Ask the Building Maintenance Experts
Solutions for Your Toughest Problems

ICAN  Q & A  Home

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Question

I have been searching for information on how to clean movie theater screens and where to purchase the appropriate products. Do you have any suggestions?


Answer

This is a specialty that there doesn't seem to be a lot of information about in the public domain. Several contractors specialize in this type of service and aren't willing to talk very much about it.
Here's what I know. The newer reflective screens are made of vinyl and are somewhat delicate. As they age and become soiled they lose their ability to reflect a bright picture. Most theaters have a special screen brush on a long handle or pole that should be used to remove light soil, lint and dust at least once a month. If this isn't done or the theater has a HVAC system that is especially dusty (old or bad filtration) screens may become heavily coated with soil, soot, lint and dust in which case the brightness and quality of the picture will suffer. Most theaters will have their screens professionally cleaned once every year or two, normally right before the Christmas Holidays as that is their busiest time of the year. A bigger problem with screens and one of the primary reasons they need cleaning once a year is that people throw drinks, candy, and other food items at the screen. These food items need to be removed as they can show on the screen and if not removed regularly may result in permanent damage or staining. If a screen becomes torn or damaged there isn't much that can be done so regular maintenance is important in maintaining picture quality and avoiding costly replacement.
There are several proprietary systems available for screen cleaning that use a special chemical and process. Most processes involve brushing, wiping, or vacuuming, followed by chemical application, light agitation and drying. Some companies use a solvent based cleaner, but most use a mild water based detergent solution.
When bidding this type of work see if you can get access to the name of the company that made the screen and contact them for detailed recommendations for cleaning, maintenance and restoration. The manufacturer is always your best and safest source of information.

Movie Screen Cleaning

Set up includes preparing your equipment and turning on the houselights or setting up adequate lighting so you properly inspect and clean the screen.

Step 1. Inspect the screen.
Your purpose here is to identify any food or drink spots that will need special attention or any damaged areas that should be noted on the work order and brought the managers attention before the work begins.
Step 2. Lightly dust the front and the back of the screen.
Use a micro fiber cloth, soft screen brush or vacuum head with a felt or soft brush type foot on it. (do not use plastic or metal) Dust the front and back of the screen, moving from right to left and from the top to the bottom of the screen. Make sure that all the dust is removed from both sides of the screen. Use ladders and extension poles to reach all areas of the screen.
Step 3. Remove spots from the screen.
Lightly brush the surface, apply cleaning solution, let is dwell 5 minutes, lightly brush and blot, gently work in small circles until the area is clean and stop before you damage the surface.
Step 4. Clean the screen.
Work in 3 ft. by 3 ft. block sections, top to bottom, right to left. Spray the screen with a mild detergent solution from a spray bottle, Gently agitate the screen with a soft sponge or cloth as you go making sure to always work from the top to bottom.
Step 5. Rinse the screen.
After you have cleaned the entire screen you will need to rinse it thoroughly using clean water applied with a spray bottle. You may need to rinse the surface two or three times to ensure that all the cleaning solution is removed and that there is no residue left on the screen as this can effect how the screen looks when light is shined on it from the projectors.
Step 6. Dry the screen.
The last step in the process is to ensure that you dry the entire screen completely. Again starting at the top and working right to left, top to bottom using a clean white cloth (micro fiber or Turkish towel) to wipe the screen dry.

Warning: Movie theater screens can cost up to one million dollars each, they are not something that you want to damage or be responsible for replacing. Always wipe gently as to avoid tearing or ripping the screen. Screens that are damaged, torn, ripped, extremely old or badly worn or stained cannot be safely cleaned without further damage. Proceed at your own risk.

Note: Estimated time for cleaning a typical screen is 45 to 120 minutes.

Bill Griffin
wgriffin@cleaningconsultants.com
www.cleaningconsultants.com