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by MarkG



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 finish.
3Mís new Scotch-Briteô High Performance Cloth is an example of a new type detailing cloth:

http://www.3m.com/US/mfg_industrial/bldgcare/highperfcloth.html

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 the plastic.

Over time plastic screens on electronics can lose their optical clarity. Odds are it's just a haze caused by fine scratches from cleaning.
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.

http://www.mmm.com/market/automotive/product5.html

3M Marine Products

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.

Meguiar's Products

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:

http://www.lpaero.com/CAREINS.html

MarkG

(Mark has a background in Polymer Chemistry and Materials Science and is a Research Scientist with a Minnesota based technology company.)