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Ask-A-Pro: Household glass cleaners vs. Car-specific glass cleaners


I’m sure many of us have wondered over the years, “Why can’t I use my Windex on the windows in my car?” Killing two birds with one stone, and saving some money from buying two of the “same” product. Nick writes in:

Hello there. I’d like to know if there is any difference to household, glass cleaners and car detailing ones. Do household cleaners damage regular car glass. Do they contain abrasives and other harmfull ingredients? Do they damage trim and rubber around the windows. Than you so much for your time, I know these are a lot of questions, but I want to know if i have to invest in specialty glass cleaner or not.
Thank you in advance,
Best Regards
Nick Tzovlas

Hi Nick!

The short answer is, “Yes you should!” Not because I’m a salesman, either! After some thorough research, I’ve come to two very distinct differences in household glass cleaners, and car-specific glass cleaners:

1. Most household glass cleaners contain ammonia in them.
2. They streak!

What does ammonia mean for cars? Well, if you car has tinted windows, then the ammonia over time will break down the tint, causing it to peel. There has also been reports of excess fogging on the interior of windows from using ammonia based window cleaners.

The amount of streaking from Windex type cleaners is quite a lot in my personal experiences. One of the worst things to look at after spending so long detailing a car is to drive away with streaks in the windshield.

So then what’s the best cleaner?

Well, there is no “best.” Some like more than others, and it’s always based on personal opinion. For me, I personally love Meguiars Glass Cleaner . You dilute it 10:1, which means 128 oz gives you 1408 oz (11 gallons)! This glass cleaner will last you a life time. And at $20 for a whole gallon, it’s value that can’t be beat. If you pair this with two Detailed Image Glass Polishing towels, your glass will be clean, and streak free.

Why two towels? What I do is take one towel, and fold it in half twice (creating a square) and spray the glass cleaner directly on the towel (to prevent overspray), and clean one window at a time (or half a windshield). Then, with the second dry towel, I will buff the glass to make sure any last bit of minor streaking is removed. This is a sure-fire way to clean, streak free glass.

And, while you can’t use household cleaners on cars, there doesn’t seem to be any reason you can’t use less-harmful car glass cleaners in the house, extending your dollar even further!

Nick, and others who have been wondering, I hope this has answered your question!

Please add any comments or questions below. Thanks!

15 comments on Ask-A-Pro: Household glass cleaners vs. Car-specific glass cleaners

  1. mike says:

    Good call Aaron. The dilution rate of Megs glass cleaner make it MUCH cheaper per use than Windex anyway!

  2. Aamer says:

    Thank you for shedding light on indeed what many have probably pondered. But conversely, can auto glass cleaner products not be used for household glass cleaning? Are there chemicals in auto glass cleaners that one would not to come into contact with say glass dining table top, end tables etc (surfaces one would commonly come into contact with).


  3. Kris says:


    “And, while you can’t use household cleaners on cars, there doesn’t seem to be any reason you can’t use less-harmful car glass cleaners in the house, extending your dollar even further.”

  4. Chuck S/Renton,WA says:

    How do you remove the hard water spots, mineral deposits still remaining
    after all the cleaning ?

    Someone here must be able to relate to what I’m trying to describe

    Thanks for the education.


  5. Eric says:

    There are glass polishing kits, water spot removers, vinegar soaks that SHOULD work for your stained glass problems. I know what you are talking about, and its almost harder to remove that kind of staining from glass than it is from paint!

  6. Soomro says:

    Try Rubbing Alcohol to clean Windshield and Windows. i have tried and it works best.

  7. Darin says:

    How about a mixture of vinegar and water? This was recommended by a locomotive engineer I know. I was curious about interior usage of vinegar on tint? I also tried to submit to become an author to try to help others as I own and operate a mobile biz and may be of some help but had no luck.

  8. Ray Budd says:

    I personally use water with a “splash” of joy soap, or rubbing alcohol. The key is the 2 rag method, regardless of the product being used.

  9. Hugh Brown says:

    I have very light swirl scratches and light scratches in my windshield and on the side mirrors. You can only see them at certain sunlight angles. Is there a fix for this or is it new windshield and mirror replacement?


  10. kev says:

    Just had all my windows replaced. I thought it was from driving through a sand storm. However my other car has the same marks on the windows!!!! I have no idea what is doing this to my windows. I use a car specific window cleaner. Window looks like a million stars when it hits the sun.. help!!

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Kev – Would it be possible for you to take a picture and email it over to It sounds like there is some sort of contamination, either on the window or on the towel you are using, that is causing the issue. A picture, if possible, would be a huge help and a rep will be able to take care of you via email asap!

  11. Bryce says:

    Do you treat the rearview mirror like the interior glass, and the sideview mirrors like the exterior glass? With all the same products and techniques?

  12. David says:

    Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe another primary difference is that windshield wiper fluid has a different chemical compound to withstand higher temperatures as it’s being store under the hood. For instance, if you leave a spray bottle of windex in the car on a hot day, water will condensed along the interior walls of the bottle while windshield wiper fluid may not do it unless it was a really really hot day.
    But admittedly, the article compares auto glass cleaners in reference to detailing one’s vehicle and whatnot as opposed to windshield wiper fluid and; whereas I had stumbled upon this article almost a decade later trying to see if I could use my windshield wiper fluid to fill my windex bottles (because the dollar store sells a gallon of windshield wiper fluid for a dollar while glass cleaner/windex imitation are sold only in spray bottles and contain only 40 oz)
    Great article though, thank you for sharing!

  13. casey says:

    as a mobile mechanic, I get a lot of calls with a request to detail cars, Rubbing alcohol works great of windows.

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