How To Clean Car Windows In 4 Simple Steps

If there’s one thing that seems so easy to do, but is actually easy to get wrong, it’s cleaning your car windows.

We’ve all been there, you spend your valuable time trying to get your ride to gleam and shine, only to end up no better off than when you started. You lose the dirt and grime, but at the cost of annoying window streaks.

So how do you avoid this frustrating outcome? Well, there are wrong ways to clean car windows, and then there are right ways.

Fasten your seatbelt, because you’re about to find out exactly how to get car windows that are streak free, smudge free, and as clear as day.

How To Clean Your Car Windows Perfectly In 4 Steps

1. Get the right cleaning supplies

  • Ammonia-Free Glass Cleaner (e.g. Windex Ammonia-Free) OR White Vinegar
  • Distilled Water
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Spray Bottle
  • Microfiber Towels
windex ammonia free glass cleaner
An ammonia-free glass cleaner

Tip: When choosing your car window cleaner, stay away from the ammonia based ones. Why? Ammonia based cleaning liquids tend to dry out the rubber seals around your car’s windshield, causing your windshield to become loose, or possibly even detach completely. Ammonia can also ruin car window tint, as well as even cause streaks themselves.

2. Prepare Your Anti-Streak Cleaning Solution

Use these recommended proportions to make your cleaning solution. Add the ingredients into an empty spray bottle and lightly shake to create the solution.

If using auto glass cleaner:

70% Distilled Water + 20% Ammonia-Free Glass Cleaner + 10% Rubbing Alcohol

If using white vinegar:

50% Distilled Water + 50% Rubbing Alcohol + 1 Tbsp White Vinegar

Now that you’ve gathered your supplies and prepared your cleaning solution, follow the advice below to clean all of your car’s windows!

3. Clean The Outside Car Windows

When cleaning your window exteriors, start by spraying the window evenly with your cleaning solution. For the car windshield specifically, make sure you lift the wiper blades before starting the cleaning process.

Fold your microfiber towel twice and use one side of the towel to scrub up the dirt and grime. Wiping in a circular motion is the most effective way to knock the dirt off the window.

Next, use another side of the towel to wipe dry the window, following a box pattern to remove streaks. Wipe along all 4 outer edges of the window, then wipe the whole surface in an up-and-down motion followed by a side-to-side motion.

Tip: Using a combination of these window cleaning techniques (circular motion and box method) will get you the best results.

At this point, your windows should be clean and streak-free! However, if you spend more time on the road than some people, tough-to-clean messes like tar or industrial fallout may still be stuck to your windows.

Spraying a clay lubricant on the window followed by a gentle scrub with a clay bar using the box method should displace any tougher messes. Wipe up the remaining dirt and grime with a fresh microfiber cleaning cloth with the box method again to finish your clean!

4. Clean The Inside Car Windows

If you spend any time inside your car, you’ve probably noticed that oil builds up on the inside of your windows faster than one would expect.

cleaning the car windows from inside

This happens because when vinyl, leather, or plastic materials inside your car are exposed to sunlight, they release oils and gases that gather on the interior faces of your windows. This painful process leaves an oily haze on your windows that makes it difficult to see, and no one wants to get in a wreck because of oily windows, do they?

To effectively clean your window interior, make sure you open the doors wide enough to have comfortable access to all edges of the window.

Just as the process of cleaning your window exterior, spray your cleaning solution evenly across the interior glass surfaces and wipe in circular motions with one side of your fresh, folded microfiber towel.

Then flip your towel over and wipe the window using the box method to finish.

You may want to utilize a window mop with a rotating head, wrapping it in a microfiber cloth to reach every edge and corner.

Avoiding Streaks & Water Spots

Nothing says “I barely tried,” like a clean car with streaky windows. Aside from being an eyesore, window streaks make it incredibly difficult to see when driving. Nobody wants you to get in a wreck, so let’s keep those windows crystal clear.

Cleaning your car windows on an overcast day, in an enclosed area (with adequate ventilation, of course), or in a shady spot can help tremendously with eliminating window streaks.

This is because streaks tend to appear when the cleaning solution dries too quickly. When your cleaning agent evaporates too fast, it leaves a residue that appears, as you guessed it – streaks. If you want to be extra safe, try to find a cleaning solution that naturally takes longer to dry.

Streaks on your windows could also be caused by your towels, even if you’re using microfiber towels. If you use the same towel to clean multiple windows, it’s going to become covered in dirt, dust, and other grime, and then transfer that dirt to the next window and then the next.

Using towels that can’t pick up dirt but absorb the solution (like paper towels and polyester towels) will also cause streaks. Cotton towels will tend to shed lint, so it’s recommended to stick to microfiber cloths every time.

Cleaning Dead Bugs, Bird Poop, etc. from Windows

When your windows become cluttered with dead bugs and/or bird poop, you may feel your only option is to scrape the mess off with something sharp or scrub really hard with a cloth. However, both of these options would do more harm than good.

filthy car window

Both of these disgusting messes are full of acid that will spread if the lot is scrubbed all over your window, and bird poop may contain rocks that will scratch the life out of your windows during a forceful scrub.

All you need to do to remove bird poop or dead bugs from your car windows is give the mess a generous spray with your cleaning solution (enough to where it will not dry up) and allow it to sit for a few minutes.

Use a microfiber cloth and the box method (wiping along all 4 edges and then dragging from top to bottom, moving from one side to another) to remove the feces and bug splatter.

How to Clean Tinted Windows

Avoiding ammonia and alcohol-based cleaning products when cleaning tinted windows is imperative because these two chemicals are harmful to sensitive window tinting.

The technique behind cleaning tinted windows is very similar to the process of cleaning un-tinted windows. Spray your cleaning solution on the glass surface and use one side of your clean, folded microfiber towel to evenly spread the solution. Then, flip to a clean side of the towel and wipe the window again with the box method.

Try to avoid the edges of your window when you wipe the tinted side, so your cleaning solution doesn’t get wiped under the tint and cause bubbles. If you do see bubbles, don’t stress! Just use a heat gun from a safe distance to get the bubbles to release. Pushing the bubbles out with a credit card may also work, but make sure you wrap the card in some thin and clean cloth to avoid scratching your tint.

The Bottom Line

The final touch of any good car detail is cleaning the windows. Now that you have the knowledge to achieve the glimmering car window shine that most can only dream of, it’s time to put it into action. Follow these steps, and you’ll be driving in an eye catching, sparkling ride in no time.