How to Clean Interior and Exterior Windows

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I write a lot of articles on daily or weekly cleaning tasks. This article is something you can include on your deep cleaning home checklist. Because this isn’t a cleaning task you do very often, knowing how to clean your windows well is really important. You want to do a good job, so you don’t have to think about cleaning your windows again until the next deep clean. 

Many people assume you can just spray some Windex, wipe, and walk away. And wouldn’t it be great if cleaning was that easy? But to clean your windows properly, you’ll need the right tools and the right knowledge. Plus, it’s not just about the glass! So today, I’m diving deep into deep cleaning with cleaning windows, how to clean outside windows, how to clean window sills, window screen cleaning hacks, and even sliding window track cleaning! It’s all about windows today, so grab your popcorn and settle in. 

Parts and Types of Windows 

I’m not a window manufacturer, and I’m assuming most of my readers aren’t either, so I’m not going to get technical with terminology here. But let’s just use some very basic nomenclature to discuss the parts of windows we as cleaners will concern ourselves with. 

If we were sitting in a circle like kindergarteners and I asked you to tell me a part of a window, you’d probably yell “glass!” And you’d be right, gold star for everyone! Whether it’s a sliding door or a window, glass panes are the first thing we think about in terms of window cleaning. 

Next, you’ve got the window casing, which is basically the fancy finishing used where the wall and the window meet. Then, you’ve got the sliding tracks or the window sill, depending on whether you’re cleaning a door or an actual window. And finally, you’ve got those tricky screens. 

Some windows have a mesh screen that covers the pane of glass that opens. Of course, this is to prevent anything flying into your home, as well as to prevent anything from falling out your window. Or, in my case, to prevent my cat from trying to jump out. These screens usually pop off easily, so you can clean them and the glass and then pop them back on. 

So now that we’ve dealt with this fascinating discussion of window parts, we can discuss how you’re going to clean all these parts. 

Melissa Maker with spray bottle

Cleaning Interior Windows

Cleaning interior windows is a little easier than cleaning exterior windows. Typically, when I clean an interior window, I make my own DIY window cleaner. 

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • Add to spray bottle and shake

Then I grab a glass microfiber cleaning cloth. I use a glass microfiber cloth because it’s a flat weave, not a terry weave. A lot of microfiber cloths are terry weave, which can scratch the surface of glass or mirrors. So make sure you’re using a non-textured glass cleaning microfiber cloth. 

The way I like to tackle interior windows is I spray the window down with my DIY spray. I then fold my microfiber cleaning cloth to a quarter of its size, so I have a solid cloth to work with. Then, I use the microfiber cloth and work in an S pattern; top to bottom and left to right. Wiping a window this way takes seconds, and it should leave your windows streak-free and shining. 

To clean interior window sills, frames, or casings, I use the same DIY window spray. But keep in mind that it’s important to know what type of finish you’re working with. For example, if you have an older home with older wood, you’ll want to be more mindful about the product you’re using. Or you might even want to skip liquid cleaner and give it a good dusting. 

In my home and, generally speaking, in modern homes, window sills and casings can tolerate vinegar and water or soap and water. In my experience, unless you are dealing with a stain or mold issue, that should be all you need. 

To prevent mold on indoor windows, watch out for condensation. If you live in a place that experiences colder temperatures, you might notice condensation forming on windows when you turn your heat on. 

That condensation can make its way down your window sill and leave streaky marks on your paint. This can also lead to mold and mildew if left untreated. Luckily, all you need to do is treat your window sills with mold and mildew protectant. If you are dealing with mold, I have a great article on 4 Things You Should Know About Mold and Mildew.

Maker's Clean microfiber cloth

How to Clean Exterior Windows

An important first step to cleaning exterior windows is choosing the right day. You don’t want to clean exterior windows on a sunny or hot day because that sun and heat can actually bake your cleaning product onto the window. Overcast days, colder weather, early mornings, or evenings are your friends when it comes to cleaning exterior windows.

So you’ve picked your day, now you’re going to need some products, tools, and techniques. Exterior windows get really dirty, so a microfiber cloth isn’t going to cut it. Instead, I recommend a double-sided squeegee. I personally have a really long one, so it’s easier to reach the tops of windows. 

Next, you’ll need a cleaning solution. You’re going to grab a big bucket because this is a big job. Then, add:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp dish soap

If your windows are really grimy, you can add a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon of dish soap. But too much soap will leave streaks on your windows, making more work for you. So start with a teaspoon. 

Dip your squeegee into the bucket and get it saturated. Basically, you want it sopping wet. Then, start from the top of the window and work your way down by swiping the squeegee. Then flip the squeegee over to the rubber side and repeat the same motion. Is it just me, or is window cleaning super satisfying? Maybe it’s just me… 

When it comes to exterior window frames and casings, a pressure washer is great. Most of us don’t have that, so grab a nylon head dish brush if you don’t. Fill it up with a little bit of soap, water, and vinegar. You can use the same dilution that we used for cleaning the glass, just on a smaller scale. 

Use the dish brush and your cleaning solution to give your window frame and casing a good scrub, and then hose everything down. Pat dry if you want, or leave to air dry. And Bob’s your uncle, your windows are clean. 

Second Story Window Cleaning

Now we’ve come to the difficult part of the article. You know how I always say cleaning can be fast and you can do it yourself. That’s not always the case for second-story window cleaning. 

If you want to clean your own second or third-story windows, you’ll definitely want to buy yourself an extending pole. These come with threads on top, and then your squeegee can be easily screwed in. 

If you’re thinking about putting on a harness and scaling down from the roof, maybe take a step back. If you have particularly high windows or a big cleaning job, this is a perfect time to bring in the professionals. 

How To Clean Window and Sliding Door Tracks

Whether it’s for a window or a sliding door, you can use the same cleaning technique. First, use a vacuum with a brush attachment to vacuum up as much debris and dust in the sliding track. Then, take that same dish brush you used to clean your exterior window casing. Give the sliding track a good scrub and then a rinse. 

If you notice some mildew when you get close up and personal, that’s very normal. The frame, track, and sill of your window and sliding door are the perfect breeding grounds for mold and mildew because of moisture build-up. 

Brush as much of the mold or mildew out as possible. Then, make your own DIY mold cleaner: 

  • 1 part Borax
  • 1 part white vinegar

Mix this solution, and use a cleaning toothbrush to apply to the moldy surface. Let this solution sit on the moldy area for ten minutes, then use your toothbrush again to scrub. When you’re done, rinse the area clean with a paper towel. And to finish it up, you can spray the area with a mold and mildew treatment. Repeat this treatment every few months to prevent more mold growth. 

Melissa and Chad at window

How To Clean Window Screens

Window screens don’t need to be cleaned frequently, but when you do clean them, you want to make sure that you’re doing it correctly, Pop off the screen and then take it to the bathtub or outside. 

If the screen isn’t too dirty, you can spray it down with a hose. If you notice it’s quite dirty, use that same DIY window cleaning solution of water, vinegar, and dish soap. Take an iron handle scrub brush and scrub the screen lightly with your solution. Just be careful not to press too hard, or you could create tears in the mesh. 

How to Clean Interior and Exterior Windows

Phew, that was a lot of information, but now you know how to clean every part of your windows and sliding doors! Just don’t try to be the next Spiderman and save those super high windows for the professionals. 

Let me know in the comments if you try out my DIY solutions and how often you clean your windows!

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.

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