The Best Way To Wash Windows (Like The Pros)

When it comes to window maintenance, cleaning them is step one. Here’s how to keep your windows looking bright, clean, and streak-free.

May 02, 2022

Cleaning windows is a little like painting walls. It seems so simple that we’re inclined to jump in without taking the time to find the best way to go about it. Granted, both jobs are far simpler than building a garage or wiring a three-way switch, but a few basic tips will be a major help in achieving your window-washing goal: spotless, streak-free glass that maximizes your enjoyment of the views your windows provide. Here is how to wash your home’s windows the right way.

When to wash your windows
Windows should be washed once or twice a year, depending on how much exposure they get to dirt and other soiling elements such as tree sap and bird droppings. Spring and fall are optimal times of year to clean windows, especially in colder climates. Choose a time of day when the sun is not shining directly on the window. Sunshine exposure speeds up the drying of the washing solution, which can cause streaking or spotting, so only wash windows on cloudy days or when the windows are shaded. Because window solution dries quickly, even in the shade, work on just one window at a time. Don’t apply cleaner to multiple windows and then attempt to wash them all at once. This applies to double-hung windows too. Completely wash the top sash, and when that’s complete, wash the bottom.

What to use to wash windows

Many people purchase sprayable window washing solution to clean their windows. These products are easy to use and effective, but you can make your own solution quite easily. The pros usually mix their own washing fluids because they are more economical and do not contain unnecessary chemicals. To make your own, simply fill a clean 5-gallon bucket with warm water and add a teaspoon of mild dishwashing soap. If there is extensive grime build-up on the glass, use a one-to-one mixture of white vinegar and warm water instead of the dish soap solution. Vinegar is an aggressive detergent that will not streak or spot.

Window washing tools
Your basic window washing kit should include a clean bucket, lint-free cloths (microfiber is an excellent choice), and a scrubber or large sponge. A 10-to-12-inch rubber-bladed squeegee with an extended handle can be a significant help in cleaning the exterior sides of your windows (avoid using squeegees indoors, as this creates excessive runoff that can damage your interior window trim). If you will be using a ladder to access exterior windows, fit it with a ladder stabilizer for safety and to improve access to the windows.

Best way to wash windows
Always clean the window frames, grids, and hardware first, using cloths or brushes and mild detergent as needed. Wipe these window parts dry. Next, wipe the glass with a dry cloth to remove dust and dirt before wet-cleaning. Then, scrub the glass with a scrubber or sponge that is dampened with cleaning solution. Rinse the scrubber or sponge frequently. Once you have finished scrubbing each window, wipe the cleaning solution from the window, beginning at the top and working your way down.

If you are using a squeegee, first clean a vertical band from top to bottom along one edge to create a clean starting point for each pass. Make smooth passes with the squeegee, tilting the tool slightly so the cleaning liquid can drain off easily. Overlap passes by a couple of inches and wipe the squeegee blade with a clean cloth after each pass. If you are using lint-free cloths, also start at the top. Wipe off the liquid moving from side to side in a circular motion. As the cloth dampens, adjust it so a dry area is contacting the window. Have plenty of clean, dry cloths on hand.

Window cleaning tips
  • Whether using a squeegee or cloth, wash the window with horizontal passes on one side of the glass and vertical passes on the other. This makes it easier to identify whether any streaks are located on the interior or exterior side.
  • Remove window screens before washing the windows, if possible. Lay them flat and rinse them gently with a hose. Wait until the screens are dry before replacing them.
  • Before cleaning, check with your window manufacturer to determine whether the glazing on your windows has any treatments, such as low-E coating, that may require special handling.
  • Apply a dab or two of light machine oil to any moving metal parts after cleaning.

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