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Best Ways to Clean Glass in Your Home

By The Glass Guru

Cleaning window pane with detergent, spring cleaning concept

The Right Tools For the Job

The first step in your quest for clean glass is a proper selection of tools.

We recommend gathering all of the necessary items before you start cleaning—once your hands are wet, rummaging through cupboards becomes a lot messier.

Bucket

When cleaning windows or glass tables, you’ll need water on hand.

Having a small bucket will stop you from running back and forth between your glass surface and the sink.

  • A five-gallon bucket is ideal for most tasks.
  • A beach bucket or a large pot will work in a pinch.

Cleaning a glass table with a cloth.

Microfiber Cloth or an Old T-Shirt 

If you really are aiming for a streak-free and residue-free shine to your glass surface, clean using a microfiber towel or an old t-shirt.  Make sure you are not using paper towels or cotton towels as those leave behind fibers and streaks. Ideally, the softer the material, the better. Using a cotton swab to get tight spaces on your glass surface can also help. 

Cleaning glass with a squeegee.

Squeegee

Professional window washers use squeegees for a picture-perfect cleaning, and you should too! They can be daunting to use on the first try, but with a bit of practice, you’ll be an expert in no time. 

  • The trick to using a squeegee is to have only the tip of the blade touching the glass.
  • Apply even pressure and clean in horizontal strips down the window, wiping the blade on a clean cloth after each stroke.
  • Because squeegees don’t soak up any water, they tend to send liquids running down the glass. Be sure to place a towel below your glass surface to catch any drips.

The best way to use a squeegee is by keeping one in your shower and using it after each use and in between cleanings.

Cotton Swabs

Cloths and squeegees work wonders on larger surfaces, but for the corners of windows and recessed mirrors, cotton swabs are the perfect tool. Dunk them in your preferred cleaning solution and twirl them away in the corners.

Spray Bottle

If you plan to use a homemade cleaning solution (or you purchased a bulk-sized bottle of cleaning product), don’t forget a spray bottle. It’s much easier to apply an even coat of cleaner with a spray bottle than with a cloth.

Ladder or Step Stool (Optional)

For those hard-to-reach skylights and tall windows, use a small ladder or stool. Be sure to practice proper ladder safety to avoid any accidents—have someone hold the ladder and spot you when you’re up high.

The Best Products for Cleaning Glass

Once you’ve assembled your tools, it’s time to choose a glass cleaner. There’s no right or wrong answer here, as any of the solutions below will work on all household surfaces. It all comes down to personal preference.

Commercial Glass Cleaners

Store-bought cleaners make quick work of dirt and grime. Here are some products you might want to try:

  • Windex – The iconic blue solution contains ammonia, a common household cleaner. There are also ammonia-free versions if you prefer.
  • Zep – Zep is also ammonia-based. Ammonia speeds up the drying process, which reduces streaking.
  • Sprayway Glass Cleaner – Sold in an aerosol container, this foaming product is ammonia-free and suitable for all glass surfaces.

Dish Soap

Chances are you already have a powerful glass cleaner in your home: dish soap. Add a few drops of dish soap to a bucket of water, and oil and fingerprints will lift off with ease. For best results, you can first wash with soapy water, then finish with a glass cleaning solution.

All-natural homemade cleaner

Homemade Cleaners

DIYing is also all the rage right now, so why not make your own glass cleaner? You can either take equal parts white vinegar and water or simply mix two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid and two quarts of water. Bob Villa also has some great ways to mix your own pantry items to create a streak-free cleaning solution. If you are preparing to clean your glass shower with grimy build-up, spray the vinegar first all over your glass and let it sit for 10 minutes, and then clean with a sponge dipped in baking soda. Rinse with water and wipe dry. 

Be sure to label any spray bottle full of homemade glass cleaner, as you won’t want to mistake it for a plant mister!

How to Clean Glass: Tips and Tricks

With your cleaning arsenal at the ready, you’re prepared to tackle any job. For the best way to clean glass windows and more, follow these practices.

Wipe it Down First

If your last window cleaning was several months ago, wipe the glass down with a cloth and some soapy water. A quick wipe-down removes dust or dirt instead of smearing it all over the glass.

Clean on a Cloudy Day

Try not to clean windows on hot, sunny days. The sun causes liquids to dry faster than you can wipe them away, leaving streaks. Wait for a cool, cloudy day, and then you can clean at your leisure.

