I have this thing for clean windows. I love them, which means I have an equal but opposite disdain for dirty windows. And when I say clean, I mean the kind of clean that makes windows sparkle like diamonds in the morning sun. Some days I wish that by some miracle, a professional window-washing service would come to my home every week to clean windows—every single one both inside and out.
But I have a two-story house with a lot of windows—to say nothing of the time and money that would require to move everything away from every window to get ready every week!—so right there you know why I can’t and I don’t.
Instead, I depend on these great DIY window cleaning tips I’ve learned over the years—many of them from you, my awesome readers for how to wash windows from the outside, and from the inside, too.
Tips for how to wash windows
Dry, cloudy day
If you’ve ever tried to clean outdoor windows on a bright sunny day, you already know the problem. Your cleaning solution dries on the glass faster than you can turn around to grab your cleaning cloth. You’ll end up with a horrible streaky, muddy-like mess. Instead, wait for a dry, cloudy day.
Paper towels and newspapers have long been touted as best for scrubbing and drying the glass (my mother-in-law Gwen swore by the New York Times as the only newspaper worthy of window-washing)—but what a dirty, icky mess they create! Paper options break down and leave lint behind. Besides, newspapers are not as available for recycling as they once were. If you’re interested in efficiency and clean, streak-free windows, forget the paper.
Instead, use microfiber cloths (like these from Amazon) to clean windows. Microfiber grabs dirt and dust. Microfiber cleaning cloths are soft and non-abrasive. They won’t scratch glass or painted surfaces and you will enjoy the lint- and streak-free results you get with microfiber. And the best part? These cloths can be washed, rinsed, and reused hundreds of times.
Frame and tracks first
Lots of dirt can accumulate along the track and frame of a window. Clean that area first so you don’t make mud once you start cleaning the glass. Wet an old toothbrush or one of this handy household brush set, and dip it first into vinegar and then baking soda to scrub these areas. Wipe away the residue with a wet rag. Now you’re ready to clean that window.
Homemade window cleaners
All-Purpose Window Cleaner
You won’t find a better window, glass, and mirror cleaner than this recipe for how to make it yourself. Bonus: It’s super cheap!
You will need:
✅ white vinegar
✅ isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
✅ dishwashing liquid like blue Dawn
All-Purpose Homemade Window Cleaner
- 24-ounce or larger bottle with sprayer top
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol See NOTES
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 5 drops dishwashing liquid See NOTES
- 2 cups water
- Combine all ingredients in a good 24-ounce (or larger) spray bottle.
- Label clearly.
- Shake well before use.
Outdoor Window Cleaner
How do you clean windows from outside? It’s not easy! This is an ideal cleaner for big outdoor windows when you don’t want to use a ladder to wash them by hand. You will need a hose with a good spray nozzle, some kind of scrubber (I like this one from Amazon), and long-handled pole for windows that are out of reach.
First, make up a batch of this window cleaner, which is ideal for outdoor windows that are difficult to reach because you rinse and let the windows drip-dry. Make sure you do this on a cloudy day.
You will need:
✅ rinse aid
✅ isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
✅ household ammonia
✅ automatic dishwasher detergent powder
✅ hot water
Outdoor Window Cleaner
- 2.5 gallon capacity or larger bucket
- ½ cup dishwasher rinse aid, i.e. Finish by Jet Dry
- ½ cup isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
- ¼ cup household ammonia either sudsing or non-sudsing
- ⅓ cup any automatic dishwasher detergent powder, i.e. Cascade Complete
- 2 gallons hot water
- Pour all ingredients into the bucket and mix well until combined.
- Spray windows with the hose and that powerful spray nozzle, knocking off dirt, grime, and debris. Set the hose aside.
- Dip your scrubber of choice into the solution and get it totally saturated. Don't wring it out.
- Scrub the window thoroughly in all directions, making sure you reach the corners.
- Spray window again with clear water using the hose and a powerful spray nozzle.
- Let dry.
- That's it! Both the dishwasher detergent and rinse aid will create a "sheeting" action, to leave windows clean and streak-free.
A good squeegee
There’s a reason professional window washers use a squeegee to clean windows. It’s quick, easy and it works. First, hit that dirty window with a sponge and your favorite cleaning solution (most pros I’ve consulted use just a squirt of dishwashing liquid in a bucket of warm water, but I prefer the recipe above that contains cornstarch) and scrub in a circular motion, making sure you get into the corners.
Starting at the top left, pull the squeegee over the soapy glass in a backward S-pattern (if you’re left-handed start at the top right). overlapping each pass. At the end of each stroke or as needed, wipe the squeegee blade clean with a damp microfiber cloth or another lint-free rag. Once you’ve squeegeed the entire window, remove any water left on the edges of the window with the damp cloth.
- RELATED: How to Fix Scratches on Glass
Once each year it’s good to remove all window screens and wash them with a hose and spray nozzle, allowing them to dry in the sun. And that’s a lot of work!
Here’s a quick and easy way to keep them clean between major cleans: Use a sticky lint-roller. Just roll it over the screen (gently, please) and all that fuzz and clingy dirt will stick to it.
Fix that errant streak
Don’t you hate it when you get done washing the windows, everything is put away, and finally you can sit down to admire your work when … Ack! You see a streak. This is the reason you need to keep a clean chalkboard eraser in your window-cleaning toolbox (you have one of those, right? 😁). Just take that clean chalkboard eraser and gently run it over the window to erase those marks and Voila!, all sparkly clean.
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