An Easy (and Painless!) Way to Clean Windows — Inside and Out

published May 13, 2024
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Credit: Anna Spaller

Now that the weather is warming up, it’s an excellent time to extend your cleaning tasks to the windows throughout your home. And yes — it’s possible to clean them inside and out without hiring someone. 

Below, three experts share how to clean windows: Jeramy Sibley, president of Glass Doctor, a Neighborly company; Mause Ramirez, owner of MCS Cleaning Services; and Michael Wandschneider, director of product development at Marvin, a door and window manufacturer.

What You’ll Need

  • Vacuum with a brush attachment
  • Liquid dish soap or white vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Window squeegee (one with an extension pole is a plus)
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Garden hose with a mist setting

How to Clean Windows

Cleaning your windows can be a simple process — just follow these steps.

Credit: Jennifer Billock

Step 1: Remove screens.

Remove the screens from your windows and set them aside for now. You’ll clean them in a future step.

Credit: Jennifer Billock

Step 2: Vacuum.

Open your windows all the way and use the vacuum with the brush attachment to clean the frame, tracks, and sills. Ramirez notes this is also a good time to remove any curtains, blinds, or shades, and wash those as well.

Credit: Jennifer Billock

Step 3: Clean screens.

Clean the screens by brushing or vacuuming them to get any dust and dirt off. If they need a deeper clean, pop them into the tub or shower and wash them with warm, soapy water. Rinse them and let them dry completely. 

Credit: Jennifer Billock

Step 4: Clean windows.

Using a spray bottle full of water with a few drops of liquid dish soap or some white vinegar, spray the glass down. Use a wet sponge to wipe the windows clean.

Credit: Jennifer Billock

Step 5: Dry with a squeegee or microfiber cloth.

Using a squeegee or a microfiber cloth, wipe the windows dry from top to bottom. Keep wiping any streaky areas until the glass is clear. 

Credit: Jennifer Billock

Step 6: Check the outside.

Now, go outside. Wandschneider says this is the time to clear the weep holes on your window, “which can be found in the bottom of channels that are built into the sill to prevent water from accumulating during rainstorms.” Just shove a pipe cleaner through them to ensure any blockages are removed. 

Credit: Jennifer Billock

Step 7: Clean the outside windows.

Repeat steps 4 and 5 on the outside windows, then spray them down with a hose with the mist setting. Ensure the weep holes are draining properly. 

Credit: Jennifer Billock

Step 8: Put everything back.

Replace the screens, hang your curtains or shades, and enjoy your newly clean windows. 

What if you live in an apartment or on a high floor?

Living on a higher floor or in an apartment building (or having a multi-story home) doesn’t mean you won’t be able to clean the outside of your windows on your own. You may even have ones that can open inward specifically so you can clean them.

If they don’t open inward and you have multiple stories, Wandschneider suggests starting at the top floor and working your way down — that way the mess from above doesn’t seep down onto newly clean windows.

If you’re able to, get an extension pole with a squeegee or window cleaner attachment and try to reach the second-floor windows from outside on the ground, Ramirez says. If you can’t reach them, you can rent a scissor lift. Sibley notes that you can also use the extension pole from the inside, reaching up through the windows to clean the outside glass if you remove the screen, as long as the pole is long enough. Just don’t push it if you’re not feeling safe.

“If you’re uncomfortable with heights or do not have the tools you need, consider hiring a professional window cleaning service,” Sibley says. “They have experts who can safely clean windows on higher floors.”

What Not to Do When Cleaning Windows

Sibley, Ramirez, and Wandschneider also had some advice about what not to do with your windows to ensure they clean properly and don’t break while you’re trying to get them dirt-free. Wandschneider and Sibley both suggest avoiding harsh chemicals, cleaners with ammonia, and anything with a high alcohol content because those cleaners can cause windows to deteriorate. It can make it easier for the glass to become damaged or lose clarity. 

Ramirez advises skipping hot, sunny days when you’re cleaning windows. “Firstly, the sun can cause the cleaning solution to evaporate too quickly, leaving behind streaks and spots,” he says. “Secondly, extreme temperatures can sometimes cause windows to crack upon contact with water.”