How to Clean Old Windows

September 17, 2012

CAN YOU GUESS who cleans the 57 windows in this old house? Well, I do.  And I’ve become pretty proficient at it, too. My technique is similar to that of professional cleaning services, in that I accomplish the job with neither newspapers nor paper towels.

Unlike modern exposures, which can be tilted inward for easy cleaning, my windows are old-fashioned, double-hung types. They open and close on a rope-and-weight system. The glass itself is 186 years old, which means it is bubbly and wavy. Yes, old-house windows are bursting with character.

Here in New York’s Hudson Valley, the best time for window work is in late September or early- to mid-October. The pollen has settled by then, meaning one’s cleaning efforts are not practiced in vain.

Let’s proceed to the western wall of the Music Room wing, where 5 tall windows await our attention. Although these exposures are at “ground level,” a ladder is still required. For the windows are 6 feet tall, and the wing sits atop a high foundation. (Yes, the wing requires a paint job, too. But let’s save that for springtime, okay?)

Using the garden hose with a spray-nozzle attached,  give each window a firm blast of water. The water will loosen much of the dirt, and prepare the glass for the soap-opera to follow.

And speaking of soap operas, I’m hooked on “Mad Men.” What about you?

Back to the windows. In the past, I’ve used a soapy solution composed of 45% water, 45% rubbing alcohol, and 10% sudsy ammonia. I can tell you this formula works extremely well, and leaves the windows sparkling- clean. Outdoors, the solution is easily applied with a common sponge mop.

This year, however, I’m testing a special  mop made by Windex. The mop has an extendable handle (which is still too short to reach my tall windows without a ladder). It features a cleaning-pad that’s impregnated with ammonia and various surfactants.   One pad, according to Windex,  is good for 20 windows. I assume the claim refers to “normal” windows, not extra-tall exposures like mine. Replacement pads are available at supermarkets and hardware stores. So far I’m happy with the product.

Will vinegar clean windows? Well, maybe it will clean yours, if they aren’t particularly dirty. But it certainly won’t clean mine. Speaking from experience, vinegar isn’t an effective grime-cutter.

To remove the soap, give the  window another firm spray of water. The washing-solution, be it the Windex mop-version, or the homemade formula, will rinse away without leaving any streaks. Both solutions are fast-drying, too.

Should you spot any paint-dribbles on a window, as I sometimes do, you’ll find that a straight-edge razor blade will remove them effortlessly.

 Just hold the blade flush against the glass, and it will peel off the paint without scratching your window. A razor will remove cellophane tape and its residue, too. I keep such razors in a small box in my cleaning-arsenal.

Shall we tackle the inside glass?

To clean the room-side of windows, use the same water/rubbing alcohol/ammonia solution I mentioned earlier. For convenience, pour the solution into a spray bottle. In the picture above, I’m standing on a ladder, facing the bay of three windows at the south end of the Music Room. You can see my front porch outside the window.)

Spray the window with the cleaner, and let it sit for a few seconds to break down the gunk. Then, using a squeegee, make a horizontal swipe across the top of the window. This will eliminate most drips and drops. Next, swipe vertically, until you reach the bottom of the window. In between swipes, wipe the squeegee’s rubber blade on a piece of terry cloth. If done correctly, there will be no smudges or streaks on the window, and you won’t need paper towels or newspaper to produce the shine you want.

Use the same terry cloth to wipe up any solution which has gathered along  the latch ledge or the sill.

And how do I access the windows on the second floor?  For these, I climb out of a bedroom window and stand on the porch ceiling. The windows receive the ammonia-water and squeegee treatment.

As for for the second floor and attic windows in the back of the house, which have no landing below them, my only option is to attack them with  a high-velocity power-washer. I rent such a gadget from my local hardware store. A half-day’s rental is hardly expensive. These windows don’t come out as clean as the soaped-up or ammonia-ized ones, but they get clean enough.

Now, I won’t pretend that window-cleaning is my idea of a good time. But on the other hand, I refuse to go through winter with dirty windows. I want sunlight to flood my rooms unhindered, and so do my myriad houseplants.

Now, my inquiring mind would like to know:  Do you clean your own windows, or do you hire the job out? You can let me know by leaving a comment.

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Related Posts:
How to Clean Tarnish & Wax from Silver
How to Set Up a Window Garden
How to Find Free Mulch

Comments

  1. stamperitis says:

    I clean mine or occasionally rope in my 19 year old son. I’d like to know what sudsy ammonia is? I have plain ammonia, is there something added to it? I ask because my windows don’t come clean easily and I’d like to try your mixture.

    Thanks for showing your beautiful windows.

  2. stamperitis – Parson’s and other companies make sudsy ammonia. My supermarket sells it, and I’ve also seen it at hardware stores. Sudsy ammonia contains soap, so it’s better for tough cleaning jobs. And thanks for commenting on my windows. I like them, too, although they are not so easy to clean as the modern, tilt-able windows I had in my NYC apartment.

