How to Wash Windows

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Squeegees are the best tool for removing water-based cleaning solutions.
Image Credit: MisterDelirious/iStock/GettyImages

It's easy to overlook the dirt on your windows, but if you take a close look, you're almost certain to see an accumulation (especially after a storm). Sparkling windows let more light in and contribute immensely to the satisfaction that comes from having a clean home. These methods and tips will make the task a snap. Unless you live near the ocean—lucky you!—it's probably enough to wash windows twice per year. Don't forget to wash both the interior and the exterior!

Clean Windows With Foaming Glass Cleaner

This product comes in a spray can, not in a spray bottle. Spray it onto the glass, then wipe it off with newspaper or a dry paper towel. Because it's foam, you'll have no drips to clean up, and it's streakless.

Foaming glass cleaner.

Clean Windows With Vinegar

Washing panes with a solution containing vinegar almost always results in sparkling clean, streak-free windows. (Vinegar is an extremely versatile cleaner, by the way.)

Things You'll Need

  • Distilled white vinegar

  • Hot water

  • A spray bottle

  • Wiping cloths or paper towels

Tip

Which material wipes best? Newspaper, coffee filters, paper towels, and microfiber cloths all work well, as long as they’re lint-free. Cheap and recycled paper towels contain the least lint. Don’t use cloths washed or dried with fabric softener; they contain a residue that leaves behind streaks.

To make the vinegar solution, mix equal parts part water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray it on and wipe it off. Simply spray it on, then wipe it off.

If the pane is extremely grimy, you can prewash it with very soapy water or with undiluted vinegar. Then, as described above, spray on the vinegar solution and wipe. Still got streaks? They're caused by residue left behind by commercial products. Banish them with a solution made of 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 2 cups of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. Place these ingredients in a spray bottle, then spray the window and wipe. Afterward, clean with the vinegar solution.

You can replace the rubber on your squeegee; the pros suggest doing this every time you wash windows.
Image Credit: Tamilisa Miner/iStock/GettyImages

Clean Windows With Soap and Water

This method is favored by professional window cleaners. You want the windows to be wet when you squeegee them, so wash them on a cloudy day or at a time when the sun isn't shining on them; it could dry them too quickly.

Things You'll Need

  • A large bucket

  • Hot water

  • Dish soap

  • A dry brush, 2 or 3 inches wide, with stiff bristles

  • Two dry terry cloth towels

  • A window scrubber 8 inches wide (so it fits in the bucket)

  • A squeegee

  • A microfiber towel

Tip

To get a 30-degree angle, hold the squeegee against the window with one hand. Using your other hand, stack your index and middle fingers sideways against the pane, then bring the base of the squeegee handle down against them. Remove your fingers but retain the angle, and you're ready to squeegee.

  1. To make the cleaning solution, put 2 to 3 gallons of hot water in a bucket, then add a few drops of dish soap. (Do it in that order to prevent the formation of lots of bubbles.) Dish soap contains wetting agents that keep the window wet for longer, which allows a squeegee to glide over it.
  2. Brush around the edges of the window to remove dust and cobwebs. Then wipe the outside of the window frame with a damp terry cloth.
  3. Now you'll wash the window. First, dip your window scrubber into the soapy water. Squeeze out all the extra water; you don't want to cover the window with an excess of water, because then you'll have a lot of water to remove later. Wash the window glass by rubbing the scrubber back and forth on it.
  4. When you squeegee, there's no need to rinse. To squeegee, grasp the tool loosely in your hand and hold it at a 30-degree angle to the pane. Place the tool vertically along one side of the window, at the top, and bring it across the pane to the other side. Wipe the edge of the squeegee dry with the terry-cloth towel. Keep making your way down the wet areas of the window, overlapping the previous stroke slightly, squeegeeing from side to side each time, and wiping the squeegee after each stroke. If the glass dries before you can get to it, just re-wet it.
  5. The final step is detailing. Use the terry-cloth towel to immediately wipe any drips of water on the frames—this prevents damage. Then use the microfiber towel to wipe any water that may still be left at the bottom of the pane.

Tip

You can use a scraper or a razor blade to scrape paint, tree sap, and other hard-to-remove gunk off windows, but wet the window before you scrape the razor blade against it. This minimizes the risk of scratches.

Washing a second-story window with a window scrubber mounted on an extension pole.

Wash Windows: the Interior vs. the Exterior

Washing the inside of windows may require some slightly different techniques than the outside. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Before you wash interior windows, protect the frames and floors with a towel to catch any drips.
  • When you squeegee, you'll invariably leave a streak or two. You may notice it a day or so later and want to fix it—but how to tell if it's on the inside of the window or on the outside? Squeegee in one direction on the outside and the opposite direction on the inside, and you'll always know which side of the pane has streaks.
  • Magnetic window cleaners allow you to clean the outside and the inside of the window at the same time. Think of it as a sandwich made of a powerful magnetic block, a cloth, the window, another cloth, and another magnetic block. This assembly of magnetic blocks and cloths stays together as you move it across the glass from the inside, removing the sprayed-on cleaner.
A magnetic window cleaner, without the cleaning cloths

Wash Second-Story Windows

What about when you are washing windows on the second-story? Here are some tips:

  • Ladders can be dangerous—instead of climbing them, extend your reach by buying extension poles for the scrubbers and squeegees (just make sure the threading matches).
  • You can make your own extension pole by placing the squeegee in one end of a piece of PVC pipe 10 feet long. Drill a hole about 3 inches from the end, going through both sides of the PVC, and of course through the squeegee. Run a bolt through the hole and secure it with a nut.
  • Finally, you can use the magnetic window cleaner, described above.