What is the Best Way to Wash Windows?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Few things can brighten up a home the same way that freshly washed windows can. There are several ways to wash windows, and most of them will work. The most popular way is usually to just use a store-bought window cleaning solution and paper towels, but this often leaves streaks, and is not very cost-effective. There are better, and cheaper, ways to get windows clean.

A sea sponge is the best tool to use when applying cleaning solutions onto windows.
A sea sponge is the best tool to use when applying cleaning solutions onto windows.

The best way to wash windows is to make a homemade window washing solution. The best solution has both ammonia, to break apart tough grime, and vinegar, to leave the glass streak-free. Mix together 2 quarts (1.89 l) of warm water, 0.5 cup (118.29 ml) of ammonia, 1 pint (473.17 ml) of rubbing alcohol, 0.25 cup (59 ml) of vinegar, and 1 tablespoon (14.78 ml) of regular dish detergent. Apply this to the windows, and wipe off until the windows are dry. The cleaning solution can be put in a spray bottle and applied that way, or sponged on straight from a bucket. Using a bucket will give the best results for those who have very dirty windows.

It is recommended to wash windows on a cloudy day to reduce the likelihood of streaks.
It is recommended to wash windows on a cloudy day to reduce the likelihood of streaks.

The tools used to wash windows are at least as important, if not more so, than the cleaning solution used. Many people advise spraying the solution onto the windows, and then using newspapers to wipe and dry. Others recommend using rags, paper towels, or even old t-shirts. The best way is to use an irregular, bumpy sponge, like a sea sponge, to apply the solution. A squeegee can then be used to remove the excess water and leave the windows streak-free. For washing exterior windows, a squeegee that has lambswool on one side can allow for quick and easy cleaning.

A woman washing a window.
A woman washing a window.

Having dirty window screens can make windows look dirty, even if the glass itself is clean, so take the extra time to clean the screens as well. Remove the windows, and spray them down. Mix up a solution of 0.25 cup (59 ml) ammonia, 2 tablespoons (29.57 ml) of dish soap, and 2 gallons (7.57 l) of warm water. Sponge this mixture onto the screens, and let them dry, with the soap on them. After they are dry, set them on a towel and tap them on the ground a few times. The dirt should fall right off.

An old cotton T-shirt can be used to clean windows.
An old cotton T-shirt can be used to clean windows.

Wash windows on a cloudy day, never in direct sunlight. This will slow the drying time, and reduce the likelihood of streaks. Before beginning, use a broom to sweep any cobwebs, loose debris, or dead bugs from the windows, and be sure to wash the outer windows first, moving from the top of the house down. Washing windows takes time and effort, but usually doesn't need to be done often, as long as it is done well the first time.

Homemade window cleaner can be made with dish soap.
Homemade window cleaner can be made with dish soap.
Clean windows can brighten up a home.
Clean windows can brighten up a home.
Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal wiseGEEK writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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Discussion Comments


Mixing ammonia (a base) and vinegar (an acid) neutralizes them and both are less effective for their purposes. In cleaning windows to remove soil and grease use an alkali, such as ammonia. To remove hard water deposits and some soils, use a weak acid such as vinegar (a strong acid would etch the glass).


@orangey03 – I'm with you. Low key is best, in my opinion.

It's much cheaper to buy a bottle of pre-made window cleaning solution than to buy four or five bottles of other ingredients to make your own! It just seems like a waste of time and money to mix it at home.

I understand that some people want to know what goes into their cleaning supplies. All I can afford to think about at the moment is how much it costs, though.


I never thought of using a sea sponge to clean my windows! I keep a few of these sponges in my art supply kit, so I'm going to try this out. I'm happy to read that it is the best thing to use!


Most of the articles on window cleaning tips that I've read recommended using newspaper to wipe the glass down, but I didn't subscribe to any newspaper. I didn't have any lying around the house, so I looked into a better option.

I got a roll of blank newsprint from my local newspaper. They frequently sell the rolls once they get smaller and don't have enough paper on them for a press run. However, there is still plenty of paper to last me over a year when I use it for window cleaning.

I paid $5 for a roll last year that I'm still using. This was so much cheaper than subscribing to a newspaper!


I live in a small house, so I don't need fancy window cleaning supplies. Just a bottle of window cleaner from the dollar store and an old t-shirt work great for me.

As long as I rinse out the t-shirt periodically, I don't have streak problems. I just have to be careful to wash it out once I see dirty marks on the glass that I'm cleaning.


I have never hired a house cleaner to come and clean my house, but I do hire a window cleaning service in the spring to come and clean my windows. I have a lot of windows and they are pretty high off the ground. I have a fear of heights and if I had to climb a ladder to clean my windows, it would never get done.

I love how clean all my windows look after they have all been cleaned. Through the winter they get so dirty with the sleet and snow mixture all winter long. I just wish they would stay cleaner longer than they do.


@John57-- For me, using a homemade solution made with vinegar is well worth it. It works better than anything else I have used and I don't think the smell is bad at all. I guess I would rather have that smell, knowing exactly what I am using than a bunch of chemicals.

When I get ready to clean my windows, I gather all of my window cleaning tools with me so I have everything I need as I go around the house. I do the same thing when I clean my outside windows. This saves lots of trips back and forth.


@golf07-- That sounds like a great idea. Washing windows is one of my least favorite chores. It seems like no matter what I have tried or what product I have used, I always get streaks. I haven't tried any of the home remedies though. I have heard that vinegar has a lot of great possibilities when it comes to cleaning. I just don't know if I could handle the smell.


@christym-- Newspapers work great for me too. They don't leave the small pieces of lint or fabric that paper towels and rags do either. Another tip I learned when it comes to washing windows is to wipe them horizontally on one side and vertically on the other side.

That way if you do see any streaks, you know which side of the window they are on. Before I read about this it would drive me crazy trying to figure out if the streaks were on the outside or the inside.


@waterhopper: I used to have the same problem. I read in a magazine that using newspaper to clean with would decrease the amount of streaks. You just replace your paper towels (or whatever you use) with a dry newspaper. It leaves your windows virtually streak-free.


It seems as though no matter what I try, I always end up with streaks on my windows. I have used several different products that promised "no streaks" but I still have them. Any suggestions?

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