How to Clean Windows Effectively – 15 Window Cleaning Tips

This guide on how to clean windows will give you the tips you need to know on how to clean windows effectively. Windows are sometimes forgotten in the throes of spring cleaning, but they deserve just as much attention as the bathtub or the stained carpet.

A clean window will result in a brighter house. You’ll benefit from more and brighter sunlight once the dust has been wiped away, and you’ll be amazed at how different the view looks once it’s clear.

I’m not saying you need to wash your windows every day, but when you’re in the zone and deep cleaning the rest of your home, make sure you also spend some time at the windows.

If you can, it’s best to clean windows on a cloudy day. If it’s too bright outside the soap and water will dry too quickly, leaving smears on the glass windows. The good news is, spring weather is usually perfect for window cleaning.

Not sure where to start? I’ve created a window-cleaning guide with information on cleaning the inside and outside of your windows. It’s easier than it seems! Let’s get started.

Window Cleaning Supplies

Always start by gathering your supplies and making sure that you have everything you need in order to clean the windows properly. You don’t want to get stuck half way through and end up with streaks across the glass or a half-washed window! You’ll need:

  • Bucket of warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Vinegar or store-bought window cleaner / window cleaning solution
  • Spray bottle
  • Dry towel, lint free cloth or paper towels
  • Swiffer mop

1 Dish Soap
Any dish soap will work! Grab your supplies and get ready. 

Interior Windows

The inside of your windows will probably be much cleaner than the outside, so it’s a good idea to start to clean windows inside. Here’s how.

Prepare for Cleaning Windows

First, make sure you have all the necessary supplies to clean windows. For cleaning windows, you’ll need plenty of cloths, rags, or paper towels. Mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water in a bucket. For cleaning windows that may be too high to reach on your own, you can use a swiffer mop.

Rinse

Start by rinsing the windows with the soap and water and a clean towel. Ring the towel out so it isn’t dripping but is wet, and rub down the window. Depending on how dirty the window is, you may need to go over it a couple times.

2 Wash Cloth Rinsing
Use a rag to wipe away the initial dirt on the windows. Make sure to also wipe down the frames while you’re at it.

Dry

Use a second towel, lint free cloth or a rubber squeegee to dry the window off for a streak free finish. Use long, strong movements in one direction to avoid streaks on the clean windows. If the window still looks especially dirty you can rinse and dry a second time with your squeegee or lint free cloth.

Spray

Place the white vinegar in a window cleaning solution spray bottle and spray the windows, starting at the top and working your way down. White vinegar is one of the best window cleaners for cleaning windows, and it’s cheap and easy to find. You can also use a window cleaning solution or window washing product designed for home window cleaning, such as Windex or the Laundress.

Wipe

Wipe off the vinegar using swift motions in the same direction as you dried the window. You may need to spray and wipe the same area a few times if there are difficult smudges. This is the final step, and therefore one of the most important. Use solid motions and make sure you aren’t leaving drips or streaks.

Exterior Windows

Chances are, the exterior windows are much dirtier than the interior windows. Outside, the windows might pick up dust, dirt, pollen, rain splatters, or even dead bugs. Because of this, you’ll need to take a bit more time outside. Of course, this also means that the exterior cleaning will look instantly better.

Prepare

In preparing to clean the exterior windows, you might want to make sure you’re wearing clothes that can get dirty. Gather all the same supplies that you used for cleaning the inside windows, plus a swiffer mop if your windows are high and a few extra rags since they’ll get dirty faster.

Even if your windows don’t look that bad, closer inspection can reveal layers of grime that block light and make the rest of your space look dirty as well. A lot of this dirt comes from outside, so it’s important to clean both sides of the window.

Rinse

Start by rinsing the outside of the windows using a rag and soapy water. I suggest having two rags for this. Start with one that will pick up the bulk of the dirt and pollen. Next switch to a second wet rag and clean once through again to pick up the remaining dirt.

Don’t let the window sit wet for long, since the air and sun will dry it before you can wipe away the water and leave streaks and watermarks. 

Dry

Keep a dry rag handy and wipe away the soap and water immediately. This is even more important outside than it is inside. Because the window is exposed to more wind and sun, the water will dry quicker. If the water dries on its own instead of with a dry rag, you’ll end up with streaks on the glass.

Always start at the top of the window and work your way down, using smooth, strong motions from one side to the other.

