How to Clean Windows: A Homeowner’s Guide to Keeping Windows in Peak Condition in 2022

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What supplies do you need to clean your windows?
  • How do you clean windows like a pro?
  • How often should you clean windows?
  • And more
Ecowatch Author Dan Simms

By Dan Simms

Updated 8/3/2022

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If you want your windows to look good as new and maximize the sunlight coming into your interior, but want to save money in the process, you’re in the right place.

Windows are an often-neglected part of the home, but they’re the first line of defense against the elements and provide natural light to brighten up your living space. It’s easy to leave your windows to fend for themselves, but cleaning them properly can help improve their curb appeal, extend their lifespan and help you get the most out of the light and ventilation they provide.

In this guide, we’ll explain how to clean your windows like a professional to keep them in peak condition and maximize the natural light they let into your home.

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Jump To: How Do You Clean Home Windows? | Tips for Streak-Free Window Cleaning | Things to Avoid When Cleaning Windows | How Often Should You Clean Windows? | FAQ: How to Clean Windows

How Do You Clean Home Windows?

Cleaning the windows in your home regularly will help keep them looking new, and it can drastically improve your home’s curb appeal. While you can certainly hire a window cleaning company to come do the job for you, the process is very simple, so you can save some money on labor costs by cleaning your windows as a DIY project.

Below, we’ll walk you through how to clean your windows step by step so you can enjoy clear glass, unimpeded views of the outdoors and get plenty of natural sunlight in your living area. We’ll also offer some cleaning tips and things to avoid when cleaning your windows.

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Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Before you dive into cleaning your windows, you need to gather some supplies. The list below is a good place to start, although you can get by without some of these items.

  • One-gallon bucket
  • Window cleaner, liquid dish soap or white vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Paper towels, lint-free cloths, or microfiber towels
  • Window scrubber
  • Squeegee
  • Sponge
  • Drop cloth or bath towel to clean up spills

You may already have many of these supplies, or you can find them at any home improvement store. They will serve you well for other cleaning projects, so they’re well worth the investment.

Step 2: Clean the Inside Window Glass

You can start inside your home by cleaning the interior face of the glass. First, lay down your drop cloth or bath towel to prevent any window cleaner from getting on your floors. Next, you can add store-bought window cleaner — Windex and Zep are two good options that are widely available — directly to your spray bottle, paying close attention to any mixing directions on the product. 

If you prefer to use a homemade window cleaner, you can mix white vinegar and hot water in your spray bottle in a 1-2 ratio or a few drops of liquid dish soap in a full spray bottle to make soapy water.

Once you have your window-cleaning mixture, use the spray bottle to apply it to the inside of your window glass, trying your best to keep the cleaner from dripping onto your window frame. Using your microfiber cloth, paper towels or lint-free cloth, wipe back and forth in long strokes to dry the window. Exceptionally dirty windows might require you to repeat this process.

Step 3: Clean the Outside Window Glass

Once the inside of your window glass is dirt-, grime- and smudge-free, head outside to clean the exterior side of the glass. You can dip your window scrubber into your bucket filled with cleaning solution, wring it out, and then use it to scrub your window glass. 

If you have vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass or composite windows, you don’t have to worry too much about excess water dripping off the glass. You should try to keep wood window frames free from vinegar solutions and dishwashing soap solutions, as they could potentially cause discoloration with repeated exposure.

Next, use your squeegee to wipe your windows dry. The outsides of your windows will tend to have more pollen and dirt build-up as well as water spots so you might need to repeat the above steps until your glass is clear.

Here’s one method of cleaning:

If you have particularly stubborn debris on your windows, like bird droppings, berries or tree sap, wet the area with your window cleaning solution, let sit for several minutes, and then use a sponge or clean cloth to clear the window. Avoid using steel wool or the abrasive side of your kitchen sponge, as these items could scratch your window.

