Cleaning iMac w/Rubbing Alcohol - Damage?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by crssbns, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. crssbns macrumors newbie

    crssbns

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    The Mitten
    #1
    So I cleaned the outside of my Late 2013 21.5" iMac with rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl alcohol), including the screen and around the edges of the screen. It took 3-4 tries with a paper towel soaked in the rubbing alcohol to get it squeaky clean again (I have a skin condition that requires me to put lotion on my hands/forearms and over time the lotion managed to get all over the screen and around the edges of the iMac from moving it around). The paper towel wasn't wet enough to drip, but very close to it. My iMac had a very visible film of rubbing alcohol residue all over it after I finished wiping it down with the rubbing alcohol, which I cleaned up with a dry cloth. I used the rubbing alcohol straight out of the bottle onto the paper towel - did not dilute it.

    Prior to doing any of this I had called Apple to see what kinds of cleaners I could use on my iMac. The woman on the customer support line said I could use rubbing alcohol to clean off the screen, which didn't seem to be that unusual to me since I've heard of people cleaning electronics with it before.

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    So, after I cleaned my iMac it seemed like the screen was more difficult to read and see details, and for the first time I actually noticed individual pixels without looking for them. I was worried that I might have done damage to it, so I called Apple again and spoke with a different customer service rep.

    He was shocked that I had been told by another Apple customer service rep to use rubbing alcohol to clean my iMac. He told me that rubbing alcohol can "soak through" the glass on the screen, and damage the LCD behind it - but I'm skeptical of this because it doesn't make sense to me that glass could be porous. He told me that rubbing alcohol can even damage internal components, and that in his many years of computer repair experience he would NEVER recommend using rubbing alcohol on any electronics or computers, period.

    After doing some research on my own I found out that Apple is putting a special coating on the screens of these current iMacs, which is supposed to reduce glare. I never really paid much attention to the glare on my screen prior to cleaning it, but I wonder now if the rubbing alcohol removed this anti-glare coating (since I had to wipe it down 3-4 times to get all the lotion residue off), the lack of which may be causing my eyes to have more difficulty reading and seeing details on the screen, in addition to making the pixels easier to see?

    What do you guys think? Could I have damaged this coating by cleaning with rubbing alcohol?

    Also, I didn't realize that the small gap between the screen and the body/shell of the iMac wasn't sealed completely. I'm concerned that excess rubbing alcohol (which there was) may have gotten into the gap and damaged the adhesive holding the screen on and even possibly the internal components? If this is the case, how would I know if any of the components have been damaged? Is there some sort of self-test that I can run to verify that all the hardware is running up to their proper/maximum performance specs?

    I know I might seem a little bit too worried, but this is seriously the most expensive piece of electronic equipment I've ever owned (special ordered directly from Apple @ $2k), and I want to make sure I haven't damaged it.

    Thanks!
     
  2. scaredpoet macrumors 604

    scaredpoet

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2007
    #2
    It's really hard to know exactly what's going on without seeing a picture of the display.

    In any case, yeah, rubbing alcohol on most electronics is by and large a very bad idea. The only time I've seen it considered even remotely okay to use alcohol was in using isopropyl alcohol (which is different from rubbing alcohol) to clean a clogged printhead.

    How much did you use? It seems to me like it might not take much to strip the optical coating off the screen, but you'd have to positively soak an iMac to get a whole lot of it to go inside and cause damage there.

    Regarding running tests, the only such thing really is Apple Diagnostics. Though if you really managed to get some alcohol inside in enough quantities to cause damage, there is no guarantee that a lack of problems now means you're fine forever. Those of us with experience with water-soaked iPhones know that in many cases, liquid corrosion is an often continuing process over time, and a soaked device that works fine now might not in a few hours, or days, or possibly even weeks.

    The potential hope here though, is that because alcohol evaporates quickly, it's unlikely to linger inside like water can. So perhaps aside from a weird looking screen, you might be okay.
     
