We Tried 5 Methods for Cleaning Windows — And the Winner Is Ridiculously Easy and Effective

published May 14, 2022
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Credit: Products: Sarah Crowley; Window: Getty Images/Justin Paget; Design: Kitchn

I’ve heard it said that kitchen windows are a luxury. It’s the one thing in my current single-story open-concept house that I’m kind of sad I don’t have. (The kitchen is in the middle of the house, and my sink has a serene view of … the living room.) We’re moving, though, and the new house has one window over the sink and then also a sliding door! I can’t wait!

Of course, that does mean more cleaning for me. Window glass must be kept clean in order to enjoy the outside-in effect to the fullest. Plus, a dirty, smudgy window is far easier to spot than, say, a dusty wall. To prepare myself, I decided to do some research and some first-hand testing.

Turns out, this is the best time of the year to clean kitchen windows because it’s warm enough to open the window. Plus, the rainy season has stopped. But it isn’t so hot and sunny that newly sprayed window cleaner will evaporate too quickly and leave unsightly streak marks. 

My research found five very popular methods, including using straightforward classic window cleaning products and more unusual DIY concoctions. I tested them all out and have some thoughts.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

How I Tested the Methods

Because I don’t have my own kitchen window at the moment, I tested each of the methods on other windows instead. I cleaned five different windows. I only cleaned the glass, not the screens or tracks. I timed myself to see how long it took to clean the whole window with each method.

The ratings: I used a rating scale of one to five, with one being low and five being high. I rated each window cleaner based on how effectively it cleaned, how much elbow grease I had to use, and how crystal-clear the window looked after I was all done. I considered how easy the method was, both in terms of application of the product I used, and in terms of wiping the windows down to actually clean them. In addition to ease, I considered how long each method took. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Window Cleaning Method 1: Vinegar

  • Total cleaning time: 4 minutes
  • Rating: 2 / 5

The method: I mixed equal parts hot water and distilled white vinegar and put the solution in a spray bottle. I sprayed it on the window glass and wiped with a microfiber cloth. 

How it went: While it was inexpensive and involved household ingredients, I really didn’t like this method. The vinegar and water seemed to slide on the glass and leave it wet. The solution did clean off dirt and grime, but it left behind wet trails that didn’t give a crisp, clear final result. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Window Cleaning Method 2: Squeegee and Dish Soap

  • Total cleaning time: 5 minutes
  • Rating: 2 / 5

The method: I mixed hot water and a small squirt of dish soap in a bowl. I then applied the solution with a terry cloth rag and squeegeed it off. 

How it went: I really wanted to like this method, and it went great … until it didn’t. The dish soap and water solution went on easily and worked efficiently at dissolving dirt and spots. Squeegeeing went well, leaving behind squeaky-clean glass. But then I went to lift the window. Soapy water had collected along the top seam of the glass and the frame, so as I lifted the window, the suds streaked down. I squeegeed again. But I never could get every bit of soapy water off the window, and this left behind a few unwanted streaks. Overall, it was a promising, but ultimately frustrating method. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Window Cleaning Method 3: Black Tea and Newspaper

  • Total cleaning time: 3 minutes
  • Rating: 3.5 / 5

The method: Cleaning windows with black tea works because of the tannic acid, which dissolves grease and dirt. I brewed the tea, using three tea bags in one cup of water. I let the tea cool for about half an hour. (I did not count this cooling time in the overall time.) I poured the cooled tea into a spray bottle and spritzed the window. Then I rubbed and buffed with newspaper. Yes, newspaper! The high absorbency of newsprint is said to make it effective at cleaning windows.

How it went: I enjoyed this method, and it honestly worked better than I thought it would. The combo of newsprint and tea worked well to dissolve dirt and grime, and the solution dried quickly. Here’s why I docked a few points: Making the cleaning solution was a bit involved, and I had to wait for the tea to brew and then cool, so it isn’t a great option if you want to clean your windows in a hurry.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Window Cleaning Method 4: Sprayway Glass Cleaner

  • Total cleaning time: 3 minutes
  • Rating: 4 / 5

The method: Sprayway was so easy to use. I simply sprayed the foam onto the windows and wiped with a microfiber cloth. The cleaner came off easily and dried instantly. 

How it went: For the most part, I really liked the Sprayway. What I didn’t love was the aerosol spray can, but it did smell pleasant. It worked very well, leaving behind crystal-clear glass. That said, I did have to use a good amount of elbow grease to address more stubborn spots. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Window Cleaning Method 5: Windex

  • Total cleaning time: 2 minutes
  • Rating: 5 / 5

The method: I sprayed Windex on my windows and wiped them with a microfiber cloth. 

How it went: Windex was, hands-down, the very best cleaner to get the job done. What set it apart from the other methods was how readily it dissolved stubborn spots. Those pesky marks wiped away easily with no scrubbing. I’m guessing it’s the ammonia that so quickly ate through the sticky stuff. While I don’t love using ammonia or having it around in my house, using Windex makes easy work of an otherwise tedious job that I’d definitely use it again and again to get the windows in my new house in tip-top shape. Turns out the old classic really is the gold standard!

How do you clean your windows? Tell us your tips in the comments below.