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How to Clean Windows

Wash your windows the fastest way with crystal clear, streak-free results. Try washing windows with a squeegee and 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. Check out the basic window washing equipment you need and the simple steps to follow for fast, clear results when cleaning windows.

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Basic window washing equipment is all you needFamily Handyman

Basic window washing equipment is all you need

When cleaning windows, the same high-quality window washing tools the pros use are readily available at home centers and full-service hardware stores that you can use in this how to clean windows project that will make your windows look like the pros. The whole setup is inexpensive and will last many years. In addition to a 10- or 12-in. squeegee basic window washing equipment includes a scrubber, a bucket (a 5-gallon plastic bucket will work), hand dishwashing liquid and a few lint-free rags or small towels. Keep your squeegee fitted with a sharp, new rubber blade. Purchase 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. 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.

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Our squeegee method is easy to masterFamily Handyman

Our squeegee method is easy to master

The best homemade window cleaning solution is to just add a couple of gallons of water and about a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid in your bucket, and you're ready to go for window washing. Some people also opt to use vinegar and water to clean windows. 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, 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. Step one for cleaning windows: Dip the scrubber in the bucket and squeeze excess water from the scrubber. Will you need to use a ladder when you wash your windows? If so, consider using a ladder stabilizer.

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Scrub the glassFamily Handyman

Scrub the glass

The first step in the exterior window cleaning process is to scrub the glass, working at all angles to clean the edges. Make sure to cover every square inch of the glass. This technique allows you to get great results immediately. We're moving the squeegee horizontally across the glass, but vertical strokes will work too. If you work vertically, angle the squeegee to direct excess water toward the uncleaned area.

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Clean a starting stripFamily Handyman

Clean a starting strip

Tip the squeegee so that only the corner contacts the glass. Then, starting at the top corner of the glass, clean a narrow strip of glass from top to bottom on one side. This clean strip makes it easier to start the horizontal stokes.

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Squeegee across the topFamily Handyman

Squeegee across the top

Press the squeegee blade against the glass in the upper corner and pull it steadily across the window. Concentrate on keeping the top of the squeegee in contact with the top edge of the window.

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Wipe the squeegee cleanFamily Handyman

Wipe the squeegee clean

Wipe the blade on the clean towel in your front pocket or wipe it across the scrubber to remove dirt and excess water.

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Work down the windowFamily Handyman

Work down the window

Begin again, with the top of the squeegee overlapping the previous stroke about 2 in. Pull the squeegee across the window at an angle to direct excess water down. Wipe and repeat.

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Wipe off excess waterFamily Handyman

Wipe off excess water

The next step in exterior window cleaning is to use the rag in your pocket to wipe up excess water along the bottom edge of the window. Then poke your finger into a dry spot on a separate lint-free rag and run it around the perimeter of the window to remove any remaining suds. Wipe off any streaks using a clean area of the lint-free rag. Change rags when you can't find any fresh, clean areas.

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You can use a squeegee inside the house, too!Family Handyman

You can use a squeegee inside the house, too!

The pros do this all the time, even in houses with stained and varnished woodwork. When cleaning windows, 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 10 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. Microfiber rags work great for window cleaning. For divided-lite windows, use a sponge and a small squeegee. If you can't find a small enough squeegee, you can cut off a larger one to fit your glass size for a DIY window cleaner. Scrub the glass with a wrung out sponge. Then use the tip of the squeegee to clear a narrow strip at the top. Pull the squeegee down and wipe the perimeter.

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Changing a squeegee blade, Step 1Family Handyman

Changing a squeegee blade, Step 1

Remove the worn out blade. Grab the end of the blade and stretch it out to expose the metal clip. Slide the clip off. Then slide the blade out the opposite end. Blades without clips are held by screws and the clamp on the handle.

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Changing a squeegee blade, Step 2Family Handyman

Changing a squeegee blade, Step 2

Install the new blade. Slide it into the metal channel. Stretch it and reinstall the metal clip. If necessary, cut the end of the blade to leave 1/8 to 3/16 in. protruding from the channel.

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Tips for hard-to-clean windowsFamily Handyman

Tips for hard-to-clean windows

Remove paint specks and labels with a razor blade mounted in a holder. Always use a new blade to avoid scratching the glass. Wet the window first and push the blade across once. Rinse the blade and repeat on the next section to avoid trapping debris under the blade that could scratch the glass. Don't use a razor blade on tempered glass.
  • 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.
  • Clean tough glass stains and built-up mineral deposits from shower doors and other glass surfaces using mild household abrasives and an ordinary power drill. Here's how.
  • Use this glass cleaning solution for tough spots: Add 1/2 cup of ammonia per gallon of water to help remove greasy dirt for a DIY window cleaner
  • 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.

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Recap: 10 easy steps to clean windows. Step 1Family Handyman

Recap: 10 easy steps to clean windows. Step 1

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

Scrub the glass, covering every square inch.

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Step 2Family Handyman

Step 2

Clean a narrow strip of glass from top to bottom.

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Step 3Family Handyman

Step 3

Pull the squeegee steadily across the window.

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Step 4Family Handyman

Step 4

Clean the squeegee blade.

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Step 5Family Handyman

Step 5

Make a horizontal pass.

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Step 6Family Handyman

Step 6

Angle the squeegee to direct excess water down.

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Step 7Family Handyman

Step 7

Wipe the blade and repeat.

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Step 8Family Handyman

Step 8

Overlap the previous pass by about 2 in.

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Step 9Family Handyman

Step 9

Repeat horizontal passes across the window.

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Step 10Family Handyman

Step 10

Wipe excess water from the edges of the window.