Clean from Top to Bottom

To get the best streak-free glass, starting from the top and working your way down is your best first step. Misting your glass cleaner from the top to about a quarter of the way down and then letting gravity help you out will be your best friend. Even spraying as you go can help as well. Moving side to side is the best method as well. If your glass surface is flat, like a glass desktop, start on one side and move your way across. Find the shortest length and work side to side in that direction. If cleaning your glass shower door, you also want to really get your glass surface wet, soaking it in soapy water first and then dousing it in glass cleaner after. 

Catch the Drips

If you have wood around your glassed area, make sure you keep it dry or it will leave your wood rotten and will need to get replaced sooner. Double-check your space for damages, like cracks, leaks, or old worn-out caulking. This will not allow your area to ventilate correctly and will damage your glass. 

Once you are done cleaning, double-check your work and if you see any fingerprints or streaks, buff them out with your microfiber towel or that old t-shirt. 

Cleaning Stains

Apart from dirt and fingerprints, you’ll sometimes find hard-to-remove water stains on exterior windows, shower doors, and bathroom windows. Removing stains at home is easy—all it takes is a little patience.

How To Remove Stains

Spray some commercial cleaner or your water-vinegar solution on the glass and let it soak for at least 15 minutes before scrubbing with a cloth.

Alternatively, you can douse a towel in the water-vinegar solution and leave it to rest against the glass for several minutes. This technique ensures the cleaning solution won’t evaporate prematurely.

How To Prevent Stains

Water stains are unavoidable in the bathroom and backyard, but you can do your best to prevent them by reducing the amount of water that contacts the glass. Awnings and umbrellas can protect exterior glass from the elements.

For interior and exterior glass, look for a surface protector or rain repellant spray. Lingering drops of water can lead to water stains, as these products cause droplets to bead off the glass.

Other Glass Care Tips

Proper glass care and maintenance require more than a semi-annual polish. Thankfully, with a bit of vigilance and time, caring for the glass in and around your home is effortless.

Cleaning Exterior Glass

Due to exposure to the elements, glass patio furniture and outside windows can accumulate much more grime and mildew than their interior counterparts. Exterior glass typically requires a more thorough cleaning, especially after a wet or snowy winter. Here’s how to remove stubborn buildup from outdoor glass surfaces:

  • Rinse with a hose – Rather than expending all your elbow grease from the beginning, give all glass surfaces a once-over with the garden hose to remove mud and dirt. If you have a nozzle with a jet attachment, that’s even better.
  • Let it soak – Materials such as bird droppings and mildew likely won’t come off with a hose. To make removal a breeze, spray with a cleaning solution and allow it to soak in for up to an hour, then start scrubbing.
  • Clean as usual– Once you’ve removed the worst of the dirt and grime, you can clean exterior glass the same way you would interior surfaces.

Checking on a window.

Evaluate Window Sealant

Glass care involves the material around the glass, too. Windows are bound to your house with a sealant, and problems with this sealant can lead to leaks and wasted AC or heating energy.

While cleaning your windows, check for any of the following:

  • Drafts
  • Cracks in caulking
  • Rust on metal weatherstrips
  • Brittle plastic or rubber seals
  • Mold and mildew around the window
  • A reduction in outdoor noise suppression

Should you identify any of these issues, it may be time to re-weatherize your home by replacing damaged seals.

Check for Signs of Damage

Damaged windows are less effective and, if they shatter, dangerous. Watch out for any signs of cracking or moisture trapped between panes. Small gaps or cracks may not seem like a pressing concern, but they can cause an increase in household humidity which ultimately leads to rot and mold.

Damaged windows don’t always need to be replaced, but if they do, it’s best to check with an expert. That way, you’ll know when to replace windows.

Check the Structure Supporting the Glass

Aside from the glass, you should also check its support structure. Wooden frames can get soft if they are constantly exposed to moisture. Once the frame becomes weak, it might not be able to carry the glass’s weight. By then, you should look up how to replace rotten wood around the window or, if the damage is extensive, get a window replacement.

If Cleaning Doesn’t Work, Call the Professionals

From your windows to decorative glass throughout your home, keeping it clean and spotless can leave any homeowner prideful. If you still aren’t satisfied with the look of your glass, or your windows are still foggy, it might be time to update that glass. If that is the case, call your local glass experts. The Glass Guru is a leading industry expert on the best ways to achieve your clean glass dreams.