How to clean car windows remains an endless pursuit for most car owners and professional detailers alike. When I think back at the endless window cleaners I have tried or the endless window cleaning tricks I have heard and tried it blows my mind!
All I want and I am betting all you want is to have clean car windows without the headache you have likely come up against in trying to get streak free, smudge free windows.
Well I have what I consider the winning balance of product, technique, and results!
Clean Car Windows: so many myths, so many bad opinions!
I have an opinion...and that is that most opinions should be thrown out the window. When it comes to cleaning the windows in your car there is an endless sea of opinions as to the perfect window cleaner, or the best window cleaning method. The good news is that when it comes to streak free and smudge free windows in your car, it is more about the technique and the cloth, than it is about finding "the best" window cleaner.
Darren's Secret "Off-label" Trick
If you have been following me along for any length of time you will be familiar with the unique approach I take when it comes to traditional auto detailing tips and cosmetic car care as a whole.
I am famous for using what is called "off-label use" of many products. This essentially means I use a product in a way that it was not originally developed for and is not labeled for.
I am about to introduce you to yet another moment of this unique perspective I have used to come up with truly innovative auto detailing tricks.
Best Window Cleaning Method: What you need
CSI Q-7 Detailer
Window cleaning cloths (2 different types)
Darren's "Window Cleaner": CSI Q-7 Detailer
Obviously I can't really call this my window cleaner as I did not develop this product. But it is my secret window cleaning trick that so far has been the best I have ever tried.
I realize using a quick detailer will go counter to all logic and reason to you!
But trust me on this and follow along as I show you how I am able to produce perfectly clean windows for my ultra-picky customers.
The Q-7 Detailer above is the main "ingredient" to I use to clean car windows. (the video below shows me using this clean car window trick in action)
Because of the unique waterborne technology of this product and the unique manner in which it was formulated, it makes an awesome window cleaner; especially for the very difficult interior car windows where the frustrating haze build-up is so problematic.
Distilled water is the second "product" or window cleaner you will need. While you can use regular tap water, distilled water is the preferred water source due to its purity (distilled water is as pure of water as you are ever going to get)
I am not including a link for the distilled water as you can pick up any brand at your local market.
These basic micro-fiber cloths are the micro-fibers I use for about 80% of my detailing processes. They represent a winning balance between performance and cost.
You will need at least one of the cloths to clean car windows using my unique window cleaning trick.
I take one of these cloths and fold in half two times to create the perfect sized cleaning cloth for the first part of this window cleaning technique.
Use the CSI Q-7 Detailer and spray one side of your folded micro-fiber with 3-4 spritzes of product.
Now clean each glass panel (inside or outside) by rubbing very aggressively with firm pressure, using the whetted side of your cloth. (when using a quick detailer on car paint you generally will apply with light to moderate pressure and be cautious so as to clean/dust the car paint without introducing scratches into your car paint. In the case of using the Q-7 Detailer as a window cleaner, you need to go counter to the traditional approach and wipe each window with the understanding that you are now deliberately using the detailer to "clean" the window. This means aggressive amount of pressure; especially the interior windows, to break down any accumulated haze, film, build-up, etc. from the car window)
After you have aggressively "cleaned" the window with the wet side of your micro-fiber cloth, flip the same cloth over to the dry side and remove any obvious residue left behind by the Q-7 detailer. Be thorough, but know that you don't have to over-think this part of the process. The next step will be your final step and you will need to be more thorough in your final step to clean car windows. (if your cloth becomes too saturated with the Q-7 Detailer, then simply use a second cloth and repeat the steps listed up to this point. You want to make sure one side it wet enough with the Q-7 Detailer while maintaining a dry side to remove any Q-7 Detailer residue before proceeding to next step.
The Perfect Window Cleaning Cloths
Clean windows are not just about the window cleaner, but also the "tool". And having the right tool is critical to getting perfectly clean car windows with no streaks and no smudges.
