The Best Way to Clean Windows
When I was looking for a new home, I had quite an extensive list of “must haves” – at the top of my list was an open floor plan, ample closet space and lots of natural light.
You see, I live in the Northwest, which averages 226 cloudy days per year, so I need all the sunshine I can get.
What I didn’t quite realize when I was house hunting is that natural light equals windows – which requires a lot of upkeep.
After about six months of living in my spacious new abode, I became so frustrated by how quickly my windows got dirty, so I made it my goal to learn how to clean my windows like a pro.
I wanted to see clean glass in the window panes of our home, so now I do a thorough cleaning inside and out at least twice a year.
My advice to you? Pick a day, grab your husband or significant other, break out the squeegees and get ready to start cleaning.
I have many secrets and time-saving tips that I'd like to share with you about cleaning your windows.
Before You Start
Tip: Washing windows is best done on a cloudy day. If you wash windows on a warm, sunny day, the heat will dry the cleaning solution too quickly and will cause streaking as you’re cleaning.
- Vacuum the window tracks and windowsills to remove dirt and debris.
- If there is a build-up of gunk in the corners, use a Q-tip or something similar to clean.
- Remove any window screens from windows. Mark them if necessary so you know what windows they go on when you’re finished washing.
- Brush off exterior windows frames with a soft scrub brush to remove dirt and debris.
- If your windows have weep holes, make sure they are clean and free of build-up so they can continue to function as they were designed to do.
- Pre-rinse before washing to help avoid scratches while cleaning.
Assemble Your Cleaning Tools
The best tool for cleaning windows is a squeegee. A squeegee is a t-shaped cleaning tool with a flat rubber blade that quickly and evenly removes water from windows and glass.
Yes, if you don’t have a squeegee, you can use a clean sponge and towel to wash and dry the windows, but a squeegee cleans and dries in one fell swoop eliminating towel drying, streaks and drips. It reduces the cleaning time to 1/4 of what it would take to clean windows and dry with a towel.
- Natural sponge
- Sponge mop
- Medium weight bristled brush (something like a paintbrush)
- Soft scrub brush (for cleaning screens)
- Squeegee (small and large)
- Clean lint-free cloths
- Damp chamois cloth
- Paper towels
DIY Window Washing Solution
Select your preferred window cleaning solution. Mix and put into a spray bottle or apply to the window with a sponge.
Soap and Water Cleaning Solution
This is a good window cleaning recipe for interior windows that are not heavily soiled.
In a bucket mix together the following ingredients:
- 1 gallon warm water
- 1 teaspoon Dawn liquid dishwashing soap
Use very little detergent, don’t go overboard, too much soap in the water causes streaks - and nobody wants streaky windows!
Ammonia and Vinegar Cleaning Solution
Ammonia is great for breaking apart grime and vinegar eliminates streaks.
In a bucket mix together:
- 8 cups warm water
- 2 cups rubbing alcohol
- 1/2 cup ammonia
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1 tablespoon hand dishwashing detergent
Lemon Essential Oil Cleaning Solution
This is my go-to window cleaning solution. It helps to reduce frost build-up, which is a plus.
In a spray bottle combine:
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups vinegar
- 10 drops lemon essential oil
Give the solution a good shake and spray liberally on window. Wipe dry with a chamois cloth.
Let's Clean Your Windows
It doesn’t really matter whether you clean all of your inside or outside window glass first, or if one person is on the inside and one on the outside, or if you have a specific window-by-window approach, whatever your preference is, do what will work best for you.
If the glass is particularly dirty and grimy, you may not get it right the first time and may have to go over the glass again.
Tip: For interior windows it can’t hurt to lay a towel on the window sill to keep it from getting too wet while cleaning.
- For large picture windows, use a sponge mop with a long handle and wipe the cleaning solution over the glass of the window. For exterior windows you can apply a heavier amount of cleaning solution.
- For smaller picture windows a sponge may be easier to apply the cleaning solution and less mess, especially for interior windows.
- Place the squeegee at the top of the window and pull it straight down in one complete motion.
- Wipe off the squeegee blade with the damp cloth to remove soap suds.
- Place the squeegee back at the top of the window, overlapping the just cleaned section slightly.
- Repeat the process and pull the squeegee straight down, remembering to wipe the squeegee after each swipe across the window.
When all sections of the window have been cleaned, wipe around the edges of the window with a clean lint-free cloth and wipe down and dry off the window sill.
Double-paned windows can be cleaned very much like a big picture window but you may need to use a hand-held sponge (I like the natural sponges, they are more absorbent than a synthetic sponge) to apply and clean the panes and use a smaller squeegee.
Clean each window pane from top to bottom and left to right to get all the dirt from the panes. Again, dry around the edges of the window with a clean, lint-free cloth.
If the window panes are very dirty, you may need to use a bristle brush to clean around the edges and corners of the individual panes. Don’t use a bristle brush that could scratch the glass.
Most of the time, screens can come clean if you just squirt them well with a stream of water from the hose. If they’re full of cobwebs or bugs you can clean them with a whisk broom.
Be careful not to break the screens with either too strong a stream of water or rough cleaning with the broom.
If a window screen needs more than just a basic rinsing, use a cleaning solution of 1 gallon warm water with a squirt of dishwashing liquid. Scrub lightly with a scrub brush and rinse until all soapy residue is washed away.
Bring in the Light
Remember to do a thorough cleaning twice a year if you want your windows to look their best. Keeping them clean will ensure you are letting in all that wonderful, natural light!
I hope these window washing tips will arm you with the tools and techniques to help you wash your windows faster and better so you can enjoy the sunny days ahead.