How to Clean Windows

By: Editors of Consumer Guide  | 
An illustration of two sponges on a window showing both horizontal and vertical strokes.
To find streaks, wash one side with horizontal strokes and the other with vertical strokes.
Publications International, Ltd.

­In the world of home maintenance, window cleaning stands out as a task that combines simplicity with a profound impact. Whether you're tackling stubborn stains or aiming for that elusive streak-free shine, cleaning windows can transform your home from lackluster to luminous.

Fortunately, our guide offers insights into the tools, techniques, and tricks that will help you master this misunderstood art. From selecting the right cleaning solutions to mastering the perfect wiping motion, we cover everything you need to know to bring a professional touch to your window cleaning routine, ensuring that your windows are not just clean, but brilliantly so.


The Importance of Clean Windows

Although dirty windows are unattractive, keeping them clean goes well beyond aesthetics. A routine cleaning can significantly impact the longevity and efficiency of your glass and window frame. Dirt, grime, dust, and environmental pollutants can etch into the glass over time, leading to scratches and irreversible damage.

This accumulation not only obstructs natural light, diminishing the ambiance and energy efficiency of your home, but also weakens the glass, making it more susceptible to cracking and breaking. Meanwhile, excess water can damage exterior windows.


Additionally, unclean windows can harbor mold and mildew, especially in the crevices and seals, potentially posing health risks and degrading air quality within your home. Neglecting to remedy these issues can not only lead to health issues but also costly repairs and replacements.

Window Cleaning Tools

If you want streak free windows, you'll need an array of specialized tools and cleaning solutions. Start with a high-quality rubber squeegee blade and a scrubber or sponge for applying cleaning fluid. Professional window cleaners often use a mixture of water and dish soap for its simplicity and effectiveness.

For tougher grime, consider a commercial window cleaning solution with stronger cleaning agents. A clean microfiber cloth is ideal for wiping edges and corners where water tends to collect. Also, don't forget a sturdy ladder for reaching high outside windows, ensuring it's safely positioned and secure before use. Safety should always be your top priority, especially when working at heights.


Expert Tips for Clean Windows

Windows look best if they are cleaned on a regular basis, at least twice a year on the inside and outside. Many homeowners rush to clean their windows, using little more than a garden hose and paper towels, but that approach can radically reduce the longevity of your glass. Instead, follow these steps to have clean windows inside and out:

  • Wash one side of a window with horizontal strokes and the other side with vertical strokes so you can pinpoint which side of the window has a streak.
  • Use a squeegee on a long handle or a sponge/squeegee combination to prevent streaks on large windows.
  • Wash windows from the top down to prevent drips.
  • Eliminate tiny scratches on glass by polishing the affected areas with toothpaste.
  • Washing windows should be done on a cloudy day, because direct sunlight dries cleaning solutions before you can polish the glass properly.
  • Use a soft toothbrush or cotton swab to clean corners. ­ ­
  • To give an extra shine to window glass, polish it with well-washed cotton T-shirts or lint free cloth. Or rub a clean blackboard eraser over a freshly washed and dried window to give it a diamond-bright shine.
  • Polish windows to a sparkling shine with crumpled newspaper. The paper also leaves a film that's resistant to dirt.
  • R­ememb­er that window cleaners pose a threat to woodwork. Don't let them drip on the window sill where they can harm the paint or varnish.


Homemade Window Cleaning Solution

A hand holding a cotton swab to clean the corner of a window frame.
A cotton swab or soft toothbrush works for cleaning window corners.
Publications International, Ltd.


­Don't want to spend money on a glass cleaner? Home recipes work just as well as commercial products for washing windows, and you'll save money. Find a clean spray bottle and try this recipe for a homemade window cleaner:


  • Use 2 tablespoons ammonia, 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol, and 1/4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid.
  • Add all ingredients to a small spray bottle, then fill the bottle with water and shake well. You can substitute 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice for the ammonia.
  • Use as you would any commercial window cleaner.

There are many other recipes for cleaning solutions online, some leveraging vinegar or essential oils.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.