Friday, August 21, 2015

Last Resort: Polishing a Scratched Screen

Before I begin, I must stress that if you try this trick, you do it at your own risk. I cannot be held responsible for any damage done to your system, and it is a possibility. That's why it's called a last resort.

All right, now to the post! I picked up a cheap PSP Go on eBay a couple of months ago. I was overjoyed that it worked at all, but the screen was a mess... evidently the previous owner had left it in their pocket along with their car keys, because there were two long gouges on the right hand side. As you might imagine, these huge scratches proved rather distracting when playing games.

I tried every 21st century folk remedy in the book to remove them, from toothpaste to baking soda, without success. Apparently, the factory puts an anti-glare coating on the front of the screen that's just soft enough to get scratched by sharp objects, but just hard enough to resist most attempts at buffing the scratches out.

Cerium Oxide: Available at a fine
mad scientist near you!
Luckily, there's a solution for getting rid of that blasted coating! This is a budget-friendly twist on a tip I found on Instructables. I'm sure the original trick works just fine, but it requires cerium oxide or jeweller's rouge, and I can tell you from personal experience that neither are household items. You're also going to have trouble finding those very specific grades of sandpaper, unless you're willing to order them online or pay big bucks to a specialty shop.

Here's what I used. All of these materials can be found in the hardware and auto care section of Wal-Mart for a reasonable price. If you're not a fan of Wal-Mart, you should be able to dig them up at other retailers, like Meijer or Target. The total cost of the materials should be around twenty bucks.

1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper ($3)
2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper ($3)
Meguiar's Scratch X 2.0, 7 oz. ($8)
Roll of car polishing cloths ($3)
Small cup of water (just grab one from around the house)
Scissors (same deal)
Glass cleaner spray (ditto)

Take a sheet of each type of sandpaper and cut a square inch off each. Label them by grit on the opposite side with a ballpoint pen if you think it's necessary... they look and feel very similar. Now clean the front of your system with a cloth and a bit of the glass cleaner, removing all bits of dust and grime from the screen.

Sure it's long and tedious, but Cobra-Kai
will never get through your iron defense!
Next, dip the piece of 1000 grit sandpaper into the cup of water. Grab it by the corner and scrub the screen with it, working in small clockwise circles. Cover the entire screen, including the edges... these are the hardest to get. You'll start noticing a whitish paste... that's the anti-glare coating breaking apart. Wipe it off occasionally, and dip the sandpaper again when it starts to dry. Keep scrubbing thoroughly for two or three minutes, then put the sandpaper down and wipe off the screen.

"Oh lord, it's a mess! It's too blurry to see anything now!" Don't sweat it, man, you're not finished. Now grab the 2000 grit sandpaper, dip it in water, and repeat the process. The finer grit will further break down the coating and make the scratches finer. You'll start noticing that some parts of the screen are shiny and reflective, while others are dull and cloudy. Concentrate on the cloudy portions of the screen... that's where the coating remains, stubbornly holding on for dear life. Keep scrubbing until it's gone... show no mercy!

Not just for cars!
Now comes the coup de grace. Grab that bottle of Maguiar's ScratchX 2.0 and squeeze a pea-sized drop of it onto one of the car polishing cloths. Apply it to the screen and rub it in with firm circular strokes. Be thorough... buff the entire screen, including the edges. Wipe off the residue with a moistened cloth and repeat the process a couple of times. Now clean the screen with the wet cloth and survey your work.

The scratches from the sandpaper should be gone, and most of the anti-glare coating should be too. You'll probably have to repeat the process a couple of times before it's satisfactory... expect to invest thirty minutes in a single screen. Once you're done, though, you'll be amazed by the results. The screen will be gorgeous, without scratches or discolorations. The screen will also be shiny, so you might want to invest in a plastic screen cover to cut down on the glare and keep the bare glass protected.

I've tried this with two systems so far, my PSP Go and my early model Vita, and have had positive results with both. Again, I stress that you do this at your own risk, so if you're not absolutely sure, give it a test run on a handheld you don't use much, or like much.

So by now, you're probably asking, "Jess, homeskillet, why would you spend that much money and put that much effort in cleaning a screen when you could just buy a new one?" One, because I can clean multiple screens with this, and two... well, have you seen how hard it is to replace the display on a PSP Go? Nooooo thank you!

Special thanks to Instructables' Hazard Labs for providing the inspiration for this tip.

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