Most boats these days are equipped with the latest touch-screen devices on your helm. You may have a fish-finder, a GPS locator, radar and weather, engine controls, and even access to music and videos … all at your fingertips.
That’s the good and bad news all in one! Because while it’s convenient to be able to control so many operations and apps from your helm touch-screens, it also means that you need to clean those screens on a regular basis.
Not only do your touch screens get misted with salt spray in normal use, but your fingers are often covered with sunblock oils, fish slime, perspiration and salt and grease from munching on potato chips!
So from time to time, you realize your touch-screen could use a good cleaning. Most of us automatically think “Ohh…glassy surface…where’s the Windex?”
Stop right there. The first rule of screen cleaning is DON’T USE WINDEX! Or any other alcohol or vinegar-based product. The solvents in these products can actually hurt your screens by sapping away moisture and breaking down the plasticized elements of the screen, leading to deterioration of the screen and its frame.
A second rule is don’t use paper towels. Scratching is the enemy of a touch-screen and wiping a screen with a paper towel is like rubbing a handful of salt on it. Not good.
So now that you know what not to do, here’s the simple and easy way to keep those screens clean.
- Power down. Turn everything off. You want to work with a dark screen.
- Spray – lightly! – with a fine mist water hose. You don’t want to drown everything and you don’t want a high pressure blast. Just get the entire helm control section wet with a fine mist. This will rinse away surface dirt and particles.
- With a PVA chamois towel, gently dry the screen and surrounding areas: the frames, the fiberglass, the buttons … everything. No scrubbing or rubbing: just gently dry the screens of the misty water spray you just applied.
- Next, spray the helm area and screens with a good boat-cleaning product designed for screens and other delicate surfaces. Shurhold’s Serious Shine is one of the most popular cleaning products, and is safe to use on screens, plastics, rubber, stainless steel, counter tops, fiberglass, Plexiglas … almost everything! You can also use alternatives like Chemtronics Screen Prep, Star Brite Screen Cleaner and TH Marine’s Wave Away Sonar/GPS Screen cleaner.
- After spraying the product (lightly!) on the screens, use a clean microfiber cleaning towel to wipe it off. You can safely use this kind of cloth to gently remove fingerprints and other surface build-ups without scratching.
Most of these specifically designed screen cleaners contain UV inhibitors, anti-fingerprint and anti-static properties. You can also use these cleaners on plastic bevels around the screen, as well as non-touch glass on gauges, control knobs, buttons and switches, chrome, fiberglass and windscreens. Very handy!
- Finally, always use the plastic covers that came with your touch screen units when your boat is not in use. These help protect against sea spray, dirt and UV rays.
It is always a good idea to read your owner’s manual for your Garmin or other brand touch-screen, as the manufacturers usually have recommendations for cleaning products and processes.
If you take a few minutes to do the job right, your screens should provide you with years of good service.