If there’s one thing you confidently can stop buying ever again, it’s glass cleaner. You already have ingredients around the house that will work to clean glass, windows and mirrors—from vinegar to vodka (true!) to warm soapy water. The problem is that these items, used as single ingredients, have significant drawbacks.
Vinegar will do a fairly decent job if your windows have water spots, but it’s not that great if they have any kind of stubborn dirt and sticky residue. Used on its own, you’ll end up with annoying streaks.
Rubbing alcohol, because it acts as a solvent, works well to clean glass. But used straight up it’s harsh and so strong-smelling you’ll want to wear a face mask or use that as an excuse to not clean those windows! Can’t find it? Denatured alcohol (paint aisle of home improvement center) works equally well, although it has a stronger odor
Vodka works similarly to rubbing alcohol but way more expensive, so unless you’re about to throw it out anyway, let’s go ahead and eliminate vodka as a reasonable option.
The secret to making your own glass cleaner is to combine ordinary ingredients to create a highly effective, super cheap cleaner that easily cuts through dirt, dust and greasy sticky residue then wipes away easily without leaving streaks.
- MORE: Sparkling Clean Windows—Cheaper, Better, Faster!
Mixing homemade glass cleaner
Start with a new, empty spray bottle with a high-quality sprayer top. Label bottle clearly so you use it exclusively for glass cleaner in the future. This eliminates the possibility of a toxic chemical reaction between the new ingredients and whatever mystery thing was in the bottle previously. Always keep cleaning products out of the reach of children and pets.
All-Purpose Homemade Glass Cleaner
- 2 cups 91% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol (see Note 2)
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar 5% acidity
- 4 drops dishwashing liquid, like Blue Dawn (Note 3)
Pour ingredients into a new bottle and attach sprayer top. Label and keep out of reach of children.
1. Isopropyl alcohol serves two purposes—to cut through dirt and residue and to make this cleaner evaporate quickly.
2. Or 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is OK to make a weaker solution. Or denatured alcohol, available in the paint aisle of any home improvement center.
3. The dishwashing liquid breaks the surface tension of water, allowing this cleaner to latch onto the dirt, grease and sticky stuff so you can quickly wipe it away.
4. Do not use on stone or other materials that can be etched or otherwise react negatively to acid. Works well to shine chrome and ceramic tile.
5. This recipe yields about one quart window cleaner to fit into a 32-ounce spray bottle. Recipes multiples and divides well.
Best tools for wiping windows
Newspaper. Paper towels and cotton cloths are out if you want to clean your windows quickly and efficiently. Paper towels are too expensive and cotton cloths leave behind lint. It’s difficult to beat black-and-white newspaper for wiping windows clean—no lint, no streaks! And newspaper is free and recyclable. The drawback may be the mess. You’ll end up with clean, lint- and streak-free windows, but a pile of wet, soggy newsprint.
Microfiber. There’s nothing like high-quality microfiber for cleaning just about any surface in and about the house, especially glass. If you’ve never used a microfiber cloth, you’re going to be amazed by how fast and efficiently you can clean!
I’m pretty sure I’ve tested just about every kind of microfiber cloth out there.The best microfiber cloths are made of 70 percent polyester and 30 percent polyamide (70/30). They also can cost upwards of $15 or $20 each. For regular housecleaning including glass, I find a good-quality 80/20 cloth works just great. Anything less than that is just not worth the money.
Something else: For me, microfiber cloths need to be easy to use and able to stand up to my extreme laundry habits. (Note: Never use any laundry softeners when laundering microfiber.)
I don’t want cloths that fray around the edge, give off lint, stain easily or shrink over time. I’m hard on household linens because I demand so much from them. A pack of 10 cloths from The Rag Company has lasted me for years now and I see no signs of them wearing out anytime soon. I really like having some in a dark color, too, because they always look as clean as I know they are.