Want to know the best ways to clean windows but are overwhelmed with the wealth of window cleaning products and the array of hints and tips you're offered from every cleaning expert and supermarket shelf? Here, we offer you a definitive, no-fuss, quick and easy guide to cleaning windows, so that you have sparkling clean windows year round, for as little effort and cost as possible.
Before you clean your windows...
Don't start cleaning the windows until you've checked these quick tips:
- Is it a sunny day? If it is, hold off until a cloudy day – it might be easier to see smears on a sunny day, but the sun drying the windows too quickly is usually the cause of any streaks in the first place.
- Have you brushed, swept or vacuumed the window? It's sooo much easier to wash windows that are free of dust, so vacuum the sash, frames and sills first. Plus, doing so will ensure there's no muddy, soupy mess on the floor afterwards.
- Have you removed window dressings? This isn't a must, but if you're doing an annual, thorough blitz, it makes sense, especially if your window dressings are a) in the way and b) likely to be dirtied easily by drips and splashes. Plus, you can use this as a good opportunity to have curtains and blinds cleaned or freshened.
- Have you got some newspaper handy? If you've only got a couple of microfibre clothes, buffing your clean, dry glass with crumpled newspaper will give your windows a sparkling, streak-free finish.
The best ways to clean windows
There are so many routes to go down, depending on how dirty your windows are, how big they are and how much time you have. We've split the various best ways to clean windows to reflect what you might be tackling.
1. Get a streak-free finish on fairly clean windows with microfibre cloths and water
If your windows are given a regular wipe over and aren't hideously dirty, you can simply use a damp microfibre cloth to wet them, and a dry cloth (or a series of dry ones) to dry them off and achieve a streak-free finish.
The upside to these cloths is that they can be simply popped in the washing machine, ready for use next time, making them a fairly eco-friendly way of cleaning windows. Plus, you can use a squeegee before you dry off the windows with your microfibre cloth to cut down on the cloths you use and get the job done even faster.
What not to do: Swap out microfibre cloths for kitchen roll? Most will disintegrate when they get wet and they will leave lint deposits on the window panes.
Find more chemical-free cleaning hacks in our guide.
2. Use soapy water and a scratchy sponge to remove medium-grade dirt
If microfibre cloths aren't coping with the dirt on your window – maybe it's not stubborn, but it's definitely copious – you might need to take a solution of washing up liquid and warm water to it.
Start by wiping the soapy water on with an abrasive sponge, then rinse the windows with clean water; use a squeegee to get any further soapy deposits off; then use the microfibre cloths for a streak-free finish.
What not to do: Make the water too bubbly – soapy suds will be left as filmy streaks on your windows and you'll wish you'd never started.
3. Remove stubborn dirt with a natural solution: vinegar
Vinegar is probably what your grandparents used to wash their windows – and it's still seen as a really effective way to remove stubborn dirt. Better still, it's non-toxic and anti-bacterial. To make your own vinegar-based window cleaning solution, simply add two tablespoons of it to a small bucket of warm water. Then follow the steps for using soapy water (but be sure to wear rubber gloves).
If dirt is really, really ground on, put the vinegar solution in a spray bottle and apply to the panes, then leave for a few minutes before tackling with your sponge.
What not to do: Use a vinegar solution on any windows that have matt-painted or undercoated-only frames – you might find the frames stain. Oh, and air the room afterwards – the fumes won't hurt you but they can be pretty strong.
4. Resort to a professional cleaning fluid if you can't face the vinegar
If you're set on using a chemical cleaner, we'd recommend a product that professional window cleaners use (and that we've tried out): HG Window Cleaner.
It does not contain ammonia or methylated spirits and complies with all professional requirements, as it is pH-neutral and does not damage paint, varnish or plastic. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for best results.
What not to do: Clean the upstairs window from a ladder outside: leave that to the pros.
5. Get large expanses of dirty glass clean quickly with a window vac
If your house has a large glazed extension or if you're lucky enough to have lots of large windows all around the house PLUS your home is somewhere that's prone to dirt build-up on windows, a window vac can help you get the window cleaning job done quickly – and with good results.
Choose a cordless model with decent battery life, and bear in mind that these cleaning appliances do tend to do the job best with a cleaning fluid, so if you're looking for a natural solution that doesn't involve chemicals, you may like to keep reading.
Read our Kärcher Window Vac review for an idea of how a window vac works (and how well).
What not to do: Invest in one of these for small window panes; these appliances are best suited to expanses of glass.
6. How to clean windows with lemon
This is a simple alternative to window cleaners that both cleans and has a mild abrasive action. Simply cut a lemon in half, taking care to remove all pips, and rub the lemon half all over your window, finishing with a lint-free cloth. This method will work best on smaller windows as it's quite labour- (and lemon-) intensive. Find more ways to clean your home with lemon using our guide.