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How to Clear Up Etched Glass on Old Windows

Melissa J. Bell

Old windows and glass can become damaged over time from exposure to dirt, weather and atmospheric pollution like fossil fuels. These usually cause a buildup on the surface of the glass or a discoloration, which must be cleaned off to keep the glass in good condition. Glass can also have physical damage like etching, which are scratches in the surface. Etching on old windows can be caused by careless sandblasting, grit blowing against a window or exposure to hydrochloric acid. You can clear the etching from an old or historic window with a few common products.

Clean, clear glass windows.
  1. Mix together a solution of vinegar and water, and clean the surface of the glass with a soft bristle brush. This will remove the dirt and allow you to better identify the etching damage. If you cannot remove all the dirt with the bristle brush, you can add fine pumice to your window cleaning solution.

  2. Coat the window with the window cleaning solution again. Take a very fine 0000 grade steel wool pad and gently go over the surface of the glass. Do not apply pressure.

  3. Dry the window completely with the squeegee.

  4. Attach a felt polishing pad to your drill or dremel. Put some abrasive polishing compound, like the kind used in jewelry making, on the pad.

  5. Turn on the drill to a slow setting and move the polishing pad over the etched or scratched sections of the glass in a slow, gentle motion until they disappear. Add more polishing compound as necessary.

  6. Clean the surface of the glass again with your vinegar and water mixture.