Get to know the different types of glass cleaners that differ in their composition to ensure you're using the right type on a particular glass surface for the best results.
I don’t do windows. Or at least I avoid doing them as long as I can. Sometimes, though, when I wonder why it’s such a cloudy day, I’ll open the window for one reason or another, and I can see that it’s not so cloudy after all. If it’s sunny when you look through an open window and overcast when you look through the glass, that’s a clue. A clue that it’s time to break out the window cleaner and the clothes and get to work.
There’s no point in making the job any harder than possible. Some people will point to homegrown solutions that involve vinegar and ammonia and other unpleasant liquids that you might have to mix and spill before you find a spray bottle you can pour them into. A much simpler solution is to buy a commercial window cleaner. They’re inexpensive, they’re neat and clean and when you’re done there’s no leftover vinegar solution to deal with. You just set the bottle on a closet shelf where it will happily wait until the next time you whistle for it.
No matter what window cleaning solution you use, there’s a right way and a wrong way to tackle the job. Here are some tips to get those windows as clean as possible with minimum muss and fuss.
- Clean from top to bottom. Just as you’re fighting gravity when you climb a flight of stairs, you’re fighting gravity when you work your way up a window. Drips flow downhill, and you don’t want them to mess up the area you’ve already cleaned.
- Invest in a squeegee. You use one when you clean your windshield at the gas station, so why not at home as well. It cleans and polishes as it moves and avoids leaving streaks.
- Use cotton swabs, aka q-tips, in the corners. When gunk builds up there, neither cloth nor a squeegee is easy to get it out with.
- Clean windows on a cloudy day. If the sun dries your cleaner too quickly, it can leave residue and cause streaking. If your window’s so dirty you can’t tell whether it’s a cloudy day, open it, and lookout. Although if it’s that bad you should probably go ahead and clean whether it’s sunny or not.
- Use a tee shirt. Or an old diaper. Or, if you must have store-bought, a nice cotton wiping cloth. Paper towels can leave lint. Not only that, you constantly have to buy more. Save some effort, save a buck, and save a tree.
- Protect your woodwork. Glass cleaners are wonderful on glass but terrible for wood. Put a towel on the sill to catch those drips. Don’t spray on too much product at one time. Do a small section and clean it up before the liquid can go where you don’t want it.
- Don’t use the wrong stuff. Don’t clean glass with soap or detergent. There are lots of household products, and some claim to clean everything from your piano to your dog, but I’d stay away from these. Pick something that’s made for glass. Some of the glass cleaners I’m going to talk about are good on other surfaces, but all of them are manufactured primarily with glass in mind. Also, don’t use anything abrasive to apply, wipe, or buff.
Some of these glass cleaners are okay to use on stainless steel, chrome, certain types of countertops, shower doors, and car windshields. Be cautious. You can’t use every product on every surface, and in some cases, I’d be skeptical of claims they make.
For example, some say their products are good for TV monitors and touchscreens on phones, tablets, and laptops. Maybe some are, but I won’t use them that way. I prefer the solution and the small cloth you get in the optical department of your favorite store.
Be particularly careful with ammonia-based products such as Original Windex. It’s a great cleaner, consistently rated at the top, but ammonia should not be used on granite, tinted windshields, auto glass, or furniture. And no matter what you’ve seen somebody do on TV or on Facebook, for heaven’s sake don’t smear it on your skin.
A lot of cleaners say they’re safe for all kinds of countertops but look not only at the cleaner label but also at the countertop manufacturer’s guidelines before using them. Be particularly wary about granite. Also, wash off the surface before you do any food preparation.
If you’re environmentally conscious, there are several “green” products on this list, and many of them are food safe.
Here are the options you’ll see when you go window shopping. Or, I should say, window cleaner shopping. May you always see clearly!
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The Importance of Glass Cleaning
Most of the people like to have their windows and glass table-tops neat and tidy, but the process of cleaning them is something that does not seem very appealing. However, when you get to know about the numerous reasons why glass cleaning is considered super-important, you may change your approach.