  3. Sarah says:

    I am embarrassed to say I have not cleaned my entire house of windows in 8 years. Living alone in an old house similar to yours, it is so time consuming that it gets left. I clean the insides every time I heavy clean a room, but the outsides….well, they suffer.

    Thank you for sharing your method, I am going to give it a try. I actually own a pressure washer, so can utilise that, though I really would like to get them sparkly if I am going to do it. Have you ever used the commercial house/window spray wash??

    Your home is beautiful, I am envious of the work you have been able to put into it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Gladys Gilbert says:

    I’m going back to this way of washing windows. I don’t know why I stopped doing it this way in the first place. Maybe it was the ordeal of dragging a hose from faucet to faucet, and really that’s no excuse, because we have many faucet’s on the outside of the house. Maybe it was my window cleaning solution. Who knows? You’ve got me all inspired now.

  5. Gloria Duy says:

    I live in a new house with tilt-in windows. However I have fond (?) memories of helping my mom. She would be outside and me in, one would wipe side to side, the other up and down. That way if there were any streaks you knew which side they were on! I love your method!

  6. Hi Sarah – Don’t feel bad about your windows. Living alone here most of the week, I know what it’s like to tackle projects without any help. But believe me, once you get started…the job goes really quickly. And as an added bonus, you get to see the results immediately.

    Gladys Gilbert – Nice to read that I inspired you. Dragging a hose from faucet to faucet ain’t fun. But once it’s in place, you’re all set.

    Gloria – Great to hear what it’s like to have an extra set of hands for the job. I have yet to experience that luxury! (Your mom was lucky to have you around.)

  7. Sharon Curley says:

    I use the Windex system too and I love it. I grew up in Massachusetts with the old rope and weight windows, so it was sitting on the window sill hanging on for dear life to wash the third floor windows. I don’t miss them one bit. We also had blinds to wash along with all the windows. I don’t miss them either.

  8. Brigid OBrien says:

    Kevin I’m still stuck on the 57 windows!!!!

  9. Julie B. says:

    I used to do all of our (older) windows, since I could reach them with nothing more than a step stool. It’s very different in our new home and I’m still working out a viable system. I may well try your approach, Kevin, once we get some rain to settle the dust.

    I’m amused by the timing of this topic, as I was gazing out over the violets in my kitchen window this afternoon debating whether I should at least tackle the interior window (and yes, I should). I flashed on your myriad windows, Kevin, and thought to myself “surely Kevin has someone come in to do the windows.” I’m impressed that you tackle them yourself. And yes, it’s critical go get them done before the short, dark days of winter close in.

  10. Dennis R says:

    coincidentally, before reading your window cleaning tip, i cleaned
    3 of my 5 tilt in windows earlier today w/ windex, white vinegar & plain ammonia.
    i’m gonna look for sudsy ammonia & rubbing alcohol tomorrow & see if there’s a
    noticeable difference.

  11. Diane Kratz says:

    What a beautiful home (and windows). I am putting this on my list of Fall things to do. Excluding my third floor but only 112 year old windows…those I can’t reach without a very very tall ladder.

  12. T says:

    We have a whopping 4…yes, 4 windows plus a sliding glass door. That’s apartment life for ya! Fortunately, we live in a first floor walk out so I can get to all of ours no sweat. We make a glass cleaning solution of water, ammonia, Dawn and rubbing alcohol and use it inside and out. Dreaming of the day we have our own house and I’ll gladly take on the chore of washing all of those windows!

  13. Donna B. says:

    This post is an excellent reminder to clean my windows!
    I do have the modern tilt-in windows… which is nice, but I only remember actually going in and cleaning them like… two years ago. Haha!
    I live in a very… dusty area [near a quarry] and we have really red soil… so my window screens are always covered in a red dust… It’s really hard to get a good clean on my windows!!!
    [Do you think Dr. Bronner's liquid soap work well in place of the sudsy ammonia? Trying to consolidate my cleaning products... hehe.]

  14. pennifer says:

    I was better at regular window-washing before life got busier. Now I usually hose the outsides of the windows once-twice/year to rinse off dust and salt from oceanside mist. The insides don’t done more than once/year, and I usually wait to do it until the end of rainy season in April. That’s the best time to wipe away the disgusting black mildew that forms on the interior window frames, etc.

  15. Dennis R says:

    Kevin, a little research on google & i learned how to “make”
    Sudsy Ammonia (which is a brand name). Just 2/3 water; 1/3 ammonia (concentrated ammonia was recommended) & a squirt of dish washing liquid. I added the rubbing alcohol
    and the windows came squeaky clean…better than my windex, vinegar & ammonia.
    now that i’m finished cleaning all the windows, i’m gonna swap the rubbing alcohol
    for some grain alcohol as a reward.

