A double sink with a large window

How to Get Your Windows Sparkling Clean—Cheaper, Better, Faster!

We moved into our home in April 2015, just in time to experience our first Rocky Mountain spring. There are no words to describe this adequately, but this picture does a great job.

A view of a snow covered field with a mountain in the background

 

The thing I noticed the first time I walked into this house—windows. Tons of windows framing our new view and every one of them dirty. It looked to me as if no one had ever washed them.

I did my due diligence in researching local professional window washers. For sure we would have to pay to have them cleaned properly. But it would be one and done. We would keep them clean and that would be an easy task. Of course.

The price was ridiculously high, but the job got done and the windows sparkled. That’s when I set out to discover the best (easiest, fastest, cheapest, sparkly-est) way to keep these windows clean—not only dust-free but also clean.

Surprise. It’s not with Windex, paper towels, newspaper or other methods I may or may not have recommended in the past, which produce a big mess—dripping, soggy, dirty paper towels, and windows with streaks that can be difficult to remove.


MORE: How I Dry Cleaned My Windows


The right tools

I have invested in the right window-washing tools. You need the right tools, too, or you are going to waste a lot of time and money trying to get your windows streak-free and sparkling like diamonds. Look for tools like these at your local big-box store, home improvement center, or online. For your convenience and also so you can see what I’m referring to below, I have provided Amazon links for each of these specific tools.

Microfiber Window Scrubber

This comes with a handle that can be attached to a pole, which you will use to wash the window. The key here is the microfiber.

Silicone Blade Squeegee

A silicone blade is far superior to rubber as it will not crack or tear. And it produces a streak-free result with no skips.

Combo Scrubber Squeegee

You can get the scrubber and squeegee two-in-one option where both of these tools are attached to one handle. It’s all a matter of preference. I like to use this combo option for the low windows I can reach easily with a step stool. However, I’ve found that when attaching it to a pole for high windows, it is awkward to turn the thing around to switch tools while they are attached to the top of a very long pole. As you may have guessed, I have both the combo and the separate scrubber and silicone squeegee.

Bucket or Tub

This doesn’t have to be gigantic, just a container of a shape and size large enough to dip the scrubber into easily. The scrubber is 11 inches wide, so you want a tub or bucket that is at least 12 inches wide for easy dipping of your scrubber. This dishpan works well for me.

Blue Dawn

I’ll bet you already guessed this would be the cleaner of choice. You’re right, and you can find it in any supermarket or discount department store like Walmart, Target, and online.

Microfiber cloths

Microfiber cleaning cloths are soft and non-abrasive; will not scratch glass or painted surfaces. They clean well without chemical cleaners, leave lint- and streak-free results. And the best part—good quality microfiber absorbs many times its own weight in water. You can rinse and reuse these cloths hundreds of times, too.

Extension Pole

If you use the combo scrubber/squeegee for second-story windows, you’ll need only one pole. I choose to use the tools separately for high windows, which requires two poles.

Note: Extension poles come in different lengths so be sure you get the one(s) that will meet your needs.

Homemade window cleaners

All-Purpose Window Cleaner

*or denatured alcohol, available in the paint aisle of any home improvement center

Outdoor Window Cleaner

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.

  • 1/2 cup rinse aid like Finish by Jet Dry
  • 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol
  • 1/4 cup household ammonia
  • 1/3 cup any automatic dishwasher detergent, like Cascade
  • 2 gallons hot water

Pour all ingredients into the bucket and mix well until combined.

To use:

  • 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 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.

NOTE: When it comes to “safety issues” for pets and plants that might be in the way of this cleaner as it is rinsed away, I cannot say for sure one way or the other.

What I know is that it has not damaged in any way anything growing in the area of the windows I’ve cleaned.

First, most landscape fertilizers contain ammonia. Next, the ingredients are greatly diluted in the 2 gallons of water. Then diluted again when rinsed away with more water.

Once the windows are completely rinsed I take time to hose off the deck, and for windows above plantings, I spray all those areas well to dilute any effect even further. If you are concerned, please conduct your own independent research.

Window washing like a pro

Step 1

Fill a tub or bucket halfway with warm water. Add a few drops Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid.

Step 2

Dip scrubber into the soapy water and shake so it’s not dripping. Apply it to the glass from left to right, starting at the top. Make sure you get into the corner then move in a backward S-pattern (if you’re left-handed start at the top right) over-lapping, back and forth, until you have passed over the entire window.

Step 3

Switch quickly to the squeegee. Starting at the top left corner, wipe from one side to the other in the same backward S pattern, until the entire window is clean and dry.