In today’s era, the majority of the population is switching to energy-efficient windows. Getting old windows replaced with energy-efficient windows is a major investment. Did you know that if you don’t clean your windows from all the dust and dirt that settles on the glass, the efficiency of these windows gets reduced? If you have energy-efficient windows installed, you need to be extra vigilant about cleaning these windows.
Not many people are aware of the fact that glass is a porous material. If it is not cleaned properly, particles of dust and dirt and microorganisms can accumulate in these pores. With this, the glass becomes cloudy, weak, and can shatter a lot more easily. If you want your windows and any other piece of furniture that has glass incorporated in it to last for a long time, you need to make sure that you clean the glass regularly.
Smoke from cooking, smoking, and burning the fireplace gets deposited on the glass that not only gives the glass a dirty appearance but also leaves your house smelling unpleasant.
Above all, clean glass (in windows and furniture) adds to the visual appeal of your house. Unclean glass is a turn-off, no matter how clean the rest of your home is.
Apart from glass windows and furniture at home, your car also needs attention. The windscreen, the windows, and the rear screen need as much cleaning as the windows in your home.
All these reasons make cleaning glass as important as cleaning the rest of your house. The question here is – how does one go about cleaning glass? You must be thinking that you can use any cleaning products to clean your glass but to ensure that your glass is completely clean, you should use glass cleaners!
What Is a Glass Cleaner?
A glass cleaner is a specialty cleaner that is intended to be used on glass surfaces. It can cut through tough stains like grease, dirt, grime, and smudges on different glass surfaces.
Types of Glass Cleaners
Now that you know how important glass cleaning is, let’s move onto the types of glass cleaners that are available today. Since, each type of glass has a different composition, the type of glass cleaner used should be suitable for the glass that is to be cleaned.
Primarily, there are a few basic types of glass cleaners, based on their composition. These are:
- Ammonia-Based Glass Cleaners
- Non-Ammonia Based Glass Cleaners
- IPA-Based Glass Cleaners
- Cleaning Agents Based Liquids
- Foam Glass Cleaner
- Glass Cleaning Paste
- Glass Cleaning Wipes
- Traffic Film Removers
1. Ammonia-Based Glass Cleaners
Most of the glass cleaners available today, like Windex, contain ammonia. It is a powerful cleaning agent that can break down stains that are caused by grime, grease, or animal fats. Also, it evaporates rapidly, which makes sure that no streaks appear after the glass surface is cleaned.
However, you might not like the odor that ammonia-based glass cleaners leave behind. It is quite a strong scent that not many people are fond of. Moreover, if you are using an ammonia-based glass cleaner, you should make sure that you do not use it to clean glass surfaces which receive direct sunlight. This is because the sunlight will make the glass cleaning solution dry out too quickly, which will leave behind cleaning streaks.
Few things cut through grease and grime like ammonia. These are the tried and true warriors in the battle against dirty windows.
Windex Original Glass Cleaner
When you think of glass cleaners, the first thing you think of is Windex, and in this case the honor is well-deserved. Windex is at the top of everybody’s “best” list. It has a patented ammonia variant, ammonia-d, that slices through grease and grime and goes to work even before you wipe it off. The ammonia scent is there but not as strong as with some other cleaners. It has an angled tube so you can squirt almost at the Windex out of the bottle. One minor complaint is that it can drip when used on a vertical surface.
Windex Foaming Glass and Surface Cleaner
If you find that original Windex drips you might try the foaming version instead. It comes in an aerosol and releases a mist than foams on the glass surface. There’s a wide spray button to enhance comfort and ease. Because the mist is fine, you don’t need to use as much and there’s less to clean off.
Zep Streak-Free Glass Cleaner
This is a heavy-duty ammonia-based product. It does an excellent job of removing grime, smudges, and fingerprints without leaving streaks, but some folks complain that its ammonia scent is a bit too much for them.
2. Non-Ammonia Based Glass Cleaners
Non-ammonia based glass cleaners or ammonia-free glass cleaners are also available in the market. You may wonder why anyone would opt for a non-ammonia based glass cleaner considering the incredible cleaning properties of ammonia. Well, we have a pretty good explanation.
