How to clean car glass efficient | Best ways to clean car windows out of streaks

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Updated on:

October 21, 2023

101 Guide How to clean car windows fast and efficient | Best car window cleaning methods

Cleaning car windows can be a very tedious job. Achieving streak free windows with a simple cloth and household glass cleaners is almost impossible. You need to make sure that you windshield is clean and streak free at all times to make your driving experience safe. Many household glass cleaners are hard to work with to achieve the desired result. In the article, we will explore different kinds of cleaners and their properties that deals with each problem you are trying to battle.

From cleaning road grime to using the right cleaner for tints, by the end of the article you will solve all of the concerns you have with your car windows. In addition, we will explore different methods to make the cleaning process fast and efficient. We described the easiest and most efficient process on how to clean exterior and interior windows in full detail. As well as including the simplest and most productive method of cleaning bugs with steam.

If you are struggling with choosing the right cleaning supplies or the right method for cleaning your car windows, this article will give the answers you have been searching for.

Key Takeaways:

  • Choosing the right auto glass cleaner is crucial. Ammonia-free options like Sprayway Glass Cleaner work well.
  • Steam cleaning is efficient and chemical-free, ideal for tinted windows.
  • Microfiber cloths are best for streak-free results. Avoid paper towels and glass wipes. Use clean, dry microfiber cloths with the appropriate cleaning agent.

Table of Contents (Show)

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1. Auto glass cleaners

It is very important to choose the right glass cleaner for your windows. Most people think that every window cleaner is the same but they all have different chemical makeup that affects your cleaning experience drastically. You also need to pay attention to the concerns that you have about your windows. Every auto glass cleaner targets different problem areas.

Some cleaners might be too weak to remove tough road grime on your car windows. And others can be too harsh for your windows, like the delicate tinted windows, and irritate the surface on them potentially leaving some damages. Luckily, there are a a bunch of different solutions that will lead to all your glass surfaces looking seamlessly clean.

1.1 Glass cleaners with ammonia

The most common thing to use for window cleaning is a spray meant for windows. You need to pay close attention to the window cleaner you are choosing by looking is it has any ammonia in the ingredients. Ammonia based cleaners have a benefit of evaporating quickly, leaving no residue for dirt to attract to it. Cleaners with ammonia tend to easily remove vegetable grease leaving your windows with no smudges.

Even though there are many advantages to ammonia cleaners, there are also some take aways. If applied in the direst sunlight, it may leave streaks on your glass windows. It can also damage parts of your car that are vinyl or have chrome surfaces. The formula of ammonia may also break down the wax on your car and your tinted windows. In addition, it is not safe for tinted windows since it can lead to the tint peeling off.

1.2 Glass cleaners with ammonia free formula

concentrated car windows cleaner

Most of the best car window cleaners are ammonia free. One of the advantages of ammonia free cleaners is the odorless formula. Professionals use brands like Sprayway Glass Cleaner due to its versatility and gentle non-toxic formula. Even though they do not have a strong chemical like ammonia, ammonia free cleaners have other cleaning surfactants like vinegar or alcohol that cuts through grease leaving a sparkly and streak free finish on your car windows.

Another great auto glass cleaner is the Invisible Glass Cleaner. It is ammonia free and is able to battle against bug splats, road grime, and grease you may have on your windows. After cleaning your windows with a couple of spray bottles of this product, you will notice a streak free finish that makes your windows look almost like invisible glass.

An honorable mention for one of the best auto glass cleaners is the Society glass cleaner. It has an ammonia free and alcohol free formula that leave a seamless finish on your windows.

The only disadvantage about ammonia free formula cleaners is that some of them leave streaks on the glass. This is why Sprayway's Glass Cleaner foam formula is so efficient. Since the formula is not liquid, it prevents the cleaner from dripping reducing the chance of leaving streaks on your window. It clings to any vertical surfaces and leaves them shinning.

