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Dirty windows or a streaky glass door are easy to notice and are easy to clean. Yet, cleaning windows and doors always seems like a chore we put off—even though it requires minimal work. No more excuses! You don’t need any fancy cleaners or tools when you can make this DIY glass cleaner recipe for free from supplies in your house. Save some dollars and keep things simple by mixing up your own DIY window cleaner with nothing more than a few pantry staples you likely have on hand. This homemade window cleaner is a solution of ingredients that you can actually pronounce—like vinegar and water—and can whip up quickly and leave under your sink for the next time it’s needed. Here’s the recipe for success.
Tools & Materials
STEP 1: Gather your household ingredients.
Raid your house to gather the materials for this DIY glass cleaner. Here, as in so many other non-toxic homemade cleaners, white vinegar plays a key role. Its acidity cuts through dirt and grease, an attribute that well equips the window cleaner to remove stuck-on debris and streaks. If you’ve washed your windows for years with a commercial cleaner such as 409 or even Windex, it’s likely that the glass sports a subtle, waxy film. That residue comes off easily with ordinary dish detergent, another ingredient contributing to the efficacy of homemade window cleaner.
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STEP 2: Mix the homemade glass cleaner ingredients and dilute with warm water.
Mix your ingredients. In a spray bottle, combine a 1/4 cup white vinegar with a 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Dilute the solution with two cups of water, then shake the bottle vigorously to mix the components. If you happen not to have white vinegar on hand, note that you can substitute in lemon juice. Like distilled white vinegar, lemon juice has a mild acidity that cuts through grease and grime with equal panache.
STEP 3: Add something to make it smell nice (optional).
As a cleaning agent, there’s much to love about vinegar, but the strong odor isn’t everyone’s favorite thing. Fortunately, you can go a long way toward camouflaging the scent of your homemade glass cleaner by adding essential oil into the spray bottle mixture. Pick your favorite oil—it doesn’t matter which—and include about 10 to 15 drops.
With your homemade window cleaner now ready, spray the window glass with it and then, using a lint-free cloth, wipe the cleaner across the entire surface you’re cleaning. Be careful not to use a cloth or sponge that’s going to leave streaks (or even scratches). For best results, opt for a microfiber cloth or chamois. The cleaner will dry fairly quickly, leaving behind a streak-free shine.
What the Ingredients Do
The main reason why distilled white vinegar makes such a good glass cleaner is because it contains acetic acid. The colorless organic compound not only gives white vinegar its pungent taste and smell, it also kills some bacteria. So while cleaning solutions that contain vinegar are great for breaking down and removing dirt, grease, and mineral deposits, they can also help to remove germs on hard surfaces around the home.
It is important to note, however, that vinegar cleaning solutions should not replace true sanitizing cleaners that remove 99.9 percent of disease-causing bacteria and viruses, the EPA standard for products labeled as sanitizers.
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Similar to white vinegar, the acidity of lemon juice can effectively break down grime on glass surfaces such as windows. The citric acid found in lemon juice is technically a bit stronger than vinegar’s acetic acid, though both perform about the same when it comes to cleaning around the house.
Several ingredients make up most liquid dish soaps available today, but sodium lauryl sulfate, in particular, helps to give products like Dawn dish soap its impressive grease-busting abilities. The component bonds with oily particles and lifts them off of surfaces, which allows for easy removal when used with water.
Different types of essential oils contain different natural chemical components that are useful for cleaning as well as creating a pleasing scent throughout your home. For example, tea tree essential oil not only offers a nice smell, it also features antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. So adding it to your homemade window cleaner can help to prevent mold and mildew growth, too.
As with many other cleaning tasks, water temperature makes a difference. Technically speaking, hot water has more kinetic energy than cold water, meaning it more easily agitates and lifts dirt particles off of surfaces. While this may help with cleaning to some extent, using warm water isn’t essential for cleaning windows. Cold or tepid water will work, too.
Window Cleaning Tips
A thorough window cleaning should be at the top of every homeowner’s seasonal cleaning to-do list. At the start of spring when the weather warms is an opportune time to tackle this task, both inside and outside your home. But before you start spritzing your windows, consider these useful tips:
If the windows are dusty but not streaky, you can clean them without bringing a cleaning solution, homemade or otherwise, into the equation. Simply use a lint-free cloth to pick up and clear away the dust. Then, once finished, complete the job by polishing the glass to a streak-free shine with a different, clean cloth.
If possible, clean your windows on a cloudy day. When sun is shining directly on the window, the cleaning solution dries faster, which can leave behind streaks or water marks.
What’s the Best Wipe?
While you could use paper towels, a soft microfiber cloth works best for first removing dust and loose debris from windows. Then use a separate clean microfiber cloth to work the homemade window cleaner along the glass surface and remove stubborn dirt and residue. A squeegee is especially useful for deep-cleaning the outside of your windows and achieving a streak-free shine.
Warnings and Precautions for Using Natural Cleaners
While opting to make your own window cleaner using natural ingredients is eco-friendly and safer for your skin and lungs compared to the harsh chemicals found in many commercial cleaners, there are still a few safety considerations to be aware of.
Natural ingredients such as white vinegar, lemon juice, and essential oils are effective homemade glass cleaners, but they should not replace true sanitizers that are proven to kill 99.9 percent of disease-causing pathogens.
Never mix vinegar with chlorine bleach. When sodium hypochlorite, the basic chemical compound in bleach, mixes with the acetic acid found in vinegar, it turns into hypochlorous acid and gives off toxic chlorine gas. Chlorine gas can burn skin, cause shortness of breath, and can even be fatal with long-term exposure.
Glass Cleaner vs. Window Cleaner
Specialized commercial window cleaners such as Windex are often ammonia-based, which can leave streaks or foggy spots on some glass. Car windows, for example, should not be cleaned with ammonia-based window cleaners, as the residue poses a risk of obstructing the driver’s view.
Natural glass cleaners such as the homemade window cleaner recipe above, on the other hand, don’t leave behind residue or streaks when wiped away using a clean microfiber cloth.
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