After months of wintry rain and snow, we’re all going to be glad to let some sun back into our lives. But that’s tough to do if the windows of your home are covered in grime. These easy window-washing hacks will give you sparkling, streak-free panes in no time. And you’ll be astonished at how bright and airy clean windows can make your living space feel.
7 smart window-washing tips
1. Choose the right time of day
The sun’s warmth can cause your cleaning solution to dry on the windows, leaving spots or streaks. Pick a time when the windows won’t be directly hit by the sun, or choose a cool, overcast day.
2. Assemble your tools
Forget paper towels or wadded-up newspapers — here’s what you need to do the job right:
- Square, soft-bristled brush with a handle (known as a counter brush)
- Good-sized, natural sea sponge
- Strip applicator for picture windows (like a squeegee, but with an absorbent cloth instead of a rubber blade)
- Lint-free rags (such as cloth diapers)
- Chamois cloth
- Telescoping washer set for high windows (with a double-sided head featuring both a cleaning pad and a squeegee)
3. Mix up a grease-cutting cleaning solution
For the initial dirt removal, add a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid to a bucket of warm water (you don’t want too many suds). For the actual cleaning, most experts recommend filling a spray bottle with a half-and-half solution of warm water and white vinegar.
4. Prepare your windows
- Remove screens.
- Use the brush to sweep away dust, loose dirt, and cobwebs from the window frame and sill.
- Vacuum the dust from Venetian blinds using the upholstery brush attachment.
- If indoors, place a large towel on the floor below the window to catch any drips.
- If outdoors, rinse the windows with a hose.
- Wipe the window surface with a sponge lightly dipped in soapy water. (If you’re washing a picture window, here’s where the strip applicator comes in handy — its wide head covers a large area with minimal effort.)
- Rinse again with the hose.
5. Clean your windows
The technique here varies depending on the type of window, but a squeegee is your friend in all cases.
Since you’re dealing with a big area, the trick here is to wipe off the solution quickly before it dries.
- Squirt the vinegar and water onto the window and squeegee it off, beginning at the top corner (right for lefties, left for righties).
- Pull the squeegee to the opposite corner, reverse directions, and continue moving down the window in an S-shape pattern. Overlap your strokes slightly to prevent streaks.
- Wipe the squeegee with a clean, lint-free cloth between strokes.
- Touch up the edges of the glass with a damp chamois.
Even small windows are best cleaned with a squeegee. If you can’t find one that’s the right size, you can (carefully) customize a larger squeegee to fit using a hacksaw.
- Use the damp sponge to remove dirt from the corners of the panes.
- Squirt the vinegar and water solution onto the pane.
- Pull the squeegee down the pane in a single motion, wiping after each stroke.
Some upper windows can be reached with a sturdy ladder. Be sure to follow these safety tips:
- Use the ladder on a level surface and never place objects below the feet to prop it up.
- Check that the ladder meets the Underwriters Laboratories safety certification.
- Lean the ladder so that the base is away from the wall by one-fourth of the ladder’s working length (so 2 feet away for an 8-foot ladder). “Working length” is the length of a ladder from the foot to the top support.
- Stand facing the ladder at all times and be sure you always have 3 points of contact with the steps or rails (2 feet and a hand, for example).
- Haul your tools with a rope, rather than carrying them up.
If the window is still too high or difficult to access, a washer set with a telescoping pole can add several feet to your reach. Dampen the cloth side of the head with cleaning solution, extend the pole, wet the window, and then turn the tool to the squeegee side and wipe the pane clean.
6. Don’t forget your screens
No doubt your screens have developed a coating of dust and dirt over the past few months. Since you need to remove them to get to your windows, take advantage of the opportunity to give them a good cleaning too.
- Take the screen outside (if possible) and scrub with the brush and a light mixture of dishwashing liquid and warm water.
- With the screen facing down, tap one edge gently but firmly against a hard surface to knock stubborn debris loose.
- Rinse with the hose and let dry completely before replacing.
7. Keep dust and grime from coming back
Having sparkling, dust-free windows, sills, and blinds is very satisfying. But don’t you wish they’d stay that way forever? Cleaning my Venetian blinds is one of my least favorite chores, so next time, after I’m done, I’m going to try spraying them with anti-static spray to keep the dust from accumulating. Windowsills get dirty far too quickly as well, but a coating of floor wax on the sill can help prevent grimy buildup.
Now that your windows are looking their best, make sure to protect them from accidents, weather, and vandalism with good homeowners insurance.