The cloths below (I have given you two choices and both will work for the last step in this car window cleaning process) are my favorite type of micro-fiber cloths I prefer when cleaning the windows in my cars or my customers cars.(these are the type of micro-fiber cloths you will need for the last step of this window cleaning process)
Use these as the last step along with the distilled (or tap water) to clean the window like you normally would if you are using a dedicated window cleaner.
Spray window or cloth with distilled water (don't go crazy here; just enough to allow the cloth to move freely across the window)
Use cloth of your choice folded in half or folded twice based on your personal preference (I always fold my cloths twice so as to create perfect working size and allow for a "padded" working cloth)
Proceed to wipe window with the first side (thus creating your "wet side" of cloth) making sure to get all areas of window (pay close attention to the tighter angles/corner of the windows)
Flip same cloth over to the now "dry side" of same cloth and buff to perfection
Can be washed with traditional methods; easy care. ( I wash mine with my other micro-fiber cloths in hot water, regular laundry detergent, and then dry on medium heat with no dryer sheets or fabric softeners. )
The perfect size to fold based on personal preference.
A must have for streak free windows.
What I consider the ideal size for me as a professional: 16x16 inches
My preferred choice for clean car windows. (quality raw materials, waffle weave micro fiber, big enough to handle the job, not too big to manage)
Not labeled as a dedicated car window cleaning cloth ( I prefer these waffle weave varieties over most of the dedicated "window cleaning towels" )
Perfect density for windows: Thin enough to fold and work easily with; thick enough to not get saturated with window cleaner too quickly.
Also the perfect size to fold twice and end up with the perfect window cleaning cloth.
Can be washed with any of your other micro-fibers as they are virtually lint free.
I wash mine with my other micro-fibers.
As an operating rule, I reserve these window cloths for use on windows only and with my choice in window cleaner only. (this helps keep them clean of other chemicals that may prove a problem when getting windows perfectly clean)
These are bigger in size than the one's directly above. (Many guys prefer a cloth that once it folded creates a working cloth that is longer in shape versus a folded cloth that ends up being square in shape. ( like so many other areas of detailing; it comes down to the nuances. And nobody can decide which nuances you will ultimately prefer )
The windows of your car represent two specific sides; the in and the out. While the steps could be identical, the reality is that they represent different sets of problems and thus require specific strategies for truly streak free and smudge free clean car windows.
Outside Window Problems:
Exposed to the weather and elements.
Excessive dirt, water spots, fall-out.
Not all glass is created equal and many variables exist: The "way" in which the window was made, the "ingredients" used, the age of the glass, how often the glass is cleaned, etc. (I recommend using a clay bar to remove airborne contaminants from your car windows that create a gritty feel to them. This process will essentially "exfoliate" your exterior car windows from unwanted surface contaminants that will not be removed during traditional car washing or even window cleaning. You will need one of these clay bar kits to treat/decontaminate your car paint anyways)
Inside Window Problems:
Film build-up from out-gassing of interior parts such as plastics, rubber, vinyl, etc. (Out-gassing is a term used to describe the natural process of chemicals used in the manufacturing process of car interiors that emit chemical gasses when exposed to air, heat, and UV lighting.)
Window tint film.
Just like above: Not all glass is created equal and the same variables listed above for the outside of your car windows, applies to the inside; except the interior car windows will not get airborne contaminants.
Additional Tools of Success
Use the additional tools below based on my professional tips to take your car window cleaning to the next level.
Perfect tool for cleaning the inside of the front windshield.
Reach those tight corners.
Clean the tight area between the windshield and the dashboard just above the instrument cluster that many large handed people are unable to get their hand between.
With this tool and its handle, you are able to leverage your cleaning efforts if you lack the strength required to properly clean the front windshield.
The actual tool I carry and use on the cars that don't have enough space between the instrument cluster dashboard area, and the front windshield for my hand to get in between.
The tool may seem "cheap" or "cheesy" to be effective, but I was pleasantly surprised the first time I ordered one and used it. Made of durable plastic that you can really leverage on when cleaning the front windshield. (your shoulders will thank you! I am in great physical condition and my own shoulders start to scream in pain when I have to clean an excessively dirty front windshield.
