5 Tips for Cleaning Glass Without Streaks

By: Julia Layton & Alia Hoyt  | 
woman cleaning glass
Cleaning glass is more about the tools than the elbow grease. Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • To clean glass without streaks, use distilled water instead of tap water to avoid mineral deposits.
  • Vinegar, an all-natural and nontoxic cleaner, mixed with warm water is an effective and environmentally friendly glass-cleaning solution.
  • Avoid using soap and paper towels for cleaning glass; instead, opt for a solution with minimal soap and use a microfiber cloth or newspaper to prevent streaks and lint.

Although not as cringe-worthy as other household chores, like scrubbing down the old toilet bowl, window cleaning is nonetheless tedious and repetitive. The task takes on a new level of annoyance when all that careful spraying and wiping results in a mess of streaks. To add insult to injury, they often reveal themselves only when they catch the light just so, a phenomenon that almost always occurs when company is over.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way! Much like other cleaning chores, taking care of glass, whether it's a window or a mirror or a coffee table, is more about the tools than the actual elbow grease involved. With the right stuff in your bucket, you can get your glass streak-free and crystal-clear in no time. So check out the next page to start our simple list of five tips that'll surely have your glass surfaces sparkling with little effort or expense. It's isn't rocket science, either – the first tip has largely to do with something that should be common sense, but often isn't! Keep reading to find out.


5: Go Distilled

Although it might all look the same to the untrained eye, the truth is that the quality of the water which flows from your tap can vary wildly from place to place. This isn't such a big deal if you're cleaning countertops or flooring, but since glass shows every little imperfection it will be very apparent if any impurities are involved in the process. Since many people dilute glass cleaner with water this can have a major impact on how your glass surfaces look after a good cleaning. Hard water, in particular has a higher concentration of dissolved minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which will almost definitely result in an unsightly, streaky mess when combined with your cleaner.

Instead of diluting glass cleaner using water from the tap, consider using distilled water. It doesn't have all the minerals in it that can be present in tap water, so it won't leave behind any streaky deposits on your bathroom mirror. Unless you need very large quantities, distilled water is relatively inexpensive and easy enough to purchase from the local grocery store. If you're really pinching pennies you can actually whip up a batch from the comfort of your own home!


4: Use Vinegar

A vinegar mixture in a spray bottle can be used just like a chemical cleaner.
A vinegar mixture in a spray bottle can be used just like a chemical cleaner.

Vinegar is one of those all-purpose ingredients that's tough to live without, and is a staple in most pantries. Indeed, it's as great on a salad as it in on your mirror, and best of all it costs practically nothing! It's also all-natural, which is a serious selling point to people who want to clean green. The best type of vinegar for cleaning purposes is distilled white vinegar. It's non-toxic, antibacterical and its acidic content is completely safe for skin, pets, children and living things in general.

So, whether you're out of your usual glass cleaner or you're just looking for a cheaper option, white vinegar can work wonders on your windows and mirrors. Mix it up with warm water (again, soft or distilled H20 for best results) at a 50/50 ratio. Load into a reusable spray bottle and then just spritz and wipe as you would any other cleaner. Another glass-cleaning recipe calls for 1 cup (236 milliliters) of water mixed with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 1 tablespoon of vinegar (rubbing alcohol also prevents glass streaks) [source: Aguirre].


Similar to standard cleaners, vinegar water comes with its own aroma. The smell will stick around for a bit, but will fade quickly. However, if you gag at the scent of vinegar, you might save this particular brand of streak-free cleaner for use on outdoor glass.

3: Minimize Suds

Soap is king if you're looking to work up a nice lather. However, when used incorrectly, suds will only leave glass surfaces covered in ugly streaks. If the task at hand truly necessitates a deep clean, be sparing with the amount of soap you add to the solution. A little bit goes a long way!

