ISSUE 69  |  Spring Cleaning

The Secret Ingredient to Make Windows Shine Bright Like a Diamond

April 23, 2013 7:20 PM

BY Erin Boyle

When it comes to cleaning my home, I like to take as natural an approach as possible. In my ideal world, the process of making my own cleaning products would always look more like whipping up something for lunch than concocting something to clean grime off my windows. In fact, lately I’ve been mixing a solution in the regular kitchenware I use to prepare food as a litmus test for whether a product is safe enough to use. I’ve been making a vinegar-based solution to clean windows for a few years, but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered another secret ingredient–a pantry staple and an unexpected powerhouse for shine.

For more spring cleaning, see Help! My Marble Backsplash Has Grease Stains.

Photography by Erin Boyle.

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Above: A tablespoon of cornstarch is the secret ingredient. Add it to a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar to produce the shiny, streak-free result that is everyone’s goal when it comes to cleaning windows.

Here’s what you’ll need:


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To make my glass cleaner, I began by juicing half a lemon into a liquid measuring cup. I used a sieve to keep the lemon seeds and pulp out of my cleaner. Because lemon is naturally acidic and excellent at cutting through grease and grime, it’s sometimes used with success to clean glass all on its own. I added it to my solution as a way to freshen the scent.

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Next, I added half a cup of white vinegar and a tablespoon of cornstarch. I used a small whisk to combine the cornstarch into the vinegar. The result is a milky substance with a beguiling ability to get windows to sparkle.

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After I thoroughly mixed my cornstarch, vinegar, and lemon juice, I added it to my empty vinegar bottle and poured in another 1/2 cup of tap water. Reusing an old plastic container is another laudable solution, but I like the look of a glass vinegar bottle even better (label removed, of course). The threaded glass top on a Heinz vinegar bottle (in both 16-ounce and 32-ounce sizes) is a standard 1-inch diameter and will fit most plastic nozzles that come with store-bought cleaners. I took my nozzle from an old Biokleen bottle I had been saving under the kitchen sink.

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To clean the windows, I crumpled up a bit of newspaper. Soy-based inks won’t rub off onto the window (though you might need to wash your hands afterward), and the newspaper doesn’t leave behind flecks of fiber the way a paper towel or cotton rag might. After giving my bottle one last shake to make sure the cornstarch was thoroughly mixed, I sprayed the entire surface of our window and used circular motions to apply the cleaner.

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Above: When I first saw the solution on the window, I groaned. Surely a chalky white film was not going to do the trick for sparkly windows. But after applying a little elbow grease, the solution wiped away to reveal a (near) spotless window. Here’s a photograph of our window glass close-up, before and after.

Ready to tackle more spring cleaning chores? See our favorite 10 Tips for Happy Housekeeping.

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After I finished using my solution, I unscrewed the plastic nozzle and replaced the original plastic lid so I could refrigerate the remaining solution for next time. I also added a label: accidentally tasting this solution wouldn’t kill you, but it wouldn’t be very pleasant, either. I put the bottom of my nozzle into a cup with clean tap water and sprayed it a few times to give it a good rinse.

When you’re done with the windows, pamper yourself with our favorite: DIY: A Spa Beauty Mask Made From Flowers.

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Every time I clean our windows, I’m astonished at the difference that a little dirt removal can make. In the city and anywhere, dirt builds up on window panes quickly, and washing it away makes an impressive difference.

Are you tackling the tough jobs? See How to Remove Stains from Marble and more of our favorite House Cleaning tips for indoors and out.