Do Natural Window Cleaners Work?

Annie B. Bond by Annie B. Bond | June 10th, 2009 | 40 Comments
topic: Green Living, Healthy Home


Don’t think eco-friendly natural window cleaners really work? Gotten streaks when you’ve tried them in the past? Try these nontoxic cleaning formulas and tips. You’ll never go back to commercial, chemical-based cleaners again.

Myth: Homemade cleaners leave streaks

Around Earth Day 1990, it seemed like every newspaper was printing recipes for nontoxic cleaning products with kitchen cupboard basics. The recipe was just plain vinegar and water. But when people tried the simple formula, they got streaks on their windows — and they swore off cleaning with homemade recipes — or even commercially sold natural cleaning products — for good.

The problem wasn’t the natural formula. The problem was that the traditional cleaning solutions people had used for so many years left a wax buildup, and vinegar alone couldn’t do the job of removing the residue.

Adding a dab of dish soap to a vinegar and water formula will do the trick. From then on, plain vinegar and water is all you’ll need to use.

Recipes for effective nontoxic cleaners

All-Purpose Window Cleaner

1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
1/2 teaspoon natural-formula liquid soap or detergent
2 cups water
A few drops of essential oil, for scent (optional)

Directions: Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and shake. Spray on, then remove with a squeegee, paper towel or newspaper. Makes 2 1/4 cups and lasts forever.

Vinegar Straight-Up

1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
2 cups water

Directions: Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and shake. Spray on, then remove with a squeegee, paper towel or newspaper. This preparation will work well after you have cleaned off all the residue of commercial products with an all-purpose cleaner like the formula above.

Light and lemony variation: Substitute lemon juice for the vinegar. Note that freshly squeezed lemon juice won’t keep for more than a few days and should be stored in the refrigerator.

Tips for cleaning windows without chemicals

  • A small squeegee will avoid the waste of paper towels. Squeegee the water to the corners of the glass, then wipe with a cotton rag.
  • Be careful not to add too much detergent, or you’ll have to rinse it off. If the detergent is concentrated, use only half the amount.
  • To get all the smudges when cleaning both sides of the window, wipe vertically on one side and horizontally on the other.

Related links

Browse Seventh Generation nontoxic cleaners

What’s So Bad About Chemical Cleaning Products?


  1. Thanks for the tips! I didn’t know that about lemon juice.

    Nikki | June 12th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  2. Another option is to use microfiber cloths – just dampen one and wipe the window then use the other to dry. It works well. I keep one in my car and just wipe the windows with a dry cloth – that works well too.

    Patricia | June 24th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  3. I’m glad that someone took the old professional cleaning tip of adding soap to window cleaning solution and made it green. I worked for my uncle’s cleaning service as a teenager and dish soap was the real “secret ingredient” between a pro and an amateur window cleaning. Dish soap added to the window cleaning solution really was the only thing that removed tree sap from outdoor windows, and smoke from indoor windows. Take it from an ex-pro – this tip really works.

    BJ | June 24th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  4. Also using black and white newsprint is very good for cleaning off a window after its been washed. The printing ink seems to clean the glass very well. I’ve often used it on the interior of the car.

    Pip | June 24th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  5. We are a Office Cleaning company in Leeds, UK. You will find now that most cleaning companies are using a new system called reach and wash which uses pure water, its also safer. I’ve found your website to be useful and i’ll defenately be coming back. Keep up the good work.

    Sandra | August 17th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  6. Annie –

    It is nice to see a steady movement towards “green” products for cleaning, a trend that has been gaining momentum for over a decade. It is such a healthy choice to use products that are safe for the user, surface and environment. Why clean if the chemicals that are used make the area more toxic after cleaning than before?

    Side note: If you’re hiring a professional window cleaner, make sure you know what chemicals they are using… if it is a “secret” what is the secret? Hopefully it is not Butyl.


    Jim w/Beckon Call

    Jim | May 21st, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  7. Just use Dawn dish wash liquid and some water mixed in a bucket. This is very green as you all know the oil spills all use Dawn to clean up wildlife and such not to mention it is the preffered cleaner for solar film on windows and other window applications. Get a cheap squeegee at Home Depot and a clean dry rag and pull the squeegee straight across and your in business.

    Window Cleaning Tips | June 21st, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  8. Water and dishwashing liquid and a clean rag would do the trick for me. It is still best to use the natural method of cleaning windows though.

    Harvey | September 12th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  9. Great Post! This is very informative. As an owner of a cleaning company based in London and I have picked up one or two tips. Thanks

    Anne Goddard | September 22nd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  10. With all due respect, it is really NOT about the application of the cleaner but how you take it off the glass that make all the difference. If you use a paper towel, it doesn’t matter what cleaner you use….its going to streak in direct sunlight. On the other hand, you could use tap water with a drop of dish soap and remove it with a cheap, shower squeegee and have a 100% better result. Squeegee = $1 at the dollar store.

    Larry | September 22nd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  11. Does this really work? Nice tips for a making a simple chemical for window cleaning. Very informative and very easy to make.

    Claire@residential cleaning services | September 25th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  12. They work well , i use them frequently..

    Tony | October 4th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  13. I know natural cleaning products are mentioned everywhere on the web and on the books, but there are certain areas of the house I wouldn’t do with home made cleaning products. I would rather use a cleaning product which cleans well and leaves my home smell fresh.