Spray

This stage is the same inside and outside. Starting at the top of the window, spray the vinegar across the glass.

3 Vinegar Spray
A spray bottle is the best way to ensure even distribution of vinegar on the window.

Wipe

Using solid, strong motions from side to side, wipe away the vinegar, taking care not to leave behind any streaks or drips.

7 Clean Window

Post your cleaning, your finished windows should be clean, clear, and free of streaks and smudges. Once you’ve finished wiping down the inside and outside of your clean windows, take a step back to admire your work. I guarantee you’ll be impressed with how much brighter and cleaner the rest of the house feels once there’s no longer dust and pollen on the windowsill.

How to Clean Larger Windows

2 Larger Window Cleaning
Cleaning Windows.jpg by michael_swan / CC BY-ND 2.0 Bigger windows present a challenge to clean for more people because they can be difficult to reach in general without getting up on a ladder. 

If you’re someone who has bigger windows that are far too large to clean with a cloth and a spray bottle, you can mix a dilution solution in a bucket of 10 parts water with 1 part vinegar. Dip a sponge in the solution and slowly moisten the window. You’ll want to work very quickly during this process to avoid ending up with streaked windows. 

Clean the solution from your windows using a damp squeegee by wiping from the top of the window downward. After each swipe, you want to wipe the edge of your squeegee clean to help avoid drips down the window. You may even have to stop halfway down and clean the blade. 

How to Get a Streak-Free Clean

When it comes to cleaning windows and ending up with no streaks, there are a few things you can do. Go through the following tips to see which ones will work better for your project to get you sparkling clean windows every time. 

  1. Always use a very soft wipe that is lint-free when you clean the solution off the windows. A microfiber cloth is actually what you want, but a lot of people don’t have these in their homes. If you don’t, you can try a clean paper towel. Rub the solution from several directions to avoid streaks.
  2. Avoid using any glass cleaners that have an alcohol or ammonia base. Although this could trick you into thinking that they will give you a better clean, they can leave streaks or a very thin film that attracts both moisture and dust. If you have an extremely difficult spot to clean, you can speed up the whole process by applying rubbing alcohol or acetone to a cloth and rubbing directly at the stain. Wipe the area dry before continuing to clean your window like normal.
  3. No matter how stuck-on materials or debris can be, you should never use any kind of blade or a razor to scrape at them to remove them from your windows. This can actually scratch your window’s surface, and it can leave your windows much more vulnerable to breaking with pressure in the future.
  4. If you’ve cleaned your window and you find out that there are still several streaks that you can’t seem to wipe away, rinse the whole thing with clean water and let them dry. This can strip away any remaining cleaning solution. 

Types of Window Cleaning Solutions and Six DIY Recipes

If you’re someone who wants to buy a solution to clean your windows, you should get a commercial-grade cleaner from a brand that you’ve used and trust. You can also get a pre-mixed solution with a vinegar base that is more natural, or you can try these six DIY recipes below. 

Homemade Window Cleaner One – Vinegar

3 Using Vinegar to Clean
Work by Martina / CC BY-ND 2.0 Vinegar is great for cutting through grease and other films due to the acidity content, and you can add essential oils to mask the scent if you’re using them inside. 

One of the fan-favorites for a window cleaning solution involves vinegar. It’s popular as a homemade weed killer, to clean various surfaces, and it works well to clean windows if you have distilled vinegar around. It’s a product that is readily available, and it has an acidic composition to it that works very effectively to help you break down the streaky film that is very common on glass surfaces like windows. You can follow the easy steps below to try and clean your windows with vinegar. 

  1. Mix 10 parts of warm water with 1 part vinegar and pour it into a spray bottle.
  2. Wipe down your window with a very clean, soft cloth or paper towel to help get rid of some of the dirt or dust because you spray the mixture. Once you do, you’re free to spray the entire surface.
  3. Get your lint-free cloth and rub the vinegar mixture into the window, making sure to pay special attention to the dirty areas of your window. Be very generous with the amount of cleaner you use, but be careful to not allow the cleaner to get on vinyl, fiberglass, or wooden frames because it can discolor the finish.
  4. Get a second clean cloth and dry your window as thoroughly as you possibly can. You’ll want to work quickly after cleaning it in order to help prevent streaking. So, if you have several windows to clean, you’ll want to do them one at a time.
  5. If the streaks hang around after you finish cleaning, rinse the window with clear water and allow them to dry. 

