If you want clean windows and you don’t want to hire a window cleaner, you’ll have to clean them yourself.
The following steps tell you how to get your home’s windows super-clean.
To get clean windows first, you’ll need to gather the needed window cleaning supplies. If you don’t have everything at your home, you can buy what you need at Lowes, Home Depot, or online.
* You’ll need a 3-step, step ladder and, if you have somewhat higher windows, a six-foot ladder.
* You’ll need a clean bucket to put soapy water in. Window cleaner’s use a rectangular bucket. You can see one here.
*Window scrubber. See one here.
* Clean towels for drying – one for every three windows and two for each window screen.
*Razor blade scraper with a brand new razor installed.
* One flathead screwdriver
* Garden hose hooked up to a hose bib (an outside faucet).
* Window cleaner in a spray bottle. My homemade window cleaner recipe is at the end of this article.
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1. Soapy Water for Window Washing
Now that you have everything you need, you start by mixing up a batch of soapy water in the bucket. I usually use one tablespoon of liquid Dawn dishwasher detergent per gallon of water. You want the water to be sudsy, but not too sudsy. For example, if you were going to wash dishes in the kitchen sink, that is how sudsy you want your water to be.
2. The Window Screens
Next, gently pry the window screens from the window frames. Use your screw driver if needed. The window screen frames will have two metal “spring” like pieces on one side of the frame. These springs help hold the screen firmly in place. You’ll use one hand to push the frame against the springs. With your other hand, you’ll use the screw driver (if needed) to pull the window screen out of the window frame.
45% of the time, the screens will have to be pushed up and then pulled towards you to remove them. 45% of the time you’ll have to push the window screens to one side or the other (usually to the left) to get it out. 10% of the time you might have unusual window screens only seen on older homes or modular homes. We won’t go into those types of screens in this article.
If the screen frame appears to be bending as you try to pull it out, stop. You can either try again more gently, which sometimes works, or knowing the window screen frame will be damaged, you can pull the screen out. If you do the latter, you can take the screen into any window repair company and they will repair it for you. Make sure the repair company reduces the size of the screen frame, so you don’t have to go through this again. You can also buy a new window screen online for about $35. Here is an article on this site on how to repair them yourself. (opens in a new window)
To clean the screens, use the window scrubber soaked in soapy water and scrub down both sides of the screen. Use the garden hose to remove the soapy water. You can either leave the screens to dry while you wash the windows or, if you want even cleaner screens, hand dry them with some of your towels.
3. The Window Tracks
Now clean the tracks that the window and window screen sit in. These are two different tracks. The easiest way to clean the window screen track is to rinse it out with the hose and then dry it with a towel. Don’t spray too hard or you might get water inside your home.
To clean the window tracks inside your home, you can do one of two things:
- You can use a dry towel or an old toothbrush wipe out each track as best as you can and then use a vacuum hose to vacuum any debris or dust left over.
- If you really want the tracks clean, you’ll pull out the long flat plastic seal that sits in the bottom of the track. To do this:
If the window slides up and down, open the window. Then use your screwdriver on either end of the seal to pry it up from the bottom of the window frame.
If you have a window that slides side to side you’ll need to remove the sliding window from the frame / track. Pull the window part way open, then lift the window up. When the bottom of the window can clear the frame track ridge, pull the bottom of the window towards you and then pull the whole window down and out.
Set the window aside, then pry the seal out of the frame. Clean the track and clean the long plastic seal. Then set the seal back into the bottom of the window track and push down very firmly to snap the seal back into place.
Replace the window you’ve removed by pushing the top of the window into the track / groove at the top of the window frame, then push the bottom of the window forward to set it back into the bottom track of the window frame.
4. How To Clean Window Glass
Now that you have everything else cleaned, it’s time to clean the glass.
If you cleaned more than a couple of window screens, you might need to replace the old water in your bucket with fresh sudsy water. Before throwing out the dirty water, use that water to clean your scrubber. When the scrubber is clean, squeeze out all of the water in the scrubber. Then change out the dirty water for fresh, sudsy water.
When standing in front of a window you’re about to clean, clean the top pane of glass first. Doing this ensures that you don’t drip soapy or dirty water onto a clean pane of glass.
If a window pane is too high to reach by hand, you’ll need to use the step ladder or the 6 foot ladder to reach that window.
