Contaminants that adhere to paint will also stick on car windows. The front windscreen, in particular, is a magnet, as you would expect. It gets a fair share of dirt, bug splatter, tree sap, and water stains. Cleaner glass not only means a vehicle that looks brand-spanking new, but it also means better visibility and safer driving.
If you’re the type of car owner who spends a lot of time prepping up the paint, cleaning and decontaminating the car windows should be the final step. With that being said, the windows and windscreen should only be treated after any waxing or polishing job.
But what is the best way to clean car windows?
There is no direct answer. It will depend on the general condition of the glass. Newer vehicles are easier to clean. You can get the job done with a glass cleaner and a couple of microfiber towels. But for older vehicles, you’re likely going to have to work a little harder than that.
If the windows and the glass have never been deep-cleaned, consider the option of decontaminating the windows before further cleaning. There is also the option of polishing the glass using a machine, but I will get to that later.
The Best Way to Clean Windshield Glass and Car Windows
Remember there is no right or wrong way to clean the car windows. As I said, it all depends on the condition of the glass. The first obvious step is to wash the car thoroughly using a high-quality car shampoo. Rinse the vehicle and let it dry.
The next thing to do is to carefully examine the windows and the windshield.
Can you see a lot of visible water spots or water stains? How about tree sap and bug residue? Wipe your dry hand over a clean surface of the glass. Is it rough to the touch? Does the glass feel like the face of a pimply teen?
With all of that considered, here are the steps on the best way to deep-clean and decontaminate automotive glass and windows.
Automotive Glass Deep-Cleaning and Decontamination
Consider this important step if there are visible stains and contaminants on the car windows and windshield. If the glass feels like sandpaper, the steps listed below will get rid of all those deep-embedded dirt in the fastest possible time.
There are two ways to do this. You can use a razor blade scraper knife like the Glass & Ceramic Hob Scraper Knife (or any similar tool) to gently remove contaminants on the glass, or you can do it the old-school way using a quadruple-zero (yes, it’s 0000) wire wool.
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No matter which you choose, it is easy to achieve great results. Grab a bottle of high-quality glass cleaner like the Stoner Invisible Glass or Gtechniq G6 Perfect Glass. The glass cleaner will act as a lubricant to loosen up the contaminants on the glass. Spray a liberal amount of glass cleaner on the surface. Make sure there is enough glass cleaner on the area to be treated.
If you have a scraper knife, gently scrape the glass surface from top to bottom. Do this several times to make sure the entire area is treated with the scraper. Spray more glass cleaner as needed. Do not scrape the glass if the surface is dry.
After scraping the glass, remove the excess (and the gunk) with a medium-pile microfibre towel. It is better to use a thicker set of towels when cleaning and decontaminating the car windows. This will allow the cloth to remove as much of the liquid and dirt without soiling the towel.
Now, the same method applies if you prefer to use wire wool. Spray a liberal amount of glass cleaner on the windows and wipe the wire wool aggressively over the surface to remove deep-seated dirt and contaminants. Wipe off the excess liquid using a medium-pile microfibre towel as well.
By this time, the glass will be smoother and cleaner than when you first started. If your car is devoid of tint, you will immediately see a marked difference in the clarity and smoothness of the glass.
But if you still see or feel some mild contamination, you will need to use a clay bar.
With this next step, the glass cleaner will function as clay lubricant. Grab a fresh piece of clay and knead it into a flat shape. Spray glass cleaner on the surface and rub the clay in a repeated up and down motion. Spray more glass cleaner if required.
After treating the surface with a clay bar, use a clean medium-pile microfibre towel to remove the excess liquid. Turn the towel over and give it a quick buff.
This step is optional.
After using a clay bar, the glass will need to be polished to level the surface. The deep-seated dirt and contaminants that were removed by the scraper and clay will leave minuscule pits and valleys on the surface of the glass. Polishing the glass will level and smoothen out the surface. This means a crystal-clear and see-through finish similar to brand new glass!
All you need for this step is a machine polisher, glass polishing pad, and some glass polish.
Apply three to four drops of the polish to the polishing pad. Make sure the pad is slightly saturated with the polish before proceeding. Turn the polisher ON and allow the pad to scrub the glass in medium speed setting. It is better to work with a smaller section at a time to ensure the best possible results.