  16. Hi Dennis R – Thanks for the homemade “sudsy ammonia” recipe. And if there is any time to enjoy a cocktail, it is after a big window-cleaning job. Bottoms up!

  17. Gladys Gilbert says:

    I cleaned all my windows using your formula, and I’m so pleased with how they turned out. I was so inspired, I even cleaned the inside both our car windows too!

  18. Paula says:

    Kevin, i use liquid dishwasher detergent to make my sudsy water. It is designed not to leave streaks on your dishes, and the same applies to windows. And like you, I hose, mop, rinse…

  19. Anna Lapping says:

    Windex also makes a product which is called Windex Outdoor. It attaches to your hose and greatly accelerates the force and reach of the water or cleaner. You spray with plain water, switch to clean and spray the solution, wait 20 – 30 secs. then spray water again until there is no more sudsing. The cleaner has a surfactant that makes the water sheet off and it leaves no spots when dry. I use it on my second story windows and have for many years. I’ve also used it to clean outdoor furniture and an indoor/outdoor rug from my covered deck.

  20. Cathy Schutzenhofer says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Thank you & love the recipe. I will absolutely give it a try. I’ve tried everything including the glass cleaner you attach to the hose. We have 36 windows ourselves. The insides are not a problem but rinsing with the hard well water we have leaves rusty spots. Any suggestions?

  21. Terri says:

    I see that I am a bit of a loner on this one…. We hire ours out. We have only 13 windows and four french doors, but we have a very large glassed in sun porch on the back of our house. We live in a clearing surrounded by woods, and these windows get so dirty so fast. Hiring that cleaning crew to come and make our windows sparkle twice a year is the best money I’ve spent in a long time. :)

  22. Trudi Dido says:

    What a lovely house ! . I finally got my outside windows done this year by a firm .I’m 70 and my windows all require a ladder too ,the back of the house is two stories off the ground. -not for me ,thank you . I’m convinced they used a solution similar to yours because they really sparkle. I’ll try it this winter when the inside gets dull. “Ya gotta “get a local young friend to teach how to clean windows like Sarah. Teach a kid a skill and they can make some $ with it .!

  23. This is just the motivation I need – especially considering I have never cleaned my windows and I have faaaaar fewer than you.

    I vow to enjoy the views from my spotless windows this fall/winter!

  24. Marc says:

    …. Whaooo!!!! Thanks a lot … I gone to try this great idea with my windows.

  25. Erica says:

    Geat post as always. I’m still trying to get fall mulch down on all my beds, then I’ll tackle my 64 windows.

  26. jo says:

    For the second floor windows I use the Windex Outdoor that is in a bottle that attaches to the hose.
    For inside and first floor windows I use Shaklee’s Basic H–wonderful, no streak easy method!

  27. Miriam says:

    I have used a hose end sprayer and extendable squeegee on windows I can’t reach with acceptable results

  28. Jingles says:

    I use Windex Outdoor for my lean-to greenhouse. We’re surrounded by hickory and beech trees that produce pollen seemingly by the ton! Both these pollens are sticky so a simple water rinse isn’t very effecive and are less than cooperative to the Windex Outdoor system. I have to get up on a ladder and use a very long extension pole with a soft brush on the end. Results so far have been underwhelming. I used to use ammonia and crumpled newspaper to clean my windows. After getting married, i got so much guff about the ammonia smell that I switched to vinegar. This fall I’ll try your formula and let the results speak for themselves.
    Thanks for a wonderful site. I look forward to your articles every week – like getting a visit from a special friend.

  29. Riversana says:

    I live in GA and have screens on all my windows. Anyone have good results withOUT having to remove the screens and scrub them individually?? I think I might try the Windex bottle/hose solution, if only to have the bottle to refill with Kevin’s recipe!

  30. Linda says:

    Reading your blog inspired me to clean windows this morning and now they really sparkle. I try to do them fall and spring and your formula certainly made it a lot easier then before. I didn’t have sudsy ammonia but the plain seemed to work just fine. Thanks for the recipe.

  31. Kimber says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I’m a newbie to your website and have already found so much inspiration and great ideas for my own home, thank you! We have 64 original art glass windows in our 100 year old home. The pattern is somewhat intricate so there are a lot of little pieces of stained glass between the lead came. I’m wondering if this solution would be alright to use on them and what the best way to clean the small pieces would be. Any thoughts?

  32. Your house is enchanting!! I’m sure that cleaning the windows is a calling… and only someone that had the loving intention to curate and preserve could take on such an amazing place! You and your house are a treasure that I get to open every week…. thank you.

