How to Clean Windows Without Streaks

July 21, 2016

Window seat with pillows

Clean, streak-free windows are essential for a bright and happy home. Find out what tools you need, how to make an economical nontoxic cleaner, and the step-by-step process to ensure your windows sparkle.

CLEAN + ORGANIZE   |   Updated March 1, 2024

Long window with curtains

Windows connect the cozy interior of your home to the beauty of nature outside.

Nothing enhances your decor more than sunlight streaming through clean window panes on a bright day. And research shows sunshine positively influences your health and happiness.

Windows should be cleaned thoroughly at least a couple times of year - in the early spring and closer to fall. This is in addition to wiping off fingerprints and smudges you find during weekly housekeeping. This annual deep cleaning will keep your home looking its best on both the inside and the outside.

Having the right tools and following the simple steps below will ensure your streak-free windows shine in no time.

Corner of window with curtain

Tools You'll Need to Clean Windows

  • Soft Bristled Horsehair Counter Brush ★ - This is a gentle, yet efficient tool for cleaning the dirt and debris from around your window. If you don't have one, use a dust-pan brush, broom, or even an umpire brush from the sporting goods section.

  • Chamois - A highly absorbant fabric perfect for drying windows. You can substitute another lint free option like a cloth diaper or microfiber cloth. Avoid using paper towels as they can leave lint residue and newspaper that can stain hands and clothing.

  • Large Polyester or Natural Sea Sponge ★

  • Distilled White Vinegar - The acidic composition of the vinegar works well to clean your windows to a shine.

  • Warm Water - Don't get the water too hot or it will evaporate from the glass before you have a chance to clean. Distilled water is recommended if you have hard water which can cause streaks and dirt to remain on your clean window.

  • Squeegee ★ - The most important tool in the cleaning process if you want streak free windows.

  • Rubber Gloves ★ - Protect your hands from irritation and dryness when using a vinegar based cleaner.

  • Large Bucket - A rectangular window washing bucket allows you to dip your squeegee in.

  • Rubbing Alcohol - (optional) For especially stubborn spots, apply rubbing alcohol with a clean cloth.

  • Essential Oils ★ - (optional) The scent of vinegar typically fades quickly, but you can add a drop or two of essential oil (like lemon) to the cleaning solution for a fresher smelling result.

Window cleaning supplies

DIY Nontoxic Window Cleaner Recipe

While there are certainly many window cleaner options on the market, you can save a little money and avoid the harsh chemicals found in some commercial products by making your own solution at home.

Simply mix one part distilled white vinegar with one part warm water in a large bucket or spray bottle. You can add a few drops of dish soap if you need to cut through a lot of grease and grime, but otherwise this solution is perfect for washing interior or exterior windows.

**Avoid using this vinegar solution on any windows that have a matte painted finish or undercoated-only frames as it may lead to staining.

hand with squeegee on window

How to Clean Windows So They Are Streak-Free

It is not hard to clean the dirt and dust from your windows if you follow a few simple steps.

Before you begin, remove blinds and curtains from around the window so they don't get splashed. Now is a great time to shake them out or put them into the dryer for a short tumble on the air-dry setting to remove any dust that has collected.

STEP 1: Prep the area by brushing the window and window frame with a soft-bristled counter brush. Remove all the dirt, debris, bugs, and cobwebs and don't forget the hinges, sill, and track. If there is a lot of loose debris, use the hose attachment on your vacuum to sweep it up. This step is important to avoid spreading dirt around after you've polished the windows.

STEP 2: Wipe down the entire window glass using a large sponge dampened with the vinegar and water cleaning solution. If your windows are especially dirty, wipe the panes first with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

STEP 3: Wet the squeegee blade with the cleaning solution to keep it from skipping on the window and leaving streaks. Starting in the upper corner, pull the squeegee down the window pane. Tilt the squeegee in the direction the blade is moving to force the water into the wet area of the window and not where you've already cleaned.

Wipe the blade off with your chamois to remove any excess moisture and return to the top of the window slightly overlapping your first stroke. Continue covering the entire window using this method making sure to wipe off the squeegee after each pass to ensure dirt is not smudged back onto the window.

