Screen Care and Feeding

Glass or plastic? Touchscreen or traditional? Secrets to keeping them clean and bright.

Freshwater rinse, spot-cleaning with microfiber cloth, and diligent use of cover will keep that screen pristine.

Saltwater and sunshine are not kind to marine electronics. One especially sensitive area of any plotter or fishfinder is the display screen. Front panel casings are another. You can substantially
increase the lifespan and usefulness of your electronics by taking a few simple actions to reduce the effect of salt spray and sun exposure.

First, always protect the front panel and display screen when it is not in use. When feasible, bracket-mounted units should be removed from the vessel and stored indoors.

For flush-mounted gear, install the associated protective cover. Because most of us operate in ocean waters on a regular basis, display screens should be rinsed of salt water and dried before storage.
Most chartplotters and fishfinders ship with a slip-on front panel cover. Not only do the covers protect against impact, they also keep damaging UV rays off the unit. Over time, a display constantly exposed
to sunlight may become discolored or otherwise difficult to read.

The advent of touchscreen plotters has vastly increased the need for the utmost in screen care and cleaning.

Let’s face it, while we are at sea, most of us pay little attention to keeping things neat and clean. Most days after returning from a fishing trip my touchscreens have fingerprints and other “stuff” all over the screen. The good news is these panels are glass, which is actually more resistant to scratches than traditional plastic displays.

The simplest way to clean a touchscreen that has received an all-day salt dousing and lots of finger touches is to first wet things down and remove salt buildup with a light freshwater rinse from a hose. Follow that with a light wash with a non-abrasive soap and water mix, and then hit the screen with another light rinsing water spray. Finally, wipe dry with a soft cotton cloth. Microfiber cloths designed for eye glass cleaning are another readily accessible and inexpensive cloth option. Never press hard on the screen to remove anything. Instead, let the water and soap mixture do the work of softening and removal.

Plastic LCD with nano shield.

Also, avoid using a harsh chemical like alcohol or ammonia on any screen, especially plastic LCDs, some of which have fragile, anti-glare coatings. If fresh water and microfiber cloth isn’t enough to get rid of smudges, use a designated lens and screen cleaner, such as Purosol Sport/Marine ($16.95 for a 2-oz. bottle and microfiber cloth), Optix from Mirachem ($21.95 for three 4-oz. bottles) or Klear Screen ($27.90 for 8-oz. bottle and two microfiber cloths). FS

Nano Protectants

With the proliferation of smart phones, tablets and other consumer electronics, several companies now produce spray-on “nano” screen protectors. These leave a thin, protective barrier on glass or plastic surfaces, making it easier to wipe off dirt and smudges.

Recently I tested a nano product from the surf industry, only I applied it to a GPS/fishfinder combo on my skiff. Surf Nano Products (SNP) Board Enhancer, according to the company’s website, contains millions of glass and ceramic particles in an ethanol carrier; the ethanol dries while the particles molecularly bond to the surface, producing a thin, slick coating 30 nanometers thick. It’s supposed to reduce water friction—making a surfboard go faster—and protect against UV exposure. These qualities led me to speculate on the potential benefits for fishfinder and GPS screens.

My experience, using the product on a 5-inch plastic LCD screen, has been great: First, the cleaner took off a bunch of old water drop stains, rendering the screen in almost-new condition. Next, I applied the Enhancer as directed, wiping it on and allowing it to dry for an hour. Then, using a microfiber cloth, I wiped off the haze to reveal an ordinary-looking screen. The difference is evident when water is applied to the screen—it beads up and rolls off. Fingerprints, sunscreen and other smudges wipe off easily with a microfiber cloth or moist paper towel. I’ve had SNP on my screen for over a month now and the effects have yet to diminish. I also used it on my cell phone; sunscreen smudges now wipe right off. The company has details about marine applications for the product line at —Jeff Weakley, Editor

First Published Florida Sportsman Nov. 2012

  • Todd Matherne

    WaveAway is a product designed to clean marine GPS and remove water spots. Excellent product. I have used it for the last 3 years.