  33. Lynn says:

    Kevin,

    I lives in an older home with lots of windows. We have lived here a little under 2 years. When I clean the windows, they still seem to have a “haze” on them in parts. Is it because they are old or because they were not cleaned enough in the past? Will your cleaning solution eventually remove the haze?

    I love your home.

    Lynn

  34. Beverly, zone 6 eastern PA says:

    I have always yearned to hire someone for my window cleaning. When I browse Craigslist and see people write “I need money fast. I will do anything” all I can think of is “Would they wash my windows for me?” I have 17 modern replacement windows in our 2 story home, some of which are prohibitively wide and heavy when bending inward for cleaning. My small hands are so totally wrecked up from gardening that I postpone the window cleaning chore as long as possible, over and over. It hurts to scrub back and forth, especially when my poor fingers hit the edge of the pane. This discourages me from the task.

    I do clean the windows that get room air conditioners installed because I could not stand looking out the reduced space and seeing grime and pollen.

    I read somewhere recently that extra clean windows lead to more bird strikes and bird deaths. The coating of dirt seems to alert the bird that it’s not a dark tunnel they can fly into. There’s a compelling reason to keep some dirty windows. In June, a cedar waxwing was killed flying into my largest window. The concussive noise was ear splitting. I felt terrible about this bird, yet I used the opportunity to see it close up and study its beauty, even in death. I still feel bad !

    The razor blade trick also works well on windows that develop an algae coating, like my north facing garden shed windows with glass louvers.

    We love Mad Men too !!!! Can’t wait for the new release on DVD.

  35. ArtistryFarm says:

    150 year old house – 39 windows just like yours. thanks for the solution tip!

  36. Beverly – You raise a good point about birds. I know there are decals for windows. The decals cling via static electricity, and serve as a “do not enter” warning for our feathered friends. So far the birds and me have been lucky…no kamikaze missions here.

  37. Beth - Fort Wayne, IN says:

    Kevin, I love the sunlight that comes through a sparkling clean window, especially when reflected off of newly fallen snow. Thanks for the instructions – i will try out the alcohol/ammonia solution this fall. One quetion – what kind of protection do you use for the foundation plantings around the house? Is the solution mild enough that you don’t worry about it burning your plants?

  38. Amber says:

    Don’t tell anyone, but i’ve lived in my house for 4 years and NEVER cleaned the outside windows. I complain how dark it is in there and I don’t receive enough sunlight. I’m going to stop complaining and go do something about it this weekend. Thanks for the nudge.

  39. Beth – Neither diluted alcohol nor ammonia is harmful to plants. As a matter of fact, I use alcohol to keep my paperwhites from growing too tall! And diluted ammonia is absorbed by plants as fertilizer. So I use no protection for the plants beneath my windows. However, if you are concerned about your foundation plantings, my advice is to throw a plastic tarp over them during the window-cleaning process. Better safe than sorry, right?

  40. Alice says:

    I live in FL and try to get all the windows twice a year. I have screens on all the windows and are always collecting spider webs in the screens (along with a lot of dead bug bodies)…any recommendations on how to keep the spiders away??? I’ve tried various sprays but it gets washed off. very unappetizing to see a wad of webs/bugs while looking out the dining room windows!

  41. Sherry says:

    Kevin – I used your cleaning solution and it worked great! I have a sun porch with lots of windows and they are sparkling clean! Thanks so much for another great tip! Love your website and news letter.

  42. Oriane says:

    Bonjour Kevin,

    This is truly not my favorite chore. Here in the desert we have shade screens over the windows so they must come off, get hosed with sudsy water, then on to the windows. I do my windows twice a year and gave up on store bought products that don’t work……then came you :)
    OMG you are fabulous! Your recipe works beautifully, not only on house windows but car windows as well (another one of my least favorite) I washed/waxed/buffed our car this weekend and used your magic suds to do the windows. Perfect.

    MERCI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Ellen says:

    This solution also works well in a ceramic tile shower surround

  44. Doris Lindsey says:

    When we hired our window cleaner – he used foam oven cleaner for tree sap. He let it set a few minutes.

  45. Kleen says:

    Thanks Kevin, it’s a nice illustration of cleaning facts with the photos too. The house and the surrounding hidden garden is simply looking great. Yeah, I agree windows need a cleaning routine and on becoming old, it becomes bit difficult to operate. No doubt each and every stuff will glitter at first eye catch if maintenance is regularly made a timely habit…

  46. Misty Huffman says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I used the alcohol/ammonia solution this morning to clean crystal vases. It was amazing! It is the only solution I have found to get the gunk off the bottom of a bud vase that can’t be cleaned with a brush. Just poured a little in and let it sit for a while. Perfect. Thanks! Misty

  47. eunice says:

    For my reachable windows I found that the cloths by Norwex are fabulous. For my high outddor windows I use Windex hose end sprayer. Love your site.

