How To Clean Windows

A child pushes a door open with both hands, but she isn’t tall enough to reach the push bar, so she leaves two small hand prints on the window pane. It is a common transfer of dirt and oils that happens thousands of times a day throughout the world, so it stands to reason that the cleanup process is equally commonplace. That is not the case, however. While other surfaces enjoy the benefits of a uniformed process for soil removal – floors are typically mopped, toilets are swabbed, etc. – windows and glass continue to mire within a controversy of how to best handle cleanup duties. The controversy ranges from chemical to tool to process.

Right Tools for the Task:

Johann Gutenberg is credited with inventing the letter press in the 1450’s. This press employed movable type and led to the modern newspaper.[1] That is one interpretation of Mr. Gutenberg’s invention. The other, clearly more important interpretation is that Johann Gutenberg is the grandfather of the most important tool ever invented for the purpose of cleaning windows.[2] Newspaper is perfect for both windows and mirrors. Unfortunately, the continued decline of the printed newspaper industry[3] means supply and demand for this window cleaning tool is also facing challenges. Technology is great, but we can’t clean our windows with an article we read via the internet.

That leaves us with several options. Depending upon who you ask, one is definitely better than the other. Ask someone else, however, and you’ll get a different response.

Paper Towels – Readily accessible but tend to leave lint.

Wash Rag – Environmentally friendly because it is washable, but may leave lint.

Microfiber Cloth – Washable and lint free, but more expensive than other cloth options.

Squeegee – Reusable, but storage is awkward and tends to drip.

Chemical or Chemical Free?

Once you determine which tool is right for you, the next step is to determine which chemical to use, or don’t use any chemicals. Again, it seems, there are enough options to make it complicated. Oh, if we could just prevent that child from pushing open that door, but it has already happened and will continue to happen time and again. Here are your options:

Vinegar – I’m certain grandma cleaned everything with vinegar.

Ammonia – I’m certain grandma cleaned everything with ammonia.

Manufactured Chemical – Brand name, or off-brand, they’re usually blue in color.

Distilled Water – Remove both the chemical and the minerals.

Ionized Water – Zap your water so you can clean.

Note: Grandma never mixed vinegar and ammonia together in the same bucket, so you shouldn’t either.

Process Removes the Streaks:

Don’t even think about cleaning your windows until you decide which process you should utilize. Which process is best? That is up for debate.

Spray Bottle I – This is the classic spray-and-wipe process. Apply liquid chemical (or non-chemical) to the surface and wipe with your chosen cleaning tool.

Spray Bottle II – Or wait, spraying the surface is a waste of time and product. It is better to spray your cloth and then wipe the surface; squeegees not applicable.

Aerosol – Foam is much better than liquid because it clings to the surface.

Pre-Soaked – Soak your cloth in a bucket prior to wiping.

Buffing – Do you buff? Some believe buffing is an essential addition regardless of your chosen process.[4]


Are you kidding? I’m not getting involved in this argument. People are extremely passionate about their windows and how to best keep them cleaned. My conclusion is simply to say, experiment until you find the one solution that works “best.” I won’t argue.


[1] Stephens, Mitchell. Collier’s Encyclopedia. “History of Newspapers.” <’s%20page.htm>

[2] CBS New York. “5 Tips For Cleaning Glass Surfaces.” <>

[3] Associated Press. Huffington Post. “Newspaper Industry Revenue Continued To Fall In 2013.” April, 2014. <>

[4] Layton, Julia. How Stuff Works. “5 Tips for Cleaning Glass Without Streaks.” <>

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