The Best Techniques for Cleaning and Shining Windows

Updated on August 30, 2023 by Joseph D. Nielson

Table of Contents

When was the last time you experienced gazing through a flawlessly transparent window? Pristine, gleaming windows not only elevate the overall aesthetic of your residence or workplace but also offer a renewed outlook on the world beyond. Windows are a gateway to the external environment, linking us with the natural world and allowing us to savor stunning views. However, as much as they bring the outdoors in, they also tend to collect dust, smudges, and grime that can obscure their beauty and impede the clarity of our view.

Achieving that sparkling, streak-free result when cleaning your windows can be a bit of a challenge. So, we created this guide with insights and tips that will equip you with the knowledge you need to make your windows sparkle like never before.

Gather Your Supplies

Before starting the window-cleaning journey, you need to gather all the necessary supplies.

Window Cleaner: Your Cleaning Elixir 

Your window cleaner is the heart of your operation. The window clear you choose will break down dirt, grime, and stubborn smudges. You can either purchase a store-bought cleaner or make one yourself. Commercial window cleaners are designed to cut through tough stains and clear your windows. Look for options that are streak-free and ammonia-free to avoid unpleasant fumes. 

If you’re inclined towards a more eco-friendly approach, there’s no need to search beyond white vinegar. Combining water and white vinegar in equal proportions is a superb substitute for commercially available cleaning agents. This mixture adeptly breaks down grease and dirt and holds the advantage of being environmentally friendly.

Microfiber Cloths: The Unsung Heroes

Microfiber cloths are like little cleaning superheroes. They’re incredibly effective at capturing dirt and grime without leaving lint or streaks behind. Opt for high-quality, lint-free microfiber cloths for the best results. These cloths are reusable and gentle on your windows, ensuring they remain scratch-free. 

Squeegee: Your Streak-Free Savior 

If there’s one tool that can make or break your window-cleaning endeavor, it’s the squeegee. A high-quality squeegee with a rubber blade in good condition is essential. The rubber blade acts as a superhero cape, wiping away water and cleaning solution, leaving your windows streak-free and gleaming. Invest in a squeegee with replaceable blades, as a worn-out blade can leave streaks and smears.

Bucket: Home to Your Cleaning Solution 

Your bucket is the vessel that holds your cleaning solution, whether it’s a store-bought cleaner or your homemade concoction. Opt for a bucket with a comfortable handle that’s easy to carry around and helps you organize your cleaning gear. Having a bucket of cleaning solution at the ready prevents you from going back and forth to your supply station, keeping your workflow efficient. 

Scrubbing Tool: Battling Stubborn Grime 

Sometimes, your windows might be facing dirt, and that’s putting up a tough fight. This is when a scrubbing instrument, such as a gentle bristle brush, becomes useful. This tool  assists in loosening and removing tough dirt, simplifying the process for your cleaning solution to perform its magic. However, be gentle and avoid using abrasive brushes that could scratch the glass.

Protective Gear: Shielding Your Hands 

While the battle for clean windows is rewarding, protecting your hands from the cleaning solution is essential. Among the prevalent sources of skin irritation in households, cleaning products rank as one of the primary culprits.

Rubber gloves provide a barrier between your skin and the potentially harsh chemicals in some commercial cleaners. Even if you’re using a natural solution, gloves can help prevent dry skin and irritation, keeping your hands as fresh as your windows. 

Ladder: Reaching New Heights (for Outdoor Windows) 

If you tackle exterior windows, a sturdy ladder becomes your trusty companion. Safety first! Always use a ladder that’s in good condition and properly stabilized. If your windows are located at significant heights, it might be best to enlist the help of a friend or family member to hold the ladder steady. Never compromise safety when reaching for that picture-perfect shine.

Best Techniques for Cleaning & Shining Windows

Once you’ve gathered your tools, you can start cleaning. Here’s a step-by-step guide to make the process simpler.

