both the iPad and iPhone have oleophobic screens designed to resist greasy prints, but we still find touch screen displays show far too many fingerprints. Cleaning an iPhone and iPad screen is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Follow these steps to clean your iPhone and iPad screen:

  1. Turn off the iPhone or iPad. Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button and slide to switch off, or press and hold the Power button and either volume button on iPhone X or later.
  2. Dampen a soft, lint-free cloth to gently clean the screen. Remove any oil left by your hand touching the screen.
  3. Turn the iPhone or iPad back on.

Apple issues this warning "Don't use window cleaners, household cleaners, compressed air, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia, abrasives, or cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide to clean."

Cleaning the iPhone and iPad screen reduces (ever so slightly) the oleophobic coating because you are in effect rubbing it off. The surface will diminish over time with use, but using an abrasive material reduces the oleophobic coating much faster.

How to clean your iPad or iPhone case

The iPad and iPhone are now often used with cases, and these often show scuffs and marks over time. How you clean your case depends on the material it is made of:

  • Polyurethane/Silicon iPad and iPhone cases: Remove the case, then dampen a soft, lint-free cloth and wipe the front and inside of the case to remove any dirt. Don't use any cleaning material!
  • Leather iPad and iPhone case: The colour of the leather case may change if you clean it (it may also evolve over time). Use a clean cloth with warm water and mild hand soap to gently clean the leather. You can also use a mild leather cleaner and conditioner, but again know that it might change the colour.