Because they are controlled via touch — typically using a finger or a stylus — touchscreens experience significant stress over the course of their lifetime. Research shows, for example, that the average person touches his or her smartphone over 2,600 times per day. As a result, you might be wondering whether touchscreens are vulnerable to scratches. While scratches can and do occur, many touchscreens are naturally protected against superficial damage such as this.

Oleophobic Coatings

Touchscreens are manufactured with a thin but protective coating to protect against fingerprints, blemishes and scratches. Known as an oleophobic coating, it consists of an oil-repelling liquid. The coating itself is invisible, so you typically won’t see it on a touchscreen. Nonetheless, nearly all touchscreens feature an oleophobic coating. Its primary purpose is to repel oils left behind from a user’s fingers, but it’s also useful at protecting against scratches.

It’s important to note that a touchscreen’s oleophobic coating may degrade and wear off over time. This is especially true if a solvent, such as rubbing alcohol, is used to clean the touchscreen. Contrary to popular belief, rubbing alcohol should not be used on touchscreens. While effective at cleaning debris, rubbing alcohol is a solvent, and like other solvents, it will dissolve oleophobic coatings.

Projected Capacitive Touchscreens

Some touchscreens are better protected against scratches than others. Projected capacitive touchscreens, for example, offer a superior level of protection against scratches than other types of touchscreens, including surface capacitive.

Surface capacitive touchscreens, of course, feature a transparent layer of conductive traces embedded onto the top glass layer. In comparison, projected capacitive touchscreens feature conductive traces underneath the top glass layer. Scratches can occur on both types of touchscreens. Because the conductive traces are underneath the top glass layer, though, projected capacitive touchscreens are better protected against scratches than their surface capacitive counterparts.

Screen Protectors

There are also accessories available that are designed specifically to protect touchscreens from scratches. Known as screen protectors, they consist of a thin, durable and transparent sheet of material. The screen protector is placed directly over the touchscreen’s top glass layer, thereby protecting the touchscreen from scratches.

Screen protectors are available for smartphones and tablets, as well as other touchscreen devices, allowing for an easy and effective way to protect against scratches. As long as the screen protector fits the touchscreen properly, it will protect the screen from scratches. With that said, projected capacitive touchscreens are naturally protected against scratches because of the way in which they are manufactured.