Ammonia is not suitable for glass surfaces that have tints or any other kind of coating. Ammonia can cause the coating to peel or scratch, killing the purpose of the coat. In addition, if you are using an ammonia-based glass cleaner for car windows and the windshield, the fumes can accumulate in the closed space of the car, which is extremely harmful to the health of the passengers and the driver.
Ammonia-based glass cleaners can also result in the streaking of the glass as well, owing to the rapid evaporation of ammonia. Streaks on the glass surfaces can have a negative impact on the appeal and visibility of the glass.
If you wish for a streak-free and a risk-free glass cleaner, a non-ammonia based glass cleaner is your go-to option.
If you’re sensitive to ammonia or just don’t care to use it, there are plenty of other choices. You might have to work a little harder, though.
Ammonia Free Glass Cleaner Crystal Rain
For those who love Windex but don’t want ammonia, this is the product to choose from. It has a refreshing rainshower scent, and while it doesn’t quite pack the punch of the ammonia-d product, it comes close on windows, mirrors, and other surfaces.
Spic & Span Cinch Glass Cleaner
This ammonia-free cleaner comes in a lightweight bottle that’s easy to use. Just spray a small amount on the glass. It dries quickly and is a cinch to wipe off. Its fans swear by it for all kinds of stainless steel kitchen surfaces as well. Their only complaint is that it’s hard to find in stores and they have to order online.
Weiman Glass Cleaner
This heavy-duty cleaning product is as good as they come in tackling the toughest messes. It’s non-toxic, free from ammonia, and has a foaming action that cleans up drip-free. This scent is non-abrasive and it leaves an invisible barrier that protects the glass from smudges and makes subsequent cleanings easier.
Glass Plus Glass Cleaner
This ammonia-free product can be used indoor and out on a variety of surfaces, including fiberglass, Plexiglass, and plastics. Some have even used it on washable wallpaper. Like many ammonia-free cleaners, it doesn’t cut through the really nasty messes the way harsher products do. For frequent cleanings or one-time mop-ups, it’s a good choice.
Sprayway Ammonia-Free Glass Cleaner
This is a foaming product and the foam clings and dries so it’s excellent for vertical surfaces. It won’t drip or puddle. It contains denatured alcohol so it acts quickly and dries fast. It breaks down dust and dirt and you don’t necessarily have to rinse it. In addition to glass, you can use it on enamel, porcelain, tile, stainless steel, and stone.
Mothers Re|vision Glass + Surface Cleaner
Another ammonia-free product that leaves a shiny streakless shine. It comes in an ergonomically pleasing trigger spray bottle for easy application. It’s good for plastic, chrome and all kinds of countertops as well as glass. It claims to be okay for touchscreens and monitors though I’d be more inclined to use a lens cleaner for that kind of job.
Hope’s Perfect Glass
This streak-free, ammonia-free product evaporates fast and doesn’t require a lot of buffing. It’s good for tabletops, cooktops, and shower enclosures, and it also is formulated to be okay for tinted glass. The manufacturer says it’s safe for monitors and touchscreens as long as you spray the product on your cloth rather than directly on the glass.
3. IPA-Based Glass Cleaners
IPA-based glass cleaners are one of the most common types of window cleaners used today. They are based on the ingredient, isopropyl alcohol. These types of glass cleaners can clean a variety of stains and substrates.
The numerous benefits of IPA-based glass cleaners make them incredibly common and one of the most efficient types of glass cleaners. A major benefit of these cleaning products is that their use is not limited to just glass. They are also used as multi-surface cleaners that can be safely used on plastics. They dry out fast and leave behind no residue. IPA-based cleaners reduce the wear on a surface, and since this type is water-soluble, it can be diluted in water.
IPA-based glass cleaners are also said to significantly extend the life of the surface they are being used on. They can remove the interfering soil particles from optical heads, and remove dampening residues quickly from magnetic heads.
The only precautions associated with IPA-based glass cleaners are:
- Because they dry out rapidly, cleaning should be done quickly before the cleaner dries.
- They shouldn’t be stored or used near a flame as IPA is highly flammable.
4. Cleaning Agents Based Liquids
Cleaning agent-based glass cleaners are similar to soap in composition. These glass cleaners are water-based. They contain emulsifiers, surfactants, and a carrier. What makes them different is the final formulation that is made to work specifically on glass surfaces.