You should always use an ammonia free cleaner for any tinted glass due to its gentle formula.

1.3 Cleaning glass with steam

The fastest way to clean car windows is by using steam. The chemical free formula will leave your windows with a streak free shine. It is safe for tinted windows, as well as car windshield, unlike cleaners with ammonia. Due to the high heat of steam, it melts away the grease as well as tough dirt like bird droppings, leaving the area residue free.

In addition, steam simultaneously cleans and disinfects the are you are working on. So if you have bugs stuck to your windshield, steam will aid in getting rid of the nasty gunk and disinfecting the area where the bugs were.

1.4 Tools for window cleaning

back glass cleaner


The best car window cleaning tool is a microfiber cloth. Microfiber towels help to achieve a streak free finish on any glass surface. It picks up any residue better than regular paper towels or glass wipes, making your automotive glass and other glass surfaces transparent and shinning. In addition, microfibers attract the least dust thus making the cleaning of the windows much easier.

Prior to the cleaning process, you need to make sure that your microfiber towels are clean and completely dry. Combination of steam with a microfiber cloth will surely leave a desired result of clean windows free of dust or road grime.

Not efficient glass cleaning tool

If you want to achieve a streak free shine, you should not use a paper towel to do so. Paper towels leave marks on your windows since they easily get wet. In addition, they suck up most of the product that you would use on your glass surfaces.

Glass wipes are also not a great tool for an even finish on your windows. Since they are very wet, streaks may appear after using them on the car's windows.

2. Best way to clean car windows

Before you start cleaning your automotive glass and other glass surfaces, gather all the supplies that will be needed to clean windows. You will need:

2.1. Use Car window cleaner

Grab one of your favorite household cleaners, sprayway glass cleaner, or steam to use as the cleaning agent. If you want to use a cleaner like sprayway glass cleaner, make sure that it is in a spray bottle since that will prevent any dripping on the windows that will lead to a streak free finish. Spray bottles also ensure that the solution you are using is evenly spread on your windows that will aid getting a streak free shine.

As mentioned before, make sure to use an ammonia free formula if you have tints as to prevent them from being lifted or damaged.

2.2. Dry with Microfiber cloths

microfiber glass towels

Make sure that your cloths are clean and dry before the process. Paper towels are not good for achieving a seamless clean window, so grab a couple microfibers that you can find on amazon or this website.

Check this guide for microfiber towel washing
Learn more about best microfiber towels for glass

2.3. Help with Vacuum

A small vacuum will be useful for cleaning the interior glass of your car. You need to make sure that the surrounding are is dust free and won't mix into the automotive glass cleaner while your are applying it on your surfaces.

3. Cleaning technique of car windows

3.1 Inspection of the glass

Before you start working on your windows, make sure to have a thorough inspection of them. Search for any residue like bugs, grime, and greasy stains that you might have. You need to decide which cleaner you need to use in order to get rid of those problem areas.

Also, keep in mind that you have to use an ammonia free cleaner if you have tints. Ammonia free cleaners are just as powerful as glass cleaners that have ammonia. In addition, make sure that your tints are fully dry and are not being cleaned for at least 72 hours after applying them.

Look for any cracks on the car's windows and windshield. If you find any imperfections like cracks, you should not touch the windows as it will lead to more damage.

To ensure that you are efficiently inspecting the glass, make sure that the weather aids you in this task. It is best to clean the windows on a dry and cloudy day since heat will dry your auto glass cleaner before you can use it to wipe off the dirt. Also, the sun might leave some light fixtures that will affect the inspection by hiding imperfections.

3.2 Exterior Glass with non tinted windows

First, start by spraying some of the car windows cleaner on the window. Make sure to cover enough of the surface to loosen up most of the road grime, elbow grease, and other stubborn dirt like bird droppings. Start by cleaning the exterior glass top to bottom and parallel from side to side motion with a fresh microfiber. By doing so, when you move on to cleaning the interior glass, it will be easier to see what spots were missed while cleaning.

