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If your windows aren’t as crystal clear as you’d like them to be, it may be time to clean the interior and exterior panes. While you may regularly clean your indoor windows, learning how to clean outside windows requires a bit more effort.
However, it’s worth the elbow grease because more light will come into the space and brighten up the entire room as a result. Follow these handy tips for cleaning windows from the outside.
1. Use a Garden Hose
A tried-and-true way to clean windows like a pro is to use a garden hose with an adjustable nozzle attachment. This method allows you to apply a high-pressure water stream to your windows, making it easier to clean nooks and crannies.
Start by spraying the window and surrounding area to remove any surface dirt. Then, fill a bucket with hot water and dishwashing liquid. Apply the mixture to the outside windows and scrub using a sponge or rag. Rinse the soapy water with your garden hose and allow it to dry partially. Next, use a commercial window cleaning solution or fill a spray bottle with equal parts of vinegar and water and spray it on the windows. Wipe off the solution with a microfiber rag for sparkly clean results.
2. Opt for a Household Mop
While using a garden hose and sponge is an effective way to clean windows within arm’s reach, a household mop can serve as an extension pole, giving you the extra leverage needed to remove dirt and grime from hard-to-reach areas.
You can find attachments for mops specifically designed for window cleaning. If you aren’t using an attachment, it’s important to wrap your mop with a lint-free microfiber towel to avoid scratching the glass with microscopic particles that may be hiding in the fibers of your mop. Make a homemade window cleaner and your mop to achieve streak-free exterior windows.
3. Try a Streak-Free Squeegee
Get professional results by using a rubber-bladed squeegee tool to clean exterior windows. Mix a cleaning solution of your choice and scrub the window panes with a rag, sponge, or mop to remove buildup.
Follow this squeegee technique for best results:
Starting in the top corner of your window, use the tip of your squeegee to clean a narrow strip straight down the edge of the glass pane to prepare for the next step.
Take the squeegee edge and apply gentle pressure to the top section of the window. In a horizontal motion angled downward, drag the squeegee evenly across the window.
Keep a paper towel or dry rag handy and wipe off the tip of your squeegee after each stroke.
Repeat this process from top to bottom, making sure to overlap the sections you already wiped to eliminate any streaks.
If you notice excess water, use a lint-free cloth to wipe away any droplets.
4. Consider a Magnetic Cleaner
If you live in a high-rise apartment or have windows that are difficult to reach with a ladder, opt for a magnetic cleaner to safely clean from inside your home. This tool uses a strong magnet to clean the inside and outside of a window simultaneously. While the exact process may differ depending on the brand, here are a few steps to follow.
Create a cleaning solution with equal parts vinegar and water and a few teaspoons of dishwashing liquid for a sudsy mixture.
Dip the sponges of the two parts of the tool into the soapy water and rub them together.
If your tool comes with a safety string, attach it to a fixed area inside (like the window crank), so the tool doesn’t fall if the magnet becomes detached.
Open the window, place one half of the tool on the outside, and line it up with the second half from the inside so the magnet secures.
Carefully wipe the windows with the sponge side in a horizontal motion, working slowly so the magnet stays attached.
Then, go back over the section in the opposite direction using the squeegee end of the tool.
Some models may come with a microfiber cloth to wrap over the attachments to wipe away excess water.
5. Dry With Newspaper
While you can use microfiber towels or a squeegee to clean away residue, a newspaper can also work when you’re in a pinch. It’s easy: Scrub off the dirt and grime using your chosen cleaning method. Then, rub crumpled up newspaper in a circular motion on the window panes to clear away the remaining grime, leaving your windows smudge-free.
Remember, while the ink from the newspaper won’t stain the window’s glass, it can stain your window sills. To be safe, cover the sills with painter’s tape to keep them intact while drying your windows.
6. Break Out the Power Washer
Using a power washer is one of the best ways to clean outside windows because it produces quick and impressive results. Start by assessing the condition of your windows, trim, and siding to ensure the pressure won’t damage any surfaces. Inspect your windows for any gaps or holes, and caulk your windows if necessary. Also, if you have chipping paint around the windowsill, the force of the water may cause the paint to peel even further.