Step 4: Clean Your Window Screens

Window screens won’t impede much natural light coming into your home, but debris can easily accumulate on them and make the exterior of your home look dingy. To clean your screens, remove them from the window and spray lightly with a garden hose. Next, spray them with your window cleaning solution, let them sit for a few minutes, and then rinse them with the hose. Let them dry fully before reinstalling them.

Step 5: Clean Inside the Window Frame

Once your window glass is sparkling clean, you can head back inside and clean the insides of your window frames. This step only applies if you have windows that open and allow ventilation, like double-hung windows, single-hung windows and casement windows. You can skip this step for picture windows and other non-opening types of windows.

First, you’ll need to access the area of the window that contacts your sashes — the jambs on the sides, the header up top and the windowsill on the bottom. To do this, open your sash manually or by using the crank if you have casement windows.

First, wipe any visible dirt and debris away using a paper towel or your microfiber cloth. Next, spray some of your cleaning solution on the areas inside the window and wipe them dry with the cloth. Repeat the process for any additional sashes that move.

This step is often skipped by homeowners because these areas are out of sight. However, ensuring your window tracks are clean and free of debris can help avoid issues with window functionality and can help extend the life of your windows.

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Tips for Streak-Free Window Cleaning

There are few things worse than clearing your windows of dirt, pollen, dust and smudges, only to find that they are replaced with water spots or streaks. 

To avoid this, you can use a premade glass cleaner like Windex or Zep, as these products are made to provide a spotless finish and leave a streak-free shine. You can find these cleaners on Amazon or at your local hardware store. Alternatively, you can mix white vinegar and water in a 1-2 ratio, or use a few drops of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle full of water as a homemade window cleaner.

The key to avoiding streaking when cleaning your windows is to wipe the glass dry. If you let any window cleaner dry on your window glass, chances are it will leave streaks. Use a squeegee to wipe windows dry on the outside and a microfiber cloth to dry them on the inside. You can also plan your window cleaning for a cloudy day to avoid the sun drying the cleaning solution on your exterior windows.

How Often Should You Clean Windows?

how often to clean windows

You should plan to clean your windows about every six months, or more often on an as-needed basis. For the most part, the precipitation in your area will keep your windows clean, but a biannual cleaning will help keep the glass as clear as possible and help prevent issues with functionality.

If you don’t notice smudges, water spots, dirt, pollen or other debris on your windows, you can safely go without cleaning the glass if you don’t feel like the sunlight coming in is being impeded. However, you should still plan to clean dirt and dust out of the inside of your window frames, as this can help extend the life of your windows.

Things to Avoid When Cleaning Windows

While cleaning your home windows is a relatively straightforward process, there are some things you should avoid that can damage your windows.

First, never power wash windows from the outside. It might be tempting to break out the power washer to get rid of stuck-on debris, like bird droppings or berries, but the force of the water can easily damage the silicone seals around your window glass. If they get damaged, your window seals will be broken, meaning your window will no longer be airtight. You might reduce your window’s energy efficiency and require expensive window repairs to fix the issue.

Similarly, you should avoid using wire mesh or the scrubbing side of a sponge to get debris off of your windows. These materials can scratch your window or glass coating, and they aren’t necessary for removing debris. Instead, spray some cleaning solution on the affected area, let it sit for a few minutes and then scrub it clean with a microfiber cloth. Repeat the process until the debris is cleared away.

If you know you have hard water, try using distilled water instead of tap water to clean your windows. Hard water will tend to leave mineral spots on your glass and isn’t ideal for streak-free windows.

Finally, you should avoid cleaning solutions that are alcohol-based or ammonia-based. Some cleaners use alcohol to help the solution dry, but they are more likely to leave streaks and water marks on your windows.

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FAQ: How to Clean Windows

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Dan Simms

Dan Simms is an experienced writer with a passion for renewable energy. As a solar and EV advocate, much of his work has focused on the potential of solar power and deregulated energy, but he also writes on related topics, like real estate and economics. In his free time — when he's not checking his own home's solar production — he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and rock climbing.