If you have any dirt that is still stuck on the window or around the base, you may use a soft brush to get rid of them. Just use a little extra of the car glass cleaner and gently rub the bird droppings, or other dirt you may see, with a clean brush.

After you got rid of most of the dirt that was on the window, you can grab another microfiber that does not have any product on it, and do another pass on the exterior of the window to ensure that your auto glass is dry and streak free.

3.3 Exterior glass with tinted windows

Pay close attention to the car window cleaner you are using if you have tinted windows. If you have tinted glass, it is not recommended to use car window cleaners with ammonia. Ammonia free automotive cleaning products are safe for tinted glass and provide provide a through but gentle cleanse of your window tint.

To clean use a microfiber or cotton cloth and a spray bottle that is safe for tinted windows. Apply your auto glass cleaner and with side to side motion clean the window tint. If you want, you can use a soft rubber squeegee work on the glass until it is dry.

3.4 Bugs stuck to the windshield

Due to the protein that bugs have, it is very hard to clean the windows or your windshield off when they are dried. You need to be gentle with the products you are using as to not scratch your windows.

One of the easiest ways to clean off the bugs is by using a sponge meant for washing dishes and toothpaste. The chemical formula of toothpaste lifts off the dried bugs while the soft side of the sponge easily gathers the residue that is lifted up.

To start, apply some of the toothpaste on the sponge side. Make sure not to use the rougher side of the sponge as it will leave small cuts on the windows. After you have applied the toothpaste, in a circular motion, go around all the areas affected by the bugs. If you see there is residue left, repeat the process.

After you got rid of the bugs, use a clean tool, like a microfiber cloth, to take off the toothpaste. Before you proceed to using an auto glass cleaner, double check that your glass surface is free of all the toothpaste and bug residue after using microfiber cloths to do so.

Another way to clean off the bugs, which is less steps and might be easier for you, is by using steam. All you need to do is hold steam against the areas that are affected by bugs for a couple of seconds to loosen it up. Then, use a microfiber cloth to wipe all the dirt that has been lifted up by steam.

The heat and pressure of steam basically melts the proteins that make the bugs glue to your windows. Steam is gentle of the windows and will not leave any streaks or permanent marks on your auto glass.

Post inspection of the glass, proceed by cleaning the glass with the techniques that were mentioned above.

3.5 Interior glass

If you feel like the exterior of the window is clean, move on to cleaning the interior windows. The interior glass cleaning is more tedious to clean since you need to make sure that the area surrounding the window doesn't have lint or dust around it. To make sure that there is no additional dirt, grab a small vacuum and go around surrounding area of the window, like edges of the windshield and dashboard.

When you are done with the vacuum, spray some of the car window cleaner on the interior glass and proceed by using your microfiber while using a horizontal motion. If you missed spots while cleaning the exterior of the window, you will see those imperfections since you used a parallel motion to clean the exterior and a horizontal motion to clean the interior.

Make sure that you use window cleaners that are safe to use around interior plastic of the car as to not damage it.

3.6 Smoke residue on windows

If you smoke in the car, you might notice that your windshield is hazy. The smoke from cigarettes builds up and leads to leaving a hazy film on the windshield. This affects the safety of your drive drastically by reducing the visibility through the windshield.

You can try to mix some vinegar and water in a spray bottle to make your own mixture to remove the haze. Proceed by spraying it on the affected area and cleaning it after with a microfiber.

If the haze is still visible, use a clean squeegee to work on the windows. After you see a noticeable improvement, grab a clean microfiber to do a final pass over the windows. You will notice a streak free shine and and residue free window.

Learn more about smoke smell removal out of car.

3.7 Interior mirrors

It is also important to keep the interior mirrors clean. Finger prints and grease is one of the most common dirt you can find on the mirrors.

