How to Make Homemade Window Cleaner

It's easier and less expensive than you think to achieve streak-free windows: Mix three common ingredients in a spray bottle, and get cleaning! Get the recipe here.
Donna Boyle Schwartz Avatar
A person cleaning house windows from outside using a homemade window cleaner recipe.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob VIla

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Dirty windows or a streaky glass door are easy to notice and are easy to clean. Yet, cleaning windows and doors always seems like a chore we put off—even though it requires minimal work. No more excuses! You don’t need any fancy cleaners or tools when you can make this DIY glass cleaner recipe for free from supplies in your house.

Save some dollars and keep things simple by mixing up your own DIY window cleaner with nothing more than a few pantry staples you likely have on hand. The following homemade window cleaner is a solution of ingredients that you can actually pronounce, like vinegar and water, and can whip up quickly and leave under your sink for the next time it’s needed. Here’s the recipe for success:

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STEP 1: Gather the ingredients.

A group of ingredients used to make homemade window cleaner.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

Before learning how to clean windows with vinegar, you’ll first want to gather the materials for this DIY glass cleaner. You’ll need distilled white vinegar (or lemon juice) and dish soap—a fragrant essential oil is nice to add, but not necessary.

In this recipe, as with so many other nontoxic homemade cleaners, white vinegar plays a key role. Its acidity cuts through dirt and grease, an attribute that well equips the window cleaner to remove stuck-on debris and streaks.

If you’ve washed your windows for years with a commercial cleaner such as Formula 409 or even Windex, it’s likely that the glass sports a subtle, waxy film. That residue comes off easily with ordinary dish detergent, another ingredient contributing to the efficacy of homemade window cleaner.

STEP 2: Mix the homemade glass cleaner ingredients and dilute them with warm water.

A person pouring water into a spray bottle to make homemade window cleaner for the house.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

In a spray bottle, combine ¼ cup of white vinegar with ½ teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Dilute the solution with 2 cups of water, then shake the bottle vigorously to mix the components. If you don’t have white vinegar on hand, you can substitute it with lemon juice. Like distilled white vinegar, lemon juice has a mild acidity that cuts through grease and grime with equal panache.

STEP 3: Add essential oil for fragrance (optional).

A person adding essential oil drops to a spray bottle to make homemade window cleaner for the house.
Photo: Tom Fenenga for Bob Vila

As a cleaning agent, there’s much to love about vinegar, but the strong odor isn’t everyone’s favorite thing. Fortunately, you can go a long way toward camouflaging the scent of your homemade glass cleaner by adding essential oil to the spray bottle mixture. Pick your favorite oil and add 10 to 15 drops.

With your homemade window cleaner now ready, spray the window glass with it. Then, using a lint-free cloth such as a microfiber towel or chamois, wipe the cleaner across the entire surface you’re cleaning. The cleaner will dry fairly quickly, leaving behind a streak-free shine. For best results, follow up with a window squeegee like this highly rated option available at Amazon.

What the Ingredients Do


The main reason why distilled white vinegar makes such a good glass cleaner is because it contains acetic acid. The colorless organic compound gives white vinegar its pungent flavor and odor, and kills some bacteria. When you wash windows with vinegar, not only will you be able to break down and remove dirt, grease, and mineral deposits, you’ll also be able to kill germs on hard surfaces around the home.

It is important to note, however, that vinegar-based cleaning solutions should not replace true sanitizing cleaners that remove 99.9 percent of disease-causing bacteria and viruses, the EPA standard for products labeled as sanitizers.

Lemon Juice

Similar to white vinegar, the acids in lemon juice can effectively break down grime on glass surfaces such as windows. The citric acid found in lemon juice is technically a bit stronger than vinegar’s acetic acid, though both are about equally effective when it comes to cleaning around the house.

homemade window cleaner

Dish Soap

Several ingredients make up most liquid dish soaps on the market, but one ingredient in particular, sodium lauryl sulfate, gives dish soaps their impressive grease-busting abilities. The component bonds with oily particles and lifts them off of surfaces, which allows for easy removal when used with water.

Essential Oils

The best homemade window cleaner leaves behind an appealing scent. Many essential oils contain natural chemical components that are both cleansing and pleasantly scented. Tea tree essential oil, for example, doesn’t just smell great—it has antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. Mixing it into your homemade window cleaner can help prevent mold and mildew growth, too.

homemade window cleaner

Warm Water

As is the case when cleaning other parts of the home, water temperature makes a difference. Hot water has more kinetic energy than cold water, so it more easily agitates and lifts dirt particles off surfaces. While this may help with cleaning dishes and laundry to some extent, warm water isn’t essential for cleaning windows. Cold or tepid water will work, too.

