What Is the Most Efficient Way to Clean Car Windows?

Getting your car windows and windshield sparkling clean is not just a matter of making your car shiny and beautiful, but it also increases safety levels while on the road. Therefore, it’s essential you keep them as clean as possible. 

So, what is the most efficient way to clean car windows? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Start by cleaning the outer and inner sides of the windows, without forgetting about the top ridge of each glass. 
  2. For best results, you should use a spray glass cleaner on every surface, which you can then wipe off with a new microfiber cloth. 
  3. Lastly, use a glass polish or clay to get rid of residual watermarks.

Of course, this is just a summary of the task. Read on to learn for a more comprehensive tutorial on how to clean your car windows efficiently and quickly!

What Do You Need to Clean Your Car Windows?

There is nothing worse than looking around with soapy hands trying to find an elusive cloth! So, it is a good idea to gather all the tools and materials that you will need later before starting the job. 

Picking your glass cleaner

There are over 15 different types of glass cleaners on the market, as well as thousands of brands. Each of them might have unique features, and you can pick the one that best suits your taste, budget, and needs. 

Some of them can be particularly useful against rust accumulation or residual watermarks, while others aim at getting rid of grease or grime. When picking the best cleaner for your situation, you should also consider that they come in different formats such as:

  • Liquid – to be mixed with water before application
  • Spray Bottles – ready to use
  • Foam – perfect to remove stubborn stains with a more robust chemical without damaging the car paint.

Sponge, bucket, and distilled water

If you have opted for spray or foam bottles, you won’t need to collect buckets, and the process will be more straightforward. 

However, using a liquid cleaner can have some other attractive benefits, such as the option to adjust the density and strength of the product depending on how dirty your car windows are. If you are using liquid detergent, you will need a bucket and sponge to distribute it across your windows, as well as distilled water to create the blend.

Picking the cloth

While the absorbent paper or newspaper sheets have been the go-to solutions for many car owners when it comes down to cleaning windows, such materials have some side effects to consider. They can leave watermarks, fragments, or ink streaks behind. 

Instead, you should opt for a standard microfiber cloth that can absorb both the residual chemicals and moisture. In any case, you will need at least two different cloths, one to clean the glasses from the inside and one to wipe their exterior. Moreover, you could consider buying a third, sturdier cloth to eliminate the spots and grime that can naturally accumulate on your windshield.

Cleaning Your Car’s Windows: A Step by Step Guide

Here is a quick summary of the steps you need to follow to get your car windows to shine in no time. While we are going to have a look at each stage in more detail in the sections below, it is worth considering what the whole process looks like before beginning.

  1. Wash your car
  2. Prepare your cleaner and gather your cloths
  3. Wash the exterior of your windows
  4. Clean the interior of your windows 
  5. Roll down your windows and wipe the top of each
  6. Focus on the windshield and rear window
  7. Clean up any stubborn watermarks

Okay, now that you are all caught up, let’s have a look at how to perform each task most efficiently!

How to Clean Car Windows From Outside

Wash your car

When looking at cleaning your car windows, you should always start by cleaning the vehicle itself. Doing this after you have spent hours getting your windows to shine can leave annoying water and soap marks on the surfaces. 

Instead, before starting to treat the glasses, bring your car to a professional or automatic car wash. Otherwise, you could consider investing a little more time and wash your car at home and end the day with a thorough windows clean-up.

Apply the cleaner onto the glass

The specific directions for this step depend on whether you are using spray, liquid, or foam glass cleaner. In any case, you should proceed to apply it evenly to the glass. If you are using liquid detergent, use a new, clean sponge to spread the chemical equation. Instead, if you are handling a spray bottle, just nebulize the glass cleaner on the area that you are aiming to clean.

Since such potent substances can easily damage the car paint if left on for too long, it is recommendable only to clean one window at a time. Proceed to the next one only after your previous one is free of chemicals and clean. 

Wipe in different directions

Using a clean microfiber cloth, absorb the residual glass cleaner as well as any water that is lingering on the window’s edges. While newspapers might be a cheaper and valid alternative, they might leave behind ink marks and be counterproductive.