  3. iMcLovin macrumors 68000

    iMcLovin

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2009
    #3
    Why you would rub alcohol on the imac in the firstplace is something I´ll not comment on ;)

    But In my experience, the new iMac is very difficult to clean, so better stay away from touching it. Whenever I rub it to remove a stain, it seems to just move it around.

    So, use an anti reflective cloth and ONLY water. This works! Cloth alone won´t work, even if its liquid on the screen from spit or whatever, its not enough, once it dries out it just stays there. But, if you add a tiny bit of water yourself (not on the cloth, but on the screen) and rub excessively on that visible stain/spot, suddenly it just disappear. And if there´s still som left in that area, add a tiny bit of water again and keep doing the same process...eventually it will be clean.

    For me, this is enough. the screen looks completely new, there´s no stains, spots, fingerprints scratches or anything.
    I suggest you try it, if it doesnt work, then maybe your screen is broken.
     
  4. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #4
    A) You just did comment and

    B) the OP was quite clear in explaining why the rubbing alcohol was used.

    To the OP, if damage was done to the screen due to your application of rubbing alcohol you're in a bit of a sticky situation.

    Normally, such damage would not be covered under the warranty but if you were instructed to do so by an Apple CSR you've got a clear complaint.

    Did you happen to get a name of the original rep you spoke with?

    If you really think there is damage done, I would advise you to call AppleCare, explain the situation in full and ask them to look at/repair the damage under the warranty based on the fact that you got the advice from their rep.

    Good luck with that.
     
  5. Gav2k macrumors G3

    Gav2k

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    #5
    Rubbing alcohol can't 'soak' through glass that's impossible. But it can damage the coating on the glass. I would recommend using a good quality glass cleaner to try and restore your screens legibility.
     
  6. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #6
    I agree there's no way anything soaked through the panel, but I was also thinking about possible damage to the anti-reflective coating on the surface of the glass.

    Since the panels are now laminated to the LCDs, it is quite a bit more costly of a "repair" should anything go wrong, in sharp contrast to the magnetically attached panels of older models.
     
  7. Irishman macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2006
    #7
    I use my son's eyeglass cleaner wipes, have done so over the past year to no ill effect.

    They are Zeiss Lens Cleaning Wipes (Pre-Moistened).

    I heartily recommend them.
     
  8. drambuie macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2010
    #8
    The problem with 70% isopropyl alcohol is that it can leave a residue. For cleaning electronics a 99% isopropyl solution is recommended, as it has better solvent properties and will quickly evaporate, leaving no residue. The 99% would be good for cleaning the iMac's aluminum case, but it might cause problems with the screen's antireflective coatings, although they are metallic and may not be affected. The screen covering is glass, therefore alcohol, at any strength couldn't penetrate through it.

    For cleaning hand lotion residues off the screen use pure dish detergent, without anti-bacterial or lotion additives.
     
  9. crssbns, Mar 12, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2014

    crssbns thread starter macrumors newbie

    crssbns

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2014
    Location:
    The Mitten
    #9
    Thanks for the replies everyone! I posted this question on several other sites, and didn't get anywhere near the quality of the responses that you all have given.

    I did run the Apple Diagnostics test [the one you access by holding down the 'D' key during the first part of the OS X startup sequence], and it said that there was no problems. Based on what you all have said, and my own research, this appears to be the only way to test hardware on my iMac without actually disassembling it and testing every part individually [something I'm DEFINITELY not qualified to do] — please correct me if I'm mistaken.

    As far as the kind of alcohol I used, it was in fact 70% Isopropyl Alcohol, [which AFAIK is the same thing as rubbing alcohol] straight out of the bottle [not diluted]. It's the standard stuff you can buy for $1 in the first aid/medical aisle of any CVS/Walgreens or big-box store. The highest purity Isopropyl Alcohol I've ever seen in a store was 91% [however I have heard of formations up to 99% purity being available], but when I've used Isopropyl Alcohol in the past [as an alternative degreaser for car/motorcycle parts] I've found that 91% gives off too strong of an odor for me to feel comfortable using it indoors — so generally all I buy is 70% [even though 91% works noticeably better]. That's why I chose the 70% when I cleaned my iMac.