After polishing the glass, it is time to remove the haze. Spray glass cleaner on the treated surface and remove the haze using a medium-pile microfibre towel. Again, it is better to use a thicker pile of towels for this step.
The finishing step is to give the windows a final wipe using the glass cleaner. Simply spray and wipe off to make sure all traces of dirt and residue are removed from the surface. But this time, use a low-pile waffle weave microfibre towel to wipe the glass. Using a thinner pile of towel will help to further prevent streaking during the final wipe down.
After cleaning and decontaminating the car windows, don’t forget to clean the windshield wipers! Grab a separate towel and mist it lightly with the glass cleaner. Raise the wipers and run the damp towel on the wiper blades to remove dirt.
Don’t be surprised if you find an alarming amount of gunk on the cloth after cleaning the wiper blades. Repeat this step if necessary. The wiper blades should be cleaned every time the vehicle is washed.
General Car Window Cleaning & Maintenance
I’m not saying you should do all of the above steps each time you wash the vehicle. However, I recommend deep-cleaning and decontaminating the glass every time you polish the vehicle, which is once every six months or at least twice a year.
However, you can apply glass cleaner as a final step after washing and drying the vehicle, which should be preferably achieved at least once a week. This will ensure the clarity and cleanliness of the glass in-between deep-cleaning and polishing.
It is also a good idea to treat the windows with a clay bar as you wash the vehicle. Car shampoo is also an ideal lubricant for clay bars. This will help to remove any traces of mild contaminants on the glass without scraping the surface.
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The interior side of the windows and windscreen (whether tinted or not) are relatively easy to clean. Since the inside is not exposed to weather, wind, and industrial fallout, there is no need to use a clay bar or razor blade.
All you need is your trusted glass cleaner and a couple of clean microfibre towels. But if the inside of the glass is visibly dirty, grab a damp microfibre towel and wipe the surface to remove excess dirt. This holds especially true for smoke haze.
Next, spray the glass cleaner on a clean towel until mildly damp. Avoid spraying the glass cleaner directly on interior glass. You don’t want to end up cleaning the overspray on the dash and door sills. Wipe the inside of the windows from top to bottom with a microfibre towel. Turn the towel over and give the glass a final buff.
Using a towel to clean the inside car windscreen might prove tricky due to the presence of the steering wheel. Since it is wildly impractical (and inadvisable) to remove the steering wheel so you can wipe the windscreen without obstructions, there is a better way of doing it.
I use the DEDC Windscreen Cleaner Tool for this job. And while this product might be intended strictly for cleaning the inside car windscreen, I actually found out this is the best and easiest way to clean all the interior glass surfaces in my vehicle. The tool is equipped with a long handle and an ultra-fine microfiber cloth to effectively remove dirt and grease.
However, some people might find the microfibre attachment to be a bit flimsy. The fastest way to remedy this is to wrap a better quality towel on the edge of the cleaner tool. Problem solved!
But if you don’t want to spend additional cash on a separate cleaner tool, you’ll be fine with a simple microfiber towel. The trick is to sit in the front passenger seat when cleaning the inside of the windscreen. In this way, you can avoid the obstruction caused by that pesky steering wheel.
How can I prevent streaks on car windows?
There are two factors to remember here: the glass cleaner and the towel.
Not all glass cleaners are made the same. Some are formulated with mild surfactants to remove stubborn dirt. However, surfactants are known to leave streaks in exchange for stronger cleaning power.
Other glass cleaners also contain ammonia. And while this ingredient can easily dissolve fingerprints, smoke haze, and dirt, it also has a tendency to leave ugly streaks on the surface. This is the importance of choosing the best glass cleaners to make the job easier.
It also has something to do with the towel. I generally recommend using a thicker microfiber towel when cleaning and decontaminating the windshield. It is also better to use a thicker pile of towel when wiping off the residue after polishing the glass.
But for general cleaning purposes (and cleaning the inside portion of the windows), using a thin waffle-weave microfibre towel will prevent streaking.
Is it necessary to polish the glass and windows?
Yes! But as I previously mentioned above, you don’t have to do it often. Ideally, the windows should be polished every time you polish the paint. Doing this at least twice a year will help keep the windows sparkling-clear in any type of weather condition.