Step 4

Use a good microfiber cloth reach into all of the corners, making sure to wipe the frame clean and dry and to catch any drops or drips you may have missed.

That’s it. Fast and easy—with amazing results.

 

Because you are using so very little water with this method, window-washing ceases to be the big, dirty, messy job you may remember it to be. And that’s a good thing for me because I am learning another new thing about living where we get four distinct seasons and the altitude is 5,280 feet. Windows don’t stay clean for very long due to the winds and the wide-open high plains.

Want to lift your spirits, clear your mind, and beautify your space? Get out there and wash some windows.

Your world is about to get even more beautiful!

Updated 7-13-20


The photo above is not the view from our windows but rather taken from about 40 minutes west, on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park.

This is our spring view …

back yard flower garden

 

back yard garden

 

flowers

 

A close up of a flower garden

 

hat air baloons

And in autumn …

fall leaves

 


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  1. Lori Ann says:

    Hello Mary,
    I cannot thank you enough for all of your fabulous tips! You have changed my life! I’ve been reading your column for at least 15 years now and your “Debt Proof Living” book is practically my bible. I have taken your advice on so much – but most recently your DIY manicure and pedicure after years of going to a salon and having gel wraps. I purchased all of your suggested tools to make this work and you are SPOT ON every time. I have cut tubes open to make products last longer and wouldn’t you know I must find an additional two weeks worth of moisturizer, hand cream, you name it – in everything I cut open. My husband and I have a pot for almost every category of life. We are very blessed to have everything paid off free and clear and a retirement savings to boot. We are always prepared for vacations (paying them off way in advance and having the spending money put aside long before travel time and even purchase the foreign exchange money in advance when the rate of exchange is favorable. We don’t buy anything unless we have the cash to back it up – although we purchase everything on one credit card and take advantage of points and use them for future travel, etc. We are so disciplined in everything we do and are not wanting in any way for anything. We are so thankful to be in a secure position with all going on in the world right now. And please know we are far from wealthy. We live a simple life and don’t need a Mercedes Benz to prove ourselves to anyone. We are practical and as my mother would always say – its not how much you make but how much you spend. I would like to add that its all a matter of choices we make. Thanks so much for all of your tips and tricks – although I would like to add one that my husband recently taught me – he uses car wax on windows and mirrors. On with one microfiber cloth and off with another. What incredible results! Thanks again!

    Reply
  2. a woman called Sam says:

    You are amazing! What a stunning view. I have also used car window wash with lots of water to clean windows. But how to clean screens?
    Thank you again and again for turning me on to my Eufy

    Reply
  3. PattiHath says:

    Absolutely gorgeous views! My youngest son is a food scientist in Denver and he loves living there. Anytime we have a sunny day (no clouds) in Ohio, I think to myself this is a “Denver day”. LOL. Keep up the great posts. I really appreciate them!!

    Reply
  4. Mary says:

    You mentioned that you had your windows professionally cleaned first. Will this method work for really dirty windows? ? ?

    Reply
    • Mary says:

      Yes… provided you can reach them! Just know the longer they’ve been dirty, the more elbow grease you’ll need to contribute to the job! But remember you can do it in stages 🙂

      Reply
  5. Ruth Cox says:

    ordered the Squeegee and ProGrip Microfiber Washer (along with the pole) the day you wrote about it. By the time I clean the blinds and then the frame of the windows, I am exhausted. But this time, I felt rewarded by how quick it was to wash the windows PLUS they came out squeaky clean. It was almost like a reward for all the hard prep work. I cant thank you enough

    Reply
  6. Annie says:

    Keep in mind, if the soapy water drips down into your flower beds or lawn it will kill either. I killed a path in our ivy washing the car with dish soap. It ran in a little path through the ivy and killed the ivy along the path. It took me a while to figure out why we had that trail of dead ivy. Your recipe for shower cleaner was posted on FB for washing windows, needing only to be hosed off. Same thing, it will kill whatever is in its path. Rather than give up the ease of washing windows with Blue Dawn, you could lay an old towel on the window sill to catch the drips.

    Reply
    • Mary says:

      This is curious as dish soap is not toxic to plants. I wonder if you have added something else … maybe vinegar. And the outdoor window washing recipe should be rinsed, but the harsh products are quite diluted, as noted in the post.

      Reply
  7. JN says:

    My brother, who is a professional window washer, also adds 1/4 cup or so of ammonia to the wash water, along with the few drops of dish soap.

    Reply
  8. Lori says:

    You say to go from left to right with the scrubber starting at the top….I’m having a hard time picturing the ability to do that while it’s on the pole. The windows you can reach without the pole yes, but not sure how you’d accomplish this on the pole?

    Reply
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