  48. Mahala Burton says:

    I live in a monterey pine forest..we have a horrible 6 week pollen season every year. Becasue california has little rain i save my rain water from the roof in an underground tank and use a hose fo spray all my windows wifh fhe soft rain water. no chemicals for outside windows and no streaking. the hose pressure washes off dirt and pollen and i have a 3 story house partially built in new hampshire to look like a colonial barn..many small windows but screens inside.
    For the inside i use this formula from a professional.

    one half tsp Dawn, one half cup alcohol and 3 cups soft water. Sometimes i add a little plain amonia. I use gallons of this as a general cleaner for the kitchne counters. and even on my toothbrush..no colds in 6 years.

    Recently i purchased a dry vapor steamer and have been slowly making my way through my entire house dry steaming and this includes inside windows and screens. It works amazingingly well but did have to spend a lot for the steamer as i wanted the dry vapor fype. I use no chemicals and use on mattresses and pillows but have to be carful on some wood.. I bought a Whitewing after reviewing the many brands.

  49. Doris Lindsey says:

    Hi Kevin! Glad to meet you! I had my windows professionally cleaned and picked up a good tip. After hosing down windows,use just a spritz of foam oven cleaner to rid your windows of tree sap. Make sure that you shake it well. Kevin, let me know about this. You have a GREAT house to try out this idea. Please let me know if it is a help to you.

  50. Pam Yost says:

    What technique do your readers recommend for cleaning the dirt build up between window and screen? The corners are impossible. Any helpful tool, brush or personal technique?

  51. Linda K. says:

    We have a 100 plus year old farm house and have replaced all our windows with tilt in so no more ladders and changing screens to windows in the fall. I have found a product that uses nothing but water. They are called Norwex window cleaning rags. You wet one of them and wash with it. The other is a shiny rag and you dry with that one. You cannot believe how your glass shines. We have 15 windows to do and I just carry a pail of water and my two rags. no chemicals which can dry your hands or have to wear gloves. You can find these rags on line at Norwex.com. I have been a custodian for 31 years and cleaned alot of windows. streaks are maddening and i don’t find that at all with this product. enjoy!!

  52. Susie says:

    Hi Kevin,

    apart from a few years of being married to a (wait for it…) “window cleaner” of all men, I have always cleaned my own windows.

    A few years ago I picked up a rather large steam machine with lots of extra tools. It looks like one of those canister vacuum cleaners. It’s terrific! the best cleaning tool I have EVER bought! I love the squeegee attachment – it makes doing windows and mirrors a breeze!

    I have very hard water in my corner of Vermont, with many minerals, so to prevent mineral build up, I just add a splash of white vinegar to the reserve. My windows are the tilt in kind, and when I get around to cleaning them, they sparkle. For at least a couple of minutes that is…. then there are hand prints, nose prints, and doggy nose prints all over them again.

    BTW, according to the ‘ex’, who worked on many beautiful old houses in CT and NY, the best way to clean a window that had crud from old screens etched onto it, was with a spray bottle of murionic acid and a safety razor blade.

    There were many evenings he would complain about windows that hadn’t been done in a decade, and he’d been stuck all day at the top of a high ladder with a blade and acid while his father and brother got to do the inside and ground floor( probably why he’s ‘ex’).

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  54. Sylvia Neal says:

    I am just so inspired and motivated now. I live in an old house, one story, and my windows look just like yours. The only difference is that they have storm windows over the outside. I am almost 70, and running low on energy, but I am going to try to at least clean some of them. Some of the storm windows don’t want to go up and down. I am thinking, WD-40. :) It’s going to take a while.

  55. Casey Cavasher says:

    I’ve always used the sudsy ammonia and vinegar but until this article never thought about adding rubbing alcohol for the streak-free drying — what a difference! Thanks for the info!

  56. yvonne moram says:

    hi Kevin,well,it is strange that you should have this blitz on window cleaning i too have been experimenting,but my windows are very small but they are latticed with lead,and it has taken me23yrs to perfect them.When they are washed ,one has to be sure to dry all the water off of them at the diamond points,any how they look great, until the sun shines on them!!!! so living in hard water area,i have made up a solution of washing machine water softener and as far as i know they seem to look GOOD so fingers crossed,it’s a nightmare of my life i hate dirty glass. Thanks for my news letter look forward to getting it
    regards Yvonne Moram.

    1

  57. Charlotte says:

    Thank you I can’t wait to do this

  58. They WILL view you as cheap if all you do is
    put a piece of paper on their mailbox or a run-of-the-mill door
    hanger on their door. If you’re not in a room then don’t leave the
    light on. Downtown development is doing well, while many suburbs
    are suffering.

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  60. Jean Kahler says:

    Who knew there could be so many thoughts/discussions about cleaning windows!?