As you are proceeding to wipe your windows clean, remember to use different motion patterns. Start by wiping the glass cleaner vertically across the glass and then repeat the action following a horizontal movement. This trick will help you reduce stripes and smears that can make your windows look scruffy even after hours of deep cleaning.

How to Clean Car Windows From Inside

Once the outer side of your windows is sparkling clean, it is time to proceed with the inside! This part might seem more delicate at first, but it can sometimes be dirtier than the outside. Indeed, nicotine, smog, pollution, and dust particles can quickly build-up on the windows, creating a layer of dirt that can build up over time. Aside from giving your car a scruffy look, such a patina can lower the levels of safety while driving. 

Spray the cleaner onto the cloth

Spraying the cleaner directly on the windows might cause the chemicals to land on your upholstery, furniture, and plastic elements. Since glass cleaners can contain strong degreasers and abrasives, it is essential to avoid spilling them. Instead, you should opt for spraying the cleaner onto a microfiber cloth, away from the more delicate parts of your car. 

Moreover, if you have just finished cleaning the exterior sides of your windows, it is recommendable to swap your cloth for a fresh one. Using the same microfiber wipe can transfer the grease cleaned from the exterior of your car into the inside of it. In turn, such oil will end up on your seat, handle, or even steering wheel.

When picking a cloth for the inside of your windows, you can stick with microfiber. Such fabrics will absorb the moisture before it spills onto other parts of your car. At the same time, if you are dealing with nicotine patinas or stubborn stains, microfiber is an excellent material for scrubbing without the danger of damaging the glass. 

Scrub in different directions

After soaking the new cloth in a glass cleaner, proceed to use it to wipe the windows. Proceed with similar movements to the ones adopted to clean the exterior of the window. Circular motions can leave streaks behind that are extremely difficult to eliminate later on without having to rewash the windows. 

Instead, you should focus on repeating side-to-side and up-and-down movements until the whole window is clean. While, of course, such moves can leave behind some marks, they will still be limited compared to the ones you could see if you had followed another method.

Wipe the windows dry

While suggested, this step is not essential if you are washing your car windows outdoors during a hot summer day. However, if your work shift is starting in about an hour and your car windows are still dripping, you could opt to dry them with a fresh, dry cloth. This trick can not only speed up the whole process, but it can also avoid you having to deal with annoying watermarks later on. 

For this step, the ideal tool is another clean and dry microfiber cloth. In this way, you won’t have to worry about leaving behind fragments or having to re-wipe your windows.  

How to Clean Tinted Car Windows

Tinting your car windows is not only an aesthetic choice, but it can also increase the level of safety on the road as well as the driver’s privacy. Best of all, they can make any car look elegant and sleek while protecting you from 99% of UV rays. 

However, tinted windows won’t remain the same as when you first applied the film without proper maintenance. When it comes down to washing tinted windows, you should take into consideration the fact that they are different from ordinary car windows in many aspects. 

While how often you wash tinted glass, does not make a massive difference, the products used, as well as the environment in which you choose to clean your car, do matter. The methods to use to clean your tinted car windows are similar to the ones listed above. However, you should apply the modifications below for the best results.

Wait until they are ready 

First off, it is essential to avoid washing your newly tinted windows for the first days after applying the screens on the glass. This period can extend to a week, and it is essential to preserve the wellbeing and shape of the film. If you installed the film inside the window, you could proceed to wash the outside of it as usual and with standard products.

Park your car in the shade

As we have seen above, commercial glass cleaners contain strong chemicals that can equally damage the glass and film of car windows. Such products can only stay on the glass for a limited period before removing them with a cloth. Doing so will help you protect the windows and clean the surface of your car efficiently.

However, if you are planning to wash your car at home, the chances are that you will do this during a hot summer day. If this is the case, the liquids and chemicals sprayed on the windows will dry off in a matter of seconds. 

If you give the chemicals the chance to dry on the surface, you might find yourself in the position of having to start the clean-up all over again! Instead, by parking your car in the shade, you will have the chance to proceed with a standard cleaning speed without worrying about sticking chemicals.

