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Get clean, streak-free windows with these pro tips

Let the sun shine in!
"Over time, a buildup of dirt particles can actually etch or degrade the glass."
"Over time, a buildup of dirt particles can actually etch or degrade the glass."Vivian Le / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Nothing says “dreary” like dirty windows. They obstruct the outside view, restrict sunlight and give an unkempt appearance to even the prettiest of houses.

But nothing says “work!” quite like cleaning them. So how do you solve this conundrum? Depending on the size of the task — spot cleaning or washing every window inside and out — there are a couple of ways to get the job done. Plus, 74 percent of Americans plan to spring clean this year and 75 percent of those spring cleaners say washing windows is their top task, according to a recent National Cleaning Survey.

We reached out to green cleaning expert Leslie Reichert as well as Jessica Ek, senior director of digital communications at The American Cleaning Institute, and Erin McDermott, communications specialist at Window Genie, a national home services franchise, for their tips on the best way to clean windows.

How often to clean the inside and outside of your windows | What happens if you don't clean your windows? | What do professional window cleaners use? | Things to remember | How to clean your window screens | How to spot clean windows | How to deep clean windows | How to clean windows with a squeegee | How to stay safe when cleaning windows | The best products for cleaning windows

How often should you clean the inside and outside of your windows?

It depends on how dirty the windows tend to get and your preference, but Ek suggests cleaning them twice a year. Specifically, she says spring and fall are good times to clean windows.

What happens if you don't clean your windows?

"Mostly, you will slowly have less light coming into your home," Ek explains. "However, over time, a buildup of dirt particles can actually etch or degrade the glass."

What do professional window cleaners use to clean windows?

Nothing fancy here! Ek says that often, professional cleaners will use detergent in water and a squeegee.

Things to remember before you clean your windows

Before you get to work cleaning your windows, there are a few things to remember.

  • Do not clean in direct sunlight or while the glass is hot. If the solution dries too quickly, it will actually cause streaking and leave behind a film that will attract dust and dirt.
  • Clean your window screens when you clean your windows (twice a year or as needed). If not, the dirt on the screens will end up on your windows.

How to clean your window screens

Your window screens can get pretty gross! To clean them, just remove the screen, then clean with a brush and some soapy water. Rinse, dry and return to the window.

How to spot clean windows

To spot clean windows, simply dampen a microfiber cloth and use the damp cloth to spot clean fingerprints and smudges on windows as needed.

How to deep clean windows

Deep cleaning your windows is a little more laborious, depending on how long it's been since you last cleaned them. Environmental factors, such as pollution, can also add to the appearance of your windows.

What you'll need:

What you'll do:

  1. Remove built-up scum, algae and grime on exterior windows using an old, wet towel and a bucket of water with a drop or two of dish detergent mixed in.
  2. Dry windows using a microfiber cloth.
  3. If you need extra cleaning power, use a DIY cleaner (a few drops of dish soap, half a cup of white vinegar and three cups of distilled water). Mix and spray onto windows.
  4. Wipe with the microfiber cloth. Change or wash the cloth when it starts leaving residue behind.
  5. To clean sills, wipe with a large-looped microfiber cloth.
  6. Sweep away debris in window tracks using an old, clean paintbrush.
  7. Clean hard-to-reach places using a toothbrush.

Hint: To make it easier to spot areas you may have missed, clean the interior windows using vertical strokes and the exterior windows using horizontal strokes.

How to clean windows with a squeegee

As effective as wiping by hand is, if you’re cleaning lots of panes, it can become a real pain in the biceps. For larger jobs, McDermott recommends using a sponge, a rubber-edge squeegee, a microfiber cloth and a bucket of water with a few drops of dish detergent.

Using the sponge, apply cleaning solution, giving an extra scrub to areas with built-up dirt. Remove water using the squeegee, taking care to wipe the blade after each stroke. This keeps the grime from building up and scratching the surface of the windows. Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe up drips.

How to stay safe when cleaning windows

When you're cleaning windows that are high enough off the ground that a ladder is involved, there are a few ladder safety points to keep in mind:

  • Stay alert — even on a step ladder. Most ladder-related injuries actually occur on step ladders that stand only three to six feet tall.
  • Keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times —two feet and one hand.
  • Never set up a ladder on slippery surfaces, such as pebbles, rocks, sand, wet grass, an incline, edging stones, area rugs, snow, ice or newly stained decks.
  • Ladders should have leg levers to make an exterior surface level and stabilizer bars to keep from sliding side to side.

The best products for cleaning windows

Here are some of our favorite products that make cleaning all those panes a little less of a pain.

Ettore Window Squeegee

This all-purpose squeegee is simple but super effective for getting a streak-free shine. It's also oddly satisfying to clean with! You may even want to clean your windows more often.

Mrs. Meyer's Liquid Dish Soap

Chances are you already have some mild dish soap laying around, but if you don't, we're partial to Mrs. Meyer's — the formula is biodegradable and it smells like spring! All you need is a couple of drops mixed in with some water and vinegar to get your windows sparkling clean.

Lucy's Family-Owned Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar can clean just about any area of your home, so it's best to stock up with a gallon so you always have it on hand!

Amazon Basics Microfiber Cloths

You can never have too many microfiber cloths at the ready! If you've ever cleaned a mirror or window with a paper towel you know the frustration of having paper towel pieces that cling to the surface — but these leave your windows lint and streak-free!

Plastic Spray Bottles

Spray bottles are handy to have around the house for DIY cleaning solutions. Just fill one up with water, a little detergent and white vinegar; then shake, spray on your windows and wipe away all that grime!