Buying Guide

How to Clean Windows

Glass Cleaning Tips

Glass cleaners are available in a number of different forms, including liquids, foams, sprays and wipes. Some are versatile substances that can be used on a number of different surfaces, including glass, tile, countertops and more.

For large projects, some window cleaners come in a bottle that can be attached directly to a garden hose. They are sprayed on and, after setting for a few seconds, rinsed off by adjusting a knob on the bottle to allow pure water to flow through. This method doesn't require any sort of wiping, scrubbing or drying, making it ideal for high or hard-to-reach windows.

  • No-drip cleaners utilize a thicker formula, making them less likely to run down to the bottom of a window before you've had a chance to wipe them clean.
  • Prepackaged wipes come with cleaning solution already applied and are ideal for use on smaller windows.
  • Diluting a small amount of ammonia, rubbing alcohol or vinegar in water creates a homemade cleaning solution that's effective on soil and grease.
  • Mixing warm water with cornstarch or dish soap creates an effective general window cleanse.

Tools & Window Cleaning Tips

Before you begin painstakingly cleaning your window panes, clean the frames and sills first. If you clean them afterward, you may end up soiling or streaking the windows you worked so hard to clean. 

The most efficient way to apply window cleaners, particularly on medium and large-sized windows, is with a scrub brush. Scrub brushes are used to wipe away the pollution, dirt, grit and grime that build up on the surface of a window. It is during this process, the act of removing the cleanser you've applied to cut through dirt, that streaks often develop.

Paper towels, cloths and even newspaper can all be used to clean windows, but the best way to ensure a streak-free finish is to employ a squeegee. Squeegees feature a rubber blade that removes the cleaner as you drag it across the surface of the window. They come in multiple sizes and, in some cases, may be cut to fit your windows.

  • Use a five-gallon bucket to hold cleaning solution and change water as it gets dirty to maintain effectiveness.
  • Prior to cleaning, use a razor blade to remove sap, dried paint or other hard substances.
  • Some scrubbers come with a bucket designed specifically to match their size.
  • Squeegees with replaceable rubber blades allow you to reuse them over and over. Replace blades at the first sign of wear to maintain effectiveness. Plastic clips help secure squeegee blades in place for more precise use.
  • Porcupine scrubbers are ideal for scraping sap and other substances from the surface of windows.
  • Combination scrubber/squeegees perform the work of two tools to make your window washing job easier.
  • Extension poles make it easy to reach high windows with both scrubbers and squeegees.

In addition to having the right cleaner and tools for the job, there are steps you can take to increase the effectiveness of your window washing technique.

  • Avoid cleaning windows when the sun is shining directly on them. The sun dries the cleaning solution very quickly, often before you've had a chance to wipe it off, which creates streaks.
  • When using a squeegee, start at the top of the window and work side-to-side. Working horizontally makes it easier to push excess water toward the unwashed part of the window. Use a clean cloth or a chamois to dry the squeegee between strokes. Then, use a rag or towel to wipe up the water that drips down onto the sill as well as the corners of the panes.
  • Clean frames, sills and cross pieces prior to washing window panes.
  • Squeeze excess water from scrubbers before applying to windows.
  • Use adhesive removers to get rid of residue from stickers or labels prior to cleaning.
  • Avoid mixing cleaners together, as the chemicals may react to form dangerous gases.
  • Tinted windows may require different care, so consult the manufacturer's instructions.
  • If you're concerned about your windows spotting, apply a rain shield. This substance should be applied according to the manufacturer's instructions and then buffed off, after which it will prevent spots from appearing even when it rains, snows or sleets.