Pick the right cleaner

Picking the right chemicals to clean your tinted car windows is potentially the most critical decision to make. Researching your options beforehand might help you decide on the perfect product for you. Most types of commercial window cleaners contain ammonia, which is highly detrimental for tinted car windows, and cars ruin the film quickly if not removed properly. 

Ammonia is a naturally-occurring gas that presents a distinct odor and is colorless. It is in several products in any household, among which cleaning blends designed to break down grime and grease. Ammonia is also part of the blend of fertilizers and used in food production industries. 

While highly effective, if you are looking for a product that can eliminate dirt and spots in no time, ammonia can also be harmful. Especially in cleaning products, where it is present in high quantities, such substances can corrode surfaces. 

The film of your car windows is not as resistant as the glass itself and can, therefore, suffer adverse effects if treated with ammonia. This substance, as well as ammonia-based cleaners, can modify the color of the glass, create breakages, and rupture the film. 

Instead, you will need to opt for a commercial ammonia-free cleaner to preserve the wellbeing of the windows’ film. Alternatively, if you prefer to be aware of every single substance contained by your soap, you can safely mix one at home. Check out the last section of this article to find out what you need for a DIY eco-friendly glass cleaner!

Remove bubbles

If your tinted car windows are not that new, the chances are that they are starting to show air bubbles. Such damage is typical in older films, but it can represent an annoyance while driving and make your car look scruffy. Air bubbles can appear before or after washing your windows, and, in most cases, they are not a consequence of the method used to clean your windows. 

To get rid of such blisters on the film of your windows and restore the classy look of your car, you can try the credit card trick. Pick an old credit card that is not in use anymore, and you don’t mind damage. Wrap your card in a soft piece of cloth and proceed to smooth out the film with light, yet steady movements. Push each bubble towards the edge of the film and expel them from the tinted surface. 

If your car window’s tinted film is attached to the outer side of the glass, you should proceed to remove each bubble before washing your car to avoid that moisture and water penetrating the screen. Indeed, chemicals and water can stagnate in these empty sections in the film and ultimately damage the look and functionality of the tint.

How to Clean the Windshield

The windshield, as well the rear window, is the most challenging glass of your car to clean. Aside from being the most exposed to pollution, particles, dust, and insects, windshields are also more challenging to reach and scrub appropriately due to their location. If you have a long-handled brush with soft bristles at your disposal, you could opt to apply a cloth at the extremity of it and remove additional debris through this tool. 

Generally, to properly clean your windshield, you can follow the methods listed above. While doing so, remember to spray the detergent directly on the surface when treating the outer glass. Oppositely, spray the cleaner onto the cloth to protect your car’s upholstery. 

However, there are a couple of tips that apply specifically to the windshield and can save you a lot of future frustrations. Before starting, don’t forget to lift the windscreen wipers, both on your windshield and rear window!

Remove splatters

Removing splatters and bugs can be hard, especially if they have been on your windshield for quite a while now. Start by removing the most stubborn stains and dirt by using a spray glass cleaner and a sturdy microfiber cloth. 

In some cases, the windshield might boast a tinted band up to the AS-1 line. If you have added such a feature to your car, avoid using any ammonia-based products on that specific part. Indeed, these substances can lead to the discoloration of that band and decrease the levels of safety while driving.

Don’t forget about the wiper blades!

If you have followed the same cleaning method for your side windows and your windshield, all of your car’s glasses should now be clean. However, don’t forget to clean the wiper blades, or wipers, before allowing them to get in contact with the just-cleaned windshield. They often tend to be the part that suffers the most when you are driving through wet or dusty road conditions.

Your dealer might have suggested that they should last even up to a year, but your 2-months old wipers are now leaving streaks across your windshield every time you use them. This situation is widespread, but you can quickly solve it without having to pay to swap your blades for new ones. 

