Tips for Washing Windows With Ammonia

Cleaning windows can be a frustrating exercise, often seemingly pointless when the sun comes out and highlights smears that you didn't realize were there.

Safety First

Using the right tools, cleaning solution and techniques can make a big difference. You can make your own cleaning solutions, and ammonia is a powerful addition that is capable of tackling some of the worst window-cleaning nightmares, including nasty mineral deposits. Armed with this grease-blasting ingredient and a few new techniques, you'll soon have windows to be proud of in any weather.

Your own window-cleaning solutions can be just as effective as shop-bought alternatives and can save you money. However, when mixing them you should be aware that some of the substances you are using can be dangerous. Ammonia is caustic and you should wear gloves when using it. Chlorine bleach should never be mixed with ammonia as the combination can produce toxic fumes. When mixing cleaning solutions, put the water in the spray bottle or bucket first and then carefully add the ammonia and the other ingredients. This precaution should prevent unwanted splashes onto your skin or into your eyes. If some ammonia enters your eyes, wash it out quickly with cold, clean water and consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

Recipes for Cleaning Solutions including Ammonia

Add 2 tablespoons of ammonia to 2 quarts of warm water for a basic solution if your windows are not too filthy and difficult to clean.

For more tricky windows, try 1/2 cup of ammonia with 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, mixed with a gallon of warm water.

For a solution with a little more punch, add 1/2 cup of ammonia, 1 pint of 70 percent rubbing alcohol and 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent to 7 pints of water, making 1 gallon of cleaning solution. This solution is unlikely to freeze in cold weather -- alcohol has a low freezing point -- and will work especially well on annoying mineral deposits.

Using the Cleaning Solutions

Use a specially designed window-cleaning squeegee. These can cost more than $10, but it will be worth it. Clean your windows on a day that is not too sunny. Too much sunlight can dry your solution before it is removed properly, leaving streaks. Wipe very dirty windows off with a damp cloth. Then wet the window lightly with your cleaning solution. Start at the top of the window with your squeegee, angling it so that about 1 inch of the blade touches the glass. Swipe it across the top of the window horizontally. After each stroke with the squeegee, wipe the blade with a damp cloth. This will remove excess solution, or moisten the blade if it is dry -- dry blades skip over the glass. Finish the window with downward strokes, starting in the dry top area of the window. Wipe the sill dry when you are done.

Other Glass Cleaning Uses

Cruets, carafes, vases and other glass receptacles often become stained over time. Their shape often makes these stains difficult to remove. Pour a strong liquid ammonia solution into the receptacle, using enough to cover the stain. Leave it overnight. The following day, add some rice or beans to the receptacle and secure the top. Shake the receptacle, empty it and wash with it dish detergent. Rinse and dry it.

About the Author

Steve Sparkes started writing professionally in 1982. He was a journalist and photographer for "The New York Waste" magazine for a decade. Sparkes has a diploma of art and design and a Bachelor of Arts in history of art from the South-East Essex School of Art. He also has a Master of Arts in photography from the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts.