What is Window Film?

Sherry Holetzky

Window film generally combines some form of plastic with an adhesive to create a covering for windows. It is available for commercial or residential use, and there are also options made especially for automotive use. The film offers not only different looks and styles, but also different functions. Some films are used to limit sunlight, offering a reflective coating that helps to protect against UV rays, prevent fading of interior furnishings and keep cooling costs down by limiting heat.

Some window film brands are used to block the sun's UV rays.
Some window film brands are used to block the sun's UV rays.

In some cases, window film can be a stylish alternative to common window treatments and is offered in many elegant styles that will not only improve the look of windows but help retain a home's privacy. Decorative films may mimics frosted glass, glass block, or stained glass, as well as many other beautiful options. Another excellent use for it is protection against graffiti and vandalism, since these films keep windows from being scratched, painted, or otherwise marked, and make them more difficult to break. This can help save homeowners and business owners a great deal of money, since they will have to replace fewer windows.

Window films were originally applied to keep windows from getting too too hot or too cold due to sun or climate.
Window films were originally applied to keep windows from getting too too hot or too cold due to sun or climate.

Perhaps the most important function of window film is its ability to provide safety for homes and businesses. Some options are specially designed to bond with the glass in the windows and keep them from breaking in extreme conditions, including storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. If the windows do break, they won’t shatter into dangerous shards that fly about. This means greater safety not only for a home or office, but also for family members and employees.

This film can be installed long before it might be needed, just one time, and it is there when it's needed. Some people have it installed professionally, although it is not difficult to install and generally comes with complete instructions. Some kits even provide tools, such as a squeegee, for easy application.

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Discussion Comments


Anon334, I have the same exact concerns as you. Back in the 80's I also had car window tint that started to breakdown and it took me forever to figure out that it could be removed. If you find out the chemical components of whatever it was that was left floating around in the car, let me know. I'm very curious (and concerned) too.


The particles were the Scratch Resistant Coating flaking off. It was probably a cheap film that had little or no UV protection. The UV inhibitors are not reflective coatings as stated in the article but a coating on the first layer of polyester that converts UV into a faster wavelength which is then reflected or absorbed by subsequent layers of film or by the glass itself. UV inhibitors were put into the construction process of window film since the early seventies. They were put in to protect the film's metalized and dyed layers from UV. UV attacks the film and causes dyes to fade and metals to decompose (lose ions). That last layer of your film is the hard coat. When exposed to UV it breaks up. Another reason window film is not installed on the exterior!

If you need to remove it, sweat it. That's the best way. Cut black garbage bags to the size and shape of your windows. Spray the film surface with soapy water and put the plastic on the film side of the window. The soapy water will hold the plastic to the glass. Let it sit in the sun for an hour. The film should peel. If it leaves glue, you can scrape it with a new clean 1" razor. Try Goo-Gone or Goof Off. If there is glue on the defroster clean it with 0000 steel wool and solvent.


Where can you buy the security window film that you can install yourself?


Back in the mid 80's, I had car window tint put on my car. About 10 years later after moving to another state, the window film started to break down by leaving lots of little small shard-like particles in my car. They would literally float in the air when I drove my car. I remember having those particles in car for the longest before I figured out who I could contact to have the film removed.

Do you know what those particles could have been comprised of? I shutter at the idea of having breathed that stuff in for as long as I did. (I was a kid and didn't really think much of it back then.)

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