    The second Apple CSR I spoke to said that it may be covered under warranty, considering that the first CSR advised me that it was fine to use Isopropyl Alcohol to clean my iMac. I don't remember the name of the first CSR I spoke to, as I didn't expect to have to deal with something like this — lesson learned, from now on I will be recording information on CSRs I communicate with. I don't want to stir up anything bad surrounding this, and I suspect that it was an honest mistake by the first CSR - I really enjoy Apple products and every experience I've had with an Apple CSR before and since then has been overwhelmingly positive. People are human, stuff happens, and as long as its resolved properly I'm happy.

    I strongly suspect that the anti-reflective coating has been damaged/removed, considering that I did have to wipe down it down 3-4 times with a heavily moistened paper towel [I used a new paper towel every time, carefully pouring the Isopropyl Alcohol onto the towel to completely saturate it]. After I finished wiping it down with the Isopropyl Alcohol I waited for it to dry, expecting for it to not leave any residue - but when it left a visible film of residue I decided to wipe it down with a dry cloth, which seemed to remove it.

    So as far as I can gather from all of this, these are the two possibilities with my situation:

    1. Best case scenario I only damaged/removed the anti-reflective coating on the screen

    2. Worse case scenario I not only damaged/removed the anti-reflective coating on the screen, but also damaged the seal/adhesive surrounding the screen and possibly damaged the internal components [from the excess Isopropyl Alcohol making its way in-between the glass and the case]

    As of right now, it appears that the hardware/internal components are OK based on the Apple Diagnostics test I ran. But like some of you said, corrosion on electronic components can happen over time and I might have a problem some time down the road - not sure if there's any way to tell if the components have been compromised in this way or not [since they check out OK right now]. I've experienced this once before on an old Sony Walkman I had as a kid that fell into a pond. Removed the batteries, opened it up and let it dry for a few days — seemed to work fine at first but then it died a month or so later.

    My biggest question on this is whether or not the components will fail slowly [degrading performance over a period of time] or if they will just fail completely all at once [as simple as black and white "pass" or "fail"]. My biggest concern regarding this is that the performance will degrade slowly, and will attributed to otherwise normal causes of machines slowing down, such as increased use of hard drive space, outdated components trying to run software at or above their limits of performance, etc. I primarily use my iMac for photo/video editing, and therefore the speed/performance of the system is incredibly important. I'm really not that knowledgeable on computer hardware, so I hope this question doesn't come across as silly or so obvious that it isn't worth answering — the more details/info you can give me the better!



    Thanks again for the responses everyone, I can't really express how much I appreciate it! Seems like there's A LOT of disinformation out there on this! Hopefully this won't be an expensive learning experience!

    :)
     
  10. Chippy99 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2012
    #10
    I think you are over analysing this my friend. The worst that can have happened is that you rubbed the coating off the screen (which I would find unlikely).

    As to gradual degredation in performance - forget it. That is not going to happen because of cleaning the screen, no matter what you did to it. I don't know why you felt any need to do hardware tests. It's a bit like running full engine diagnostics on your BMW because you used some screen wash that is not recommended. It might conceivably have done something to the screen or paintwork, but not the engine!
     
  11. WilliamG macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2008
    Location:
    Seattle
    #11
    Agreed 100%. There is absolutely no way you did any harm to anything internal. I can't even believe you did any damage to the glass at all, personally. iMac glass is notoriously difficult to get clean. I give up trying to clean anything off it, and it picks up fingerprints and smudges like there's no tomorrow.

    If you post some pictures of the glass, we'll be able to provide more information, but as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong with your iMac.
     
  12. davelanger macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
  13. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    Location:
    Behind the Lens, UK
    #14
    I use a cleansafe cleaning kit. Does a great job.
     