They are cheaper in cost as compared to IPA-based glass cleaners. Unlike IPA-based glass cleaners, cleaning agent-based liquids do not dry rapidly, which allows you to clean any glass surface slowly and even leave the liquid on the surface for some time. However, cleaning agent-based glass cleaners leave behind residue. To make sure that the cleaning is thorough, you have to wipe the glass surface quite well.
5. Foam Glass Cleaner
A foam glass cleaner consists of a pressurized cleaning liquid enclosed in an aerosol can or aerosol spray. This type of glass cleaner has a number of benefits over the more common types of glass cleaners.
When the foam is sprayed over a glass surface, foam, having a great adhesive force, sticks to the surface to be cleaned, which ensures a more sparkling and thorough glass cleaning. Moreover, since the foam has a creeping characteristic, the use of a foam glass cleaner allows you to clean corners of surfaces where you might not be able to reach otherwise.
Foam glass cleaners can be wiped using a microfiber cloth (MF). Microfiber has a greater drying capacity as compared to usual fabrics.
A foam glass cleaner is an excellent option for windows, windshields, mirrors, and other glass surfaces. Foaming removes dirt and grease effectively and delivers a streak-free shine. Foam glass cleaners like Sprayway are gaining popularity in the market today due to their ease of use and the sparkling results that these products give.
6. Paste Glass Cleaners
Paste glass cleaners, as the name indicates, are glass cleaners that come in the form of a paste. They consist of a solvent and a carrier. A solvent dissolves the oil and dirt while the carrier allows for easy application. The paste is simply rubbed onto a glass surface using a non-scratch pad or a cloth and is then wipe off with a damp cloth. Buff drying with a fresh, dry piece of cloth ensures complete cleaning of the glass surface.
Paste glass cleaners are not as common yet. People who have used a paste glass cleaner do report some drawbacks too. According to them, buff cleaning produces dust that needs further cleaning. Moreover, the paste dries pretty soon when the temperatures are high, which makes these types of glass cleaners inappropriate to be used in summers.
7. Glass Cleaning Wipes
Glass cleaning wipes are available in the form of several wipes in a single packet or one wipe in a packet. These wipes are soaked in a cleaning agent. These are the most convenient types of glass cleaners. All you have to do is unpack the wipe and rub it on the glass surface you wish to clean. The cleaning agent evaporates, leaving behind visibly clean glass surfaces.
Sometimes you don’t have time to get out the spray bottle and clean an entire window. That’s where cleaning wipes come in. Grab one, scrub out that one little stain, and toss the used wipe in the garbage.
Windex Original Glass Wipes
These are pre-moistened, individually sealed, and ready to use. Did someone in your household touch grimy hands to a window or splatter toothpaste on the bathroom mirror? Rip, wipe, and make that spot go away. Use them on cabinets and coffee tables as well.
MiracleWipes for Glass
Use these anywhere: kitchens, bathrooms, even car windows. They have a light scent for a refreshingly clean and do their job without streaking or leaving lint. Pull them one at a time from the dispenser and toss them when you’re done.
8. Auto Glass Cleaners
Most ammonia-free products are safe to use on windshields, but always be sure to heed any warnings. Here are some products that are specifically targeted for auto glass.
Invisible Glass Glass Cleaner
This cleaner comes from Stoner. It will work on any kind of glass but its forte is car windows. Though the proprietary ingredients are a secret, it has no soaps, foams, or dyes, and it’s safe for tinted windshields. Its light scent quickly fades. It’s good for oil, dust, dirt, sap, and anything else that assaults car windows, such as smashed bugs and bird droppings. If these issues have been clouding your windshield, a good cleaner such as this can restore that visibility.
Invisible Glass Premium Glass Cleaner
Similar to the other Invisible Glass product, but it comes in an aerosol can rather than a pump bottle. It sprays a fine mist which stays where you need it and results in a less messy job than the other.
Meguiar’s Perfect Clarity Glass Cleaner
This ammonia-free product advertises itself as an auto glass cleaner, safe on tinted windshields and effective for bugs, tree sap, road grime, and bird droppings. It wipes off quickly and won’t leave streaks or haze. It invites you to brighten your windshield and have a clearer look at the road ahead.
