How to Clean Car Windows

wet car window

Cleaning the windows in your car may seem like a simple thing, but it can be maddeningly difficult to get the job done thoroughly with no haze or smudging.

Automobile windows, even in a non-smoker's car, tend to get a film on the inside that can be really stubborn. This film is a chemical haze that comes from months of off-gassing from carpet fibers, upholstery, dashboard and door panel plastic. These gases aren't concentrated enough to be a health concern, but they're inevitable as the vehicle is exposed to heat and UV rays, and eliminating that film can be one of the toughest parts of how to clean car windows.

As for the outside of the windows, that can be tough, too. Your vehicle is subjected to a lot of road grime, tree sap, pollen and other junk that may not show on the finish, but it's all over the windows and can be difficult to clean off — and if you don't remove every bit of it, you'll still be able to see it.

Vehicle System
Appearance, Body, & Towing
Skill Level

This is a good project for new DIYers

Time to Complete
15 minutes
  1. Wash the car, remembering to wash the windows last.

  2. Clean the outside of the windows with glass cleaner. Wipe the windows vertically, then horizontally with your microfiber towel. Continue to alternate the horizontal and vertical strokes as many times at it takes to get the windows clean and smudge-free.

  3. Pro Tip

    Microfiber towels that are designed specifically for glass cleaning can go a long way toward a clean, streak-free window. For years, house cleaners and car detailers recommended newspaper for glass cleaning, but microfiber gives better results and leaves no lint or residue behind.

  4. Clean the very top edge of the window that seats into the door frame. Use a microfiber cloth and rub it along both sides of the edge — you may need to apply some pressure to remove any accumulated gunk.

  5. Cleaning the interior of the windows, then clean the outside again so you can be sure you haven't missed any spots.

  6. Apply a coat of Rain-X to the exterior of the windows.

  7. A Word About Rain-X

    Products like Rain-X are formulated to bead up and repel water, much like a good coat of wax does on your car's finish. It's really helpful in keeping your windows from getting too grimy or water-spotted and can help enhance visibility and make your wipers' job much easier.

    It's advisable to apply a few coats of Rain-X on all vehicle glass, with an extra coat or two on the windshield. When applying Rain-X, use circular strokes that overlap, like you would use to wax your car's finish. You may want to apply two or three coats. A slight haze may appear — remove this haze with a dry cloth or by spraying water onto the glass, then wiping down with a paper towel.

    Rain-X also makes spray glass cleaners and windshield washer fluid that apply more of the product with every use. We recommend it highly!

    It might be time consuming and may require quite a few repetitions, but clean window glass can make a big difference in your car's visibility and overall safety.

Last updated January 22, 2021