    House Cleaner London | October 13th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  14. I use them all the time and they work fine, I cant belive I used to use 409 around my cat, its so toxic.

    Rexy | November 12th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  15. Informative blog post. Dish washing liquid is a cost effective method of cleaning your windows.

    Steven Ellis | November 14th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  16. You have posted a very effective means of cleaning windows using natural ingredients and I think it is great that a lot more individuals are promoting environmentally-friendly cleaning products and techniques. Not only does it promote an eco-friendly lifestyle and will go a long way to preserving our environment, using eco-friendly cleaning products and methods is also safer for our families and household.

    Anonymous | January 17th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  17. Streak No More…check it out. :)

    Anne | March 24th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  18. I’ve tested it and it worked perfectly. Thank you for the informative post.

    Spotless Quarters | April 6th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  19. Good advice. People are often surprised when I tell them the secret to cleaning glass isn’t chemicals, its the squeegee.

    Park City Window Cleaning | April 18th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  20. Hi Annie, I agree, your solution is a winner but it really depends on the materials you use to clean with. Pip is right! Black and white newspaper works great on window and so do the microfiber cloths; use one cloth to apply and one to dry. A squeegee is great for large windows!
    So glad not too many people do this themselves anymore or my window cleaning business would not do well!

    Julian the window cleaner | January 4th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  21. Vinegar is not a necessary additive o your window cleaner. Nor is ammonia, which many people will recommend. When choosing a soap, common dish soaps are the best way to go. I use Blue Dawn or Ecover in my professional window cleaning business in New Jersey.

    The tricks are in the technique for agitation (scrubbing and removing dirt and debris) before squeegeeing. The soap is there mostly for slip under the squeegee. No need for chemicals, as you’re only trying to clean the windows, and not sterilize them.


    Chris | February 7th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  22. I have been using homemade window solutions always. my grand mother who raised me used them also and they are cheaper than to use. being of german decent we are frugal people and save a penny wherever we can. vinegar water-dash of soap and essence of choice is best. I use lemon essence.

    mary flannigan | February 13th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  23. Another trick to remove the wax buildup left by store-brought window cleaning agents is to get #0000 steel wool from your local hardware store and use it as your window “mop”.

    It usually pulls all the schmeck left behind right off in one pass. If the streaks are still there, an alcohol based foaming cleaner, such as Zep or Sprayaway will literally melt the residue off. Spray on generously, let it dwell on the glass for 30 seconds or so, then simply squeegee or wipe away with a clean, dry cloth.

  24. One can use just water so long as your scrubber is abrasive enough and the squeegee rubber is in good shape (just have to be careful not to use something too abrasive that will scratch the glass). Cheers.

  25. Learning ways on how to clean your windows in an economical and environment friendly way is such a great idea. You can keep it clean and presentable all the time without using any toxic cleaning chemicals. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Very interesting topic and article. Having been a professional window cleaner for almost 15 years I have used many window cleaning products. I must admit that lemons are Gods natural gift for all types of cleaning.

    Marc K | May 20th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  27. That was a very informative read.

    Salomon | July 11th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  28. Thanks for the great tips Annie! You can also use microfiber cloths with your natural cleaner. It works great for me :)

    Pressure Washer | August 6th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  29. I guess everyone has their own way of washing windows, best way is to try and see if it works.

    wes | September 14th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  30. Those are great methods that are cost efficient and also work wonders on glass. Also, 1/3 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol, 3 and a half cups of water and one clean spray bottle, Should also do the trick of crystal clean windows.

    Nelly Dean | October 17th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  31. Great window cleaning tips! Nice to see people are thinking about their environment. We use nothing except pure water to clean windows. If done properly it dries to a perfect finish every time. You can even use it in a spray bottle on the insides.

  32. There is an new “green” cleaning manufacturer that has the best streak free VOC free, green glass cleaner called I tried just about every glass cleaner on the market and have been very disappointed in the results, I always have? streaks. I have been using BioWorx “green” VOC free glass and surface cleaner with a microfiber towel with no streaks. Plus the product is a very good cleaner as well. Probably not as good a household cleaner as a glass cleaner, but still good none the less.

    Bill S | March 31st, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  33. I love your natural approach to cleaning. There are many people where we operate that prefer natural solutions like you are suggesting!

  34. Clean windows represent ones individual personality and way of living. Also to protect the glass from being damaged and protect it from dirt we have to clean it in regular intervals.

  35. Hi Annie, thanks for sharing this useful tips. Really a great help for window cleaning. Would surely try this out.

    Natalie | January 28th, 2014 | Comment Permalink
  36. It’s pleasant to see some natural method of cleaning which is effective and non toxic.The Lemon juice with essential oil has effortless property to haul out the strains and leave fresh smelling the room
    Good job Annie, keep posting!!

  37. Proper window cleaning is very hard but you defined the helpful tips.
    Thanks for sharing

    Liza Turner | May 11th, 2015 | Comment Permalink
  38. When you work in natural way, chances of lose become very less.

  39. Natural cleaning is safe from chemicals and very informative blog.
    Keep Sharing

    Mary Ellen | June 4th, 2015 | Comment Permalink
  40. There are many cleaning products that contain lemon in its ingredients, but is much efficient when you create home made cleaner. Also the vinegar is very useful the way its written above and also I am using it to clean my fridge.

    Jennie Fuller | October 5th, 2015 | Comment Permalink

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