How to Clean Outside Windows (Even One You Can't Reach)

Get a brighter view and no streaks with these easy outside window-cleaning steps.

Published March 28, 2024
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woman applying detergent spray and rag for cleaning window outside

Before you grab your spray bottle and rag, take a sec to perfect your technique. Knowing how to clean outside windows means being able to identify (and overcome) potential challenges like hard-to-reach windows, weather that will mess up your efforts, and tools that might not be as helpful as they could be. We have tons of tips to help you get a cleaner and better view every time.

Best Way to Clean Outside Windows You Can Reach

If you can reach the window you're cleaning, it's all about using a really great process to help save yourself work and get your windows spotless. The best way to clean your outside windows is with a garden hose, warm water, dish soap, and vinegar. You also need the right tools for the job.

Arm and hand holding a sprayer aimed at a window
Quick Tip

Wash one window at a time from start to finish. Don't move on until the window is completely done. Otherwise, you run the risk of water spots drying on the window.

1. Spray Down Your Windows With the Hose

Grab your garden hose and give the windows a good rinse. We like using a hose nozzle that has a little extra spraying power and the ability to select a spray pattern, so the FlexZilla 6-Pattern Adjustable Nozzle is our favorite. Think of this step as that pre-wash that happens at the car wash. You're removing some of the dust and dirt and giving the windows a chance to soak a little.

2. Wash Windows With Soapy Water

In a clean bucket, mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water. Using a microfiber cloth like the Chemical Guys Microfiber Towels, wash the outside of one window. Make sure you get in the corners.

3. Rinse the Window With the Hose

Using the hose, spray off all the soapy water. Start at the top of the window and move down.

4. Spray a Vinegar Solution on the Window and Wipe Off

Mix equal portions of white vinegar and distilled water in a spray bottle and spray the still-wet windows. Use a rubber squeegee like the Ettore All-Purpose 8-Inch Squeegee to remove the water and vinegar. Start at the top and work your way down, keeping the squeegee angled so the water can drip off toward the bottom of the window.

Related: Easy Homemade Vinegar Cleaner for Household Use

Quick Tip

Use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe off the squeegee between passes.

5. Buff the Window With a Dry Microfiber Cloth

When the window is clean, give it one more pass with a dry microfiber cloth. Buffing it removes any remaining moisture and helps you get that streak-free look.

How to Clean Outside Windows You Can't Reach Easily

For windows you can't reach easily, you can use a ladder or a long pole. We get a little freaked out on ladders over here, so we favor the pole method. Basically, you just use the same process but attach an extension pole to your tools.

Equipment for washing and cleaning the window from the outside
  1. Instead of hand-washing with a microfiber cloth, use a window scrubber you can attach to a pole. We're fans of the Unger Microfiber Window Scrubber, which comes in a pack with a squeegee.
  2. Use a long extension pole that fits your tools, such as the Unger Telescoping Window Cleaning Pole. Keep the pole at the shortest length you need to reach the windows easily.
  3. Spraying your vinegar solution on high windows can be a little challenging, so we favor the Windex Concentrated Cleaner With Hose Attachment. Just attach the hose and spray away.
  4. You can use a second clean microfiber window scrubber to buff the windows or skip that step.
Quick Tip

Pay attention to the weather when you're cleaning your windows. Obviously, don't clean on a rainy day, but also skip any day that's super hot or sunny. Your best bet is an overcast day that's not too hot or cold.

How to Deal With Really Stubborn Grime on Windows

Sometimes, there's a really stubborn spot of grime on your window. We're talking baked-on debris, bird droppings, and other nasties. A normal window cleaning might not get this off, but don't despair. You just have to take things a step further.

  1. Spray a 50% vinegar solution on the spot and leave it for five minutes. Come back and spray again, letting it soak for five more minutes. The idea is to let the vinegar solution get in there and really soak the grime.
  2. Use a soft scrub brush or scrubbing sponge to gently scrub away the grime. Skip anything too serious, like brushes with metal bristles or steel wool, because those can scratch your windows.
  3. For tree sap or adhesive sticker residue, follow up with a specialty product like Torque Detail Sap Attack. Just be careful to only clean the stubborn stain.
  4. Once you've cleaned off the grime, repeat the standard outside window cleaning process to get everything streak-free.

Related: How to Clean Windows Without Streaks, According to the Experts

Clean Outside Windows Twice a Year

Once you get the process down, it's a good idea to clean outside windows twice each year — usually in spring and fall. That way, your house will feel brighter all year long, and the job will never seem too big. Here's to a cleaner view.

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How to Clean Outside Windows (Even One You Can't Reach)