How to Clean Your Car Windows and Keep Them Clean
It never fails. You detail your car, top to bottom, and the weather changes. Snow or rain, frost or wind – they all have the same result. Your car is dirty again, and the first thing you notice is your filthy windows.
It would be great if you could protect your car’s detailing from getting messed up because looking out dirty car windows is a pain. Seeing other traffic is the major issue, but there’s also a bunch of other factors. You can’t easily see the street lights, it strains your eyes trying to peer through the grime, and the light refracts off the dirt causing glare.
Then there’s the inner side of your windows. You don’t expect the need to clean them often because nothing touches them, right? Yet, when your windows are clean on the outside, you still see streaks and dust. That’s from the inside surface of your windows, particularly on your windshield.
What happens is this: air coming into your car from outside has particles carried along with it. The air comes through your vents – like your defroster vents – and blows onto the windshield. It can be oily or just dusty and dirty, and it clings to the inside glass. When the sun shines on it, you see every spec.
Maybe you won’t tackle a complete vehicle detail just because your windows get dirty. That’s too time consuming on such a frequent basis. But you can clean your windows again in just a few minutes, erasing the environmental effects that got it dirty. Here’s how:
How to Clean Your Car Windows Like a Professional
If you’ve gone to a full-service car wash and detailing shop, you’ve seen how the pros clean car windows. It’s not that hard to do, but there are tricks to it.
The first trick is this: use the right equipment. Like the professionals, clean and clear windows that are streak-free starts with the right tools for the job. Here’s what you need:
- Aerosol car glass cleaner such as Invisible Glass Premium Glass Cleaner
- Pump spray bottle of car glass cleaner like this one from Invisible Glass
- A few microfiber cloths – a multipack like these will last a lifetime
That’s all you need to do a great job on your car windows. If your car windows are really dirty, you might want to just squeegee them off at the gas station first.
Step 1: Clean the outside of the windows. The bulk of the dirt and dust is always on the outside. Start there.
- Spray the aerosol glass cleaner directly onto the window. Start with a manageable section. If you’re working on the windshield, spray only one half at first, otherwise the glass cleaner will evaporate away before you get it wiped off.
- Immediately wipe the glass cleaner off with a microfiber cloth. Use a vertical motion at first, then a horizontal wipe over top afterwards. A circular motion often leaves more streaks or noticeable swirls.
- You might need to re-spray and wipe the glass again, especially if your windows weren’t washed first. Use the same motions, but be sure to use a clean cloth.
- Repeat on all the outside glass.
The aerosol glass cleaner helps break up stuck-on substances quickly and doesn’t leave streaks on clean glass.
Step 2: Clean the interior windows. The process is different from the outside glass, so don’t skip past this!
- Spray the pump glass cleaner onto a clean microfiber cloth. Don’t spray directly onto the window or you’ll have settling droplets to clean off your interior!
- Wipe the glass cleaner onto the inner surface of your windows in the same vertical, then horizontal pattern. Work in manageable-sized areas so the glass cleaner isn’t dry before you finish.
- Repeat on all your car windows.
- A second application is a good idea for the best crystal-clear results.
Instead of using car glass cleaner spray on your windows, there’s another option. You can purchase glass cleaning wipes that are disposable. One such product is from Rain-X. The Rain-X glass cleaning wipes are formulated to work well on inside and outside glass.
Window wipes are great for dissolving the road grime and bug remnants that stick to your windshield, but there’s a trade-off. Although they are said to be streak-free, it’s not always the case. Plus, you might find window wipes leave lint behind on your windows. Still, in a pinch, they are a quick solution for dirty car windows, especially for spot touchups.
Do Your Windows Have Aftermarket Tint? Cautious Cleaning Required!
If your car has window tinting from the factory, the process is the same as all your other windows. But if you’ve gone through the effort and expense of having aftermarket window tint installed, the job becomes a little more delicate.
