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Maximizing Transparency in Cleaning Automotive Glass

I spend a fair amount of time in detail shops and car washes, and without question one of the major technical problems these facilities have is getting clean, streak-free glass.


I spend a fair amount of time in detail shops and car washes, and without question one of the major technical problems these facilities have is getting clean, streak-free glass. Seems like a little thing, but I find when a sales manager or principal walks out their door and sees a fleet of cars with streaked-up windows, it’s a frustrating experience. So here are a few tips to help you solve the problem and see clearly:

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“A Poor Craftsman Blames His Tools”
While this may be true, sometimes the problem really is using poor tools — or, in our case, bad towels. It is not always about the material, as cotton terry, microfiber of all types and even surgical towels are commonly used. The towel really isn’t the problem; it is the way we clean it. First, don’t ever use fabric softener or detergent with fabric softener in it. That will coat the fibers of the towel and make it resistant to absorption — and therefore won’t pick up dirt or moisture well. Also, designate only one color and type of towel for cleaning glass, and then wash it separately from all other towels. This will ensure no cross contamination from the other towels. Don’t use too much detergent either, as this will load the towel with detergent and can cause streaking as well. Often, it is best to wash a load of towels with a cup of vinegar instead of detergent, as this will help ensure no soap residue remains in the towel.

Tackling Super-Dirty Windows
All the things in the first step will help you when you do your finish out when cleaning glass. Often, though, you need to get the dirt and grime off the window from years of smoking and/or odors. The best way to clean this super-dirty glass is by using a magic eraser as your first step. This little sponge with glass cleaner will cut through the grime and leave you with a window ready to finish out, without marring the glass. This works for interior and exterior glass, and will remove water spots from the outside glass.


Trust Your Cleaner
Finally, let’s talk about glass cleaner. Properly diluted glass cleaner, ready-to-use glass cleaner or aerosol will all work equally well. There really is no difference if they are all properly diluted. Often, we put too much emphasis on this, when it really is dirty or contaminated towels or just not getting the residue off the windows that is our problem. The ingredients in glass cleaner have often been the subject of fear and concern, mostly with regard to ammonia and aftermarket-tinted windows. I have talked to most of the major window film manufacturers and they all assure me that in the last 10 years the material they have produced will not cause discoloration due to ammonia-based glass cleaners. If a manufacturer of glass cleaner puts ammonia in glass cleaner, it will be properly proportioned and should have no effect on the film. 

Hopefully these tips can you get clear, streak-free glass. If I can ever be of assistance, please contact me at the address above. I am always happy to help.

Keith Duplessie

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