Start with Dry Dusting

Before spraying cleaners, dry dust your windows with a dry microfiber cloth to remove loose dirt and dust. This step is especially crucial if your windows haven’t been cleaned. Skipping this could lead to muddy streaks when you use your cleaning solution.

Prepare and Apply the Cleaning Solution 

With your windows now devoid of dust, the next step involves using the cleaning solution. Immerse your microfiber cloth into the solution and squeeze it to the point of being slightly moist yet not overly saturated. Wipe down the entire surface of the window, including the frame. If you’re dealing with stubborn grime, let the solution sit for a minute before scrubbing gently with your soft-bristle brush. 

Squeegee Technique: The Key to Streak-Free Windows 

The squeegee is your secret weapon for achieving streak-free windows. Start from the upper left corner of the window and smoothly draw the squeegee vertically in a direct manner. After each stroke, clean the blade with a fresh cloth to prevent transferring dirt back onto the glass. Repeat this motion, slightly overlapping each pass until you’ve covered the entire window. Dry the squeegee blade between wipes and wipe off any excess water along the edges of the glass.

Tackle Window Corners and Edges 

The corners and edges of windows are often neglected, yet these regions can amass an unexpected quantity of dirt and filth. Employ a fresh cloth or a cotton swab saturated in your cleaning mixture to address these inaccessible areas. This phase may demand more patience, but the outcome will undoubtedly be rewarding.

Buffing for that Extra Shine 

After using the squeegee, some water residue or streaks might still be left behind. A quick buffing with a dry microfiber cloth will give your windows that extra shine. Buff in circular motions to ensure you catch any remaining moisture.

Addressing Stubborn Stains

If you encounter stubborn stains like bird droppings or adhesive residue, don’t fret. For hardened stains, gently scrape them off using a plastic scraper or an old credit card. Then, apply your cleaning solution and follow the regular cleaning process. If the stain persists, you might need a specialized glass cleaner or a mixture of baking soda and water.

Clean Screens and Sills

While you might focus primarily on the glass itself, don’t overlook the supporting cast: window screens and sills. These often neglected areas can accumulate dust, pollen, and grime, taking away from the overall effect of clean windows.

  • Window Screens: Remove window screens and give them a good shake to dislodge loose dirt and debris. If the windows are dirty, softly clean them with a soft brush or cloth and warm, soapy water. Wash off the soap thoroughly, and let them dry entirely before putting them back.
  • Window Sills: A damp cloth is your weapon for tackling dusty and grimy sills. Wipe away debris, paying attention to corners and crevices. Dry the sills thoroughly to prevent water damage and mold growth.

Outdoor Windows Need Love Too 

Outdoor windows might seem a formidable challenge, but fear not—your indoor window-cleaning skills are transferable. The same principles apply, with a few additional considerations.

  • Safety First: Before your outdoor cleaning adventure, ensure your ladder is stable and positioned on a flat surface. If you’re cleaning windows on an upper floor, it’s advisable to have someone else present to assist. 
  • Dealing with Outdoor Elements: Outdoor windows often face the elements, which can mean a buildup of dirt, dust, and even bird droppings. Use your scrubbing tool to gently remove stubborn debris, and don’t forget to clean the exterior of window frames.
  • Sun and Heat: Although sunlight can help dry your windows, cleaning them directly in the sun might cause streaks because the cleaning solution dries too quickly. Pick a time when the windows are in the shade, or the sun is not too bright to avoid this issue.

Regular Maintenance is Key 

Now that your windows are spotless and gleaming, the key is to maintain them. Regular cleaning, ideally twice a year, will make the process much easier and prevent dirt buildup. More frequent cleanings might be necessary if you live in an area with heavy pollution or frequent rain. Waiting until your windows are visibly dirty makes cleaning more challenging and can lead to permanent stains or damage.