  61. Linda says:

    Years ago I found a recipe for window washing using hot water, ammonia, white vinegar, and a small amount of cornstarch to act as a surfactant. On with a sponge, off with a squeegee – great results. I recently starting substituting a few drops of dish liquid for the cornstarch, and use a microfiber cloth to wipe the squeegee & and drips on the sill. I can’t imagine trying to tackle those huge windows like yours!

  62. Peggy Gerron says:

    I feel very posh . Our two first floor street facing row house windows are washed quarterly by a. professional window washer. He does the landmark fancy brownstone windows all over my neighborhood and my two. He likes to complain that my two windows offen his biggest challenge because of the flowers in the window boxes and seasonal decorations on the window gates. We tease each other with the problems he has getting around myHalloween spiders and Easter eggs . He uses his own secret formula on those windows . I use your window recipe from last year on all the other windows. Thank you Kevin

  63. Louise McPhillips says:

    The glazing putty on our 1938 windows is terribly mildewed after a very rainy summer last year in Alabama. Do you ever get mildew on yours, or do you know a formula to remove the mildew without having to cut out all the putty? Thanks…

  64. Debbie Oklad-Van Lue says:

    Kevin, you mention the Windex pole & pad window washing set not reaching the upper windows of your home. Windex makes more than just the box set with pole & the normal Windex extension pole. I purchased my Windex 3 section 12′ pole from Menard’s. However, I believe they may have discontinued this pole, but with some effort you may be able to still find one. I wanted to purchase a second such Windex pole due to someone always wanting to borrow my pole and I could no longer find that size Windex pole. And yes, that Windex pole with all extensions used…. reached my Historic homes second floors windows with no problem (it could not reach my third floor windows) I had 52 windows to wash and this pole & the pads were a life saver for me! This was the only thing other than professional windows cleaners that really cleaned the exterior of my home windows. FYI: I have numerous extension poles but none of them seem to fit that pad head only the Windex brand pole does

  65. Ardelle says:

    Wash my own windows and have had water spots from wind blowing the sprinkler water onto the HOT windows. I used white vinegar and baking soda paste – works like a charm and they sparkle – hope no one walks through them…

  66. Pat says:

    I just bought and old house circa 1898 and some of the windows in one room have a haze to them that appears to be on the inside. I just cleaned them using a store bought cleaner. Do you know if your “recipe” will remove this old haze?

  67. Diane says:

    I hire a local one-man shop window washer every spring. I’ve used him for over a decade, and he never disappoints. He uses only water and a little dish soap, and a squeegee, and the windows sparkle!

  68. Carol says:

    Speaking of windows, we have found that Sprayway’s “World’s Best Glass Cleaner,” does an excellent job on mirrors, glass, and our smooth cooktop — much better than the other big-name glass cleaner. It looks like a big can of hairspray, and it’s available in our grocery store.

  69. Mari says:

    I live in Costa Rica, in the mountains, and am a fanatic about clean windows! I just cannot get enough of my view, and hate to have it marred by dirty windows. I just did them yesterday using the water, alcohol mix, but since I didn’t have the sudsy amonia, i used a drop or 2 of Dawn detergent. Worked like a charm! I can reach most of my windows from the outside, so alternate between a sqeege and microfibre clothes. Inside, especially, I prefer the microfibre. Thanks for your wonderful articles. I always look forward to them.

  70. Karen Thomas says:

    I use a 50/50 mixture of water and ammonia, and add a splash of vinegar. I use a reversible sponge, the kind with the soft scrubbing side opposite the regular sponge side. Or I use an old t-shirt. I wash the windows with the cloth or sponge, and wipe them dry with more old t-shirt rags. The vinegar eliminates streaks and like yours, the windows just sparkle. However, I think I will incorporate your idea of hosing them off first, so I can get the bulk of the dirt at the tops and bottoms off first. I prefer rags for drying because squeegee blades sometimes send water in streaks down the side of the house, which can be quite noticeable if the siding isn’t clean. Thanks for your article; I found it very helpful.

  71. Heather says:

    Kevin, does this method work on hard water? We have terrible water out here and haven’t yet installed a water softener to our well. I’ll probably employ the indoor method outside, as well. We are in a terrible drought and I would feel wasteful washing windows. Sorry, in a drought windows are low priority as far as hosing goes.

  72. Jackie Peschong says:

    Two large picture windows will be the test of your solution today. Perfect weather for outdoor chores. Thanks.

  73. Mickie Christiansen says:

    My little wee granddaughter loves to clean windows. She noticed a tiny spot on her upper floor bedroom window, and guilted MoMo (thats me) into a faulty towers rendition of soapy water window washing. We had a ball!! Your husband is very lucky to have you Kevin, as are all of us for your brilliant and hillarious sharing. Love you!

