How to Wash Dirty Windows

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Before you get your bottle of window cleaner and your lint-free rag from the cupboard, consider two reasons why they might not be the best materials. One of the most common ingredients in window cleaners is ammonia, which is corrosive and can dull the finish on the window frame. Moreover, wiping the glass is hard work, and it creates static electricity that attracts more dirt, so the window may appear dirty again shortly after you clean it. Watch the service station attendant wash your car's windows and you'll know the best way to wash your window panes at home.

Take a window-cleaning lesson from your service station attendant.
Take a window-cleaning lesson from your service station attendant. (Image: Mara Susanna Marucci/iStock/Getty Images)

Things You'll Need

  • Squeegee
  • Bucket
  • Dish soap
  • Razor knife
  • Chamois
  • Vinegar
  • Spray bottle

Step 1: Gather your supplies

Observe ladder safety rules when working on high windows.
Observe ladder safety rules when working on high windows. (Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Obtain a window-washing squeegee with a sponge washer. Size the squeegee to the job -- a large one works best for picture windows, but if you're washing small panes, get one that fits in the frame. Fill a bucket with 1 or 2 gallons of warm water and add a capful of dish detergent per gallon.

Tip

  • You'll need a ladder for outside windows. Be sure it's tall enough for the job and that you can set it securely. If stability is a problem, consider anchoring the ladder to the siding with hooks and ropes.

Step 2: Wash the glass

Scrub dirt with a sponge.
Scrub dirt with a sponge. (Image: janka3147/iStock/Getty Images)

Dip the sponge applicator that's on the reverse side of the squeegee in the bucket and use it to wash the glass. The soap solution should remove even stubborn dirt, but you may have to scrape off some hard deposits -- such as dried paint -- with a razor knife. Go over any spots you scrape with the soapy sponge.

Step 3: Wipe with a squeegee

Use a broad, semi-circular stroke to clean large panes.
Use a broad, semi-circular stroke to clean large panes. (Image: BrianAJackson/iStock/Getty Images)

For large areas, such as glass patio doors, hold the squeegee on the opposite side of your body from the hand you use and draw it across the glass in a semi-circular motion. Use this motion to clean the bulk of the glass, then clean the edges with strokes parallel to the window frame. If you're washing small panes using a squeegee that just fits inside each pane, rely on horizontal strokes that start at the top of the pane. For a very small pane, a single downward stroke may do the job.

Tip

  • Dry the squeegee with a rag after each stroke.

Step 4: Dry the edges

Wipe the edges with a streak-free chamois.
Wipe the edges with a streak-free chamois. (Image: Mariana-Rusanovschi/iStock/Getty Images)

Clean the water that the squeegee leaves dripping on the edges of the pane with a chamois, which cleans without leaving streaks. If you don't have a chamois, use a lint-free cloth.

Tip

  • Wash your windows twice a year, or more often if you live near a construction project.

Step 5: Scrub off mineral deposits

Take care of mineral stains before washing with a squeegee.
Take care of mineral stains before washing with a squeegee. (Image: Nikita Sobolkov/Hemera/Getty Images)

Use vinegar to make short work of mineral deposits left on outdoor windows by dripping water. Spray it at full strength onto the glass, using a spray bottle, and allow it to stay there for about five minutes. Wipe it off with a rag, and squeegee the window clean with soap and water.

Tip

  • If staining is a problem on outdoor windows, use a commercial window cleaning powder that contains oxalic acid. Scrub it onto the glass with 000 steel wool and squeegee the window clean when the stains are gone.

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