  • Twice a Year: The International Window Cleaning Association recommends that you aim to clean your windows at least twice a year, and more frequently in some cases. This schedule keeps your windows looking their best year-round. 
  • Tailored Frequency: If you live in an area prone to heavy pollution, frequent rain, or strong winds, you should clean your windows more often. These environmental factors can quickly mar the shine of your windows, so consider a more frequent cleaning schedule. 
  • Quick Touch-Ups: You can perform quick touch-ups between your scheduled cleanings. Keep a spray bottle with your cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth handy. This allows you to address minor spots and smudges as soon as they appear, preventing them from becoming more challenging to remove later.


Frequently Asked Questions about Window Cleaning

Cleaning and making windows shine might appear simple, but a deeper level of complexity is involved. To assist you in achieving the sparkling and streak-free windows you’ve envisioned, we’ll cover some of the frequently asked questions.

How Often Should I Clean My Windows? 

The recommended frequency for cleaning windows is at least twice a year. Spring and autumn are optimal periods, as they provide more moderate climatic conditions and an opportunity to prepare for various seasons. Nonetheless, frequent window cleaning might be necessary to avoid accumulating dirt in regions with high pollution, regular rainfall, or intense winds.

Can I Use Regular Household Cleaners On My Windows? 

While you can use regular household cleaners on your windows, it’s advisable to opt for specific window cleaners or make your own using a mixture of water and white vinegar. Household cleaners might leave streaks or residue on your windows. Some window cleaners are formulated to cut through tough stains and grime without harming the glass.

What’s the Best Way to Avoid Streaks on Windows After Cleaning? 

Streaks on windows are often caused by improperly wiping away cleaning solutions or using a dirty cloth. To avoid streaks, use high-quality microfiber cloths and follow the proper technique with a squeegee. Start at the top and work your way down, wiping the squeegee blade with a clean cloth after each pass. Buffing the windows with a dry microfiber cloth can also help eliminate any remaining streaks. 

How Can I Clean Windows That Are High and Hard to Reach? 

Cleaning high and hard-to-reach windows requires proper safety precautions. Use a stable ladder and ensure someone is present to assist you. Consider using an extension pole with a squeegee attachment if the windows are located on the upper floors. This allows you to clean without the need to balance on a ladder. Safety should always be your top priority when cleaning any hard-to-reach areas in your home.

Can I Clean Windows on a Sunny Day? 

While sunlight can help dry your windows, cleaning them on a sunny day can lead to streaks. The cleaning solution might evaporate rapidly before you can thoroughly wipe it off. If you need to clean when the sun is shining, opt for a moment when it is not at its highest point or when the windows are in shadow. Overcast days are often ideal for window cleaning as the temperature is milder and the risk of streaks is minimized. 

How Can I Remove Stubborn Stains from Windows? 

A two-step approach can be practical for stubborn stains like bird droppings or adhesive residue. First, gently scrape off the residue using a plastic scraper or an old credit card. Then, apply your cleaning solution and use the squeegee technique to remove the remaining dirt and solution. If the stain persists, use a specialized glass cleaner or create a paste with baking soda and water to gently scrub the area.

How Can I Prevent Condensation on Windows? 

Condensation on windows occurs when warm indoor air meets cold glass surfaces. To prevent condensation, maintain consistent indoor temperatures and reduce humidity levels in your home. Proper ventilation in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry areas can also help minimize moisture buildup. If condensation is persistent, consider using a dehumidifier or an air purifier to maintain a healthier indoor environment.

Enjoy the Clear View from Your Window

Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about cleaning and shining windows, nothing can stop you from picking up the tools and taking on this cleaning project. This guide will serve as a checklist for cleaning, ensuring you effectively complete each step to get a clearer and brighter view of the world outside!

Joseph and Family
About Joseph D. Nielson

Former journalist and editor for various press groups, I now dedicate my time to reviewing products for the home and family life. When I get time to myself, I enjoy rock climbing, taking my dirt bike for a rip, and most importantly providing my family with the best home possible!