A little care goes a long way in preventing
the scratching of fine plastic surfaces or screens such as those found on
boating electronics. The best approach to avoiding scratching or
damaging the surface is to use a soft cloth and soapy water, or a spray
cleaner without ammonia. Avoid wiping with paper products, which can cause
fine scratches. There are a whole new generation of excellent
micro-fiber cleaning products out there which are not only soft, but have
a high surface area for trapping dirt and dust and leaving a smudge free
3Mís new Scotch-Briteô High Performance Cloth is an example of a new
type detailing cloth:
Most all boating electronics screens and windshields
should be stable to UV exposure. But thereís no sense in punishing the
unit, so if it's not stored inside it would not hurt to have the unit
covered. Also, I would highly recommend avoiding window cleaners that
contain ammonia on plastic screens. It might take a while to become
noticeable, but the ammonia in these products can cause chemical damage to
Over time plastic screens on electronics can lose their
optical clarity. Odds are it's just a haze caused by fine scratches from
If so, there is hope for restoring the screen to its original condition. 3M
makes a couple of excellent products specifically for this application.
They make a "plastic cleaner" which removes fine scratches, and
works well by itself. They also make a follow-up "plastic
polish" that cleans and restores optical clarity. The same two
products are offered on the marine side of their line-up. These work very
well for all fine plastics, electronics screens, boat windshields, or even
household items such as microwave doors.
"Mothers" brand also offers a plastics cleaner that can be found
in automotive stores or sections of the larger retailers.
If the haze on the surface is caused by
deeper scratches you could still get them out, but you'll need to start
with a more abrasive polish and work back to finish with something finer.
Meguiar's and 3M both make a great line of heavy to fine cut hand and
machine glazes, but youíll need to be careful not to start too
aggressive on these. Both companies also make swirl mark removers that
work well on fine scratches. The best choice is going to depend on how
deep the scratches are.
Avoid using cleaners or solvents such as
acetone which can cause serious damage to plastics. It might be harder to
recover from solvent damage, short of replacing the screen. Itís a good
idea not to even let solvent vapors come in contact with the plastics.
When a good solvent for the plastic comes in contact with the screen, you
can develop some serious surface cracks. It's called crazing, and it's due
to the rapid release of stress built into the screen from the molding
process. It's hard to repair solvent cracked or crazed plastic because the
damage can go deeper than what most polishes can remove. The link below
contains some additional reference information:
(Mark has a background in Polymer Chemistry
and Materials Science and is a Research Scientist with a Minnesota based