Homemade Window Cleaner Two – Rubbing Alcohol 

Adding rubbing alcohol to this window cleaner recipe can help it evaporate much quicker across your surface, and this reduces the chances that you’ll have water spots left behind. However, you should note that rubbing alcohol is very flammable, so you want to store it in a safe spot away from your pets and kids. It also works well to get stains out of your furniture. To make this cleaner, you’ll need:

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 1 cup distilled vinegar
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol 

Mix your rubbing alcohol and vinegar into a spray bottle, and fill the rest of it up with distilled water. Screw the lid on securely and shake it to mix everything. The vinegar should say “made from grain” for the best results. Spray it on your windows and wipe like normal. 

Homemade Glass Cleaner Three – Dish Soap 

Dish soap gives you an effective but simple cleaning agent for a host of glass surfaces, and you only need a few drops for it to work well. To make this cleaning agent, you’ll need: 

  • 3 to 5 drops of mild liquid dish soap 
  • 16-ounces hot water

Get a larger bucket and combine your hot water and your dish soap. Distilled water will give you a better streak-free finish. Swish it around until you see suds and apply it to the window with a lint-free cloth. Work quickly and dry it to avoid streaking. As a bonus, dish soap cuts through greasy residue and films. 

Homemade Glass Cleaner Four – Cornstarch

Did you know that glass surfaces and windows aren’t 100% smooth? There are tiny pits across your windows’ surface that will trap water and cause spots and streaks to appear. The cornstarch in this recipe works to break down water bonds, and this will give you a very shiny, streak-free, spot-free finish. It works well if you have problems with pesky water spots on your stainless steel sink too. You’ll need: 

  • 2 cups distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch 
  • ¼ cup white vinegar 
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol 

Mix all of the listed ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake the spray bottle well to dissolve the cornstarch to prevent clogging it as you spray it. Spray the solution onto your windows and wipe until the glass comes clean without any streaks. 

Homemade Glass Cleaner Five – Streak-Free

4 Streak Free Clean
Windows by Brett Davis / CC BY-NC 2.0 Getting a streak-free finish on your windows can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. It all depends on the ingredients you use when you clean your windows. 

This recipe works to combine a few inexpensive ingredients from other recipes to give you an excellent mixture for a streak-free finish on all of your windows and glass surfaces. To get an even better clean, use newspaper to wipe the solution off of your windows because it won’t leave a trail of lint behind like paper towels will. To make it, you’ll want to gather: 

  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup apple cider or white distilled vinegar 
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 10 drops of any essential oil

Combine all of the ingredients before pouring them into a spray bottle. You can purchase an inexpensive bottle online or use a spray bottle that you have laying around. Screw the top on and shake the bottle well to mix everything thoroughly. Spray it onto your windows and wipe it away. 

Homemade No-Rinse Window Screen Spray

You can’t skip cleaning the screens when you’re cleaning the windows. Screens can get extremely dusty and dirty, and they’re not terribly easy to clean. Also, they’re easy to damage if you push on them too hard when you clean them. However, this no-rinse spray will help you clean the screens before you clean your windows to leave everything looking refreshed. To make it, you’ll need: 

  • 2 spray bottles
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap 
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil 

Measure and empty your dish soap and baking soda into a spray bottle. These two ingredients will mix to naturally clean the screens and break down any stuck-on dust. Add two cups of water and screw the cover on. Shake it until the baking soda dissolves. 

Next, fill the second spray bottle with water and add in 10 drops of the lavender essential oil to help strip away any mold buildup. Shake it to distribute the oil. Spray your screens with the water and dish soap bottle first. Allow the screens to sit for 5 to 10 minutes to give it time to work. Spray the screens again with the spray bottle with essential oils and allow them to dry. 

10 Window Cleaning Tips

There are several things you can do to clean your windows to ensure you get great results, no matter if you’re going to clean from the inside or outside. These things include but are not limited to: 

Start from the Inside by Cleaning the Blinds First

In order to have clean windows, you’ll have to clean your blinds first to get rid of any dust. Since cleaning every slat can be very time-consuming, you can cut your cleaning time by getting a pair of tongs and rubber banding a clean cloth to both tongs. Dampen them to catch the dust and run them over your blind slats. They’ll work to make your blinds look like new and lift the dust. 

