Homemade window and glass cleaner is one of my favorite DIY cleaning recipes: it’s extremely cost-effective, and it leaves a wonderfully streak-free shine.
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 isn’t a fun task. It’s even more miserable when the glass cleaner you’re using leaves streaks. It’s frustrating to put out all that time and effort to clean your windows only to find streaks 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, or how to adjust the amounts for different tasks.
Rather than expecting people to scroll through the comments in search of answers, I want to provide them here. If you’d rather just get on with mixing up your homemade window and glass cleaner, scroll on 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 a strong rain.
Soap contains fatty substances that encapsulate greasy dirt particles, allowing them to be easily rinsed away. 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 a homemade window glass cleaner recipe. ACV contains pectin, which is a form of soluble fiber. The pectin will cause streaks. So, save the ACV for your salad dressing or bath.
Rubbing (Isopropyl) Alcohol of Any Strength
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.
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 real reason it’s in this recipe is that it evaporates quickly and that keeps this homemade window and glass cleaner from leaving behind 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 a 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
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’ll be cleaning both sides of a window, work the squeegee in opposite directions on each side. If you can’t open it, here’s how to fix stuck windows and doors.
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 quickly dry it. (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 use a bucket of glass cleaner to do my windows because getting dirt into the mixture leaves streaks. If you do want to mix up a bucketful, you’ll need to dump it out and make a new batch once it starts looking dingy.
- 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
- Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake gently to mix.
- Spray the glass liberally then lightly scrub with a microfiber cloth to loosen any grime.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Always wash your squeegee blade after you’re finished cleaning glass windows, so it’s clean and ready for the next use.