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Troubleshooting Tips for Automotive Glass Cleaning

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I was having a conversation with the owner of a well-known auto body shop in my local area.  He offered me a job as a detailer, which I respectfully declined.  He also respectfully acknowledged a partnership was not in the budget.  But during our conversation he mentioned glass cleaning.  He told me he was comfortable teaching his employees how to polish paint, but he could not get anyone “for the life of (him)” to do windows properly.  I told him he is not alone.  Automotive glass has been a topic eliciting frustration among not only typical car owners but professional detailers as well.

Dirty-Microfiber-Glass-Towel

The first and foremost piece of advice I can offer is it is important to have an abundance of CLEAN microfiber towels.  When we are (polishing) performing a paint correction, we may go through 5, 10, or 20 microfiber towels wiping off polish reside from a panel.  That may be an extreme example, but I hope you get the point.  One microfiber towel used will become ineffective after a while, especially if you have very dirty windows.  The plan is to have several (clean) microfiber towels available for use, with a dedicated final clean towel in case you find a smudge later.

Microfiber Friendly Detergent

I wash glass towels together.  I do not want to wash a towel that has caked on wax, sealant, or silica protection with a glass towel.  I certainly do not want to share glass towels with wheel or exhaust towels.  Gunk that is not easily removed also gets transferred easily.  Use an appropriate detergent for microfiber (one without additives) and add about 1/4 a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Purchase glass towels more frequently so you have some pristine microfiber on hand.  An aged towel is going to be frustrating to use on a dirty windshield.  Variety also helps you to be more organized with your towels.

Bonded contamination build-up smears.  If you find yourself going from an easy experience to more recently challenging cleanings, perhaps it is time to clay bar the glass.  This can especially be the case for windshields that take the brunt of environmental abuse.

Contamination-Removed-From-Glass

Not including glass cleaners, here are some products I have had success with:

  • IGL Jen K.O. – I have also had some success using this quick detailer/waterless wash for minor maintenance and mineral deposit build up.  This is a very mild acidic cleaner.
  • Nitrile Gloves – Credit to Jim White of White Details.  Our fingers can get oily.  Stress and working grueling tasks for extended periods can activate the release of excess oils in our hands.  This is especially a problem because we often save glass cleaning for last.  Using gloves was my biggest breakthrough with glass cleaning.
  • Good Quality Glass Cleaners – I imagine there are a lot of good quality glass cleaners available.  The difference between these products pales in importance to the availability of clean microfibers and the intention (focus and thoughtfulness) in how you clean.  The concept is like how you polish; instead of focusing on the polisher, I may ask about the quality, number, and cleanliness of the pads you are using.  I would then also focus on dialing in the right techniques.  The same concept applies to cleaning glass.  The latest glass cleaner may help, but it is not going to solve your existing problems.

Other products I have used and enjoyed success with below.

Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
MirrorReflectionsAutoSpa.com
YouTube | Facebook
April 4th, 2024 | Glass

1 comment on Troubleshooting Tips for Automotive Glass Cleaning

  1. David says:

    I’ve found 2 tips effective for glass cleaning:

    1. Always a brand new finishing towel. I’m talking brand new.
    2. Soak your first pass cleaning towel in DI water and wring it out so it’s damp.

    Half the time I only use the damp microfiber to clean, and if I need some extra cleaning power a mist of 50/50 iso & water is all I use.

    You’re spot on about the towel being the difference maker!

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