It doesn't take much soap to get rid of that dirt, and using too much will result in an overly dense cleaner that can leave a streaky residue on the glass. To concoct your very own batch, simply mix up 2 quarts (1.9 liters) of water with 2 quarts of rubbing alcohol. Then add three (that's right – only three) drops of liquid dishwashing soap to the mixture [source: Mrs. Clean].


If you're not against chemicals you can substitute sudsy ammonia which is already mixed with the right ratio of soap. In that case, mix 1 ounce (29 milliliters) of soapy ammonia, 4 ounces of rubbing alcohol and 3.3 cups (780 milliliters) of water [source: Cleverly Simple].

Do some experimenting to find the right formula that works for you. As with any homemade glass cleaner, pour your mixture into a spray bottle, label it, and keep it away from children.

2: Banish Paper Towels

If paper products besides newspaper are in your cleaning arsenal, put them away.
If paper products besides newspaper are in your cleaning arsenal, put them away.

You know that bucket of glass-cleaning supplies you carry through the house when it's window day? Contrary to popular belief, there should not be a roll of paper towels in it. We know, we know – your world has just been rocked.

Now that you've settled back down, it's time for the cold, hard truth. When used on glass, paper towels leave not only streaks, but linty ones at that. Instead, go for a cleaner option, like a microfiber cloth or squeegee to get the job done. Or, embrace a totally old school method and use a handful of newspaper (if you can find one)! It turns out that your morning read does an amazing job on glass; just don't use any of the glossier pages or "funny" sections. Sure, there's some potential for personal mess, but if you stick to the black and white pages and wear gloves, you'll enjoy clean glass and hands at the same time! Odd though it might seem, wiping down glass with newspaper not only helps produce streak-free glass, but also a lovely, bright shine!


Be sure to spray your cleaning product on the newspaper or cloth rather than directly on the mirror. This will prevent the cleaner from dripping into the frame and possibly corroding it.

Finally, after all that elbow grease, it's time for the finishing touch.

1: Buff It

Cleaning glass is more about the tools than the elbow grease.
Cleaning glass is more about the tools than the elbow grease.

Even if you do exactly the right things, like mixing vinegar with distilled water and wiping with newspaper, it's possible to end up with a frustrating streak or three. In that case, the simplest solution is to finish the job with a quick buff.

The best type of cloth for the job is a chamois or a microfiber towel, although a regular rag will suffice in a pinch. Again – step away from the paper towels, unless you enjoy the way lint looks when it catches the sun! Make sure the chosen cloth is clean and dry, and simply buff over the troublesome area of the glass when you're done cleaning it. Like magic, those pesky streaks will disappear before your very eyes!


As with most cases of household cleaning and maintenance, staying on top of the job makes it a whole lot easier. The less dirt and grime your windows accumulate, the less time you'll spend cleaning them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should you use distilled water instead of tap water for cleaning glass?
Distilled water lacks the minerals found in tap water that can leave behind streaky deposits, ensuring a cleaner, clearer finish on glass surfaces.
Can vinegar damage any surfaces or materials if you use it as a glass cleaner?
While vinegar is generally safe for glass, it can be harmful to natural stone surfaces and certain types of seals or finishes, so it's important to use it cautiously and avoid these materials.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • APEC Water. "Hard Vs. Soft Water Explained." 2018 (Oct. 17, 2018) https://www.freedrinkingwater.com/water-education/quality-water-hard.htm
  • Cleaning and Washing Windows. Mrs. Clean. (Nov. 4, 2010) http://www.mrscleanusa.com/en/cleaning-tips/glass/window-cleaning-tip.html
  • Whelan, Corey. "What is the pH of vinegar?" Healthline. April 17, 2018 (Oct. 17, 2018) https://www.healthline.com/health/ph-of-vinegar
  • Window Washing and Glass Cleaning. Mrs. Clean. (Nov. 4, 2010) http://www.mrscleanusa.com/en/cleaning-tips/glass/washing-windows.html