Tips for Cleaning Windows

A thorough window cleaning should be at the top of every homeowner’s seasonal cleaning to-do list. The start of spring when the weather warms is an opportune time to tackle this task both inside and outside your home. Before you start spritzing the glass, consider these useful window-cleaning tips:

  • Buff away dust. If the windows are dusty but not streaky, you can clean them without bringing a cleaning solution, homemade or otherwise, into the equation. Simply use a lint-free cloth to pick up and clear away the dust. Then, once finished, complete the job by polishing the glass to a streak-free shine with a different, clean cloth.
  • Wait for the right weather. If possible, clean your windows on a cloudy day. When sun is shining directly on the window, the cleaning solution dries faster, which can leave behind streaks and water marks.
  • Start with the tracks and frame. The tracks and frame of a window can get even dirtier than the glass. Cleaning these areas before cleaning the window panes will help prevent the grime from smearing over the glass as you clean it. 
  • Clean interior and exterior windows twice a year. Making it a habit to clean the inside and outside of each window twice a year can help prevent dust, dirt, and mineral deposits from building up.
“Don’t forget to inspect your window hardware. If your finishes have dulled, you can apply a coat of beeswax to preserve and restore them. Also, it’s never a bad idea to take the time to put dry lubricant on the gears of your windows to keep all components functioning smoothly for seasons to come.”
— Michael Wandschneider, director of product management for Marvin 

The Best Wipe for Streak-Free Windows

While you could use paper towels, a soft microfiber cloth works best for first removing dust and loose debris from windows. Use a separate clean microfiber cloth to work the homemade window cleaner along the glass surface and remove stubborn dirt and residue. Coffee filters are also handy for cleaning windows, as are squeegees. The latter are especially useful for deep-cleaning the outside of your windows, which you can DIY rather than paying for professional window cleaning.

homemade window cleaner

Safety Precautions for Mixing Homemade Glass Cleaner

Using natural ingredients is eco-friendly and safer for your skin and lungs compared to the chemicals found in many commercial cleaners, but there are still a few safety considerations to be aware of when making your own window cleaner. Natural ingredients such as white vinegar, lemon juice, and essential oils are effective in homemade glass cleaners, but they do not replace true sanitizers that are proven to kill 99.9 percent of  disease-causing pathogens.

The most important thing to remember when making window cleaner (or any other homemade cleaning solutions) is never to mix vinegar with chlorine bleach. When sodium hypochlorite, the basic chemical compound in bleach, mixes with the acetic acid found in vinegar, it gives off toxic chlorine gas. Chlorine gas can burn skin, cause shortness of breath, and can even be fatal with long-term exposure.

Glass Cleaner vs. Window Cleaner

Formulas for specialized commercial glass cleaners are often ammonia-based, and can leave streaks or foggy spots on some types glass. Car windows, for example, should not be cleaned with ammonia-based window cleaners because the residue poses a risk of obstructing the driver’s view. Natural glass cleaners that do not contain ammonia, such as the homemade window cleaner recipe above, don’t leave behind residue or streaks when wiped away using a clean microfiber cloth.

Final Thoughts 

The best window cleaning solution is safe, natural, and effective. Following this recipe for a natural window cleaner can help you achieve all of these goals and leave you with clear, clean, and streak-free windows. Mixing in a few drops of essential oil adds a pleasant scent to the vinegar-based cleaner.

Cleaning the windows in your home doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Consider focusing on one level or room at a time to keep the workload manageable. Remember, you should also clean the exterior windows and screens a few times a year.

FAQs About DIY Window Cleaner

Do you have any additional questions about cleaning windows with a homemade window cleaner? Consult the frequently asked questions below to gain additional information.

Q. Can you use rubbing alcohol instead of vinegar to clean windows?

Yes, you can use rubbing alcohol to get windows clean if you don’t have vinegar on hand. To make the best window washing solution with rubbing alcohol, add 1½ cup water, 1½ cup rubbing alcohol, and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar (if you have any) to a spray bottle. Close the bottle, shake it to mix the ingredients, and use it to clean windows and other glass surfaces in your home.

Q. Why are my windows streaky after I clean them?

Ammonia-based commercial window cleaners leave behind a residue that can make windows look streaky. For streak free windows, try making your own natural homemade window cleaner using white distilled vinegar, water, lemon juice, essential oils, and dish soap.

Q. How do you deep clean windows?

Start by cleaning the window tracks and frames with a solution of three parts white distilled vinegar and one part water. Then, combine white distilled vinegar, lemon juice, water, essential oils, and dish soap together and use the solution to clean the glass.

More Recipes for Homemade Cleaners

For the Kitchen

Homemade Degreaser
Homemade Granite Cleaner
Homemade Oven Cleaner
Homemade Stainless Steel Cleaner
Homemade Silver Polish
• How To Clean A Glass Cooktop

For the Floor

• Homemade Floor Cleaner
Homemade Carpet Cleaner
• Homemade Wood Floor Cleaner
• 10 Homemade Carpet Cleaning Remedies

For the Bathroom

• Homemade Shower Cleaner
• Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner
• Homemade Grout Cleaner
• Homemade Drain Cleaner

For Outside

• Homemade Deck Cleaner