  74. Debbie says:

    alsa, I do them myself too. I have had the job ‘hred out’ in the past.. but really, it not that tough of a job that needs a hired hand. I think I’ll try your solution next time. :-)

  75. jo says:

    Years ago, WINDEX came out with a window cleaner called WINDEX OUTDOOR MULTI-SURFACE cleaner.
    Since I have a 2 story home and cannot climb ladders, I have used this with great success.
    It is the same principle as their new ‘mop head’–without the handle tool.
    It just attaches to the hose and has a dial to switch on the water–then cleaner–then water again and washes without towels or newspapers.
    Thank you for you indoor solution ratio.

  76. Marsha says:

    I’ve been using your technique and homemade solution for a year now and I have to say, it is THE best way to clean windows. It’s fast and the results are wonderful, shiny windows. In the past, I’ve used newspaper, various commercial sprays, paper towels, cloth rags, vinegar, etc. Nothing works as well as your solution. I love clean windows and this technique is the BEST. THANK YOU ! THANK YOU!

  77. Gretchen says:

    We live next to a wildlife refuge wooded area that’s mostly hickory, oak and beech trees. In the spring people from this area drive yellow cars from all the pollen, so window washing is a real challenge. I’m the window washer and cannot over-recommend Kevin’s formula for cleaning. This stuff works! Regardless of how careful I try to be, seems there’s always a streak or blob that I’ve missed on the outside of the window.. Have discovered a sneaky trick to help find it. When you back inside to inspect (admire) your work, take a dry-erase marker and circle any offending smudge. Makes finding the spot a lot easier and a quick s wipe on the outside removes it. The dry erase marker is no match for a paper towel.
    We used to have a lot of bird casualties from the little guys trying to fly through the glass. One year I buried 8 songbirds and decided the stick-ons I was using simply didn’t work. Solved that by cutting a sheet of mylar gift wrapping with a hologram pattern into strips and taping them near the top of the wood-side windows that had the casualties. The mylar is almost constantly in motion so between the sparkles from the pattern and the motion of the strips we have not had a single fatality since. It took only a short time for us to get used to the strips but after seeing a wood thrush do a quick turn to avoid the window, the fluttering strips are now a welcome part of the scenery.

  78. Deb says:

    You didn’t mention screens in your column. Do you have them? I bought an old house that has the original wood and rope/weight double hung windows. They’re lovely–or would be except for the ugly storm windows the previous owner installed. Now I’m debating what to do about them, in addition to cleaning. Any ideas?

  79. Susan L. Golden says:

    My husband was a professional window washer for a few years way back when! He always notices dirty windows, especially those of businesses! Yuck! He cleans ours inside and out about twice each season! He has all of the equipment and his technique is just like yours, Kevin! I’m not sure what goes in that bucket, but I’m pretty certain that Ammonia is part of his concoction, too! All I know is that we have sparkling clean windows year round and I love that! Now, if the birds would only respect his efforts and not deface them the very day he does the deed! Oh, well. We love the birds, too! :-)

  80. Cathy says:

    Kevin, As Sarah says I live alone also and my loving Nephew has threatened to take my ladder home with him if he catches me on it again!!!! With bad hands and knees I am really hesitant about climbing so my outside windows suffer but the inside is not quite that bad. Am going to try the garden hose and wash with the ammonia mixture – thanks for your help.

  81. Cathy says:

    Kevin, It’s me, Cathy, again! Do I see two beautiful grand pianos in your picture?
    Do you play, teach, or both?

  82. Carol H. says:

    Hey Gretchen: I’m wondering about your mylar trick… did you place this on the inside or the outside of the windows? (Have the same problem with birds flying into all the large plate glass windows we have.)

  83. Bonnie Taormina says:

    Kevin I only use Hydrogen Peroxide and water. It will do the job and no streaks. You mix it half and half. I do this because I am a smoker and this takes that mess off of windows right off. I spray it on really well and squeegee it off. The glass comes out so shinny and clear. I have an old house over a hundred years old and it has the old windows also. Old houses are neat and love to go in and check them out. I see a lot of old housing falling down and all. It is so sad to see history going down like that. This place I live on used to have a black smith shop under this huge oak tree back during the civil war. We still find old things buried around. A tornado took down that old oak tree in 1993 I think it was. It was over 28 foot around. Anyhow, that tree was very old and hated that tornado took it down. Love your house and love your recipes and all. Thanks for sharing and have a great week. Bonnie

  84. Deborah says:

    Hi Kevin!
    For those of us who are mathematically/ratio challenged, could you give us a cups and ounces recipe for your soapy solution composed of 45% water, 45% rubbing alcohol, and 10% sudsy ammonia. ;)

    Love your recipes!

  85. Cheryl says:

    My house was built in 1883. I have 52 windows. I hire it out to clean both outside and inside. Best decision I ever, ever made!

