Your Phobic iPad/iPhone Screen: How Chemistry Makes It Easy to Clean

photo credit: pat00139 via photo pin cc

Before we talk about keeping your screen clean, let’s do an experiment. You’ll need a sticky note or two. Take one of your sticky notes and place it on a mirror. It sticks and stays put where you place it.

Now take a sticky note and put it on the screen of your iPad or iPhone. Oops … did it fall off? Doesn’t stick very well, does it?

With the help of that uncooperative sticky note you have just demonstrated the science behind the screen. It’s Chemistry. Your iPad/iPhone screen has been made to be “oleophobic” which kind of means that the screen is afraid of oil.

This “phobia” is a very very good thing. It means that the oil from your fingers does not adhere to the screen as it would if the screen was just an ordinary piece of glass. Think of water droplets on a newly waxed car. Imagine those drops beading up and falling off. This mental image applies to your finger oil on your iPhone/iPad screen. Finger oil won’t stick around much, either.

Let’s get to the point of how to clean your screen. Most important: Use NO chemical products. No windex, no handi wipes, no glass cleaner of any kind. A scrap of microfiber works best…….the kind you sometimes get when you get a new pair of glasses. I’ve also heard people swear by the cleaning power of their soft high thread count sheets. I’ve tried that myself, and I can report that the sheet worked great. You can use the tiniest touch of dampness, just a few drips of water on the cloth, but that is all.

So although your screen looks like it is just a piece of glass, it is so much more. Thanks to the chemists who invented the oleophobic polymer that repels oil. It was also chemists who figured out the way to attach this polymer to the glass that makes up your screen. And, since the screen of your device is also its interface, this oil-repelling property is extremely important.

But as we shout out a “yay” to the chemists, we must shout out a “boo” to glass-cleaning chemicals. Always keep in mind that in spite of its appearance, your screen is not just glass, and those glass cleaners will harm, not help.

To learn more about the oleophobic screen, and how it actually works to repel oil, read Bill Nye’s explanation, here.


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