It is easy to clean such small surfaces with just a spray bottle of an auto glass cleaner and a microfiber. Simply apply some of the glass cleaner on the mirrors and clean it off with a dry microfiber.

3.8. Exterior mirrors and headlights

Cleaning mirrors and headlights is essential for maintaining a clear view while driving, ensuring optimal visibility and safety on the road. When it comes to cleaning these surfaces, there are a few important factors to consider.

Mirrors and headlights can accumulate dirt, grime, and other substances that can obstruct the view and reduce the effectiveness of the lights. Using the right cleaning methods and products can help restore clarity and functionality.

4. Cleaning car windows with steam

steam cleaning of car windshield

One of the best car window cleaner is steam. It does not have any chemicals therefore non-toxic. It is safe to use on tinted glass and won't melt or lift off the tint. It is also safe for interior parts of the car, like plastic.

To start, set your steamer to low pressure steam so it will produce less moisture. With the steam gun, spread the steam all over the glass. Use a microfiber in a side to side motion to clean glass surfaces. You will get a residue free finish with no streaks. Steam doesn't have any chemicals, like ammonia, that leave residue. If there's any left over moisture for steam, it will just evaporate.

Steam is one of the best auto glass cleaners because it is eco-friendly and chemical free. While it cleans, it also disinfects the area you are working with. It also removes mold from exterior windows and kills small bugs. Steam makes it especially easy to clean off the bugs that get stuck to the windshield.

5. Precautions

5.1. Winter hazards

It is very important to know how to clean windows in the winter. It is advised not to clean your windows in freezing temperature since the glass cleaner that you will use will automatically harden.

It is best to use an alcohol-based cleaner to clean in the winter. Alcohol-based cleaners have an ultra-low freezing point and disinfecting properties.

5.2. Rain

It is also important to clean your windows in the rainy season. Even if it is raining, dirt still sticks to your windows and it is important to keep them extra clean since the rain can spread dirt even more.

If you live in a rainy environment, it is recommended to use a rain repellent formula that will ensure a safer drive. During rain, rain repellent will keep the droplets separating to be sides that makes a more visible view of the road.

5.3. Water spots

Water spots removal needs special approach with special chemicals and must be done before final cleaning of windows. Check this separate guide for water spots removal.

side car window cleaning

6. Conclusion

Keeping your windows clean is an important habit to have. Hazy windows are important to clean immediately to make sure you have clear visibility of the road for safe driving. This is why this article is a must read to ensure the safest driving experience every single time you get on the road.

As mentioned in this article, it is suggested to choose the right auto glass cleaner for your windows. Figure out what is your concern, like bird droppings, bugs on the windshield, or dust, to find the right cleaner for your problem area.

Windows with tints requires extra care and pickiness of the right auto glass cleaner. Pay attention to the glass cleaner you are using so it does not have ammonia that may damage the tints.

We included tips that will effectively leave you with streak free windows and a seamless clean.

7. Commonly asked questions

Q: What is the best thing to clean car windows with?

A: Best results you can get with pro glass cleaners and clean microfibers, if you have steam cleaner you can reduce needs of chemicals

Q: How do you get rid of haze on inside of windshield?

A: Use quality cglass cleaner in small quantities and clean microfiber towel

Q: What is the best way to clean car windows without streaks?

A: Use less glass cleaner to remove less residues, make different direction on outside and inside glass surface, this will help you to identify position of streak

Q: Can you use paper towels to clean car windows?

A: We do not recommend paper towel, better use microfiber

About the Authors

Kristina Tretyakova
Distinguished as a South Florida Top-10 student in 2021. Studying Marketing and Business Administration at FIU. Proficient in daily operations and skilled in cleaning, auto detailing and copywriting.
Sergey "Serg" Paskevich
Panama-based detailing pro, proud owner of Car Care Performance Detailing studio in Panama-City. Specializing in Paint Correction, Ceramic Coating, and comprehensive Car Detailing services

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