You should have one on hand regardless for use on your car paint; might as well have one for use on your outside windows also. (will not provide any benefits if you are considering using on the inside of the windows)
Use to remove any airborne contaminates stuck to your car windows (exterior)to create that ultra smooth glass prior to cleaning and as part of ongoing maintenance
Will only have to be used occasionally whenever you feel any texture to your car windows.
Will make your window cleaning efforts easier when the windows are smooth and free of pollutants.
Tips for Smudge Free and Streak Free Windows
Inside of Your Car Windows: The interior windows of your car will generally prove to be more difficult to clean than the outside of your car windows. Keep in mind the following points:
Interior car windows are subject to the "out-gassing" effect of the materials within your cars interior. This out-gassing is what produces most of the haze that accumulates over time.
I have seen cars that appear that the inside of the windows have literally never been cleaned in years! The haze build-up is so excessive that you could carve your name in the haze. if you are dealing with windows with this kind of excessive build-up, you will likely have to repeat all these steps more than once to achieve truly flawlessly clean car windows. This is not the time to have unrealistic expectations to any car window cleaning trick regardless of the method you are using.
You will need to make adjustments to the amount of Q-77 Detailer and distilled water you are using based on conditions of your car, weather temps, humidity, direct sunlight versus shaded light, etc., etc. (this is no different than any area of the car detailing process; it is called adjusted to the nuances of the moment and situation)
Outside of Your Car Windows: For the outside, it is recommended that you use detailing clay to remove any contaminates from your windows that would diminish your end results. Use the Clay Magic detailing clay just as you would on your car paint.
After you have clayed the windows, use the same steps from above.
Special Instructions and Tips for Smudge-free and Streak-free Car Windows
Tinted Windows: There is this perpetual fear put into all of us regarding tinted windows. And by tinted, I mean the after-market window film that is applied to stock windows that make them darker and protect against UV rays. The good news is that cleaning tinted car windows are actually easier to clean and maintain! Due to the fact that the haze build-up normally found on the inside of car windows is not as visible with tinted windows.
The method I outline here to clean car windows is completely safe for tinted windows.
Window Rubber: Whether we are talking about the inside or outside of your car windows, there will always be some form of weather stripping, sealant, or window rubber gasket material along side any/all the windows that will hold your car windows in place. This will be a case by case problem as each car manufacturer, along with differing materials will be used year to year. What happens is that as you clean your windows, you can rub your window cloth along these rubber window gaskets and then transfer this rubberized materiel onto your car windows as you clean them. Knowing how to clean car windows also means knowing what not to do.
This can both be a problem on the outside of the window as well as the inside. Car manufacturers use not only different materials between manufacturers, but also different materials that are different on the inside than that of the outside. This problem can be compounded during hot summer months as rubberized window gaskets will become softened, and transfer of this material from your window cleaning cloth onto your clean car window can become more problematic.
Window Rubber Gasket Sealants: Another common problem in getting clean car windows is due to the sealants used when assembly of car windows into your car. Both on the inside and out, the sealant underneath the rubberized gasket will begin to seep out as the car ages and is exposed to hotter temperatures. Once your cloth touches this gooey, sticky adhesive/sealant, you will have to switch window cleaning cloths as you will end up streaking your car windows with adhesive; it becomes a nightmare very quickly!
Window/Glass: Like everywhere else in life, not all things are created equal. Just when you think I have complicated the topic of clean car windows enough, now I have to go and add yet another dimension to the equation. Not all glass will be the same. Literally! Some glass will allow your glass cleaning cloth to wipe smoothly across it, while other glass will grab your cloth and make it feel impossible to even wipe the glass at all. I cannot explain this; I just know that you will be faced with "different" kinds of car glass and windows when you try and clean the car windows and it will be a factor that only you will realize once you start to clean the windows of your car.
Darren's Window Cleaning Video
Pay "Clean Car Windows" Forward!
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