  14. Ak907Freerider macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    #15
    Lol don't tell me your one of those people who beleave distilled water isn't tap water. Hate to burst your bubble but bottled water is tap water. And in a lot of cases is worse water than your tap water.
     
  15. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    Behind the Lens, UK
    #16
    Distilled water and bottled water isn't the same thing.
     
  16. Ak907Freerider, Mar 13, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2014

    Ak907Freerider macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    #17
    Boy what a sucker well I work for a water treatment plant and we have tanker trucks with meters come to the plant every week to get water for your bottled water there boss. Alaska spring water mmmmmm oh wait its tap water.

    Don't know if your aware tap water is regulated by the swda which has much higher standards than the FDA which regulates the bottled/distilled water. With bottled water there is basically no enforcement. It can sit in a dirty storage tank for years before being sold. Building up all sorts of problems. Suggest you look into where your bottle or distilled water comes from. I promise it is from a municipal water supply.
     
  17. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    Behind the Lens, UK
    #18
    In the UK I don't think we have the FDA or SWDA. I'm not advocating bottled water (I hardly ever drink water in any form). Just pointing out the poster was talking about distilled (purified) water not spring water.
    As I said I don't use water to clean my iMac but a product specifically designed for screen cleaning.
     
  18. davelanger macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    #19
    You shouldn't use bottled water on your computer screen either.
    It should only be distilled. If you dont know what distilled water is, then you may want to look it up.
     
  19. Ak907Freerider macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    #20
    Look it up eh try reading the label on the bottle. If it doesn't say it's source for the water look on their website. Guarantee it's tap water.

    http://youtu.be/XfPAjUvvnIc

    Watch and learn
     
  20. Chippy99, Mar 14, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014

    Chippy99 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2012
    #21
    Clearly you do not understand that regular bottled water and distilled water are not the same thing at all.

    We are not talking about regular bottled water ("mineral water"), which like tap water has all sorts of minerals in it.

    Distilled water - or de-ionised water - is different stuff. It has much of the mineral content removed and is close to pure h2o without the Na+, Ca2+, K+, Cl-, F- etc and other ions you find in tap water and bottled mineral water.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distilled_water
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deionized_water

    Read and learn ;-)
     
  21. marzer, Mar 14, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014

    marzer macrumors 65816

    marzer

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    Colorado
    #22
    Dude, take breath. It's been repeated several times, DISTILLED WATER, a specific variant of bottled water. No one but you said bottled water. And yes, the typical informed consumer is well aware that most bottled water comes from a tap. Distilled water, however, requires it was purified, ran through a distillation process. Which also removes minerals and other heavy elements making it good for cleaning screens.

    http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneillnessContaminants/BuyStoreServeSafeFood/ucm077079.htm
     
  22. RichardC300 macrumors 65816

    RichardC300

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    Sep 27, 2012
    Location:
    Chapel Hill, NC
    #23
    I used rubbing alcohol to clean the lid of my macbook pro (the outside aluminum area, not the screen). It was all dirty with some sort of oil or grime that soaked into the aluminum over the course of 2 years of daily usage. Alcohol took it right out.

    For the screen, I generally use a light spray of Windex on a paper towel and wipe it down. Is this safe? I probably only clean my screen with this method like twice a year.
     
  23. chrfr macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    #24
    Keep in mind that 70% alcohol is 30% "other stuff." Sometimes that's water, sometimes it's moisturizers. Usually that 30% isn't clearly defined.

    ----------

    On the Macbook Pros with glass covered displays, Windex is probably fine but on older LCDs, ammonia, as found in Windex, should never be used.
    Personally I'd just use some lens cleaning fluid or a small amount of water and a microfiber cloth. Paper towels can lead to scratches on glass, so use caution.
     
  24. WilliamG macrumors 604

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    Location:
    Seattle
    #25
    Riiiiight. Evian comes from a tap? Really? :)
     

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