Pick a soap or concentrate that’s power-washer safe and recommended for windows (found in the manufacturer’s directions). Then, fill the power washer’s reservoir with the cleaning solution and use the wand to spray it on the windows and trim in an angled, upward motion to lift dirt and grime off the surface.
Then, rinse the windows clean by adjusting your nozzle to allow for more pressure. Angle the wand in a downward motion so it will drain down the exterior. Once all the soap is gone, you can use a microfiber cloth to dry off the windows for a streak-free finish.
7. Purchase a Window-Cleaning Kit
Rather than using DIY window-cleaning solutions or tools, purchase a window-cleaning kit from your local home improvement store that has everything you need in one package. Most kits come with a scrubbing brush and a squeegee that can attach to an extension pole.
Some may come with extra attachments and or a long pole to allow you to customize the project. Apply a cleaning solution of your choice with the scrubber then wipe dry with the squeegee attachment for a sparkling shine.
8. Invest In a Robotic Cleaner
Make cleaning your windows manually a thing of the past and invest in a robotic cleaner to do the heavy lifting for you. There are many types of models, but most of these window-cleaning devices use heavy-duty suction to attach to the window and clean with a reusable or disposable microfiber pad. Affix the safety harness inside the room and attach the device to the window’s exterior. Then, the robotic cleaner will scan the window and create its own path to clean the windows with the click of a button. This window-cleaning option typically costs between $200 to $500.
9. Don’t Forget Your Window Screens
You can spend all day cleaning your windows, but they won’t look their best if you forget to clean the window screens. Better yet, do this task before washing the glass to avoid getting dust and grime from the screens on your freshly cleaned windows.
Start by removing the screens from the window sills and setting them aside on a flat surface.
Before washing your screens with soap and water, remove as much dust as possible with a brush vacuum attachment. This step will prevent excess dust from getting stuck in the screen while cleaning. Once you’ve vacuumed up as much debris as possible, use a hose to rinse away the rest of it.
Then, make a cleaning solution with ¼ cup of soap, all-purpose cleaner, or white vinegar, and ½ gallon of warm water. Apply this solution to the screens with a sponge, scrubbing away grime and rinsing with a hose to remove the cleaner. Let the screens dry completely before reattaching them to your windows.
10. Clean the Window Sills
After removing your window screens and cleaning your windows, take the opportunity to clean your window sills. Use your brush vacuum attachment to remove dust, debris, and spiderwebs, focusing on the sills and window tracks.
Spray moldy or dirty spots with an all-purpose cleaner and let the area soak for a few minutes. Then, put a small amount of dish soap on a toothbrush and wet it with warm water to activate the soap (keep a bowl of warm water close by as you’ll have to do this step repeatedly). Use the toothbrush to remove grime and a microfiber cloth to wipe it away.
Tips for Hard-to-Clean Windows
Some windows are trickier to clean than others, especially if they’ve been neglected. Use these tips on hard-to-clean exterior windows.
If you notice paint specks from a previous painting project, remove them with a razor blade before cleaning.
If your windows are particularly soiled, use a mixture of ammonia and water to cut through fingerprints and grime. Use a spray bottle and immediately wipe away the solution to prevent streaks and smudges.
Loosen any leftover sticker adhesive before washing the windows.
Be sure to clean your window tracks and window sills to remove excess dirt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Professional house cleaners may use a variety of cleaning products, but a great option is a cleaning solution containing ammonia or white vinegar, water, and several tablespoons of dishwashing liquid.
Yes, you can use glass cleaner on outside windows, but only after you’ve rinsed away as much debris as possible. Using glass cleaner on top of a layer of dirt will only make it harder to clean.
Hot water removes grime more efficiently than cold water and evaporates more quickly so that your windows will dry faster. However, you may want to use cold water instead if your windowsill paint is chipping or peeling because heat can worsen this condition.