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How to Properly Clean Your Car’s Windows

BY: Andrew Giorgi
A person cleaning their car's window with a microfiber cloth.

Road trips can be a great way to take in the gorgeous scenery, especially towards the end of summer when fall begins to creep in. With the season changing and schools back in session, it may be the last chance you get until the middle of winter for you to take a long trip.

Don’t let your chance to see the breathtaking views of your drive be marred by dirty windows or risk your safety with grime clouding your windows.

How to Clean Your Car’s Windows

When cleaning your car windows, giving them a quick squeegee when you stop for gas might make things a little clearer and get rid of minor smudges, but it still leaves a lot behind. More stubborn, caked-on grime and contaminants won’t come off with a quick scrub and cleaning the outside still leaves dust on the inside of the window.

And while you can pay a professional to help give you clean car windows inside and out, with the right cleaning supplies and the proper knowledge, you can easily turn it into a money-saving DIY job on a weekend. But first, you’ll need some basic glass cleaning products, including glass or window cleaner (preferably in a spray bottle) and a clean microfiber cloth or towel.

Exterior Cleaning

From bugs to bird droppings to road debris and grime that can build up, the outside of your windows is subjected to a lot, which is why knowing how to properly clean the exterior of your car’s windows can help.

Spray Cleaner on the Cloth Instead of the Window

While it might be tempting to soak your windows or even your car windshield with an auto glass cleaner, this can be counterproductive. Too much cleaner on the window can result in a residue left in the form of streaks, which can cause glare while driving. You should also avoid using paper towels when cleaning your windows, as they can leave behind streaks or even lint.

Instead, spray a glass or car window cleaner directly on a microfiber towel or cloth and wipe the windows with it, adding more cleaner as needed. This allows you to work in smaller sections and leave less residue for a lint-free and streak-free finish. Also, while a product like Windex can be great for cleaning windows in or outside your home, it may not be the best to use on a car. Mainly, while it can help clean the windows, its chemical makeup could hurt your car’s paint if you’re not careful. If you also have tinted windows, especially those installed by a third party, Windex could cause the tint to crack. However, you can find ammonia-free Windex, which would be safer to use, but instead, it’s recommended to use another cleaning product approved to use in and on vehicles. 

Use More Pressure on Stains

When you come across stubborn stains that don’t seem to come out during your standard car wash, you may need to press a little harder and scrub a little longer to get them off. These stains are primarily bugs and bird droppings that have spent time in the hot sun and become baked onto the glass.

While a pressure washer will get those tough spots off, remember that pressure washers can damage your windows and the paint and trim on your vehicle. Good, old-fashioned elbow grease is the way to go, even on these stains.

Avoid Cleaning Windows in Hot Weather

Hot weather means hot glass, which makes the cleaner you use dry quickly and unevenly, leaving behind streaks and residue. While no one wants to be cleaning any part of their vehicle in freezing weather, waiting until the weather has cooled off in the evening or starting first thing in the morning before things heat up will get you the best results.

Clean under the Wiper Blades

An area often neglected is underneath your windshield wiper blades, which can trap all kinds of debris that later gets dragged across your windshield. Cleaning this space will give you a cleaner overall vehicle and protect your windshield from microscopic scratches that can impair visibility. Keeping your windshield in good condition is essential to driving safely.

Interior Cleaning

Once the outside of the windows is cleaned, it’s time to move on to the inside. Don’t forget; leaving this side clean and streak-free is just as important as the outside.

Pre-clean the Windows

The dirt and grime inside the windows are often less obvious than on the outside and can accumulate much more before it gets noticed. Pre-cleaning the inside of the window with a dry cloth knocks off a lot of the surface debris, allowing the cleaner to be more effective and reducing the number of abrasive materials between the cloth and the window. Once that’s done, you can move on to the main cleaning.

