Apple's $19 polishing cloth sold out nearly immediately, with delivery dates of up to three months being suggested on Apple's retail website — here are some alternatives you can pick up right now, and why you (probably) don't need Apple's version.
On October 18, Apple introduced a $19 cleaning cloth to its online store. While many found the price outrageous, it didn't take long for the cloth to sell out.
The cloth isn't new, either. Instead, it's the same one that ships with Apple's high-end Pro Display XDR monitor and was previously available through service channels.
Apple's official Polishing Cloth is made with "soft, nonabrasive material" designed to prevent damage to nano-texture displays.
Nano-texture displays feature a unique nanometer-level glass etching that provides a high-quality matte display option that reduces glare and maintains image quality. Because of this delicate etching, the glass must be cleaned with a specialized cleaning cloth.
It's highly unlikely that everyone purchasing the Apple polishing cloth owns a device with a nano-texture screen. Currently, only the Pro Display XDR and customized Intel iMacs feature nano-texture. It's far more likely most people simply bought it because it was new to the Apple Store.
For most Apple screens, a decent-quality microfiber cleaning cloth is all you'll need to clean your screen. Apple suggests that you lightly dampen a soft, lint-free cloth with water and wipe off any offending grime.
As far as lint-free cloths go, MagicFiber Microfiber cloths are designed to trap dust and remove oil and grime without scratching your screen. They'll work with the iPhone, iPad, and with the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models — pretty much anything that doesn't have nano-texture.
However, if you have a nano-texture display, you'll want to avoid using water or a standard cleaning cloth. Again, Apple states that you should only use the cleaning cloth that came with your device — or that you purchased as a $19 standalone.
Apple's polishing cloth is a microfiber cloth with a suede texture, similar to if not exactly the same as the ones that have shipped with microscopes for years. Apple is far from the only company to produce this sort of microfiber cloth. It is often recommended for sensitive glass surfaces, such as jewelry, eyeglasses, camera lenses, and even microscope lenses.
Makuang sells an 8-pack of suede cleaning cloths for $15.69 on Amazon. Using an "ultra fine suede weave," the 12-inch by 12-inch cloths are lint, streak, and scratch-free, and can be washed and reused repeatedly.
They're also a light grey and can ship in a relatively short timeframe, at least compared to the three months of the Apple cleaning cloth.
There is a word of warning to offer about Amazon cleaning cloths, as there's no guarantee that the title of the cloth will remain the same. A previous version of this article included a reference to an AmazonBasics 24-pack of cloths listed as being "suede," but later Amazon changed the listing to state it was "microfiber" instead, while retaining the same images and other related text.
When using any cloth — be it Apple's official polishing cloth or a third-party alternative — on a display of any sort, you should thoroughly inspect it to ensure it is clean, dry, and free of any hard particles that could scratch your monitor. Apple recommends that you clean your polishing cloth with dish soap and water, rinse well, and allow to air-dry for at least 24 hours between uses.
Update, November 24: Due to changes in Amazon's naming of its own products, switching out "suede" for "microfiber, the article has been updated with a new "suede" option and clarification on the matter.