From smartphones and tablets to computer monitors and human machine interfaces (HMIs), most touchscreen devices are designed with a clear, protective coating to discourage the formation of fingerprint smudges. Known as an oleophobic coating, it plays an important role in the overall function and utility of touchscreen devices. Unfortunately, though, many people have never heard of oleophobic coatings, let alone know how they work. Whether you’re buying a touchscreen device for personal or business use, you should familiarize yourself with oleophobic coatings.

Oleophoic Coatings Explained: What You Should Know

The term “oleophobic” comes from the Greek language meaning “fear or fat.” How does this relate to touchscreens exactly? Well, oleophobic coatings are designed to repel oil, which is a liquid consisting primarily of fat molecules. Therefore, it’s a fitting name that reflects its purpose.

Oleophobic coatings aren’t designed to just repel moisture. Some people assume that oleophobic is just another term for waterproof or water resistant, but this isn’t true. As previously mentioned, oleophobic coatings repel oil.

Because they are controlled via touch commands, touchscreen devices are frequently exposed to physical touches. Whether you’re browsing the internet, using an app or playing a game, you are probably touching the device’s display. And even if you don’t realize it, your fingers are probably leaving behind small amounts of oil. The good news is that most touchscreens are designed with an oleophobic coating to repel such oil.

Benefits of Oleophobic Coatings

There are several benefits to using an oleophobic coating on a touchscreen, one of which is fewer fingerprint smudges. Fingerprint smudges aren’t just unsightly; they can affect the performance of a touchscreen device. As the smudges accumulate, the touchscreen may fail to register touch commands.

An oleophobic coating also protects touchscreens from potential circuitry damage caused by oils. Without this coating, oil from your fingers may seep into the device, causing premature failure.

Beware When Cleaning Your Touchscreen Device

A common mistake people make when cleaning their touchscreen device is using rubbing alcohol or other solvent chemicals. Even if these products clean the display, they could harm the invisible oleophobic coating protecting the touchscreen from oil.

Instead of using rubbing alcohol or other solvent chemicals with which to clean your touchscreen, stick with a lint-free microfiber cloth and a small amount of water. After wetting the microfiber cloth just enough to make it damp, wipe it across the display surface of your touchscreen. The water will safely clean your touchscreen without stripping away or otherwise harming its protective oleophobic coating.