We all have a tendency to treat the driver’s seat as our personal throne. That’s where we are in our element, so we feel good—and complacent. Whether our last finger taps on the phone screen, grips the handle of a wrench, or carefully unwraps a half-melted Hershey, we all tend to jump, tune the radio, adjust the air conditioner, and set goals in navigation. screen—all without washing your hands first.
And if you have a family? Other drivers also use the car and its touchscreen. Of course, kids can’t stop themselves from touching any screen, and who knows where those little fingers are? All parents have rubbed their car’s touchscreen and felt… mysterious dirt. Yuck.
That’s why you should clean the touch screen properly every time you clean your car—if not more often.
Do You Need to Use an Automotive Screen Cleaner?
The touch screen is probably one of the dirtiest and most germ-covered surfaces of any car. Sure, your dashboard is dusty and your floorboards collect (annoying amount of trash). However, it’s the dashboard-mounted display that’s the most fingered, and therefore germ, on it.
But is a car screen cleaner really necessary? After all, isn’t it just glass?
Not necessarily. Many common household glass cleaners contain ammonia or alcohol. Most manufacturers recommend avoiding harsh chemicals on touch screens, as they can affect functionality and possibly damage surrounding dashboards.
Sure, it’s cheaper and easier to use a regular Windex or Glass Plus, especially since you probably already have one. As tempting as it may be, you should avoid using household glass cleaner on your car’s touch screen unless you are sure that the one you are using does not contain ammonia or alcohol. Besides, you might already have a good screen cleaner and not even notice it.
Many modern automotive detailing products, including Chemical Men Interior Cleaner and Meguiar’s Total Interior Detailer, safe and effective to use on your car’s touch screen. Read the label to be sure.
Screen Cleaner Alternative
The fact is, there are cheaper methods for cleaning your car’s touchscreen, no product is required—except microfiber towels. (Again, you want to avoid rubbing dust particles on the surface of your touchscreen to prevent scratches, so always use a clean microfiber towel.)
Many of the experts and gear heads in our Hearst Autos test garage tell us that they rarely use any cleaners on their personal touchscreens. Up and down, those who saw us testing and photographing screen cleaners—we’re talking about people whose opinions we trust and whose bylines our readers know and respect—told us that every time they got behind the wheel, they just dripped. few tears. water to clean microfiber towel, and wipes. Done.
However, as a parent, I wonder: Will a simple swipe of water get rid of the germs in the family SUV? Yes No. Sorry, but knowing my kids, and the impressive but disgusting level of dirt they can achieve, I would use a cleaning agent on my car’s touchscreen.
How We Test Screen Cleaner
To find out if a car screen cleaner is really necessary, we use a very scientific methodology. That is, our fingers and hands are dirty, and touching the screen on the test vehicle in the Hearst Autos enclosure. We let it dry for a while, then clean it according to the product directions. We did it five times.
We first make sure all products do the job they claim—and they all do. The wipes leave droplets on the screen, which requires a second wipe with a microfiber. But they all clean the tan and lubricate the screen, leaving it clean and clear.
When using, we look for oily film or residue left behind. We also considered very strong odors, and noticed cleaners that left streaks of residue. Most do, but everything gets clean with a soft buff—that is, a few softer wipes with a microfiber towel.
Word to the wise: Don’t neglect screen cleaners as they leave scratches on your screen. Take your time and do it right. We see too many people online complaining that the product they use isn’t some kind of magic solution that can be perfectly cleaned with just one wipe. All screen cleaners—all glass cleaners, really—will scratch unless you take the time and care to provide a soft surface at the end of the process.
Why Trust Us?
With a combined 206 years of automotive publishing experience, Hearst Autos—Car and Driver, Roads & Trailsand auto week—knows cars better than anyone. Gear Team is committed to providing honest evaluations, hands-on testing, and product reviews driven by decades of knowledge and experience. We stock nearly every product, tool and fixture we display.
If we can’t get our hands on our equipment, we rely on the combined wisdom of our writers and editors, as well as the automotive experts we trust. We’ll never say something is “the best” if we don’t recommend it to our friends or buy it ourselves, and we won’t claim we’ve tested something if we haven’t. Learn more about testing our products here.