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The best way to clean your windows and what to use

Melanie Whitehouse / 27 May 2016 ( 30 June 2020 )

Find out how to clean windows inside and out for beautifully clear and streak-free glass.

Cleaning a window
Try to clean your windows, both inside and out, at least twice a year

When the sun shines it may show up streaks and dirt on your windows. Even a little bit of dust and muck can affect how much light shines into your home, so get into the habit of cleaning your windows twice a year, inside and out – and more often if you live on a busy road where pollution can build up more quickly.

Find out how to make a dark room feel brighter.

What you need to clean your windows

Before you begin window cleaning, line up your tools:

  • Window cleaning spray (either a natural or commercial cleaner); or a bucket of hot, soapy water (washing up liquid is best).
  • A clean, soft cloth (an old T-shirt or cotton sheet is fine) or scrunched-up newspaper, for polishing windows and making them sparkle.
  • A big sponge, to apply the soapy water.
  • A squeegee, which cuts down the workload.

How to clean windows

Remove knick-knacks and plants from the windowsill, take down blinds and tie back curtains.

Wash dirty windowsills, so dirt doesn’t transfer.

If you have secondary glazing, gently lower sliding windows and clean separately, using the same method as below.

Apply the cleaning product sparingly, either spraying on or washing the window with your hot, soapy water.

Wipe off excess water with the squeegee. Start at the top of the window and work downwards to the bottom, wiping the squeegee blade regularly to keep it clean. Some specialists recommend working in a reverse ‘S’ shape.

Remove any remaining water from the glass with a damp chamois (fine suede) or microfibre cloth, or with newspaper (see below), starting at the top of the window and working down in circles or small strokes.

Finally, dry the windowsill and any wooden struts that divide the panes of glass.

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What to clean windows with

There are plenty of proprietary window and glass cleaning fluids on the market from brands such as Kärcher, HG and Windowlene, but it isn't always worth buying something specifically for the job. A bucket of soapy water made up using washing up liquid will do the job, and for a natural alternative you could use vinegar.

How to clean windows with vinegar

Vinegar removes film from glass surfaces and leaves windows streak-free. Use one part white vinegar to one part water. Add a squirt of washing-up liquid if windows are grubby.

If windows are really dirty or greasy, add two tablespoons of household ammonia to a gallon of water and rinse with a vinegar solution.

Lemon juice works much like vinegar to cut grease and polish glass surfaces – just mix one tablespoon of lemon juice into a litre of warm water.

Use toothpaste to polish out scratches in windows and glass surfaces. Work in with a soft cloth, then polish.

Read our tips on making your home more eco-friendly

How to clean outside windows

Windows on the ground floor can be cleaned in the normal way (as above), although be prepared to remove cobwebs. It gets trickier with higher windows, but there are a few gadgets on the market to help.

If accessing from the outside you can use a telescopic pole sold specifically for cleaning windows. They usually have a double-headed head with a sponge on one side and a squeegee on the other.

U-shaped poles are available for reaching the outside window from the inside, although there might be limitations depending on your window design. Always be safe and don't take risks, if it is a struggle to reach it's better to call an expert, which can cost anything from £35 to to £75, depending on location and complexity of the job. 

Tips for cleaning windows

  • Always be careful if you use a ladder to reach high windows. Wear sensible footwear, make sure the ladder is fully extended and secured, and ask a friend to hold it steady at the bottom. If you’re not comfortable with heights, bring in a professional window cleaner.
  • When buffing the clean, dry glass, use a pad of crumpled-up newspaper - the printers' ink gives your windows extra sparkle. Avoid getting the ink on UPVC frames, though, as it tends to mark.
  • Wash windows on a cloudy day. Direct sunlight may make it easier to see the dirt but it also dries windows too quickly, leaving streaks behind.
  • The easiest thing to use is a bucket of soapy water made using standard washing up liquid.

Cleaning your windows as part of a spring clean? Be sure to read our top 15 cleaning hacks to make the job a breeze, as well as our top tips on how to declutter your home.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.