How to Wash Windows

Ideally, windows should be washed twice a year. There are two primary methods that can be used.

Cleaning Windows with a Squeegee

This is the method used by most professional window cleaners, and results in streak-free, spotless windows.

What you will need:

  • Dish soap
  • Squeegee
  • Clean Sponge
  • 2 buckets of water


  1. Mix your cleaning solution, using 4 to 6 drops of dish soap to 2 gallons of warm water. You can also use 1 cup of vinegar to 1 quart of water, or 1 cap full of ammonia per 2 gallons of water. The solutions work equally well, and it is really just a matter of personal preference.
  2. Wet your sponge with the cleaning solution and wipe the window using broad circular motions. Pay close attention to corners and edges where dirt and grime tend to accumulate.
  3. Dip squeegee in clean water and then starting from the very top of the window pull it vertically down (from top to bottom) stopping an inch or two from the bottom.
  4. Wipe the squeegee, dip in clean water, and repeat on the next section of the window.
  5. When the entire window has been cleaned, wipe the squeegee and run it horizontally along the bottom of the window to remove any remaining water.
  6. Using a clean paper towel or lint-free cloth, wipe up areas missed by the squeegee (i.e. along the edges and in the corners).
  7. Wipe up any excess water on the window sill.

TIP: For stubborn residue or spots (i.e. paint or stuck-on bird droppings) gently scrape with a new razor blade. Careful though; always handle razor blades with extreme care. It is advised that you wear work gloves or use a scraper tool made for this purpose.

Spray and Wipe

This method is not as effective and is a little more difficult than the squeegee method, but is useful for smaller window panes where a squeegee won’t fit.

What you will need:

  • Commercial Spray cleaner for windows (The foaming kind works best as it does not drip)
  • Paper Towels, newspaper, or lint-free cloths


  1. Spray on cleaner in an “S” pattern zigzagging across the entire window pane.
  2. Using a clean paper towel, wipe the window in a circular motion. Discard paper towel
  3. Using another clean paper towel, wipe the remaining residue from the window using a smooth circular motion.

TIP: To save money and prevent lint from being left on the windows, newspaper may be used instead of paper towels.

How to Clean Elevated Exterior Windows

Unless you have casement windows which can be opened and cleaned from inside the house, second story windows can be a challenge. Ultimately the best way to reach the outside of those windows for cleaning is to use a ladder. NEVER hang out or dangle from an open window for cleaning or any other purpose!

  • Inspect your ladder thoroughly before use for any defects or problems. NEVER use a ladder that appears damaged or unstable.
  • Make sure your ladder is tall enough to safely reach the windows without standing on the top two rungs. .
  • Position the ladder beside the house so that it is leaning on solid surface. .
  • NEVER lean your ladder up against a gutter for support. The gutter is not strong enough to safely support the ladder or you. .
  • NEVER lean your ladder up against the window glass. .
  • ALWAYS work with a partner or someone nearby in the event of an emergency. .
  • Make sure your ladder is placed securely on the ground and is as even as possible. Many hardware stores sell ladder stabilizers. It is also helpful have someone stand at the bottom to hold the ladder for extra support. .

Cleaning Windows From a Ladder:

  1. Place your ladder in a location where you can comfortably reach the window you are cleaning without leaning to one side or the other. TIP: If your house has aluminum siding, wrap a rag around the part of the ladder leaning against the building so that it’s less likely to scratch the siding. Secure it with a rubber band.
  2. Carry as little as possible when climbing the ladder, making extra trips if you have to. TIP: Rest your cleaning supplies on the window ledge, or hang them in a bucket from the ladder (many hardware stores sell tools designed for this purpose). You could also wear a workman’s apron or tool belt to help hold your supplies as you work.
  3. Keep your weight evenly centered.
  4. Use either cleaning method described above, working on only one window at a time. Pass cleaning materials from hand to hand behind your back so that you are not tempted to lean back and also to avoid scratching or damaging the siding on your house.

Additional Tips

If you have a fear of heights or have difficulty working on a ladder, you should call a professional to clean the outside windows. Many companies offer window cleaning services at very reasonable prices. Check your local yellow pages. You can also contact your local Chamber of Commerce. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the quality or reputation of local window cleaning services, check them out the Better Business Bureau before you hire.


  1. Rebecca says:

    A few weeks before I am going to wash the windows, I save the newspapers and use those in place of paper or cloth towels. They clean better and leave a sparkle on the window.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Another way to clean windows that aren’t really soiled is to spray the cleaner on the window, wipe with a cloth towel, then squeegee. Keep the squeegee really dry by wiping it off regularly.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Don’t wipe from side to side. Once you spray the cleaner, use a circular motion to clean the windows. This will cut down on streaks.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I buy a bottle of the Windex Outdoor window cleaner that attaches to a hose. I use that until it is gone, then I replace it with soap and water. Accomplishes the same thing on outside windows and is much less expensive then buying the Windex over and over. I spray the window and scrub with a cloth, then squeegee the excess off.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Don’t wash indoor or outdoor windows on a bright, sunny day. The cleaner will dry faster than you can wipe it off, causing streaks.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Sticky stuff, like tape residue or tree sap is easier to scrape off than to wipe off. Use a flat bladed knife or a razor knife to remove things like this. Be careful to hold the knife flat and not at an angle or you will scratch the window.

  7. Jan says:

    I have used every technique, formula, spray, newspapers and special towels ever recommended. Then I saw the ‘light’. At a building supply company, buy the same equipment that the professional window washers use.

    By using the following equipment and steps, you can cut window washing time by 80% and frustration by 100%.

    1. quality squeegee
    2. extension rod
    3. plastic ‘head’ with fuzzy (removable) covering
    4. bucket with warm water
    5. Joy dish soap

    Place a terry towel on the window ledge. Place the fuzzy head on the extension pole and dip it into a bucket of warm, sudsy water.
    Wash the entire window. Take off the fuzzy head and replace it with the squeegee.
    Squeegee off sudsy windows. YOU’RE DONE! Sparking, no streaking, and almost no effort. Brilliant. You’ll get better with the squeegee each time you try. Trust me. You’ll love this technique, but you must buy quality squeegees (I have 2 sizes).

  8. Jackie says:

    When washing windows, and the car, I mix Downy April Fresh Fabric Softener and ammonia together, then put it in a spray bottle. It works great!! Smells good and leaves no streaks. Good on the inside of the car, home windows, car windows, the kitchen floor. It does a wonderful job.

  9. Bonnie says:

    I use pure isopropyl alcohol to clean windows. It works great! Either wet a paper towel and clean or fill a spray bottle. Just be careful if you have any “wounds” on your hands because it stings!

  10. Sally says:

    If using a squeegee, on one side go vertical, then horizontal on the other side. If there are streaks, you know which side it’s on.

  11. R Moore says:

    My complaints to your comment section.
    Your ideas sound good, but you include no amounts on the ingredients!

    Also, do any of you have special tips for outside windows that seem to accumulate “grease” from the smoke of wood-burners?

    R Moore

  12. Donald says:

    For the outside of windows, I mix dishwater soap and a very small squirt of Jet Dry. Apply and scrub with a long handled car wheel brush like you get from an automotive store. Rinse with water.
    A small squirt of Rinse Agent (Jet Dry), like you use in your dishwasher, in the soapy wash water will make the water shed off like water on a duck’s back when you rinse. Can use the Rinse Agent in soapy water you clean your outside windows and they will dry almost streak free.

  13. REM says:

    If you wipe the windows horizontally inside, vertically outside, you can tell which side of the window the streaks are on. Tip from an old school janitor that I worked with one summer.

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