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How to protect and restore your smartphone's oleophobic coating

  A hand wiping a smartphone screen with a cloth.
Nikkimeel / Shutterstock

Your smartphone and other touch devices have a layer that has an & # 39; oleophobic coating & # 39; is called. No matter how carefully you try to protect this, it wears away over time. Fortunately, you can restore it and make the touchscreen feel like new again.

What is an oleophobic coating?

When you first unpack a new smartphone, one of the most striking things about it is how new and shiny the screen looks. This has surprisingly little to do with the lack of scratches and more with the new layer of oleophobic treatment on it.

From the first day you start using your smartphone, that coating starts to wear away. Using a screen protector is the only way to really protect it. And if you apply a glass screen protector, it probably also has an oleophobic coating.

The coating not only affects how your device looks, but also how it feels. Your fingers slide easily across a brand new screen, and there's little friction to slow you down. It's also easy to clean fingerprints and wipe off the screen with a swipe.

  A hand holding an Android phone with spots on the screen.
ThomasDeco / Shutterstock

As the coating wears out, fingerprints stick. longer and require more thorough cleaning. Oil or water that used to dry up in smaller droplets is now on the screen and lubricates.

To test this, just put a drop of water on the screen. If it beads and sticks together in a sphere, the oleophobic coating does its job. However, if the water spreads across the screen in a big blob, you know the spout has worn off.

The oleophobic coating is not essential for your device to work. Your phone works fine without it, and your screen won't scratch or break anymore. It just won't look or feel that good.

If your device is a year or two old, you shouldn't be surprised that the oleophobic coating is completely gone. The more you use your phone, the faster it wears out.

Protecting the oleophobic coating

Although this oil-repellent coating wears out through normal use, there are a few things you can do to protect it. The most obvious is that you never use any abrasive or detergent on the touch screen.

This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Windex or other window cleaners
  • Bleach or other bleach-based cleaners
  • Detergents, such as washing powder or detergent
  • Cream cleaners
  • Cutting agents, such as T-Cut, or other polishes

Abrasive cleaners completely remove the oleophobic coating. Some may even damage the screen or make it streaky or cloudy. Fortunately, there are safe ways to clean your smartphone and other touchscreen devices.

First start by wiping your device with a soft, lint-free cloth. Moisten it with water and remove all visible dirt and grime. This is important because bacteria and other nasties attach to dirt.

  A blue microfibre cloth that sits next to an iPhone.
Tim Brookes

To disinfect your smartphone, use an alcohol-based cleaning solution containing at least 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropanol. Apple recommends using 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes to clean iPhones, iPads, and other devices during the current coronavirus pandemic. You can apply the same instructions to modern Android phones made from similar materials.

Please note that cleaning the screen in this way can accelerate the wear of the oleophobic coating. However, it is imperative to clean your phone or tablet this way as you are likely to touch it hundreds of times a day. This is especially important if you hold your phone to your face during calls.

If you want to restore the touch screen to as good as new condition, you can use some aftermarket products.

RELATED: Disinfecting Your Smartphone

Restoring the Oleophobic Coating

If You Have a Glass Screen Protector on Your Device, You Can Simply Replace It to Restore Your Device feel like new. This is a cost effective way to restore your device to its former glory. It will also help to maintain the residual value.

For those who are not thinking ahead, you can buy an aftermarket oleophobic coating kit (such as Fusso by Crystal Armor) and reapply it yourself. These kits cost about $ 10 or $ 20 for a single treatment, which is good for one device.

Please note that instructions may vary depending on the product. Always follow the instructions on the product.

In general, the process is quite simple. The following is a summary of how iFixit describes the oleophobic coating repair process:

  1. Clean the screen with isopropyl alcohol until it is free from grease and other debris.
  2. Allow the alcohol to evaporate completely so that the screen is completely dry.
  3. Place a zipper bag over your finger (use it like a squeegee).
  4. Apply 10 to 15 drops of the liquid oleophobic coating to the screen.
  5. Immediately spread the liquid over the screen with your plastic-covered finger. (It dries quickly, so be quick!)
  6. Allow the coating to cure for 8 to 12 hours (ideally overnight). Wipe off excess residue with a soft cloth.
  7. If necessary, repeat this process according to the instructions on the product.

The more you repeat the process, the thicker the coating will be, and thus the longer it will take. Although the coating seems to dry quickly, you should leave it untouched for a longer period of time.

However, if you follow the instructions, there is little room for error. Your device will look and feel shiny and new again. You can even fill in some scratches on the surface & # 39; so they stand out less.

Oil Be Back

Again, remember that your recently restored oleophobic coating will not last forever. It is also unlikely that a third-party coating will last as long as the coating applied at the factory. However, they must be similar in appearance and feel.

You can also use oleophobic treatment on all glass touchscreens, including smartwatches, tablets and some fitness trackers.

If you're thinking about the screen protector route for your next device, it's helpful to note that on most new phones, the Gorilla Glass is harder than many common metals.

RELATED: You probably don't need a screen protector

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