Soap up your window scrubber and run the scrubber over the window twice. Then use the window squeegee and squeegee off the soapy water. To remove all the water, you will start at the top of the window. With your squeegee, use a firm left to right scraping motion. You’ll move down as you go, to remove all the soapy water.
This first step is important because if you don’t remove the dirt from the window and if you have to use your razor blade scraper, you could end up scratching the glass.
As you clean the windows, clean the scrubber off in the soapy water from time to time.
Remove The Stuck-On Debris
Now that you’ve gotten off the dirt, you’ll be able to tell if there is anything stuck to the glass. If there is, use your scrubber to wet down the area(s) where the stuck debris is and then gently use the razor blade scraper to scrape off the stuck on debris. Once done, you might need to re-clean the window.
FYI: Don’t use a razor blade scraper on dry glass. Using a scraper on dry glass could cause it to stick to the glass and scratch it. You need the lubrication of the soapy water to get a nice non-stick pass with the razor on the glass.
FYI: Don’t use anything hard at all on the inside of your windows. They usually have film on them that will be damaged if scraped. Even a fingernail is too hard.
How To Remove Hard Water Stains
It’s possible a window or two will have hard water stains on them from the sprinkling system. If so, now it is time to use the vinegar. Soak a clean dry towel with vinegar so that it is nice and wet, then scrub / rub the vinegar onto the hard water stain. Let it sit for a minute or until dry, then re-clean the window. If hard water stains remain, try the vinegar again. If the stain won’t come out by that point, then the hard water has probably etched the glass, making removing the stain impossible. This etching into the glass is the same process you see with corroded plumbing fixtures. You will need to replace the glass to get rid of the stain.
5. Polish Your Clean Windows
There will still be soapy, dirty water around all the edges of the window pane. Use a clean dry towel to remove this water.
Now get another clean dry towel and spray it with my window cleaning polish. You’re going to polish the glass and you’ll want enough window cleaner on the towel so that it doesn’t stick to the window. Polish the outer three inches of the window, passing over each section at least three times. Then polish all the rest of the glass. If you’ve done it right, you ensure that there will be no streaking.
If you see white stains appear as you’re cleaning or polishing the window, you are dragging degraded, powdered plastic from what is called the “stile”. The stile is the decorative plastic covers that cover the edges of the glass. They break down from sun shining on them and from heat. This causes them to be covered with a white powder. To stop the streaking problem from this powder, soak the stiles down with soapy water and then dry the stiles. Then you can clean or re-clean the window.
To see if you’ve left streaks, you’ll do one of two things (or both):
Back away from the clean windows about three feet then step to the right or left. Use the angle to see if you can see any streaks. If you do, polish them out.
The best way to tell if you’ve left streaks is to go inside your home and look out the window you just cleaned. You’ll immediately see any streaks you’ve left on the glass. Remember where the streak is. Go back outside and polish that area. More than likely, once you’re outside, you won’t be able to see the streak, hence polishing the area where you remember the streak being.
6. The Finishing Touches
When all the outside windows are done, don’t put the screens back up yet. Get some fresh soapy water and clean the inside of the windows. As you clean the inside windows, be on the lookout for streaks left on the outside of the windows. You have two choices to deal with streaks. You can go back outside immediately and polish out the streak (best idea), or you can try to remember where the problems were and polish out the streaks as you reinstall the window screens (not recommended).
Once you’ve cleaned, polished and removed streaks from all the windows inside and out, you can replace the window screens.
Now that you’re finished creating clean windows and putting the screens back up, you’ll do the cleanup of your tools.
Clean the scrubber in the soapy water.
Squeeze all of the water out of the scrubber.
Throw the soapy water out. Either dry the razor blade or throw it out and start with a new one next time (recommended).
Last, store your tools for the next time you clean your windows.
I recommend cleaning the outsides of your window (and screens) at least once every six months. The insides of the windows will need to be cleaned yearly.
My clean windows polishing (cleaning) recipe:
To slightly less than one gallon of distilled or reverse osmosis filtered water, add 1/2 teaspoon of Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent and two cups of 91% rubbing alcohol or three cups of 70% rubbing alcohol. You can buy both at the grocery store. Shake up your window cleaning mix and it’s ready to use in your spray bottle. One gallon of my window cleaner will cost you at most three or four dollars.
Helpful hint: My clean window mix is extremely good at removing stains from carpeting. Spray the stain with my mix, rub the stain lightly, and then press dry with a clean cloth.