Homeowner Projects: Washing Windows

I know, I know. Super exciting project. But hey, not every homeowner task can be as awesome as a fresh coat of paint (more on that in future posts). Sometimes it is the little, tedious things, like cleaning EVERY window in the house, that makes a big impact.


There are probably a bajillion different ways to clean windows (trust me, I looked at about a dozen articles for ideas). I picked up one idea here, another there, and combined them into a method I think works pretty well. So, in case you keep walking past your windows thinking “I’ve got to clean those someday,” here you go!

STEP 1: Gather your materials

For me, it was the following:

  • 1 gallon bucket
  • vacuum cleaner
  • grout brush (or any hard-bristled brush)
  • Q-tips, lots of them
  • spray bottle
  • squirt bottle
  • soft sponge
  • squeegee
  • vinegar
  • dish soap
  • lint-free towels
  • paper towels

Step 2: Remove screens and “major” dirt

The listing for our home said the windows were replaced recently. Based on how gross they were, especially the window sills, I’m going to guess no one cleaned them since installation day. I started by removing all the screens (research how to remove your specific screens, since all are different). I set them aside to clean later, and turned my attention to every part of the window except the glass. Using my grout brush, I carefully loosened dirt all along the sill (with the window open). I then vacuumed up as much as I could (I also used the vacuum to get a few spiderwebs, leaves, etc. that were hanging around outside.



Step 3: Detail work

Once most of the dirt was gone, I came in with a spray bottle of my typical cleaning solution, a 50/50 water/vinegar mix. I sprayed down the sills and used both the grout brush and Q-tips to loosen any dirt I could find. It was time consuming, but worth it in the end. I also discovered a great way to rinse the dirt away: our bike water bottles were the perfect tool! I then used regular old paper towels to wipe everything down. The difference was very satisfying, though ignore the dirt on the outside sills in the photos below – I scrubbed those when I cleaned the outsides!

Step 4: Make your cleaning solution

I am a firm believer that vinegar is the answer to anything home-cleaning. I again looked up a bunch of different window cleaning solutions, but settled on about half a bucket of room temperature water (to prevent streaking), 1/2 cup or so of vinegar, and a small squirt of dish soap.

Step 5: The glass

I didn’t take any photos of this part, probably because my hands were soaked (and filthy) the entire time. I started inside (I don’t really think it matters either way, I just figured the inside would be less dirty). Using my soft sponge and cleaning solution, I scrubbed down each window. I know some folks are nervous to use a bucket and sponge on interior windows, but I found if you wring the sponge out really well (which you should do anyway), I didn’t have any big splashes or water on the floor. After scrubbing with the sponge, I used my squeegee to remove all the cleaner and a LOT of dirt. I kept the lint-free towels on hand to catch any drips and to wipe off the squeegee edge. 

Once all the interior windows were finished, I repeated the process outside.This is also when I tackled all the gross exterior windowsills. The outside glass was filthy!! I changed the water three different times, averaging about five windows per water change. But again, the difference was worth it.


Step 6: Don’t forget the screens!

I think some of our screens were more dirty than the windows. For these, I simply lined them up in the driveway and lightly cleaned each one with the same solution and sponge. I then gently tapped the edges of each one to remove the excess water. I left them to dry for a bit, then replaced them all.

It was a several hour process (I was also working alone since Brian was out of town), but in the end, it was so worth it. Even my neighbor commented on them when she walked by with her dog and baby. And hopefully since I did one big “deep clean,” it’ll be easier to maintain them from here on out.

Do you clean your own windows, or do you hire it out? Any tips or tricks that I missed? Oh! And be prepared for a bird to come by the next day and poop on your newly-cleaned windows… nature never fails!