A projector is a lot like a toaster. They’re both low-maintenance electronics that run smoothly from day to day and don’t require much attention. The problem is that, as with a toaster, people often forget to clean their projector and don’t realize their mistake until it’s too late.
Once you start smelling smoke coming from your toaster, you might say, “Oops! I forgot to clean the crumbs and dust out.” Over time, a projector will collect a lot of dust and dirt. The big difference here is that a broken projector costs a heck of a lot more to fix than a toaster.
An un-maintained projector is the No. 1 cause of failure. By employing proper projector maintenance at least twice a year, you can extend its life and maintain a clear, sharp image. The main concern of a dirty projector is overheating as too much dust buildup can block the vent, air filter, and fan.
Every projector is different, so consult your user manual for specific cleaning instructions. This general guide will apply to most types of projectors. A word of caution: Projectors are complex devices. If you think your projector has issues that need more than simple cleaning, do not attempt to take it apart and fix it yourself. Rather, take it to a professional for servicing.
Preparation and Safety
Step 1: Turn off and cool the projector
Before cleaning your projector, you should turn it off. What may not be as obvious is that you should let the projector cool for 30 minutes. Your projector runs hot, so you don’t want to make immediate contact with it.
Step 2: Remove the projector from the mounting
If your projector is mounted overhead, don’t try to clean it while standing on a ladder. To be safe, just remove it.
How to Clean the Body of Your Projector
Step 1: Wipe and dust the exterior
Use a dry cloth, microfiber cloth, or clean duster to wipe and dust the exterior of the projector.
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Step 2: Remove the more stubborn dust
For more stubborn grime that’s stuck to the surface, use a damp cloth or damp paper towel to wipe it. Wipe the excess moisture off with a dry cloth or paper towel. No matter how cemented dirt may be on the surface, do not use anything with an abrasive surface to clean the projector’s exterior because you could scratch up and damage the finish.
How to Clean a Projector Filter and Intake Vent
This is, without a doubt, the most important step in the projector cleaning process. The intake vents and air filter should be cleaned, at a minimum, every six months. When dust and dirt cake up around the vent and on the air filter, your projector will struggle and not function at optimum efficiency. Too much dust and dirt can cause your projector to overheat and break, so cleaning these parts is essential.
Step 1: Vacuum the intake vent
The first thing you should do is vacuum the dust off of the intake vent. Don’t use a big, powerful vacuum on your projector as if it were a carpet, though. You’ll want a convenient, little handheld vacuum like what you would use on an office desk.
Put the tip of the handheld vacuum against the vent and turn it on, moving it up and down until all the dust has been sucked out. Do not use a compressed air can or WD-40 to dust the vent. These would push the dust into the projector and clog up the system.
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Step 2: Wipe stubborn dirt from the intake vent
For dirt stuck to the vent that won’t come off with the vacuum cleaner, take a lightly dampened towel or cloth and pat the vent so the dust sticks. You can also take a damp cotton swab and rub the dust off the vent holes, being careful to not push it inside.
Step 3: Gently Clean the Air Filter
Most projectors have an easily removable air filter behind a compartment door on the side. Have a wastebasket ready, and tap the air filter against the inside of the basket to dispose of the larger clumps of dust collected on the surface.
Next, use a can of compressed air to blow out the rest of the dust particles. You may also lightly run your thumb over the filter. Once you can see through the filter, it’s good to go. Before putting the filter back in, wipe away any remaining dust from inside the filter compartment.
How often you need to clean the air filter will depend on how dusty your environment is, but generally, most filters need to be cleaned after every 100 to 300 hours of use. If you notice an excessive amount of dust that’s not coming out, it’s probably time to replace the filter.
How to Clean the Projector Lens
Using an air blower or duster will usually be enough to get the dust off the lens, and you can do this on an as-needed basis. There are even special, extra-soft lens dusters you can use for this purpose.
If there are smudges on your lens, simply put a few sprays or drops of optical lens cleaner onto a microfiber cloth, and rub the lens in a circular motion. Don’t spray any material directly onto the lens.
Occasionally, dust and dirt may get behind the lens on the inside of the projector. When this happens, you’ll notice annoying specks on your image while using the projector. You’ll then need to clean the inside.
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How to Clean the Inside of Your Projector
As we mentioned before, projectors are intricate machines full of delicate parts. So, we strongly recommend against taking your projector apart and trying to clean inside it yourself. If it is necessary to clean the inside, take it to a professional.