Some glass cleaners and window wipes aren’t safe on tinted windows. If you use these window cleaners on window tint film – on the inside glass where the tint is installed – you can permanently damage the film. Cleaners with ammonia aren’t safe for window tint! In fact, ammonia is used in many instances to remove window tint from glass. Even in low concentrations, its effects can cause hazy, wrinkled, or brittle window tint film if it contacts your tint.
Instead, here’s how to clean tinted car windows.
Choose the Right Glass Cleaner
Look for a product that specifically states that it’s safe on window tint film. Most manufacturers, especially well-known manufacturers, will have a glass cleaning product that is window tint safe. Meguiar’s, Rain-X, Invisible Glass, and even Windex all have ammonia-free products to make cleaning tinted windows safe.
If you’re not sure that a glass cleaner is safe to use on your window tint, don’t use it! You’ve paid good money to darken your windows and you want to keep it that way for the life of your car. At the very least, check the ingredients label to verify that your glass cleaner spray or window wipes do not contain ammonia.
A home remedy you can use is a 25-75 mixture of white vinegar and water instead of glass cleaner. It’s totally safe on your window tint but you might think about pickles as you drive.
Use Non-Abrasive Wipes
Alright, you’re not going to use sandpaper. Other products have abrasive qualities that are safe on glass but can damage window tint. Stay away from using paper towels, newspaper, and scrubbing pads on your window tint. They are too harsh for the soft window tint film and can cause scratches.
The best material to use is a microfiber cloth. It’s soft and gentle, absorbent, and reusable many times over.
Clean Glass As Usual
With the right materials in hand, clean your tinted car windows in the aforementioned way. You’ve set yourself up for success and clean tinted windows.
Wintertime Window Cleaning: It’s Not Quite As Easy
Winter is brutal. Everything is always frozen and it’s hard to keep things clean. It’s even worse when the cold gives way to warmer temperatures for a few days, then freezes again. The mild weather makes for sloppy driving and filthy cars, then freezes hard on your vehicle.
If you want to know how to clean car windows in winter, you’re a real trooper. There are products out there that can help you get a good result.
First of all, you need to get rid of the ice and snow on the outsde of your windows. If you don’t have heated parking, it’s easier said than done. On the market now, there are several products that will aid you in removing ice and snow buildup like CRC Ice-Off Windshield Spray De-Icer.
It’s really easy – all you have to do is point and spray. The de-icer spray contains methanol that melts through the ice and snow, leaving your windshield clear. With the frozen chunks out of the way, you can clean your windows properly.
Next, you want your windows to be warm when you clean them. Otherwise, when you apply glass cleaner, it will freeze onto the glass and won’t wipe away. It’s just another messy situation. Warm up your car interior for a while until the interior is comfortable. Clean the outside windows first, just like you normally would. Then turn your interior fan off and immediately clean the interior windows. If you don’t turn the fan off, the glass cleaner may dry before you can wipe the glass clean, and you’ll have to start over.
Battling Hard Water Spots? Here’s an Easy Solution
If you’re using a water source that isn’t treated, like in a rural area or well water, you could get unsightly water spots on your glass after a carwash. Your usual glass cleaner might not take the hard water spots off, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with them. Here’s how to clean hard water spots off car windows.
Remember that home remedy for gently cleaning window tint? That’s right – vinegar and water. That’s exactly what you can use to remove hard water spots from your car windows. The vinegar contains natural acids that help dissolve minerals that dry onto your glass. You may need to allow the solution to soak for a few moments before wiping it off of your windows. Aside from the short soak, you can clean your windows like normal.
There are plenty of products on the market today to clean your car windows. Whether you need a glass cleaner or window wipes that are safe on window tint film or just want a streak-free finish, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to clean your car windows like the professionals.
Once your windows are clean, you can help them stay clean for longer. Treat your outside windows with Rain-X Glass Treatment. Water, both clean and dirty, will bead off your glass too. And if you need cleaning products for your leather seats, we have created a guide of the best leather conditioners and cleaners to buy.