How To Wash Your Windows Like A Pro

Turn chemical-free window cleaning into the easiest task on your to-do list with these simple steps.

July 13, 2016
window washing
Comaniciu Dan/Shutterstock

I've always liked washing windows, especially if they are good and dirty. When I was a kid, I’d grab the spray bottle of vibrant-blue window cleaner and a roll of paper towels and have at 'em. Later, I learned that crumpled newspapers worked better than paper towels and that vinegar diluted with water is an equally effective disinfectant as commercial window cleaner spray. Then I learned the secret to fast, green, and superior home window cleaning: the squeegee.

A squeegee pulls all the water and dirt off freshly washed glass, leaving nothing but the shine. It works with a little natural dish soap in a bucket of water, so using it is very ecofriendly. Squeegeed windows even stay cleaner longer because you aren’t putting a static charge on them that will attract dust and fuzz which is what happens when you clean glass with rags or paper. 

So find yourself a sturdy squeegee and follow these simple steps to getting your cleanest windows yet. 

squeegee and bucket
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What You'll Need

Squeegee—make sure that you don't get one wider than your window
Large bucket
2 soft, absorbent, and preferably lint-free cloths
Natural liquid dishwashing soap—you can find an easy-to-make recipe here.
A handle extension or appropriate-height ladder (if any of your windows are too high to reach)
Razor blade scraper for stubborn gunk and paint spots and such

Related: 8 Ways To Keep Housecleaning Nontoxic

soapy water in bucket
Prep Your Window

Dust your window with one of your cloths, remove the screen (if any), and brush or vacuum out any dirt lurking in the track or frame where the window or screen fits. If you have removable mullions—grills designed to make it look as if the window is made up of multiple panes—take those out as well. Put a few inches of water in your bucket, add a squirt of dishwashing soap, soak your sponge or window scrubber, and squeeze most of the water out of it by hand.

Related: 5 Household Toxins You Should Banish From Your Home

washing window
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Wash Your Window

Use the sponge/scrubber to give the whole window a good rub. If you encounter spots that aren’t yielding, use the razor blade on the wet window to help prevent damage and scrape them loose. Do not use a razor blade or anything other than the soft scrubber on windows with protective coatings or energy-efficiency films, except according to the window manufacturer’s instructions.

Finally, clean around the edges where the glass meets the frame and wipe down the frame itself. Lots of gunk can collect there, so sometimes those edges need extra attention. The squeegee works well only on wet glass, so if you find the lower part of the window is dry before you get to it, give that part another once-over with your scrubber before finishing the window.

woman drying the window
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Dry Your Window

Run your second cloth around the edge to dry the frame and the very edge of the glass next to it. Then, holding the squeegee horizontally, place the rubber edge against the glass at one edge of the top of the window and pull it smoothly across the windowpane to the other edge. Lift the squeegee, wipe the edge with your cloth, and repeat—slightly overlapping the last swipe you just made. Repeat with as many swipes as required and when you're finished, dry any drips on the bottom frame or sill with your cloth. If hard-water spots remain, clean them off with a paste of water and Bar Keepers Friend (the powdered kind made of oxalic acid) on a sponge, wipe it down with the soapy water and squeegee dry again. 

Related: 7 Cleaning Mistakes You've Been Making Your Whole Life

man washing outside window
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Outdoor Window Washing

A still, cloudy day is a good day to tackle the outsides, as the wind and the sun tend to dry your windows before you get a chance to squeegee them. If ladders are involved, be sure you know how to use them safely and do your washing when someone else is around to help you if you have a problem. When working over your head with an extension if you don't need a ladder, it's easiest to start at the top and pull the pole down toward you, covering the window with vertical swipes. If you do horizontal swipes inside and vertical ones outside, you’ll be able to easily tell which side any streaks that might remain are on.

Related: 9 Easy-To-Make Non-Toxic DIY Home Cleaners

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Clean Your Screens

There is no sense putting dingy screens back over your sparkling-clean windows. Most of the time, vacuuming gently with a soft brush attachment will remove dust, but if they're really dirty, they'll need to be washed. Be sure to do that against a flat surface so you don’t stretch or damage the screening.

Spread a couple of old towels on a picnic table, place one screen at a time flat on the towels and scrub both sides with a soft scrub brush and water with a squirt of dishwashing soap in it. Lean the scrubbed screen against a wall and rinse the dirty water off with a hose. Dry and reinstall.