12 window cleaning mistakes we didn't realize we were making

Cleaning professionals share common mistakes getting in the way of that sparkling-clean finish

dining room with large windows
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Spring cleaning is on everyone's minds right now, as we look ahead to the new season and seek ways to give our homes a refresh. As the mornings get (ever-so-gradually) lighter, we need to make the most of that glorious sunlight by cleaning the windows thoroughly. 

It's not an easy task, and if you want crystal-clear windows it's best to arm yourself with the right tools and take note of some expert advice before you get started. The 'two-bucket' method, de-ionized water, and fancy figures of eight are all well and good – but there are also various simple errors to steer clear of. 

Below, experts reveal common window-cleaning mistakes to avoid so you can achieve squeaky-clean glass.

exterior of red brick house with pool and glass extension

(Image credit: Future PLC)

1. Using the garden hose

Using your garden hose might seem like a convenient option for cleaning downstairs windows and patio doors, but Allen Rathey, Director of Indoor Health Council says it won't give you that spotless finish. 'Do not use a garden hose to clean outside of windows, letting them air dry, as it will leave mineral spots,' Allen warns. 

2. Not dusting first

'The biggest mistake people make when cleaning their windows is not dusting them first!' says Ray Brosnan from Brosnan Property Solutions. 'Your windows need to be free of dust, debris and other surface-level dirt before you start applying water or cleaning solutions, otherwise, you’re just moving dirt around and not actually solving the issue.' Using the best vacuum cleaner with attachments will make light work of this step.

3. Rushing the job

'Try and focus on a smaller area first,' Ray Brosnan continues. 'We see a lot of people go too big, too fast, which leads to poor results. Focus your efforts on one area at a time so you can get that instant satisfaction and keep yourself motivated throughout the cleaning process.'

He says you’ve also got drying to contend with, and that if you apply water to a large area chances are some of the windows will have dried off before you even get the chance to clean them. Speaking of taking your time, if you're cleaning windows it makes sense to clean curtains and blinds, ticking it all off in one go.

living room with venetian blind and small couch

(Image credit: Future PLC)

4. Using too much product

Be careful not to use too much of your chosen cleaning product. Steven Ip from Boston-based cleaning and maid service Cleanzen says that over-applying the product can leave your windows looking dirty. He says that when following up with a dry cloth, you're likely to get streaks if there's too much product on the window's surface.

5. Applying too much pressure

'Applying too much pressure while wiping down the window may scratch the glass,' says Arman Khalili, Owner of Trushine Window Cleaning, Houston. Scratched glass can be expensive to replace or repair so you'll want to avoid this costly mistake.

6. Forgetting to use a squeegee

A professional quality squeegee, $23.95 at Amazon is essential if you want to avoid streaks, lint, or any other residue, says Arman Khalili. It'll also be useful for cleaning glass shower doors, the car, and large mirrors.

7. Cleaning with abrasive materials

Joanne Archer from Expert Home Tips warns against using abrasive materials when cleaning windows, such as steel wool or scouring pads, which can scratch the glass. 

8. Not using the right cleaning products

Joanne Archer also says not to use ammonia or vinegar on windows that have been treated with a water-repellent coating. These cleaning agents can break down the layer and cause it to lose its effectiveness.

dining room with large windows

(Image credit: Future PLC)

9. Using cheap paper towels

'Don't use cheap paper towels. They will leave lint on the windows. Instead, use a quality brand or microfiber cloths, at Amazon are the best for cleaning windows,' says Sara, a professional house cleaner from Confessions of a Cleaning Lady.

10. Trying to clean on a windy day

'Windy days can also make cleaning more difficult as dirt and debris can be blown around,' says Joanne. 

11. Not using enough cleaner

You don't want to use too much, but you shouldn't skimp on window cleaner (at Target) either. Phi Dang from home services company Sidepost warns that if you don't use enough cleaner, you won't be able to remove all the dirt and grime from the windows. As a rule of thumb, Phi suggests using enough cleaner to wet the entire surface of the window.

12. Forgetting to make use of cleaning staples

'Most professional window cleaners just use Dawn and warm water,' says cleaning expert Derek Christian from My Maid Service. 'If the windows are extra dirty wet it down with down then use extra fine 0000 grit steel wool to clean it then squeegee it off.  

'You do not need to and should not rinse the windows after you clean them. The Dawn in the water breaks the surface tension which is what helps avoid streaks and the dawn also helps lubricate the squeegee so it slides smoothly.' Failing that, you can also use baking soda to clean windows.

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.