How to Clean Windows

Kay Easton | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

"The rewards of window washing are more dazzling than the rewards of any other household task," according to magazine and newspaper writer, Sam Hooper Samuels. Whether or not you believe that, it's a chore that many put off…well, indefinitely. Richard Fabry, publisher of the trade journal, American Window Cleaner, says you should wash your windows at least every spring and every fall.

Although a bright, sunny day might lift your spirits for window cleaning, wait until it's overcast. The sun dries the window cleaner quicker than you can and leaves streaks. You can always go traditional with two spray bottles of glass cleaner and 10 rolls of paper towel but Fabry recommends an easier and quicker way to wash your windows--with a squeegee, water and dishwashing detergent.

Window cleaning: the tools

If you have the right equipment, it makes the job easier and you might be inclined to tackle this chore more often. Window cleaning tools are a relatively inexpensive investment. Here's what you need:

  • Five gallon bucket. You can buy one at Lowe's for about $3.
  • Soft, clean rags. If you don't have any on hand, you can buy a pound bag, also at Lowe's, for around $3.50.
  • Squeegees. Ettore is widely acknowledged by professionals as the top brand. Buy one or two depending on the sizes of your windows. For about $15 each at Lowe's, you can buy 12", 14" or 18" sizes in rubber or brass and, for a few dollars more, add a scrubber on the flip side. Use the size that fits your windows, or for larger windows, use one slightly wider than half the size of the pane.
  • Window cleaner. One of the best cleaners is 3 gallons of water plus a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent. (You don't want suds, they actually attract dirt.) You can add a cup of distilled white vinegar or ammonia for tougher jobs.

Window cleaning in three steps

These three easy steps should have your windows sparkling in no time:

  1. Dip a scrubber or cloth in the cleaning solution.
  2. Apply solution to the window, scrubbing to remove stubborn dirt, if necessary.
  3. Squeegee the window dry, wiping the blade with a cloth between each swipe. Work from top to bottom.

You can also give Windex Outdoor a try for exterior windows. You can buy a 32-ounce bottle for around $9 at Lowe's. Simply attach the spray bottle to your garden hose and spray the windows. Windex Outdoor contains a non-streaking agent, although hard water can spot. However, it might be worth a try if it gets at least half of the job done without your trusty squeegee.