Clean the Window Tracks

The window tracks are difficult to reach, but they’re one place where debris and dirt love to accumulate. Since they’re hard to reach, many people skip them. However, you can clean them by dipping a brush in Pine-Sol and scrubbing at the tracks. This will leave your house smelling great while removing any stubborn stains. If the brush trick doesn’t get them adequately clean, you can get: 

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Old toothbrush 
  • Rag
  • Paper towel
  • Butter knife

Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda into the tracks and apply some vinegar on top so it forms a reaction and foams. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Get an old toothbrush and scrub at any stubborn spots before wiping them out with a rag wrapped around a butter knife. 

5 Cleaning the Window Tracks
Sunday Chores by Michael Coghlan / CC BY-SA 2.0 The window tracks are one part of the window that get ignored because they’re very time-consuming to clean. However, there are things you can use to clean them to remove any debris. 

Non-Toxic Mold Cleaning Solution for Your Window Sills

Your window sills could get moldy due to humidity or moisture, just like in your shower. Mold is bad for people, pets, and houses, so you should work to get rid of it as soon as you see it. To do so, you’ll need a spray bottle, tea tree oil, and white vinegar. 

Mix ¼ cup of vinegar with 2 cups of water and add 10 drops of tea tree oil into the bottle. Screw the cap on and shake well to incorporate everything. Spray it onto the window sills and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then, you can wipe it away. 

 Woolite for Exterior Windows

Cleaning the exterior windows is one project that many people put off because it can be very time-consuming or even dangerous if you have higher windows. However, you can clean them with a ½ cup of Woolite, a gallon of warm water, and a brush. All you do is combine the Woolite and water in a bucket and use the brush to scrub at your windows. You’ll get a streak-free shine without the need to squeegee or dry after you finish. 

Lint Roller to Clean Window Screens

Poplar trees are beautiful because they grow huge and provide shade for everything in your yard. However, they also release a fuzzy material each spring. The cotton-covered seeds can stick to the window screens and be a mess to try and scrape off. However, you can get out a lint roller and run it over your screens, both inside and out. The lint roller will grab the cotton seeds and stick to them to pull them off your screen. It also works for any miscellaneous pet hairs and spider webs. 

Periodically Wipe Your Squeegee as You Work

If you’ve ever watched a professional company clean windows, they do something that many homeowners forget to do. Every few swipes, you want to wipe your squeegee blade with a dry, clean towel. This is a very simple move that reduces the chances of anything dripping or leaving unattractive streaks when your windows dry. 

Keeping Your Windows Spotless 

One of the most unpleasant parts isn’t necessarily cleaning your windows, but it’s knowing that they’ll only look nice until they get wet again. If they do,  you’ll see streaks and water spots on what were once pristine windows. To avoid this you can add Rain-X to yoru windows. You don’t have to clean them again before you apply it. Spray it onto your windows on the outside and wipe it off using a newspaper or towel. For the next few months, this will help to keep your windows looking nice. 

6 Rain X
Drops on Car Hood 2 by JB Kilpatrick / CC BY 2.0 Rain-X can help repel rain so it doesn’t dry and leave a host of spots on your windows after you clean them. 

Remove Hard Water Stains

If your windows are covered with hard water stains, they can look very unattractive. Additionally, hard water stains are extremely difficult to remove by hand. You’ll need Dawn dish soap, vinegar, a spray bottle, and lemon juice. To start, fill half of your spray bottle with vinegar. Add one part dish soap and one part lemon juice to fill the bottle. Spray the stains and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Get a brush and scrub at the stains to lift them. 

Wait for Cloudy Weather to Clean Your Windows

Cloudy weather is your best friend when it comes to cleaning your windows. This is because it can allow your cleaner to stay moist on your windows for longer periods, and this reduces the chances of it drying on you and leaving a film or residue. It could also be easier to see streaks as you work without the sun beating down on you. 

Sponge Mop and a Long-Handled Squeegee

If you have taller windows, all you’ll need to clean them safely and effectively is water, vinegar, Dawn soap, bucket, sponge mop, and a long-handled squeegee. Mix your solution with 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water and add in ¼ cup of Dawn. Dip the sponge mop into the mixture and scrub at your windows. Next, get your long-handled squeegee and dry the windows. 

Bottom Line

Cleaning your windows effectively can be a big project for anyone to take on, but it’s a great way to brighten up the interior and exterior of your home. You can use the DIY recipes to make natural cleaning solutions to cut through grease, grime, and hard water stains to get a beautiful streak-free shine. 

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