Homemade Window and Glass Cleaner

Clean

This easy homemade glass cleaner leaves your windows streak-free and sparkling clean every time.

Hand in rubber glove using a sponge and homemade glass cleaner recipe on window

This DIY glass and window cleaner is one of my favorites because it’s so cost-effective, and yet it works so well. You don’t have to limit its use to windows, either. I use it on glass surfaces throughout my home, including the fronts of framed photos and my glass shower doors.

Window and Glass Cleaner Tips

Window cleaning is never a fun task. It’s even more miserable when the glass cleaner you’re using leaves streaks. It’s so frustrating to put out all that time and effort to clean your windows only to see lines appear when the sun changes position.

With 36 windows in our house, I need a window cleaner that works quickly, cleans thoroughly, and doesn’t cost a lot. So, I set out to create a homemade window and glass cleaner that gets the job done right the first time.

What the Ingredients Do

Sharing homemade cleaner recipes always leads to questions about whether certain ingredients can be swapped for others. In general, homemade cleaning recipes are written the way they are for a reason. Unlike cooking recipes, it’s not always easy to substitute ingredients in DIY cleaning products.

So, let me explain why this glass cleaner recipe uses what it does. And, if you’d rather just get on with mixing up your homemade window and glass cleaner, scroll down to the recipe below.

A Little Soap

If windows only got coated with dirt and pollen, a good strong spray of water would be enough to get them clean. But windows also acquire a different, more stubborn kind of mess known as city grime. This is, essentially, the product of smog and other airborne particles that coat hard surfaces. When water interacts with city grime, it can actually make the mess cling harder. That’s why you find dirty, hard spots on your exterior windows even after heavy rain.

Soap contains fatty substances that encapsulate greasy dirt particles, allowing them to be easily rinsed away. It helps separate city grime from glass. But the amount of soap matters.

Don’t just squirt it in there randomly: the same fatty properties that give it such cleaning power can also, when used in excess, leave streaks on windows. In this window and glass cleaner recipe, we’re using dish soap — “washing up liquid,” for UK readers — because it has additional grease-fighting properties. Note that you just need a couple of drops; using too much will leave a film, so pay attention as you add it.

Plain Distilled White Vinegar

White vinegar, which is mildly acidic, cuts through that grime on your windows to clean them. It also helps dissolve the bonds between glass and things like bird droppings or dead bugs. The storebought version is roughly 5% acidity and works fine in this recipe — there’s no need to buy a pricey “cleaning vinegar.”

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is not a good substitute in this homemade window glass cleaner recipe. In fact, it’s rarely a good substitute in any homemade cleaning recipe. That’s because ACV contains pectin, which is a form of soluble fiber. On shiny surfaces like glass and windows, pectin will cause streaks. On other surfaces, it leaves a residue that attracts pests. So, save the ACV for your salad dressing or bath.

Rubbing (Isopropyl) Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is known as “surgical spirits” in the UK. In the United States, it is commonly sold in the first aid section of grocery, discount, or drugstores. It is not the same type of alcohol used in cocktails or other adult beverages.

Although rubbing alcohol has great disinfecting properties that make it fantastic in this homemade floor cleaner recipe, no one really needs germ-free windows. The reason it’s in this recipe is that it evaporates quickly, which keeps this homemade window and glass cleaner from leaving streaks.

Rubbing alcohol comes in various strengths, typically ranging from 70% to 90%, depending on how much water has been added. The higher the percentage, the less water it contains, and the faster it will evaporate. So, while you can certainly use 90% rubbing alcohol in this recipe, you will need to work very quickly to avoid leaving streaks. I stick with 70% rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol for that reason.

How to Clean Windows and Glass

Using squeegee to remove homemade glass and window cleaner after scrubbing
Using squeegee to remove homemade glass and window cleaner after scrubbing

Choose the right weather conditions. It’s best to clean windows on an overcast, non-windy day. Glass that’s been warmed by the sun will cause the ingredients in this homemade glass cleaner to evaporate too quickly and leave streaks. (That’s true of any window cleaning product, by the way.) The wind will do the same.

Work one direction per side. If you are cleaning both sides of a window, work the squeegee in opposite directions on each side. If you can’t open the window, try these steps to fix stuck windows before you begin. Using a top-to-bottom approach on the exterior and a left-to-right method on the interior will help you quickly identify which side has any streaks. (Though with this homemade glass cleaner recipe, that won’t happen.)

Scrub, then squeegee. After applying glass cleaner, scrub the window and then use a squeegee to dry it quickly. (I’ve recently started using this window cleaning tool that has both scrubbing and squeegee sides, plus it attaches to any universal extension pole to make cleaning tall windows much easier.)

