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Average drivers may be able to get away with once-per-month car washes, but when you’re constantly taking your vehicle around town, learning how to clean car windows can save you a fortune.
Spotless windows aren’t just an admirable feature of rideshare vehicles — they’re a requirement. Uber, Lyft, and most other rideshare companies expect drivers to keep every part of their vehicle tidy to ensure every ride is up to customer expectations. However, cleanliness doesn’t just benefit business. Having a clean windshield maximizes your visibility, and when all your windows are streak-free, your safety and your passenger’s safety are at their max.
Follow this guide to learn the best way to clean car windows like a professional and solve common window-cleaning problems with our DIY solutions.
- How to Clean Car Window Exteriors
- Best Way to Clean Car Window Interiors
- Common Window-Cleaning Problems and Solutions
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Clean Car Window Exteriors
Cleaning your car windows requires two simple materials:
- Sprayable car window cleaner: Make sure to grab a cleaner specifically from the automotive section of your store. Harsh household glass cleaners will quickly damage your window tint. If you want to save in the long run, you can purchase a gallon jug and fill up the liquid in a separately purchased spray bottle.
- Microfiber towels: We recommend buying a pack of lint-free towels to ensure that you’re not reusing cloths that are already lined with dirt and grease.
Once you’ve gathered your materials, follow the easy steps listed below to get the best shine on your glass surface. If the directions on your car glass cleaner require it, dilute the solution with distilled water in a spray bottle before you start.
- Spray your cleaning product directly onto half your windshield.
- Using your microfiber cloth, wipe off the glass cleaner by swiping from top to bottom.
- Repeat with the other half of the windshield, then each half of the rear window, using a new cloth as soon as one has been significantly dirtied.
- Spray each side window and wipe vertically with your microfiber cloth. Make sure to roll down your windows during this process to clean the tops of your windows, too, as the area concealed by your rubber seal can often be the dirtiest.
- Gently clean off your wiper blades with your microfiber cloth and a small amount of your cleaner. This wiper treatment will easily get any dirt off, and wipe off any overspray from when you cleaned the windshield.
Best Way to Clean Car Window Interiors
When cleaning car windows, the interiors are the most often forgotten part. Car exteriors definitely get the brunt of the daily dirtying, but with all the passengers you interact with each day, your car interior windows are plenty susceptible to fingerprint smudges, dust, and other residue.
The basic technique of cleaning the interior of your car windows is very similar cleaning your exterior. You’ll still want to roll down your windows to prevent streaking at the top, and you can reuse the same materials.
However, you need to take extra precautions to preserve your car interior from sprays that land too far, especially if you’re driving a luxury rideshare service and have leather seats. To do so, we recommend spraying your cleaner directly onto a microfiber cloth before wiping your windows windows, instead of spraying directly onto your windows.
Another recommendation we have for you to achieve clean glass is to wipe from left to right for your interiors. This way, you’ll have greater visibility into spots you miss on either side of your windows.
Common Window-Cleaning Problems and Solutions
Even if you know the basics of how to clean car windows, you may still run into a handful of common problems. In this section, we’ll detail what you can do to avoid everything from streaks to tough water stains.
Achieving a streak-free window is one part product and one part technique.
When shopping for your car window cleaner, look for cleaners that are formulated to prevent any leftover residue. These are typically advertised as streak-free, and the ingredients should be easily distinguished from those of a household cleaner. Popular brands include Invisible Glass and Shine Society. You can also opt for a homemade solution by mixing one part water, one part rubbing alcohol, and a couple tablespoons vinegar (an especially helpful ingredient if you live near saltwater).
Your microfiber towel is also important. Try to look for low-pile cloths that are known to be highly absorbent without leaving behind lint. Meguiar’s microfiber towels are a popular option.
If you find that your cleaning jobs are still streaky, make sure you clean out of direct sunlight. It’s common, especially in the summer, for cleaners to dry up quickly in the sun and naturally leave behind streaks before you can wipe your window down. Clean with a straight up-and-down motion instead of in a circular motion, if you aren’t already, and spray a smaller surface area at a time if you find that your cleaner is evaporating quickly.
Tough Bug Splats
Bug splatter is often the most stubborn kind of stain you can find on your vehicle, but is easily accrued when driving longer distances and on freeways. If you still don’t have a clean window after following the exterior cleaning steps above, try using your windshield wiper fluid and swiping the remains off.
If the bug splats are still holding tight, baking soda is a great at-home solution for car owners. Sprinkle your baking soda onto the problem area and let it sit and break down before scrubbing away the splatter with your microfiber cloth.
If your car has recently been splashed with a sprinkler, rained on, or even run through a car wash, hard water spots can accumulate on your window exteriors. This is caused by natural minerals that can cause damage if left too long.
The best way to resolve this to fill a spray bottle with one part distilled water and one part vinegar, spray the dirty window area, and let it sit for a few minutes (more if the spots are extremely tough), reapplying if needed. Use a dry microfiber towel to wipe off the cleaning solution and your water spots should be gone.
When you live in a snowy city, winters can make car cleaning a little more difficult. While the general technique is exactly the same, these extra steps must precede your cleaning process:
- Purchase a window de-icer like this popular product, along with a plastic scraper.
- Turn on your car heater to warm the interior of your vehicle as you work on the exterior.
- Spray your de-icer onto the exterior side of your windows. Allow the solution sit for a few minutes.
- Scrape the frost off your windows. Your de-icer should make it fairly effortless.
- Follow our provided steps to clean your car window exteriors.
- Start cleaning your window interiors. Don’t forget to turn off your heater to prevent your glass cleaning solution from drying out and leaving streaks before you begin cleaning.
Frequently Asked Questions
With all your window-cleaning solutions in hand, you’re almost ready to get the grime off your windows for good. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you learn more:
1. If I don’t have a microfiber towel, can I use other materials to clean my windows?
Squeegees and newspaper are known to be effective when cleaning any types of glass. If you are in immediate need of washing your windows and don’t have access to microfiber towels, we recommend opting for one of these. However, these materials are more likely to leave streaks behind.
Avoid using paper towels, as this material is not strong enough to get tough stains out, and usually ends up leaving residue on your windshield instead.
2. Can I use plain water to wash my vehicle?
Plain tap water should not be used for washing your vehicles. Tap water comes with minerals that can contribute to hard water stains on your vehicle. If you don’t have a commercial cleaning solution in hand, you can use distilled water, but it won’t be nearly as effective as solutions that have vinegar or powerful ingredients. Using just water will make it more likely for stubborn stains and streaks to be left behind.
3. Can I use automotive glass cleaner on my mirrors?
Yes. You can take advantage of the time you’ve reserved for cleaning to remove stains from your vehicle’s mirrors, too. The solutions we outlined above are highly effective for all vehicular mirrors.
Clean Your Car Windows Like a Professional
Spotless windows may not increase your tips, but passengers definitely notice when grime starts obscuring their view outside. Following our car window cleaning process is an easy way for you to enhance your visibility, safety, and passenger satisfaction. Plus, your cleanliness may encourage riders to give you five-star ratings every time.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.