Skip to main content

SMEAR CAMPAIGN: Seven Strategies for Keeping Your Displays Clean

They're pretty, expensive and help you find your way. No, we aren't talking about your spouse, but with all time and effort you put into selecting and installing all those electronic displays on your helm you owe it to yourself to keep them clean and well maintained. Here are a few tips on how to do just that.

After a few coastal cruises or fishing trips, it’s not uncommon for the displays on a boat’s chartplotter, fishfinder, radar or Multi Function units to end up covered with smudges, smears and fingerprints. And with manufacturers moving to touchscreen or hybrid touchscreen display technology, the need to keep screens clean will be even more important as boaters and fishermen routinely tap and drag their grimy digits across their boat’s numerous LCDs.

You know you love to stare at them, so why not keep them clean?

You know you love to stare at them, so why not keep them clean?

Here are seven simple steps offered by Heffernan and The GPS Store team:

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.

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. Considering that “handy” things are often already dirty and paper towels are made from wood pulp/fibers and are inherently abrasive, you can do more harm than good.

We all love neglecting cleaning supplies, but when it comes to electronics, get the right stuff.

We all love neglecting cleaning supplies, but when it comes to electronics, get the right stuff.

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. One we carry is Electro Wipes by Baja Products (45 wipes plus buffing cloth sell for $9.95). Some electronics manufacturers offer their own branded cleaning solutions/products, and you can’t go wrong using these.

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.

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.

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.

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.

For more useful information about marine electronics products, how to use them and how to get the most from them, contact the experts at The GPS Store, Inc. at (800) 477-2611 or visit online at