Posted: September 1, 2014A few of us were gathered on the dock discussing a number of boating topics when one of the skippers shared that he had been spraying his radar and chartplotter on the bridge with glass cleaner and wiping it down with paper towels. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He had no clue his cleaning habits were taboo. What is the proper way to clean and maintain your electrical gear?
There are two issues you need to consider when cleaning your electronics. One is chemical reaction and its resulting damage to knobs, buttons, housings and screens. The other is abrasion damage, or scratching, to the screen. Never use paper towels; opt instead for any soft or microfiber cleaning cloth such those from 3M. Also, if the units are exposed to salt spray, make sure you rinse the screens lightly with fresh water before wiping them; otherwise, dried salt deposits can scratch the fragile LCD screens.
Solvents and chemicals are the worst thing you can put on your screens. Many electronic manufacturers apply an antireflective coating to the screen, and a surprising number of cleaners destroy it. Some marine electronic products are waterproof, but that doesn’t mean they’re built to withstand high-pressure hoses. Also, CRT screens aren’t nearly as waterproof as LCDs, and extra care must be taken when cleaning these devices. Go with a mild misting with fresh water, and if serious washing is needed, put plastic covers in place beforehand. If fresh water doesn’t do the trick, start with mild detergents such as boat soaps and hand soaps. After cleaning with fresh water, use a product such as the one offered by Chemtronics called Screen Prep. It’s a two-part system that consists of a single-use wet wipe (deionized water and isopropanol) and a single-use dry wipe. Similar LCD cleaning kits can be purchased at most computer or home electronics stores. Some manufacturers use glass screens, which better resist abrasion, but even they have coatings that can rub off. No matter what kind of screen you have, you want to treat it much like a camera lens. What about keeping screens clean at sea? Savvy captains keep a small spray bottle with fresh water nearby for rinsing.
Bezels often fade and lose color with time. To prevent sun damage and fading, covers should be placed on electronics when they’re not in use. What about the back side of the units? These electronics don’t require any dusting or cleaning of fans or air intakes. Unlike your home computer, they are designed to keep dust and harmful particles out. What about protecting the connections? A small application of silicone grease will help prevent them from seizing or corroding, and use rubber boots to cover any unconnected plugs.