People who hate cleaning windows hate them because no matter how much they wipe, the windows never seem to get clean. Transparent glass magnifies every streak and dust particle. Kids and dogs make the problem exponentially worse. But you don’t have to let frustration drive you to a “no windows” policy. You simply need to learn a new way to wash. The best way to clean windows is with vinegar and elbow grease. With the right technique you can make the most hated of household chores tolerable again.
Tackle the Outside First
Exterior window cleaning is the toughest job. Tackle it first while you’re motivated. You can save the interior windows for tomorrow. But before you tackle the windows, take a look through them. What is the weather like? Avoid cleaning your exterior windows if it looks like rain may be approaching. If the weather is bright and sunny, save your cleaning for early morning or late afternoon. The hot noon sun makes window cleaners evaporate too quickly. When the solution dries on the window before you have a chance to clean it off, it leaves streaks behind.
When the weather is agreeable, start popping out any window screens. A flat head screwdriver is the best tool for the job. Simply wedge the screwdriver’s tip between the screen and the window. Push the screwdriver’s handle forward to pop the screen out. Label each screen with a strip of tape and a marker as you take it out. The screens may look the same size but looks can be deceiving. If the screens are dirty, scrub them with a soft bristle brush and soapy water.
The best tool for cleaning first story exterior windows is an old t-shirt. Paper towels are great for most jobs in the house but they leave little lint particles behind. Terry cloth towels suffer from the same problem. An old t-shirt has been washed enough times to get rid of any residual lint. And the soft cotton is ideal for catching dust, dirt and other window debris.
Once you have your t-shirt, mix a cleaning solution. Add two quarts of water and one tablespoon of liquid detergent in a bucket. Dip the t-shirt in the bucket of soapy water and scrub in a circular motion. Clean the topmost panes before the bottom. Rinse the windows with a gentle spray from the hose then use a squeegee tool to wipe them dry. Wipe the squeegee frequently with a dry towel to prevent moisture transfer. For second story windows you can use a ladder and the same method.
Hand scrubbing is the best way to get a deep clean on grimy windows. If your windows are too high to safely reach via a sturdy ladder, rent a pressure washer. While at the rental office, ask the rental agent for the window cleaning solution designed to be used with that machine. Spray your windows according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When you are done, rinse the treated windows with clean water from the sprayer. Squeegee only if possible. Replace the screens once the window is dry.
The Best Way to Clean Interior Windows
There are dozens of interior window cleaning products on the market. Not all of them deliver the quick, streak-free clean that they promise. The best way to clean your interior windows is to cut out the middle man and use plain old white vinegar. The mild acidic properties of vinegar cut through fingerprints, dust and grime. And it evaporates quickly to minimize the chance of dust settlement after the window is dried.
To make the vinegar solution, add two cups of water in an old spray bottle. If you have an old window cleaner bottle, that will work perfectly. Use distilled water if you can get a hold of it. Because of the additional purification process it is less likely than tap water to leave streaks. Next add one-quarter cup of distilled white vinegar and one-half teaspoon of liquid detergent soap. Shake the solution gently.
Wet all of the window panes with the vinegar solution first. This pre-wetting will give the vinegar time to loosen the dirt layer on the windows. That means less elbow grease on your part. Pre-wet one set of panes at a time. Avoid the temptation to spray all of the windows in the house. The vinegar solution must not dry before you wipe the windows.
Wipe the windows in firm horizontal or vertical strokes. Check the t-shirt’s surface frequently. When the t-shirt’s cleaning surface gets dirty, switch to a clean section immediately. When you clean with a dirty t-shirt you re-transfer some of the dirt on to the window and make your job harder and longer. Keep wiping until the window is dry. Spot check the windows five minutes after you clean. Touch up any spots that you missed during the first pass.
Follow these professional cleaning practices and you’ll have clean, streak-free windows in not time. And who knows? Now that you know the best way to clean your windows you may start to enjoy the job.