STEP 4: When the window is done, take one final stroke horizontally across the bottom of the window to remove any excess solution that has collected.

STEP 5: Wipe down the window frame and casing with the same cleaning solution being careful not to drip on the dry window. Use a toothbrush to scrub any tough stains if necessary. Wipe the window sill dry with your chamois.

Seven Tips to Remember When Cleaning Windows

  • Window washing should be done on a cloudy day. If that isn't possible, clean only when the sun is not shining directly on the window and start on the shady side of the house. The sun's heat causes the cleaning solution to dry too quickly leaving streaks and water spots.

  • If your windows were really dirty, you may need to go over the panes a couple of times to make them look their best.

  • Use straight vertical strokes on one side of the window and horizontal strokes on the other. That way, if you see a streak on your finished window pane, you'll know which side it is on.

  • If you are using the squeegee indoors, place an absorbent towel on the window sill and floor to catch any drips coming off of the window.

  • Make sure that the chamois or lint-free cloth you use has not been washed with fabric softener, which will leave a residue and streak your glass. If you make the mistake, just rewash and dry the cloth.

  • For individual pane windows, clean one section at a time instead of spraying the entire surface. By working incrementally you avoid letting the cleaner dry on the glass before you have a chance to wipe it clean.

  • If you have a few streaks after the window is washed, use a dry microfiber cloth or chamois to buff it out. Rub in small concentric circles over the streaky area to polish.

Window Seat with PillowsPHOTO CREDIT: Studio McGee

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions that readers had in the past. If you don't find the answer you're looking for, feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to help.

Are There Alternatives to the Vinegar Cleaner?

Vinegar is ideal for its nontoxic and anti-bacterial properties. But if you can't stand the smell of vinegar or find it to be too harsh, try adding dish detergent to warm water or purchase a commercial window cleaner instead.

Another alternative is to purchase a favorite essential oil ★ and add a few drops to mask the smell.

How Often Should Windows Be Cleaned?

The length of time between washing depends a lot on factors like the weather, environment and personal preference. Most people choose to deep clean their windows twice a year, in the spring and again in the fall, to remove the dirt and grime that has accumulated. If you live in an area with extreme weather, high pollution, or you are a smoker, you may need to wash them down as often as once a month.

The interior of your windows should ideally be wiped down every other week to keep them sparkling in addition to the twice yearly deep clean.

How Do I Clean the Screens on My Windows?

Window screens should be removed prior to washing exterior windows. Be sure to label the screens so you know where to reinstall them later.

Lightly dust the screen with a soft-bristled counter brush or use the hose attachment on your vacuum to sweep loose dirt and dust away. Gently scrub the screen in a solution of 1 teaspoon dish soap to about 6 cups of water with a sponge, then hose them off with gentle pressure. Let the screens dry completely before installing them back into the window frame.

Any Tips for Cleaning Windows on a Two Story House?

Many new double hung windows can be tilted into the house for easy cleaning.

But if yours do not, try spraying down the windows with a garden hose and then use a telescoping squeegee and pole with a microfiber cloth that extends to the window. Or try Windex Outdoor Glass Cleaner that attaches onto your garden sprayer.

Why Are My Windows Streaky?

There are a few reasons why your windows may streak after cleaning.

  • Clean your windows on a cloudy day or when the sun is not shining directly on them. The solution evaporates quickly on a hot window.

  • Use warm water when mixing up the vinegar cleaning solution. Hot water dries too fast.

  • Be sure that you are overlapping swipes of your squeegee on the window so that dirty cleaning solution is completely removed.

  • Windows that are extremely dirty may need more than one cleaning to completely remove the streaks.

  • Check that your lint-free cloth has not been washed with fabric softener.

When you find them, try rubbing a dry microfiber cloth or chamois in small concentric circles over the streaks to buff away.

Sunlight has a way of highlighting everything that is right in the home. These tips are sure to help you clean your windows to a sparkling and streak-free finish.

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