Avoid Using Too Much Cleaner

Similar to spraying cleaner directly on windows, applying too much, even when spraying it on a cloth, can leave behind a residue that will leave behind a haze. While you want enough cleaning solution on your cloth to effectively clean, your cloth shouldn’t be dripping wet. If you accidentally get too much cleaner on your cloth, allow it to dry out or get a new cloth to continue cleaning.

Clean in a Grid Pattern

While Mr. Miyagi was a great teacher in training Daniel LaRusso to beat Johnny Lawrence in the Karate Kid (1984), his car cleaning tips weren’t entirely correct. Mainly, while using a circular motion to “wax on, wax off” or to clean a car can help with karate training, it’s not that hand when washing a car. Mainly, using a circular motion can be hard to keep track of, and it’s easy to miss a spot when you can’t keep track of where you have already cleaned. Using a pattern of horizontal and vertical motions lets you know which spots you’ve already cleaned and which ones still need a good wipe-down. Cleaning every section thoroughly can also ensure you wipe away any cleaner used to prevent streaks.

Use a Separate Cloth for Drying

While it can be tempting to use the same cloth you used to apply the cleaner, this can contribute to streaks and haze on your windows. Even if you wait for the fabric to dry first, the remaining cleaner can make the fibers stiff, leading to microscopic scratches, and any moisture can rehydrate the cleaner, creating a new residue on the glass. Instead, have two microfiber cloths or towels on hand and designate one as the “cleaning cloth” and the other as the “drying cloth,” and try not to mix them up.

Other Car Cleaning Tips

Just because your windows are clean doesn’t mean you can stop there. You must keep your entire car clean and well-maintained to get the best longevity and performance out of your vehicle. However, this is no easy feat, and you should be meticulously thorough to ensure you get every nook and cranny. 

Work Top to Bottom

After you spend time cleaning all your floors and car seats with a complete deep cleaning of your car’s interior, the last thing you want is to throw dirt and debris down on them. Working your way from top to bottom can help keep you from having to reclean areas you’ve already worked on, especially when it comes to the hard-to-reach places inside your car.

 Use Specific Auto Cleaners

While dish soap might seem like a good way to eliminate accumulated grease and grime, it can damage your finish and paint. Use a soap specifically designed for automotive use instead.

Clean beneath the Seats

While it may be tempting to say, “Out of sight, out of mind,” cleaning underneath your seats can help prevent odors and avoid attracting insects or other pests.

Deep-Clean Carpets & Upholstery

The fabrics in your vehicle can trap odors, dirt, and small debris. Periodic deep cleaning can get everything that you might not be able to see.

Brush Out Nooks & Crannies

It’s easy to forget about all the little crevices on doors, dashboards, and middle consoles, but brushing them out as you go is an important step in getting your car completely clean.

Keep Your Car Running with Endurance

Properly taking care of your car’s windows and even windshield can help you not only have a better view of everything around you but also help you avoid any potentially costly issues. However, while a car’s windshields and side windows are especially important, they aren’t covered under extended warranties and may require specific insurance policies to cover any damage. However, while you may be in charge of covering your car’s windows, an Endurance auto protection plan can help give you peace of mind when it comes to unexpected breakdowns and repairs for your vehicle’s other vital components without breaking the bank, as plans start as low as $79 a month.

On top of ensuring you don’t have to pay for covered repairs again, every Endurance plan also includes standard benefits like trip interruption coverage, rental car coverage and 24/7 roadside assistance and towing. And regardless of your coverage, each Endurance plan also includes a year’s worth of Elite Benefits after a small activation fee, including extra perks and savings like key fob replacements, tire replacements or repairs, collision discounts and even total loss protection. 

Don’t let an unexpected breakdown get in the way of your next trip by requesting your free, no-obligation quote today. You can also call a member of the award-winning Endurance customer care team at (800) 253-8203 to learn more about how Endurance can help keep you safe. And don’t forget to check out the learning center if you want to find more informative articles on car care, vehicle buying guides, maintenance tips and instructions, and much more.

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