After a few coastal cruises or fishing trips, it’s common for a boat’s chart plotter, radar or Multifunction Display (MFD) screens to end up covered with smudges, smears and fingerprints. And with the growing popularity of touchscreen controls, the need to clean and protect screens will be even more important as boaters and fishermen routinely tap and drag their grimy digits across their boat’s numerous LCDs.
This is an area of routine maintenance where many boaters look the other way — more willing to squint through the dirt or change their distance/viewing angle rather than address the problem. Keeping your boat’s displays clean isn’t rocket science. But is important to do it correctly — because the wrong actions can actually cause permanent damage.
Here are seven simple steps to keep your screens clean:
1. Mind your hands. Just making sure you wash, rinse or at least wipe off your hands
before reaching for that knob, button or touchscreen display can go a long way to
keeping things from getting dirty in the first place. This is especially true for anglers
who’ve been handling bait or unhooking fish — but any boater has the capacity to
smudge up screens with skin oil, sunscreen or just dirt picked up from boat surfaces.
2. Don’t wipe dry. Okay, we’ve all done it — grabbed the tail of our T-shirt, a used napkin
from lunch or whatever happens to be handy to quickly wipe off anything from
fingerprints to fish scales. Wiping a dry screen this way is a bad idea. Anything on the
display — salt crystals, dust, scales — becomes an abrasive agent and can cause
permanent scratching to the LCD surface.
3. Use the right stuff. Internet message boards are full of “home remedies” for cleaning
marine electronics displays — Windex, vinegar, furniture polish, metal polish (seriously).
Do you really want to trust your high-dollar radar or sounder screen to something just
because some stranger said it worked? Chemicals and abrasives can remove the UV
coating from your unit’s display and/or leave residue. Several companies now make
marine LCD cleaners designed especially for the job.
4. Use clean water in a pinch. If proper cleaning products aren’t available, clean, fresh
water can be used to remove salt and grime before wiping. Use a fine-mist spray bottle
or, in a pinch, gently dribble bottled water over the display from the top. Use a soft,
clean microfiber cloth to wipe clean.
5. Power down. Turn your electronics off when cleaning the displays. You’ll be able to
see and remove all dirt and fingerprints better. In addition, heat from the displays can
evaporate the cleaner before it can do its job. This is also a good reason not to clean
your electronics in direct sunlight.
6. Easy does it. Don’t press down too hard when wiping LCD displays off, as this can cause
damage and increase the chance of scratching if the screen or cloth is dirty. Re-apply cleaner or use additional specialized wipes on stubborn smudges, rather than bearing down.
7. Go undercover. Most electronics come with hard protective covers for storage — use them. If you clean your displays at the end of each trip, you’ll avoid letting dirt, skin oil or grime harden before the next trip. Pop the covers on after cleaning, and you can start your next trip with clean and clear displays.