To clean the wipers, you should:

  1. Lift the blades off the windshield
  2. Apply some washer or cleaner fluid on a rag or cleaning cloth. Alternatively, you can use a new sponge soaked with warm soapy water.
  3. Scrub the blades thoroughly
  4. Repeat the movement until the rubber edge is perfectly clean.
  5. Rub a couple of drops of rubbing alcohol on the clean edges to eliminate any washer liquid left in it.

Add Clay

Once the windshield is perfectly clean, free of debris and dry, you can proceed to apply a layer of clay from specifically-designed glass clay bars. Clay bars are resin mixtures that can be either synthetic or natural. 

They aim to remove any additional pollution residues and add a protective layer on the glass. You can treat the glasses, paint, and metal parts of your car with a clay bar, but its usage should be limited to two treatments a year on average. For your windshield, avoid using any aggressive type of clay.

Things to Look out For

Ammonia

As we have seen earlier, ammonia is one of the main ingredients in commercial glass cleaners. While extremely useful, such substances can easily damage the more delicate parts of your car, such as upholstery and window tint. For other options, check out the last section of this article.

Dish soap

To avoid spending large sums to clean your car, you might give in and end up using ordinary dish soap instead of specific glass cleaners. While many car owners still opt for this solution, you should avoid using it on your car’s surfaces or windows. 

Dish soap is an abrasive substance designed to eliminate stubborn food scraps and grease. Due to these properties, dish soap can accelerate the oxidation process of your car’s paint. Using such chemicals on your car paint and windows, especially if tinted, can have counterproductive effects and even ruin the look of your vehicle. 

Park your car in the shade before washing the windows

Even if you have decided to use commercial glass cleaners, these chemicals should not linger on the surface of your glasses for long. Washing your car in the sun means that these chemicals you are using to clean it will dry off in a matter of seconds. 

Unless you start the procedure again, they are likely to stick to the glass until your next car wash. In this case, you can expect them to make the windows look greasy and ruin the overall look of your car.

Avoid paper and newspaper

Absorbent material and newspaper sheets are the most common choices for car owners when it comes down to the weekly or monthly car wash. However, they are not the optimal tools for the job! Even if they might be cheaper than microfiber cloth, they will leave fragments and residues behind, and you might have to rewash your car and windows!

How to Make an Eco-Friendly Cleaner at Home

If you are a fan of a zero-waste, more eco-friendly lifestyle, but you really can’t renounce using your car, you might be able to make at least your clean-ups more sustainable! The products listed below are standard in every household, highly effective, and much more natural than commercial glass cleaners. 

Vinegar

Vinegar is famous for its acidic content, which, in turn, makes it an excellent cleaner and degreaser. To create your home-made cleaning solution, mix the vinegar and water in equal parts. Apply it to your windows through a spray bottle or with a clean sponge.

Corn Starch

If you are looking for a stronger degreaser that can break down even the most stubborn dirt on your windows, but you are skeptical about ammonia, opt for corn starch. This substance is mildly abrasive, but it is safe for children and pets alike. To create your home-made solution, mix ¼ cup of cornstarch and hot water and apply it onto the glass with a microfiber glass.

Lemon Juice 

Looking for an effective solution that is not only effective but can also make your car smell nice? Use lemon! Widely available in every household, lemon is entirely safe for use and highly efficient. For a quick home-made solution, dilute lemon juice in water and use a spray bottle to spread it onto the glass.

Rubbing Alcohol

Also known as Isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol is an effective cleaner for many parts of your car, including glass, metal, and chrome. Since it evaporates quickly, it is essential to mix it with enough water that can help you keep it on the windows for longer.

Final Thoughts

Now there are no secrets left in the world of cleaning your car’s window! On your next day off, start early by washing your whole vehicle, and then proceed to the windows. 

Wash both the inner and the outer sides of each glass, but don’t forget about the top ridge! As you continue to clean the rear window and windshield, make sure you are using products that can get rid of the most stubborn dirt build-ups. If you have installed tinted film on your car, stay clear of ammonia-based products that can lead to discoloration and breakage. 

Lastly, you can easily create an eco-friendly cleaner mix at home by using vinegar, lemon, corn starch, or rubbing alcohol. These substances are more natural, and they can guarantee you the safety of your car’s surfaces!

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