Clean windows let the sun shine through.
Clean windows let the sun shine through.
©iStockphoto.com/Tatiana Kakhill

Kids' handprints, dogs' nose prints, plain ol' dust and dirt that collects every few days -- there are endless reasons why your windows and mirrors are always dirty no matter how often you clean them. Attacking the mess with a store-bought glass cleaner and paper towels can leave behind streaks and lint, putting you in a worse situation than before the cleaning.

Don't worry; we have the solutions to all your glass-cleaning woes. Our 5 tricks will surprise you and leave you with windows that sparkle in the sunlight and mirrors that are clear enough to always show your best side. The first step is concocting, with our recipe, a cleaner that is stronger than any you'd have to pay money for.

5
Make Your Own Cleaner

Don't waste money on expensive commercial glass cleaners when you can easily mix up excellent and highly effective glass cleaners at home for less. Next time your store-bought cleaner runs out, thoroughly rinse out the spray bottle and follow our recipe for windows that really need a good clean (as well as for mirrors, glass panels on furniture, and the like).

Combine 2 tablespoons ammonia, 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol and 1/4 teaspoon mild non-antibacterial dishwashing liquid. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a rinsed, recycled spray bottle. Then spray it on windows, just as you would commercial glass cleaner, and wipe.

4
Grab Some Newspaper

When it's window-cleaning time, turn unsightly streaks, smears and lint into yesterday's news by spraying the windows with homemade glass cleaner (see the recipe above) and wiping them dry using crumpled-up newspaper.

Employing newsprint instead of rags or paper towels will leave your hands dirty but your windows sparkling and lint-free -- cheaply and without streaks. You can also dip the crumpled newspaper directly into a bucket of the homemade cleaner while wearing rubber or vinyl gloves, wipe down the glass with the wet newspaper, and, to finish off, use dry sheets of newspaper to dry and polish the windows.

3
Use Paper Coffee Filters

A slightly more modern alternative to cleaning mirrors or windows with newspaper (that's just as convenient, inexpensive and lint-free) is to use paper coffee filters. That's right. They're cheap (so you can buy an extra pack instead of having to forego your morning cup of java) and absorbent and won't leave your windows with a fuzzy coat -- or cover your hands with ink stains like newspaper will.

Adopt the same method as with the newspaper: dip the filters into a bucket of the homemade cleaner while wearing rubber or vinyl gloves, wipe the windows clean and then dry the windows off with a new, dry filter.

2
Use Erasers

Did your teacher ever assign you to stay after school to pound the dust out of the blackboard erasers? For young children, getting assigned that task was an honor. For older ones, it was usually a punishment for misbehaving in class.

Now that you're an adult, one of those old-fashioned blackboard erasers may once again leave you proud as you look out through crystal-clear windows. After washing and drying your windows with either newspaper or coffee filters (see preceding hints), run a clean, dry blackboard eraser over the windows to remove any streaks and give them a diamond-bright shine.

1
Avoid Direct Sunlight

No matter which supplies you use, avoid cleaning windows when the sun is shining directly on the glass or when there's a warm, dry wind. While you might yearn to see the sun to shining through your newly crystal-clear window, if the glass warms too much while the windows are wet, it'll dry the cleaner before you've had a chance to wipe the window clean. You'll be left with spots, streaks and film -- not to mention a lot of the dirt you meant to clean off in the first place.

Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.