How to care for windows


If we were to take a survey, washing windows probably ranks right up there with carrying out the garbage and changing diapers. But it doesn’t have to be as bad as all that. Mastering the chore begins with breaking it down into steps:

  • Gather supplies
  • Remove furniture
  • Get blinds, curtains, and shades out of the way
  • Remove screens &/or storm windows
  • Prepare cleaning solution
  • Dust frame and window
  • Use a damp cloth to remove excess dirt
  • Wash windows
  • Dry windows
  • Replace window coverings and furniture

As you well know, preparation is the biggest part of the job. Learning tips from the professionals on how to care for windows can make the job less distasteful.


Avoid using any abrasive materials that will scratch the glass. Modern windows are much easier to open for cleaning than the old style double sash models.

Methods for cleaning the casements will differ depending on the material. As always, be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations. This is especially true for wooden windows.  Care of wooden windows will be quite different than aluminum or other materials.


Cleaning method #1

There are many variations on the traditional method of window washing. All methods wet the glass, then wash and dry. What varies is what cleanser you choose and what you use to apply it.

Common cleansers range from vinegar to an array of household cleansers, including ammonia. Cleaning devices may be a rag, towel, Chamois, spray bottle, or squeegee. Wiping the clean glass may be done with any of the above (except the spray bottle, of course) or with old newspapers.

Mix the cleanser of choice in a bucket or washbasin, or use a spray bottle. Apply to the entire pane of glass. Work on one surface at a time. Then move on to the drying phase. Most cleansers will not require a rinse.

Mastering streaks

One of the difficult things to overcome is the inevitable streaks you discover after you’ve already put away all the cleaning supplies. One way to avoid this is to wash vertically on the outside and horizontally on the inside (or vice versa). Then, when you discover streaks, you’ll know which side they’re on.

Professional method

Professionals use a squeegee for cleaning windows. They also suspend from scaffolding 40 stories high. Adopt whichever of their methods that seem appropriate for your window washing tasks.

Invest in a good quality squeegee if you decide to use this method. Buy extras blades (also known as “rubbers”) and replace them once they become nicked or misshapen. Wet the scrubber in a pail of water with a dishwashing detergent. Then moisten the entire pane you are working on. Being careful to maintain contact with the glass, move the squeegee across the surface. Work horizontally, starting at the top. As you move down, overlap a couple inches. Once finished, wipe the outer edges with a lint-free rag or towel.

You may prefer to work vertically. If so, be sure to angle the blade to direct water onto the uncleaned portion.

Tough cleaning challenges

Exterior windows that have not been cleaned for some time may be prewashed with a garden hose. Be careful not to use too much water pressure.

You will sometimes have to contend with tough stains. The usual offenders are paint, bird droppings, and stickers. You may need to pretreat these before beginning with the regular washing.

Paint drippings: Soak latex paint with a mixture of warm water and baby shampoo. Wipe with damp cloth or sponge. Gently scrape with plastic putty knife. Rinse and repeat. For oil-based paints, consult a professional.

Labels: Attempt to peel off from one corner. If it tears, follow instructions for paint, above. For stubborn cases, soak well, cover with plastic wrap, and leave overnight.

Stubborn stains: Use a commercial glass cleaner or solvent.

Care of hardware and frame

Remember to pay attention to the hardware of your windows. Keeping it clean and lubricated will ensure that windows will open and close easily. Definitely a plus when you’re on your window-cleaning mission. Vacuum or dust frequently. Wash thoroughly at least once a year with a mild cleanser. Do not use abrasive or industrial strength cleaners. Avoid vinegar and cleansers with citrus. Once cleaned, replace lubricant with a light oil or grease. Do not use silicone-based sprays or WD40.

Clean frames before beginning on the window glass. Inspect caulking. Remove any loose or flaking portions. Replace with a good quality caulk.

Wooden frames should be given the same attention you would give your fine furniture. Use a furniture polish. Painted surfaces may be washed with a mild detergent. Rinse and dry when done.

For aluminum, use a mild detergent. Avoid abrasive materials that may scratch the surface. Frames should be rinsed and wiped dry after washing.


There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? The difficulty is not in learning how to care for windows. It’s making yourself get started.