With that in mind, if there is dust behind the lens on the inside of the projector, and you’re in a pinch, there is one simple thing you can do that doesn’t require removing any of the internal parts.
Step 1: Open the projector
How you remove the top of a projector casing will vary from model to model, so consult your user manual for this step.
Step 2: Use compressed air to remove dust — not WD-40
Once the top is off, simply take a blower or a can of compressed air behind the lens, and blow the dust particles off. Do not use WD-40 or your mouth to blow on the lens, as this can cause smearing.
Carefully screw the projector back together, making sure that you don’t accidentally knock any parts out of place.
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How to Clean the Projector Screen
A clean projector won’t do you much good without a clean projector screen. Over time, projectors will collect debris, and accidents can happen that will leave stains and smudges. Fortunately, most home theater projector screens are made of quality material that is easy to clean, so you won’t need to go out and buy a projector screen cleaning kit.
It may be tempting to just take a wet rag and scrub away at the screen, but this can permanently damage the fabric. Try these simple cleaning methods instead:
Step 1: Remove dust with compressed air
If you’re just doing routine cleaning, and there aren’t any stains on your screen, this will usually be enough. Use a can of compressed air, and work your way around the projector screen, blowing all the dust off.
Step 2: Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the screen
For heavier dirt and grime, take a lightly dampened microfiber cloth to gently wipe the screen. Start on the edge of the screen, either on the side or the top, and work your way to the other end in a sweeping motion. Repeat this motion while overlapping on the area you previously wiped until you have cleaned the entire screen. Do not wipe with a circular motion.
Please note that this applies only to standard matte white, matte gray, rear-projection, and acoustically transparent screens. ALR screens are slightly different and will be covered in the next section.
If you need to remove wet stains on the screen, follow this same step, but use a combination of 95% water and 5% dish soap. If this doesn’t get the stain out, you can use small dabs of denatured rubbing alcohol on the stain, but you must wipe it off right away so that you don’t damage the screen. Wipe any excess moisture off of your projector screen right away, before it soaks into the material.
Projector screen cleaning warnings
Do not use any chemical materials on your projector screen, as this may permanently damage or discolor your screen. Avoid wiping the screen with abrasive materials such as hard sponges or stainless-steel scrubbers. Microfiber cloths are the ideal material because they are not abrasive and easily attract dirt.
Ambient light reflection (ALR) screens have a special, tooth-shaped microscopic surface that absorbs ambient light. It’s best to avoid wiping these screens so as not to damage the structure, but if it is necessary to get a stain out, you should wipe gently from top to bottom. Do not wipe in a circular motion.
By regularly maintaining and cleaning your projector, you can help extend its life and prevent it from overheating. Don’t let your projector collect dust and grime, like a toaster collects crumbs, and let it burn out. Remember that a clean projector needs an equally clean projector screen. Here are the key points to keep in mind:
- Carefully consult your user manual for cleaning instructions that are specific to your projector.
- Turn off the projector, and let it cool for 30 minutes to avoid burning yourself.
- Remove the projector from its mounting, so you can clean it from easier angles and avoid falling and injuring yourself.
- Microfiber cloths are the best material to use when cleaning a projector. Use a slightly damp cloth to wipe the exterior, and immediately wipe off excess moisture.
- Cleaning the intake vent and air filter is essential to prevent the projector from overheating. Use a small vacuum and damp cloth to clean the vent.
- Regularly clean the air filter after every 100 to 300 hours of projector use, and replace the filter if there is an excess of dust that won’t come out.
- Clean the optical lens with a duster or microfiber cloth that has a few drops of lens cleaner. Don’t spray lens cleaner directly onto the lens.
- You should try to avoid taking apart the projector and cleaning it from the inside yourself, but if it is necessary to remove specks of dust from behind the lens, remove the top of the projector and use a blower to get the dust out.
- When cleaning your projector screen, use compressed air to remove dust. For stains and dirt, use a damp microfiber cloth and clean using sweeping motions in one direction. For ALR screens, wipe gently from top to bottom.
- Do not use any chemicals or abrasive items to clean your screen.
- Immediately dry any excess moisture left on your projector screen from cleaning.
- You can use a solution of 95% water and 5% dish soap to clean tough stains.
We hope this guide will help you to keep your projector and screen clean and ready to enjoy. But if you are uncertain about any step in the process, play it safe by consulting a professional projector cleaner.