Sanitizing The Cabin? Go Easy On The Screens

It only takes seconds to cause a $1000 factory repair when cleaning avionics. Garmin's latest service alert has guidance worth following.

Don’t overthink the chore of wiping down the cabin. The favorite store-brand disinfecting wipes work well for cleaning control yokes, throttle handles and anything else germy hands touch—except display screens. Hit those with a heavy-duty cleaner and you might as well pull the whole unit from the panel and ship it away for a flat-rate display lens replacement.

Garmin expects to see more of these repairs given the awareness of reducing germs so it’s issued Service Advisory 2051, which is guidance for cleaning and disinfecting its products, while hopefully reducing the spread of disease in the cockpit. Not following the guidance could void the product warranty. 

Most of Garmin’s guidance is obvious, but worth reviewing. To be clear, cleansers containing ammonia will trash the anti-reflective coating on display lenses used on a wide variety of screens. Preferred is an ammonia-free solution of 70 percent (up to 91 percent) isopropyl alcohol and a lint-free cloth. No paper towels or shop rags—they’re too coarse and will scratch the lens. Optical solutions might work, but use with caution.

Our go-to has been the iCloth cleaning wipes, shown in the photo below. You can find a 100-pack count on Amazon for $20. They work well with eyeglasses, tablets and phones. Sporty’s also sells the Zip Dry Towel screen cleaning wipes. 

You want to be careful with any solution when cleaning around bezel knobs and buttons. Use a damp cloth with a mild (non-bleach) cleaning solution and don’t get any solution inside the bezel. The buttons might gum up and you could introduce moisture to the contacts, which is a repair waiting to happen.

Editor in Chief Larry Anglisano has been a staple at Aviation Consumer since 1995. An active land, sea and glider pilot, Larry has over 30 years’ experience as an avionics repairman and flight test pilot. He’s the editorial director overseeing sister publications Aviation Safety magazine, IFR magazine and is a regular contributor to KITPLANES magazine with his Avionics Bootcamp column. When he’s not writing, Larry is working on a collection of guitar compositions for the upcoming Flying n’ Jazz production.