9. Environmentally Friendly Glass Cleaners
If you’re concerned about the impact of your glass cleaner on the environment, you’re in luck. Here are four choices you might consider to help keep your window cleaning green.
HAUS Naturals Streak-Free Glass Cleaner
HAUS Naturals streak-free glass cleaner is biodegradable, all-natural with a lovely scent. Oh yeah, it cleans glass like a dream.
Method Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner
This is made with what the manufacturer calls “plant-based power green technology.” The so-called “chemicals” on the label include potassium citrate, derived from corn sugars, and ethanol, produced from sugar beets. The ammonia-free, non-toxic formulation means you don’t have to worry about using this around pets and children. It has a nice minty smell, and as an added green bonus, the bottle is made from 100 percent recycled plastic. You can use it on appliances and some countertops as well as glass.
It’s great for light cleaning but is going to take more elbow grease if you tackle a tough job. Some consumers have complained of streaking.
Seventh Generation Free & Clear
Another product made from plant-based sources, it invites you to create a clean world while you create a clean window. No fumes or dye, and scent-free for those who can’t tolerate or simply dislike any kind of odor. Good for stainless steel and other surfaces as well as glass.
Earth Friendly Products ECOS Window Cleaner
This is a vinegar-based product. Vinegar is the top recommendation for those who want to slap together a DIY glass cleaner, but this cleaner has a little more to it and comes in a ready-to-spray bottle. It has no dyes or phosphates and is fully biodegradable. There’s no artificial scent; it retains its mild vinegar odor.
Aunt Fannie’s Glass & Window Vinegar Wash
Another vinegar-based product, this time with the addition of essential oils and food-based ingredients. The Environmental Working Group gave it a top safety rating. It has a lavender scent and is good for chrome and stainless steel as well as glass. You may have to use more of this than you would of some other products. It’s safe for pets and children and to use around plants and food.
10. Outdoor Window Cleaners
Just about any cleaner will work on outdoor windows, but here are a couple of products with accessories specially designed for outdoor use. They’re made to be used with a hose and will get off at least some of the dirt and grime without climbing up to the windows and scrubbing.
Windex Outdoor Glass and Patio Cleaner
The glass cleaning leader also makes a product ready to use on the outside of your windows. It comes with a sprayer that attaches to a garden hose. It’s safe for plants, sidings, and grills and can clean patios, patio furniture, and swing sets as well as windows. Don’t use it, however, on synthetic decks and newly sealed asphalt. It cleans quickly and dries fast.
Fuller Crystal Window & Outdoor Surface Cleaner
Yes, it’s that Fuller, the brush company. This comes as a kit, as a powder with a bottle and hose attachment. It’s non-corrosive, non-toxic, and safe for plants and grass. As with the Windex product, it’s a way to clean those second-story windows without getting out the ladder. It’s a one-step clean and rinses.
11. Traffic Film Removers
Traffic film removers are special glass cleaning liquids that are made for the purpose of cleaning traffic film. Traffic film is a thin layer of grease, grime, oil, and dirt that forms over hard surfaces like on the body of the car or the windshield.
Traffic film removers consist of phosphates, silicates, surfactants, and chelating agents that work together for the removal of dirt that has accumulated on a glass surface.
Traffic film removers are cleaning liquids that are filled in a spray bottle and sprayed over the surface that is to be cleaned.
Traffic film removers are of two types, depending upon the composition.
- Caustic Traffic Film Removers
- Non-Caustic Traffic Film Removers
Caustic Traffic Film Removers
A caustic traffic film remover consists of sodium hydroxide or caustic soda. The alkaline nature of these solutions makes these types of cleaners incredibly powerful. It deep cleans the surfaces and removes dirt, grease, and grime. Since it is highly alkaline, it is not suitable for all surfaces. It is usually used for industrial purposes like degreasing machine parts and engines.
Non-Caustic Traffic Film Removers
Non-caustic film removers are traffic film removers in which less aggressive sodium metasilicate is used instead of sodium hydroxide. As a result, non-caustic traffic film removers are more suitable to be used on glass surfaces.