  86. Claudia says:

    I clean my own windows, using a ladder around the lower level, and lean out the 2nd floor windows, (it is a good to have skinny arms)

  87. Diane McDaniel says:

    Hi, We have a service here in Raleigh – Major Paynes! They are inexpensive, clean inside and out, both floors. It’s about time to call them. I have them come once a year in the fall, after the pollens have done their thing! Love your old house and this site, too!

    Happy Fall Cleaning,

    Diane

  88. Margaret says:

    For me the answer is neither. They don’t get cleaned because you can’t tell the difference after they are cleaned.

    I have people coming Friday to discuss replacing my 31 yr old windows. Double glass in the windows sounded like such a good idea when this house was built but they have all failed. There’s either moisture or spiderwebs between the 2 layers of glass on every single window. I’m so excited about the prospect of actually being able to see out my kitchen window you’d think I was getting a brand new house.

    Here in Alabama the pollen has not nearly finished. Ragweed is blooming and all us allergy sufferers are never far from the box of tissue.

  89. Rossinhawaii says:

    Get down to the hardware store and get one of those wonderful long poles the painters use to paint the sides of buildings. They are not expensive and adjust upwards of 10-20 feet, which should be just enough to reach to tops of those windows. I found one on Craigslist for just a few dollars and it made washing the second story windows so much easier. I like your solution for cleaning, I’m going to us it next time.

  90. Chuck says:

    Thanks for the formula. I’ll use that information.

  91. Joanna says:

    Totally agree regarding uselessness of vinegar!

  92. Judy says:

    Our 102 year-old house has 58 huge, double-hung windows (all with storm windows) and an additional 26 decorative windows and doors. Sadly, even when we hire someone to wash the windows, they are never all clean at once. The house is 3 stories in the front and 3 1/2 in the rear. It over-whelms me to think about doing the job alone! I would much rather live with dirty windows than replacement windows.

  93. Judy Wagner says:

    My older home, about 94 years old now, has double hung windows also, but each is a 6 over 6 or 8 over 8 window meaning the windows are divided into cute little rectangles. So cute that I have to use a hand wiper or find a small size squeegee to use. At least the storm windows are not divided up like that. BUT, the storms have to be stored for the summer and brought out and re-installed each winter since they are double and not triple track type. It’s an ordeal to do the windows each year but I start early and carry on until all are sparkling clean. Like you, I want the sun to blaze into the house all winter long.

  94. Parmalee says:

    Fool proof and fast:
    Meguiars car wash and an extension swimming pool cleaning pole (mine is a 20′) with a soft car wash brush attached. The Meguiars soap i put in a 5 gal bucket with water (follow car wash directions on mixing) to dip the brush in. Hose the windows down first. I can reach my tallest windows while standing on the ground except the attic. Those are really high so I open them on their hinges inside and clean them that way.
    The car wash leaves my car spot free and has ‘sheeting’ action, Same with the windows. They too dry spot free and sheet clean.
    As far as washing your car, this brand is amazing.

  95. Joni D. says:

    I use water, rubbing alcohol, non-sudsing ammonia and vinegar – my windows sparkle!! Love the rubbing alcohol in this – no streaks! Living on a lake (in farm country) our windows really get dirty and this does the trick every time! If we get a warm day in the winter I can use this formula and it works like a charm! For the windows that have no screens, I made “bird deflectors” – using “fish line” and tiny mirror tiles I hang these in the windows. Only had one bird hit my windows this season!!

  96. Oriane says:

    Bonjour Kevin,

    I’ve switched to your 45/45/10 method which works so well on all my windows, this is the best cleaning solution for me.
    Monsoon season is almost over here in Arizona (it’s still 100 degrees); window cleaning will happen in October.

    Comme toujours, merci.

  97. Sheri says:

    I love washing windows to Van Morrison – Cleaning Windows
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv_kqKBfuAY

  98. Linda K. says:

    I have found a couple cleaning cloths that you do not have to mix any chemicals to clean with. Just a bucket of water and the two cloths. They are Norwex and you wet the one and you dry with the other. No streaks. I used to climb a ladder to the second floor windows, take off the screens and scrub. We went to the expense of putting in new tilt in windows and what a time and life saver. Have 18 windows and those two rags do the job. Worth the money!!

  99. jean says:

    Kevin, All I can say is you’d better bottle this solution a it is Oct 19th and chilly but I cleaned all of my windows with your solution and they are amazing! I have never seen them look so great. Wasn’t sure so on the inside, I just sprayed them down first with clear water in a spray bottle then sprayed the solution and squeegeed them. Now I just have to worry about those darn birds flying into the windows as they are sooooo clean! LOL Thanks so much for a great recipe and it was so easy. I also have white shutters on the house so sprayed them down also then applied your spray and scrubbed them with a brush and rinsed. Amazing! Thanks again.

    Jean

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