When washing their cars, many people decide to hose down the windows or use regular car soap and call it a day. But this doesn’t really thoroughly clean their car windows the way they deserve.
Indeed, they may climb into their car and find soap smears or dirt that still remains. They might wonder why a regular scrub-down doesn’t always clean their windows as thoroughly as they might like, and still have to deal with smeared bugs, old oil, and dirt that grinds down their glass over time.
In truth, there are special glass cleaners made to turn car windows perfectly transparent, and a few specific tips to keep in mind as you scrub your windows down to ensure maximum visibility.
Let’s discuss how to clean car windows the way you should if you want your car to look better than ever.
Inside vs. Outside – Different Cleaning Needs
A thorough cleaning of your car's windows will involve cleaning both the inside and outside – even the interiors can get dirty, which affects visibility and aesthetics. Although car windows look like they are essentially the same on both sides, they're actually quite different, especially if you have tinted windows that allow you to see out but prevent people from seeing in. They also tend to collect different types of dirt or smudges.
For instance, inside windows:
- Usually build up a window tint film, which can progressively make it difficult to see outside. This comes from gasses that are released from different materials inside your car. This sounds weird, but it’s actually natural – for instance, vinyl and rubber release microscopic gaseous particles when exposed to UV radiation over time.
- Most hand smudges show up on the inside of your windows, particularly from kids.
Meanwhile, outside windows have to deal with different problems, like:
- Water and dirt spots, especially if you drive your car out in the open frequently. Even rain can leave lots of dirty smudges – rainwater isn’t always pure and sometimes contains particulates or dirt that it carries from the atmosphere.
- Snow or ice build-up.
- Mud, grease, and gas particulates. Your outside windows will build these up over time as you drive around and behind other vehicles.
While the basic process for cleaning windows is the same, there are a few small differences. Let’s break down how to clean car windows on the inside and outside separately.
How to Clean Inside Car Windows
The first thing you need is a solid glass cleaner. While you can use a regular glass cleaner (for instance, the same kind you would use for your bathroom mirror), we’d recommend a dedicated car glass cleaner for added potency.
You’ll also want to look into a glass coating. Such solutions can prevent water from smearing on the glass and protect your glass from further dirtiness for longer.
Shine Armor’s Hydrophobic Glass Coating is a great example of this type of solution. It’s a multifunctional and very thin coating that can prevent dust and dirt from accumulating over time. Since it’s hydrophobic, it also won’t be washed off during a regular carwash or car detailing service, and it won’t wash off during inclement weather. Even better, you can protect your glass from erosion: a key concern if you drive your car around coastal regions frequently.
Regardless of the glass cleaner you choose, combine it with an excellent microfiber cloth. Microfiber cloths are particularly soft and won’t leave any fibrous materials behind as they rub on to your car’s glass or other surfaces.
Spray glass cleaner directly onto the cloth. This seems counterintuitive: lots of people would rather spray the cleaner onto the glass directly. But this is less effective since only half of a given spray will hit the window. The rest will settle on the interior components or upholstery, meaning you’ll have to clean up that moisture after the fact.
To avoid wasting glass cleaner and your time, spray the cleaner directly onto your microfiber cloth. Then start wiping the window down.
If you do spray some stuff onto your interior, use Shine Armor’s Interior Spray to give it an impossibly good clean!
As you wipe, be sure to move the cloth in every direction. Up and down motions are usually best. Then repeat the same fighting routine from side to side. Get the window twice in this way and you’ll avoid leaving streaks behind compared to wiping in circles. It’s not the same thing as when you wax your car!
Most glass cleaners will dry or evaporate pretty quickly on their own. To avoid having to dry the window with another cloth, don’t soak the cloth with glass cleaner spray at the beginning. One or two squirts is usually quite enough for every window, even the larger front windows by the driver and passenger seats.
How to Clean Outside Car Windows
Cleaning your outside windows requires a little more prep work. You should thoroughly wash your car before cleaning your windows. Yes, this technically means cleaning the exterior of your windows twice, but there’s a good reason for that.
Basically, glass cleaner is designed to thoroughly buff out scratches and very small debris from your glass surfaces. It’s not necessarily tough enough to get rid of heavy dirt stains or smeared bugs like regular car wash soap. Go ahead and give your car a thorough wash on the outside, scrubbing your windows with regular soap. Then move on to using a specific glass cleaner.
Here, you can actually spray directly onto the window if you like, although spraying onto your microfiber cloth works as well as before. You just don’t have to worry about the glass cleaner hitting your upholstery or any interior components, so it’s not as big a deal if a little bit of spray is lost to the air.
Use your microfiber cloth and use the same up-and-down, side to side patterns to thoroughly clean your windows and wipe away any residue that might remain. Again, try not to thoroughly soak the window – this may cause the microfiber cloth to become too wet, which will cause you to leave streaks behind and make you wipe things down again.
General Window Cleaning Tips
Whether you’re cleaning the inside or outside of your windows, here are a few tips you should keep in mind to maximize your cleaning results:
- Never clean your windows if they’re already warm. This may necessitate putting your car in the garage for window cleaning, whereas you might thoroughly clean the car outside your garage beforehand. Warm windows will cause your glass cleaner solution to dry before you can wipe it off, making smears and sometimes causing mild damage to your windows.
- Don't forget to roll down your windows! Most people forget to clean the very tops of their car windows, where the glass pane slides into a rubber seal. This part of the window is super dirty, so you might consider adding a little more glass cleaner to your cloth as you scrub it down.
- Don’t forget your wiper blades, either. You can actually use glass cleaner to scrub away any dirt or bugs you find here. Don’t forget to scrub underneath the wiper blades too when you clean the exterior of your car windows!
Cleaning your car windows doesn’t take too long and can have a huge impact on how pleasant your car is to drive and how safe your vehicle is. There’s a world of difference between freshly clean car glass and glass that’s smeared with bugs and month-old dirt and grease. We think everyone should try to clean their car windows at least once every two weeks. Good luck, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions!