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How to Wash Dirty Windows

Procedure for cleaning residential windows using soap and water and a squeegee and tips for removing stains.
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Things You Will Need

  • Squeegee
  • Bucket
  • Dish soap
  • Razor knife
  • Chamois
  • Vinegar
  • Spray bottle

Before you get your bottle of window cleaner and your lint-free rag from the cupboard, consider two reasons why they might not be the best materials. One of the most common ingredients in window cleaners is ammonia, which is corrosive and can dull the finish on the window frame. Moreover, wiping the glass is hard work, and it creates static electricity that attracts more dirt, so the window may appear dirty again shortly after you clean it. Watch the service station attendant wash your car's windows and you'll know the best way to wash your window panes at home.

Take a window-cleaning lesson from your service station attendant.

Gather your supplies

Observe ladder safety rules when working on high windows.

Obtain a window-washing squeegee with a sponge washer. Size the squeegee to the job -- a large one works best for picture windows, but if you're washing small panes, get one that fits in the frame. Fill a bucket with 1 or 2 gallons of warm water and add a capful of dish detergent per gallon.

Tip

You'll need a ladder for outside windows. Be sure it's tall enough for the job and that you can set it securely. If stability is a problem, consider anchoring the ladder to the siding with hooks and ropes.

Wash the glass

Scrub dirt with a sponge.

Dip the sponge applicator that's on the reverse side of the squeegee in the bucket and use it to wash the glass. The soap solution should remove even stubborn dirt, but you may have to scrape off some hard deposits -- such as dried paint -- with a razor knife. Go over any spots you scrape with the soapy sponge.

Wipe with a squeegee

Use a broad, semi-circular stroke to clean large panes.

For large areas, such as glass patio doors, hold the squeegee on the opposite side of your body from the hand you use and draw it across the glass in a semi-circular motion. Use this motion to clean the bulk of the glass, then clean the edges with strokes parallel to the window frame. If you're washing small panes using a squeegee that just fits inside each pane, rely on horizontal strokes that start at the top of the pane. For a very small pane, a single downward stroke may do the job.

Tip

Dry the squeegee with a rag after each stroke.

Dry the edges

Wipe the edges with a streak-free chamois.

Clean the water that the squeegee leaves dripping on the edges of the pane with a chamois, which cleans without leaving streaks. If you don't have a chamois, use a lint-free cloth.

Tip

Wash your windows twice a year, or more often if you live near a construction project.

Scrub off mineral deposits

Take care of mineral stains before washing with a squeegee.

Use vinegar to make short work of mineral deposits left on outdoor windows by dripping water. Spray it at full strength onto the glass, using a spray bottle, and allow it to stay there for about five minutes. Wipe it off with a rag, and squeegee the window clean with soap and water.

Tip

If staining is a problem on outdoor windows, use a commercial window cleaning powder that contains oxalic acid. Scrub it onto the glass with 000 steel wool and squeegee the window clean when the stains are gone.

Things You Will Need

  • Cleaning Cloths
  • Lint-free Rags
  • Ammonia
  • Commercial Glass Cleaner Or Vinegar
  • Garden Hose
  • Old Sheets Or Towels
  • Professional-quality Squeegee
  • Vacuum With Small Brush Attachment
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Newspaper Or Clean Blackboard Eraser
  • Beach Towel

About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.