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How to Wash Windows

Wash your windows the fastest way with crystal clear, streak-free results. Try washing windows with a squeegee and I bet you'll never go back to a spray bottle and paper towels. Squeegees get your glass clear and streak free in a fraction of the time it takes with paper towels. In this article, we'll show you the equipment you need and simple steps to follow for fast, clear results.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Start with a good squeegee

The keys to success are buying a good squeegee and keeping it fitted with a sharp, new rubber blade. The same high-quality window washing tools the pros use are readily available at home centers and full-service hardware stores. The whole setup is inexpensive and will last many years. In addition to a 10- or 12-in. squeegee you'll need a scrubber, a bucket (a 5-gallon plastic bucket will work), hand dishwashing liquid and a few lint-free rags or small towels.

Buy a good squeegee and replace the blade frequently. Look for replacement blades, also called rubbers, where you buy the squeegee and pick up two or three to have on hand. The pros we talked to change their squeegee blades as often as once a day. That's because you just can't do a good job if the edge of the blade becomes nicked, sliced or rounded over with use. If your squeegee leaves streaks or just isn't performing like new, don't hesitate to replace the blade (Photos 9 and 10). You can get a little more mileage out of blades that aren't nicked or sliced by simply reversing them to expose a fresh edge. When you store the squeegee, make sure nothing touches the blade.

You don't need fancy buckets or special soap. Any large bucket will do. Just add a couple of gallons of water and about a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and you're ready to go. In warm weather, you'll get a little more working time by using cool water. If you've procrastinated so long that you're washing windows in below-freezing temps (I learned this the hard way), add wind shield washing solution until the water doesn't freeze on the glass. Scrubber or sponge? It's up to you. A scrubber works great and is worth buying if you have a lot of medium to large panes of glass. But a good-quality sponge is all you really need, especially if most of your windowpanes are small.

Our squeegee method is easy to master

Follow our complete how-to in Photos 1 through 7.

Professional window cleaners sweep the squeegee back and forth across the window in one continuous motion. But this “fanning” technique takes practice to master. Instead, the method we show allows you to get great results immediately. We're moving the squeegee horizontally across the glass (Photos 4 – 6), but vertical strokes will work too. If you work vertically, angle the squeegee to direct excess water toward the uncleaned area.

You can use a squeegee inside the house too

The pros do it all the time, even in houses with stained and varnished woodwork. The key is to squeeze most of the soapy water out of the scrubber to eliminate excessive dripping and running. Then rest the scrubber on the edge of the bucket rather than dropping it in the water after each window. Depending on how dirty your windows are, you may be able to wash five or ten windows before rinsing the scrubber. Keep a rag in your pocket to wipe the squeegee and quickly clean up soapy water that runs onto the woodwork. Use a separate clean rag to wipe the perimeter of the glass. New “microfiber” rags (Photo 7) work great for window cleaning. They’re available in the cleaning section of some home centers and hardware stores.

How to change your squeegee blade

Change the squeegee blade if it's nicked, sliced or worn. Photos 9 and 10 show you how.

Tips for hard-to-clean windows

Dried paint, sticky labels, tree pitch and bug crud may not yield to plain soap and water. Here are a few tips for removing this tough grime.

  • Scrape wetted glass with a new, sharp razor blade to remove dried paint (Photo 11).
  • Remove tree pitch or bug droppings with a fine (white) nylon scrub pad. Wet the glass first and rub in an inconspicuous area to make sure you're not scratching the glass.
  • Add 1/2 cup of ammonia per gallon of water to help remove greasy dirt.
  • Loosen sticky residue left from labels or tape by soaking it with a specialty product like Goof Off. You'll find Goof Off in the paint department at hardware stores and home centers. Then scrape off the residue with a razor blade.

Window washing in a nutshell

Once you master the simple technique, you can get your windows sparkling clean in 30 seconds! Follow this 10 photo series.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

Squeege, 10- or 12-in., Scrubber, Pail, Razor blade, Ladder

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

Dish soap, Clean towels

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 9 of 9 comments
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December 04, 1:39 PM [GMT -5]

I have found a strange red haze on my window. Just the glass on the right side, not on the left. It isn't washing off. Any guess what it might be or how I might fix it?

December 02, 6:28 AM [GMT -5]

The professional I hired used a small piece of 0000 steel wool and went over the windows completely while wet. I have found that in doing this it cuts the grime caused by being under the airlines traffic patterns (they dump unused fuel), road dust, fireplace soot, etc. I also want to note that my husband bought a used bucket truck to do the outside work of our large log home which has areas that cannot be reached by a ladder. The truck has outriggers so safety is not such an issue. The house is a walk out basement so the big windows are three stories high. Microfiber cloths do leave tiny fibers where a good chamois will not. Paper towels are out. There are 35 windows and none of them are small. There is nothing more embarrassing as a large window in the direct sunlight that has not been cleaned properly. The morning sun in Colorado is tough and streaks are unforgiving. Blessings.

September 26, 1:55 PM [GMT -5]

Thanks for the tips! I guess that's why they have squeegees at rest stops for your car because it really did make my windows so much better! I want to look into someone who does window cleaning in atlanta ga to get my big windows on the outside of my house, because there is no way I want to get up on a ladder! Thanks again.

September 26, 7:55 AM [GMT -5]

For washing window use of detergent is suitable. First make a solution of detergent and water then apply it to window using sponge. Then leave it for half an hour, then wash it with fresh water and also scrub it with sponge.


snow plowing

July 04, 11:19 AM [GMT -5]

Good advice and tips. One pro window washer we hired used TSP in the cleaning solution. He claimed it to be his secret weapon. Has anyone else used or tried this?

May 29, 6:43 PM [GMT -5]

Great article for all the DIYers out there!

Super clean windows add so much to your home or business. Many times you don't even realize how dirty your windows actually are until they are cleaned.

It is recommended that your windows be cleaned every six months to avoid excess build up. Cleaning every six months also makes the job much easier to do the next time the windows are cleaned. The first time always takes the longest and takes the most elbow grease.

And just as a safety reminder, when working on a ladder, always be sure that the ladder is fully extended and resting on a flat surface. Ladders are very dangerous and should always be used with extreme caution.

Ahoy!

Greg Seki
Shipshape Window Washing
www.shipshapewindowwashing.com

September 24, 3:49 PM [GMT -5]

I agree this is very close to how we do it. I prefer a smaller razor blade giving you more control and less of a chance of scratching the windows. Also if you do use a razor do it when it is wet and soapy, it will slide easier and prevent scratching.

Ben Trueman
B & B Window and Gutter Cleaning
www.bandbwg.com

August 25, 9:42 AM [GMT -5]

I am a professional window cleaner. Your tips are very good for the homeowner!
You should add one step at the very beginning, though.
Use a dust brush, or better yet, a shop vacuum with a crevice tool, to get all of the dust, cobwebs, dead bugs, etc. out of the tracks and from around the frame and sills (inside and out).
Do this first; otherwise when you wet the window and the water drips down into the tracks you'll just have a nasty muddy mess to deal with!

June 05, 1:59 PM [GMT -5]

This method is a great improvement over spray bottles and newspapers!

However, windows have frames as well. I would suggest adding a whiskbroom to your materials list and use it to brush dust and cobwebs off the frame and sill before cleaning the windows.

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