Make windows shine with this easy cleaning guide. Follow these steps on how to wash windows to clear away grime and leave your home sparkling.

By Kelly Roberson and Jessica Bennett
Updated March 01, 2021
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Compare a clean window with a dirty one, and the contrast is clear. Streak- and grime-free windows offer a lovely way to enjoy the outdoors, as well as an uninterrupted path for sunshine to enter into your home's interior. But many people avoid this task because they are unsure how to clean windows. Luckily, it takes just a bit of planning and a little elbow grease. Washing the windows is a good spring cleaning job for the family to help with, and clean windows will make the entire house look cleaner. Here are six must-follow steps for cleaning windows.

Credit: Laurie Black

1. Test the temperature.

Don't want to waste a sunny day chasing away the dirt and grime on windows? You're not alone—and you're in luck. One of the best pieces of advice for how to clean windows is to pick a cloudy day. The absence of sunlight will help to minimize the chance of streaks because heat makes window cleaning solution evaporate faster than you can wipe it off. Lack of glaring sunlight also enables you to better see—and better clean—the windows. To quickly test the temperature, touch the window glass. If it's hot to the touch, wait for a cooler day.

Credit: Brie Williams

2. Remove dust and dirt from windows.

No window washing job is complete without using your vacuum first. Dust and dirt can accumulate inside the sills of your windows, and once that gets wet, you'll be left with muddy streaks to clean up. That's why an essential step in cleaning windows properly is to hook up the vacuum first, using hose attachments to clean out the interior side of your windows. While you're at it, use the vacuum to suck up dust or bugs that have gathered at the window closing. Then wipe off any lingering dirt and cobwebs with a wet cloth to reduce grimy smears.

Credit: Edmund Barr

3. Clean outside windows.

There's one crucial step that many people skip when learning how to clean windows: an exterior hose-down. Close all your windows and use a garden hose to spray the outside. You'll remove the first layer of dirt and make the detail work that much easier. Plus, on a summer day, you can use window washing as an excuse to splash in the water a little bit.

Credit: Kip Dawkins

4. Clean inside windows.

How you wash individual windows depends on the type of windows you have. Newer versions flip open, enabling you to clean both the outside and inside from the same spot. Older ones might be stationary, which means you'll have to use a ladder to clean the exteriors. Most will allow you to remove the screens and clean them separately. Clean indoor glass panes with a window cleaner. Screens can be cleaned with warm, soapy water, either on a paved outside area or in a bathtub.

Credit: David Tsay

5. Use a system for cleaning windows.

Enlist the family for help cleaning windows. Have one person work inside, wiping windows horizontally, while another wipes outside vertically. That way you'll know which side the dirt or streaks are on. Be sure to find a ladder you feel comfortable on. If you have a window you'd have to reach for, leave it to the pros.

Credit: Reed Davis

6. Dry the glass.

There are few things that can ruin freshly cleaned windows quicker than gobs of left-behind lint. Instead of paper towels, utilize a lint-free option, such as clean coffee filters, crumpled newsprint, or a microfiber or flour-sack towel. Alternatively, try a small squeegee with a sharp, nick-free rubber blade. This fool-proof trick will make you feel like a professional window cleaning service.

Credit: Lincoln Barbour

How to Clean Windows with Vinegar

There are many DIY window cleaner recipes available, but our favorite starts with a vinegar base. To make your own glass cleaner, you'll need the following ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • distilled water

For best results, look for vinegar that says "made from grain" on the label. Funnel the ingredients into a 32-ounce spray bottle and lightly shake to mix. Spritz onto a lint-free cloth and clean your windows.

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