Skip the paper products. Newspapers used to be a fantastic way to dry windows after cleaning them, but might not be a good solution anymore. Although more economical to use than paper towels, modern printers use a thin paper that easily tears when it gets wet, so you might wind up with bits of it all over your window.

Homemade Window and Glass Cleaner

The recipe below makes enough to fill a standard spray bottle. I don’t fill a bucket with glass cleaner to do my windows because getting dirt into the mixture leaves streaks. If you want to mix up a bucket of it, you’ll need to dump it out and make a new batch once it starts looking dingy.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol (“surgical spirits” in the UK)
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3 drops dishwashing liquid
  • Empty spray bottle
  • Squeegee and microfiber cloth

Directions:

  1. Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake gently to mix.
  2. Spray the glass liberally then lightly scrub with a microfiber cloth to loosen any grime.
  3. Spray the glass a second time then immediately press the squeegee’s rubber strip against the glass and pull it down the window in a smooth stroke.
  4. Wipe the squeegee blade with a dry cloth and repeat. Continue working until you’ve squeegeed the entire window, always wiping your blade between strokes.
  5. To dry any remaining drops on the corners and edges of your window, put a clean section of a dry microfiber cloth over your fingertip and quickly wipe.
  6. Always wash your squeegee blade after you’re finished cleaning glass windows, so it’s clean and ready for the next use.

Try These Homemade Cleaners, Too!

Save money and get your home brilliantly clean with these other easy DIY cleaning recipes.

19 Comments

  1. My favourite window cleaner is newspapers – they wipe completely clean and don’t leave any streaks. And they’re super cheap, or free if you have free newspapers in your area.

  2. I love the newspaper method, but microfiber towels are my new favorite. They are also streak free, and pick up EVERYTHING so they are also good for dusting. πŸ™‚

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I absolutely LOVE microfiber towels! They’re brilliant on windows and, as you pointed out, for dusting. They get computer screens and phones squeaky clean, too. I keep one with my bottle of daily counter spray under the kitchen sink because there’s nothing better to get those counters shiny each morning. The only downside is that they do need to be replaced fairly often, even if you take care of them properly. So now I use the old ones to stuff saggy sofa cushions and doggie pillows.

  3. Michele Ross says:

    Have you ever heard of/used a drop of jet dry in your window cleaning? I saw someone else (sorry, was just browsing the internet!) had a recipe using jet dry. I haven’t tried it, just wondering if you had.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’ve heard of people using that in window cleaner but can’t honestly say I’ve tried it. Sorry I couldn’t provide more info! πŸ™‚

  4. I’ve read about that too. I believe it said it works best on outside of windows and bathroom mirrors.

  5. Kelsey Hutchins says:

    Can I use apple cider vinegar in place of the white vinegar?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Kelsey,
      I wouldn’t recommend it. Apple cider vinegar contains pectin and is likely to leave streaks.

  6. phyllis johnson says:

    Thank you for the help I needed. My Mother died in 1980 and I could not remember all the ingredients she used. Two were the alcohol and/or vinegar. My mother did the windows weekly and they always had a great clear shine when she finished caring for them.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Phyllis,
      I’m so glad you found the recipe again and hope your sparkling windows now bring back wonderful memories of your mom.

  7. learn something new today says:

    yes! we used your formula yesterday & the windows have that million dollar shine! we used durable spray bottles from the cleaning section of the big box store & newspapers to clean/scrub & microfiber to finish/polish! thanks+++?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so glad you’re happy with it!

  8. Janet Halverson says:

    On using Jet-Dry for cleaning windows ama I have used it on the outside of windows because I sprayed it on then post it off. It work very well and I have not used it regularly or on the inside windows thank you

  9. Carrie Doran says:

    I can’t wait to try these make um yourself products!! Thank you so much.

    Carrie

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re welcome!

  10. Can denatured alcohol be used, since rubbing alcohol is still hard to find now?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Allen,
      I’d try substituting vodka for the rubbing alcohol since it’s widely available and less expensive.

      If you do want to use denatured alcohol, the recipe above probably isn’t the best approach. Instead, mix 2 ounces of it to 64 ounces of water. Try to do it on a cool, overcast day because denatured alcohol evaporates very quickly, and that can leave streaks.

  11. The downside with microfibre cloths is that they release microplastic particles into the water when they’re washed. Scientists are saying this is the worst of the pollution in oceans and waterways, because the microplastic particles are mistaken as food by marine life. They are sponges for toxins, build up in their stomachs, and prevent them from getting nutrition. Bigger fish or animals eat them, and plastics are already in our food chain and even in rainwater….
    So I’ll stick with newspapers!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Grace,
      I hadn’t known that until your comment. Thank you for the info!

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