Window Washing: 201 The Extra Grimy Ones

Dear Home-Ec 101:
We just moved into an older house and I don’t think anyone has cleaned the windows in years. We had it pressure washed and used Windex but the windows still look covered in grime. Are there any other solutions I can use that will get off the tough dirt.
Signed,
Let The Sunshine In, Please?

how to clean really dirty windows

Heather says:

Windows initially get grimy due to moisture and dust. The windows develop condensation, dust in the wind adheres to the pane. In the spring pollen joins in the game creating a nice layer of filth. Tree sap? Oh yeah that’s a joy to remove. To add to the fun mineral deposits can form if you have masonry or wire screens. Fun, right?

First use slightly soapy water and a natural bristle brush and a squeegee. Use the brush to gently scrub the glass. Rinse the brush often to ensure no trapped dirt is lurking to create scratches in the glass. If your windows are divided into panes, you may need to cut a squeegee to fit. Wipe the blade between each use and pull straight down to remove the water and avoid streaking. Wipe the blade again to avoid transferring dirt from one pane to the next. If your window is a picture window start in the top corner of your dominant hand and pull straight to the other side, making an S or reverse S turn as needed. Try to keep the squeegee in contact with the glass at all times to avoid streaking.

If the window is near a tree, some of the problem may be tree sap. A product like Oops! or Goo Gone may be very helpful.

clean windows

Click the picture for more tips!

If this doesn’t greatly improve the situation you may have mineral deposits and it’s time to use Bar Keepers Friend -look on the cleaning aisle near the other scrubbing powders). Be very careful choosing scrubbing powders, some brands are NOT safe for glass which is why I am so fond of BKF.  Sprinkle the BKF on a damp rag and gently buff the glass with a back and forth motion. This may be a little time consuming, but is certainly more cost effective than giving up and replacing the windows.

Good luck!

Send your domestic queries to helpme@home-ec101.com.



9 Comments

  1. Mira7 on May 31, 2012 at 1:51 am

    just found the BEST solution for cleaning windows or any glass…….a bit of cornstarch in water, and then go back over – just once with a clean lint free cloth. absolutely amazing – no streaks ever. takes about 30 seconds!

    • Bonaria Blackie on July 26, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Mira7: I just used your cornstarch and water, and I just cannot BELIEVE the results! My windows are sparkling clean ( I hadn’t cleaned them in years!) and not a single smear!

  2. Taylor on December 30, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    I had never thought of using bar keepers friend on windows, but if it doesn't scratch glass it might be worth a shot. Thanks for the tips.

  3. Wendy on December 30, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Wow, thanks. I needed that. But I'm not looking forward to the work frankly. It just needs to be done. Maybe I'll wait until Spring. It's awfully cold out…

    • HeatherSolos on December 30, 2009 at 2:22 pm

      I plan on posting a reminder to tackle the windows during the Spring Cleaning Series. Lucky folks in FL and CA aren't bound by the seasons.

  4. Karen on December 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    We bought an older home and have just moved in, ourselves. Our windows also look very dirty–however, our problem is that the seals have failed in the double panes. I could wash from now till the cows come home and the cloudy look would never go away.
    We are just saving up until we can afford replacements.

    • HeatherSolos on December 30, 2009 at 3:37 pm

      I feel for you, Karen. There's a busted seal in one of our kitchen windows, it annoys me to no end and there really is nothing you can do for it. Some people try to sell repair kits, but I've never heard reliable feedback.

  5. tea on December 30, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    When we first bought our 1926 craftsman style bungalow, I tried everything to clean the windows. Nothing worked, they still looked dirty and cloudy. I was ready to give up and have the windows replaced. Someone from the historical society suggested it wasn’t dirt, but mineral etching, fine scratches and pitting that made the windows look that way. At his suggestion, I got a glass restoration kit from the auto parts store. Today our windows are beautiful and I am glad we could save them.

    • HeatherSolos on December 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm

      Excellent advice, thanks! You know, if you have glassware that has mineral etching you can use plain white toothpaste to polish it up.

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