Monday, February 20, 2012

ARogan's Clean Room Technique

ARogan's Clean Room Technique for applying screen protectors (the dry, static cling type) to various electronics.

I've picked up these tips over the years from various sources and forums and I thought I would put together a little step by step on how I get pretty much perfect lint free, dust free, bubble free application of screen protectors from everything as small as an iPhone to as large as an iPad (nerve-racking).

Materials:
- A couple of wood toothpicks
- Scotch tape (the typical 3m scotch magic tape)
- a lint free cloth
- a credit card or other plastic card to help smooth out air bubbles.
- Optional: distilled water/vinegar solution (maybe around 6 parts water to 1 part vinegar).
- UPDATE: This cleaning kit works GREAT from monoprice for about $4.

Details:
- Pick a bathroom with a good surface you can work on and good lighting.
- Clean the surface you are about to work on.
- Wash your hands.
- Prepare about 4 strips of tape of 2 inches each.
- If you have central heating/AC turn that off.  We don't want it blowing while we are in our clean room.
- Do some trial alignments with your screen protector while leaving all the protective packaging layers on for now.
- Turn on the shower on full hot and point it against the back corner of the shower away from the opening.  Try and leave the door open/curtain drawn back a bit to let the maximum amount of steam into the room.  Close the door and wait 10 min or so for the room to get nice and steamy.  This keeps the dust and lint out of the air.
- Take off your shirt.  I kid you not.  Be naked from the waste upward.  A shirt is just another source of lint.  The 3 biggest enemies are lint, dust, and finger prints.  Without those present any air bubble is super easy to work out.
- Quickly enter the room with your electronic device and supplies and quickly close the door behind you.  You can probably turn off the shower now if the room is sufficiently steamy.
- If the product is new out of box then the screen is already pretty clean.  At this point I like to take LONG strips of scotch tape and then go over the entire screen.  Stick the screen with the tape and then lift to remove every last piece of dust or lint.  Be very careful to NEVER touch the screen with your fingers.  Use a new strip of tape after every couple of times you stick and lift.
- If the product was already in use and you need a good cleaning I suggest a highly diluted vinegar water solution.  Just spray a little of the solution ON THE LINT FREE CLOTH (never on the device,  you don't want water damage).  Wipe down the screen removing all oils and finger prints then dry with the dry part of the cloth.  But always go over the entire screen with scotch tape as the LAST STEP before you begin installation of the screen protector.  Don't be stingy.  Tape is cheap; screen protectors are not.
- Now, you are ready to install the screen protector as instructed.  I usually start on one side and start peeling back the underside protective layer while laying it down.  I keep one hand to hold the starting edge in place.  I almost NEVER get perfect alignment on the first try.  That is why I had you prepare some shorter strips of scotch tape.  Just take a piece of tape, lightly stick it to the top of the screen protector in a corner and then lift the screen protector back off while only touching the scotch tape.  Under no circumstances should you ever directly touch the screen or edge of the screen protector with your fingers to get it off.  Always use a piece of tape to lift off the corner and peel it back.  While still anchoring the starting edge with your other hand keep laying down and pulling back off until alignment is perfect.  Don't worry too much about air bubbles since our "clean room" should prevent any dust or lint to get under there while we are doing this process.  Remove the tape when you get it the way you want it.
- Once alignment is good and you have the screen protector installed try and smooth out as many air bubbles as possible with your hand.  Don't be alarmed if there are quite a few.  You should be able to work them all out.  If there is an outer protective layer leave it on during this process.  I find using a combination of fingers, credit card, and toothpicks to work best.  Out of all of these I find a toothpick works really well.  Break off a  pointy end so you have basically a blunt toothpick.  Use it to  rub out and work out any air bubbles.  Just work them out the closest edge.  Having the outer protective layer still on prevents the toothpick from damaging the screen protector and lets you do it with a bit more vigor.
- Finally, remove the outer protective layer if there is one.  Check all the edges and make sure there are no air bubbles.  You can use the toothpick but gently if you need to work out some final air bubbles.

If the surface stayed clean during the process you will have the perfect installation of a screen protector.  If you happen to get some dust or lint under the screen here is what you can do:
- Use a piece of tape and try and lift as little of the screen protector as possible, just enough to expose the piece of lint.
- Use a second piece of tape to try and lift off the lint.  You will need to figure out if the lint is stuck to the device or the underside of the screen protector.  The adhesive of the tape should be strong enough to grab a hold of the lint.  Again, never let your fingers touch the device screen or the underside of the screen protector.  Let the tape do all the work.
- Once you have extracted the lint carefully lay back down the screen protector, remove the tape, and work out any new air bubbles as described above.


This sounds like a bit of time and work and it is.  But think about how long you will be using that piece of electronics (years maybe).  It's worth investing the energy to do it right to have a great looking and feeling product.

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