Traffic films form on glass surfaces with time, especially in your car. You certainly don’t want to use a glass cleaner that may affect the visibility of the windshield. For such cases, traffic film removers are the ideal types of glass cleaners.
The best glass cleaner is the one that cleans all the dirt, dust, and grime from the glass without affecting the integrity of the glass, is non-toxic for humans, and delivers a streak-free finish. Moreover, one of the most important features of the best glass cleaner is that it will not have an impact on the transparency of the glass.
12. Homemade Glass Cleaners
You can make glass cleaners yourself at home. Numerous effective glass cleaner recipes that have been tried and tested by the masses are available for you to use. We have listed down some of the most popular ones for you to try!
Making glass cleaners at home saves a lot of money. All the recipes listed below are made from ingredients that are easily available in a household. The next time you see a stain on a glass surface, simply mix the ingredients of any of the recipes and get sparkling clean glass surfaces!
1. Alcohol and White Vinegar Glass Cleaner
If you wish to avoid chemical-laden glass cleaners at all cost, you can try the basic natural glass cleaner that is made by mixing alcohol and white vinegar. These are inexpensive ingredients which are usually available in every household. These ingredients are often a part of commercially available glass cleaners, too. They evaporate rapidly, which means you get a streak-free shine on your glass.
Simply mix equal portions of rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, and water. Mix well and pour the mixture in a spray bottle. Spray this mixture on your glass surfaces and then wipe it off.
2. Cornstarch Glass Cleaner
Another effective glass cleaner recipe includes cornstarch, white vinegar, alcohol, and water. Cornstarch breaks the bonds of water and gives a spot-free, streak-free, shiny surface. If you want to get rid of a water spot on any glass surface, this glass cleaner recipe will work great for you! This formula is excellent for filthy glass surfaces, windows, and window screens.
Make sure that you shake the spray bottle well before spraying the mixture to ensure that all the cornstarch dissolves in the mixture.
3. Essential Oil Glass Cleaner
White vinegar is often an essential part of any homemade glass cleaner. Mixing white vinegar with essential oils of your choice and water makes for a super-effective and inexpensive glass cleaner, which works great for glass grime and dirt. You can simply spray this homemade solution on any glass surface or a window that you wish to clean and then wipe it off with a microfiber cloth.
4. Vinegar, Cornstarch, and Essential Oil Glass Cleaner
This glass cleaner recipe includes all the ingredients from the previously listed recipes, including vinegar, cornstarch, essential oil, water, and alcohol to make a highly effective glass cleaner. It can be used on windows and any glass surface. Wiping the solution off using a newspaper will give you incredible results!
5. Baking Soda and Liquid Dish Soap
If you are looking for a specific recipe for a glass cleaner that will effectively clean a glass stovetop, then this is the one for you. Simply mix baking soda and liquid dish soap and rub it with a mildly aggressive sponge. Once you are done, rinse off the stovetop with a microfiber cloth. You will get a stovetop that looks as clean as new.
Glass cleaning is extremely important if you wish to maintain the aesthetic appeal of your property and prolong the lifespan of your glass surfaces and windows. Using the right glass cleaner is essential to make sure that the surfaces are not damaged irreversibly. With so many types of glass cleaners available today, you have various options to choose from. A house where the windows and all glass surfaces are shining clean is sure to win the hearts of any visitor!
To finish off the list, here is a couple that doesn’t readily fit into any category.
Unger Easyglide Glass Cleaner
This is a concentrate for professional use. Dilute it with water; a gallon jug makes a hundred gallons of cleaner. Just because it’s concentrated and heavy-duty doesn’t mean it’s harsh. You can use it for wood as well as glass, and its biodegradable, non-toxic formula won’t harm your skin. Of course, you’d have to clean a lot of windows before you’d have a need for this product. Use it indoors or out.
Bio Clean Hard Water Stain Remover
This is specifically formulated for those gray and white spots, patches and streaks that won’t come off because they’re actually built-up mineral deposits. Often they’re the result of hard water. These stains reappear every time you clean them with a conventional product.
This product goes after those problem areas on glass, shower glass, ceramic, metals, stone, and about any kind of hard surface. You may have to use this cleaner multiple times and do some serious scrubbing.