How to Clean Glass

A gloved hand cleans a glass window.

So you want to learn how to clean glass? Well, there are countless ways to do the job, and most of these methods do in fact work. There is literally endless dialog on a thousand different websites championing this or that way of doing things. People don’t just want to learn how to clean glass; they want to learn “The One Greatest Way to Clean Glass.” The question is, which one is right for you?

The cleaning solution I use is by no means my invention. My grandmother used it, and yours probably did too. I can quickly and effortless make my solution at home for almost no cost. Some glass cleaning aficionados would urge you to purchase a high-performance brand that was engineered by NASA, but I just don’t see the need for it. My solution is biodegradable and completely void of chemical hazard. That being said, the tools I use for the job are modern – your grandma probably didn’t use them. I don’t use newspaper to dry glass; though it works, I find it messy, and some papers now use a more abrasive ink. Below you find a method for cleaning glass that melds the old with the new, and it works wonders for me.

How to Clean Glass: The One True Way

  1. cleaning suppliesHow you clean glass can vary depending on the size and shape of the glass that needs cleaning. For big jobs, such as windows and windshields, you’ll need a squeegee, a bucket, a sponge, a lint-free towel and a microfiber cloth designed for glass and windows. The squeegee is absolutely non-negotiable. A high-quality squeegee makes for a flawless finish and significantly reduces time spent on the job. For smaller glass cleaning jobs such as passenger windows, mirrors, and end tables, I use a spray bottle, a lint-free towel, and, most importantly, the microfiber cloth. For jobs large and small, the solution consists of white vinegar and warm water. I add a splash of dish soap for tough jobs.
  2. Vinegar, warm water, and bucketAdd one cup of white vinegar to one gallon of warm water. For severe jobs, don’t hesitate to add more vinegar – it isn’t going to harm anything. In fact, using vinegar is a great way to clean glass: it kills bacteria, is biodegradable, and yet it is still very mild compared to most commercial cleaners. Anti-vinegar factions rant about the smell, but it literally dissipates as soon as the glass is dry. If you’re doing something small like a mirror, fill an empty spray bottle with two parts water, one part white vinegar. The solution has a long shelf life, so you can store it for later use.
  3. wipe down windowsPreparing to clean glass is as important as knowing how to clean glass. If you are cleaning windows or a glass table, put down some towels or at least have them on hand for any major spills. An overturned bucket on a wood floor is a minor disaster if not promptly dealt with. If you are cleaning your bathroom mirror, either apply the solution carefully or remove all sensitive items (toothbrush, makeup, etc…). Also, before you get started on a window or any glass with a frame, it is a good idea to dust or wipe down the edges. This way you’ll avoid adding filth to your cleaning solution.
  4. spray solution on mirrorTo clean smaller glass items, like mirrors and glass tables, apply the solution with a spray bottle. Next, use a lint-free towel to collect most of the moisture and filth before finishing with the microfiber cloth. You could just dry with the cloth – but if I’m cleaning many different glass items, I tend to use it just to polish. With picture frames, you have to be more careful. I just put a small amount of solution directly on the microfiber cloth and polish the glass.
  5. wipe down mirrorNow that you’ve learned how to clean glass, you’ll be privy to all the benefits of the “shiny surfaces club.”With your sparkling mirror, you’ll be able to see exactly when your cool haircut slides into mullet territory. You’ll be able to spy on your neighbors, and even see a rare bird up close after it snaps its neck against your nearly invisible window. You’ll even avoid crashing your car. Aren’t you glad you learned how to clean glass.

How to Clean Glass: Hot Topics

  • Stained Glass Windows: With stained glass, you need to use a more mild approach. The vinegar is out, but PH-neutral dish soap with distilled water will work with a soft cloth. It is also important to be mindful that they are pieced together using lead. To read more about cleaning stained glass windows, I know of a great article.
  • Glue or Sticky Gunk: When I moved into my house, I noticed that the previous owners must have all been children. They used duct tape to put up posters over several windows. Hot soapy water and patience will work – but a product like GooGone will make the job easier.
  • Cleaning Glass in Direct Sunlight: Glass-cleaning enthusiasts will tell you never to clean windows in direct sunlight, as they will dry quickly, unevenly, and leave streaks. I have found that the awesome speed of using a squeegee nullifies this once hard and fast rule; feel free to trespass against it as long as you work quickly.
  • Using Vinegar Leaves Streaks: No, vinegar doesn’t leave streaks on glass. If this is happening for you, it could be for several reasons. First, you may not have dried the glass quickly enough after washing. Secondly, some commercial glass cleaners leave a chemical residue. Adding a splash of dish soap to the vinegar and water will solve the problem. Lastly, you might be drying with the wrong cloth. Using either a microfiber cloth for glass or a chamois cloth is best.

Natural Glass Cleaning Solutions

microfiber squeegeeThis Brookstone Microfiber Window Washer Squeegee is a glass cleaner’s best friend, and it’s on my Christmas list . . .underlined and bolded. If you haven’t experienced the nirvana-like catharsis of seeing pristine glass emerge in the wake of a squeegee, then I am sad for you.

microfiber clothsI bought these Zwiffer Microfiber Window, Mirror, and Glass Cloths because of a recommendation from a friend, but now that I’ve used them, I’m truly sold. They are good for cleaning and polishing glass and are machine washable, so they can be used for years. I think any tree would be tremendously underwhelmed by the prospect of needlessly being turned into paper towels.

chamois cloth “This guy claims to know how to clean glass and he doesn’t even use a chamois cloth,” cry glass cleaning pundits. Well, I’ve used them and sure, they work great. They are every bit as good as the microfiber cloths I use: they are great for polishing and are super absorbent, and many brands come out with products specifically for cleaning glass. You can order quite the variety of Chamois Cloths from Amazon.