How to Clean a MacBook Screen

So you recently bought a new MacBook and you noticed the screen already has some smudges. What’s the best way to clean a MacBook screen? Cleaning a MacBook screen might seem straightforward, but they’re actually very delicate.

I cleaned my MacBook with a window cleaning solution and it permanently damaged the display. While my MacBook still works, the beautiful Retina display is ruined with ugly stains. In this article, I’ll show you how to avoid making the same mistake.

How to Clean a MacBook Screen:

The best way to clean a MacBook screen is to use a lint-free microfiber cloth, damp with distilled water, and gently wipe down the screen in even motions. A damp microfiber cloth will remove 90% of all smudge and it’s safe for the screen.

For best results, open the MacBook and flip it so the screen faces up with the keyboard where the screen would be. Make sure there is something soft under the screen to protect it from scratches. Pass a dry microfiber cloth over the screen a couple of times with no pressure to remove any debris that could get stuck on the cloth.

The reason for cleaning the MacBook in this position is because you can apply even pressure, spread across the screen, instead of focusing on one area. It also helps reduce the chance of drop rolling down into the cracks of the screen, which could permanently damage the internal components of the MacBook.

From here, slightly dampen a lint-free microfiber cloth, and wipe the screen down in straight motions, either left to right, or top to bottom. Don’t wipe the screen in circles. After a couple of passes, the smudges on the MacBook screen should be clean. You could also use a dry microfiber cloth to dry and polish the screen.

Recommended microfiber cloth: MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

A Common Mistake:

What you need to understand about MacBook screens, especially Retina displays, is they have a very fine layer of anti-reflective coating material.

When you use an abrasive chemical, like those found in glass window cleaning sprays, the chemicals eat through the anti-reflective screen coating on the MacBook. When the anti-reflective material is damaged, the result is permanent stains, usually white splotches.

As I might have guessed, I made the mistake of using those chemicals on my MacBook. The detergent quickly created a stain, so I sprayed more detergent, hoping that wiping it down will remove the stain. It only made things worse, creating an even bigger stain, and further damaging the display. Don’t do that.

If you can’t remove a MacBook screen stain with water, it’s likely permanent, and no amount of scrubbing will remove it. The only option is to buy a screen replacement, a very costly procedure. However, there is a possible DIY solution that I’ll discuss later on in this post.


Do not spray any water directly on a MacBook screen. Spray a microfiber cloth with water and then wipe the screen with the cloth.

With the above method, you can remove almost all smudges, debris, and stains from the MacBook screen.

What Not to Use on a MacBook Screen:

Window Cleaning Sprays

Avoid spraying a MacBook screen with any chemical products. According to Apple’s support, avoid all chemicals that have bleach and hydrogen peroxide. Water is your safest bet, ideally distilled water.

LCD-Cleaning Sprays

There are some LCD cleaning sprays designed for electronics, but shouldn’t be used for MacBooks. The reason for that is MacBooks have that extra layer of anti-glare coating that not many other electronics have. In other words, a cleaning spray that works for a TV could damage a MacBook’s screen.

Clorox Wipes

Any wet wipes that have chemicals, such as Clorox wipes, should not be used on a MacBook screen. Alcohol and disinfectant wipes are also not recommended. Even if a wipe doesn’t have bleach, it can still have other chemicals that can ruin the MacBook screen.

What You Can Use to Clean a MacBook Screen:

So you tried distilled water on a microfiber cloth but you still can’t remove the smudges on your MacBook.

Optician-Recommended Eyeglass Spray

If you wear glasses, most of the optician-recommended glass sprays will work to clean a MacBook screen. Just make sure to check that the spray is for anti-reflective glasses. Remember, spray a microfiber cloth first, don’t directly spray the MacBook screen.

Whoosh Cleaner

According to Whoosh, their products are used on most Apple products. People have also reported seeing the product in use at official Apple stores. However, there have also been reports of the Whoosh spray leaving a strange residue on the most recent MacBooks.

How to Prevent MacBook Screen Damage:

So you want your brand new expensive MacBook screen to stay flawless for as long as possible. Your best bet is to attach a screen protector to the screen.

Screen protectors are very cheap and they protect your MacBook screen from smudges, scratches, and all kinds of damage. You can also remove the screen protector and replace it with a new one later on.

I recommend this 2-pack screen MacBook screen protector from Amazon. 

ProElife 2-Pack Crystal Clear Screen Protector for 2021-2020 Macbook Pro 13-Inch Apple M1 Chip A2338 and 2020-2016 Macbook Pro 13'' Touch Bar A2289 / A2251 / A2159 / A1989 / A1706 Accessories (Clear)

MacBook Screen Already Stained:

If your MacBook screen is already damaged, you have a couple of options. The recommended option is to visit an Apple center and see if they can replace the screen for you.

However, replacing a damaged MacBook screen is usually not covered by Apple’s warranty. A replacement MacBook can cost upwards of $500, sometimes as much as a brand new MacBook. In some cases, you are legible for a free replacement, so it’s worth asking about.

The good news is if your MacBook’s screen is stained, the screen’s hardware is likely not damaged. In other words, the only damage is with the anti-reflective coating layer on the screen.

Another option, although best left as last resort, is to completely remove the remainder of the anti-reflective coating on the screen. Bear in mind, this procedure is likely to void your warranty, so proceed at your own risk.

To remove the reflective coating on a MacBook screen you would do the opposite of what we recommend; use an abrasive spray to clean your MacBook screen. DIY experts recommend using a mixture of baking soda and water to remove the anti-reflective layer on the MacBook screen.

The end result should be a clean-looking MacBook screen, but it will be much more reflective. However, you could always buy an anti-reflective screen protector.


To summarize, the best way to clean a MacBook screen is with distilled water and a microfiber cloth. If you’re worried about damaging the screen, consider applying a cheap screen protector, it can save you lots of money down the line.

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