Auto Detailing Guide - Glass
Why Glass Care Is Important (Return to Top)
Caring for your glass is not only important for aesthetics but it's also critical for driving safely. If too much glass cleaner is left on the glass you can expect to see streaking and hazing which can be a detriment to your vision. This can be especially dangerous when driving in the evening so make sure you take the time to clean your glass properly. We understand that streaks are common and very frustrating but don't worry we'll show you the products and techniques needed for streak free glass cleanings.
How Often Should You Care For Your Glass? (Return to Top)
You should care for your glass on an as needed basis to ensure you always have the best visibility when driving.
How To Clean Interior Glass (Return to Top)
To get the most out of your glass cleaning both for the exterior and interior, the first thing you should do is roll your windows down a couple of inches so you can clean the very top of the glass effectively. Many detailers forget to do this step and if you drive with the windows partially down afterward you may see this area you missed. Follow the same technique that is outlined below for best results. We also recommend that you spray a light degreaser on a cloth and wipe the inside and outside edges of the window seal to ensure that it is clean.
When caring for interior glass you are usually dealing with different problems than your exterior glass. Interior glass can be subject to bodily oils from people touching windows, product over spray from treating your trim pieces, smoke residue and most commonly moisture from simply breathing inside the vehicle. While reaching certain parts of interior glass may be difficult, caring for the glass is pretty straight forward.
One of the most common mistakes we see in detailing is people using too much glass cleaner. Use just enough cleaner to remove contaminants and residue on the glass. The more product you use the more you need to buff off in the latter steps. We recommend using a total of 3 microfiber towels to care for your glass. One all purpose towel to apply the glass cleaner, a second all purpose towel to buff off visible residue and a third, low nap, glass specific microfiber towel to buff to a streak free finish. If you use just one towel you are almost guaranteed to see streaks afterward. We fold each one of these towels (16" x 16") in fourths and expose a fresh surface for each section of glass you are working on. This is especially important for the second and third towel so you can effectively remove the excess glass cleaner. Folding the towel in fourths gives you eight fresh surfaces and increases the value of any towel by utilizing the entire surface area instead of overusing just the middle section.
Another common mistake we see is working on the glass in direct sun. You must care for glass when it is cool and in the shade, otherwise you greatly increase the chances of leaving behind some streaking.
After you have put the vehicle in the shade the first step is to mist a small amount of glass cleaner on a microfiber towel folded in fourths. Avoid spraying your glass directly to prevent yourself from getting over spray on the trim pieces. It's actually best to spray the product onto the towel outside of the vehicle. Remember to use just enough glass cleaner to clean the glass, you can always mist your towel again if you need more product. Using the slightly misted towel apply some moderate pressure, slowly working the product into the glass while keeping the towel flat. Pass over each area multiple times to ensure you clean the glass from different angles. Take your second microfiber towel and buff off the excess product as best you can right after. Work in a logical pattern up and down and then side to side to ensure you don't accidentally miss any areas. Complete slow overlapping passes with moderate pressure while holding the towel flat. Finally, take your glass specific microfiber towel and repeat the same process to ensure no streaks have escaped.
The process listed above is pretty easy however reaching every corner of the glass can be challenging. We recommend using a Stoner Invisible Glass Reach and Clean Microfiber Mop Tool to effectively clean and reach the corners of your windshield effortlessly. Without a tool like this, it is difficult to apply pressure in to the lower corners of the front and rear windshield. Follow the same basic process listed above applying just enough cleaner to one microfiber bonnet and use the other glass microfiber bonnet to buff off the left over product. You can also simply wrap microfiber towels around the head of the mini-mop to get the same effect. Another tip when treating the front windshield is to sit on the passenger side of the car when cleaning the drivers side glass. This helps you get behind the steering wheel a little bit easier.
If you have tinted glass make sure you use a tint friendly cleaner that does not use ammonia or harsh chemicals. The Stoner Invisible Glass and the Chemical Guys Window Clean are two great choices that are completely safe on the tinted surfaces.
If you have fog forming on your front windshield make sure you turn off the recirculate mode from your heating and cooling system. The recirculate mode recycles the air currently in your cabin which contains more moisture. Moisture will often cling to the cooler glass forming a fog, which can reduce your visibility. Turning off the recirculate mode will help.
How To Clean Exterior Glass (Return to Top)
Your exterior glass is exposed to various elements as you drive and even when you are parked. Caring for your exterior glass is somewhat similar to caring for your paint, but remember glass is actually much harder. You want to thoroughly clean it and then protect it from the elements. To clean the glass you can wash, clay and even polish it so it is truly clean and clear. By protecting your exterior glass afterward with a sealant your maintenance will be much easier and you can improve your visibility during poor driving conditions.
If your glass needs just a basic cleaning, wash it as you would the rest of your vehicle. When you are done, follow the same cleaning steps as you would for your interior glass (see above), using multiple microfiber towels and just enough glass cleaner.
To give your exterior glass a deeper cleaning, you may want to consider using a clay bar. A clay bar can help remove contaminants trapped on top of the glass and in the micro-pores of the glass. The process here is virtually identical to the way you use a clay bar on the paint.
If you have very faint water marks on your glass distilled white vinegar is a good home remedy. Unfortunately some water mark etchings are too deep for the vinegar solution to remove, so in these situations we highly recommend using the Glass Science Glass Scrub. This is a unique cream glass polish designed to dissolve mineral deposits and remove light etchings, sap, road grime and more. Even if you think your glass is clean the Glass Scrub will make it look noticeably cleaner and moisture will roll off easier instead of clinging to contaminants. The Glass Scrub needs to be applied to a wet surface, so the best time to use this product is just after washing and before drying. With the glass wet apply a dime sized drop to a wet foam applicator and buff it in with medium pressure in a circular motion. Use more product as need be but try not to use an excessive amount because the Glass Scrub needs to be thoroughly rinsed off when you are done.
After your glass is clean and clear you can protect it with a sealant. This will help moisture (i.e. rain, sleet and snow) form small beads that roll right off with ease. It will also help prolong the life of your wipers since you won't have to use them as often and there is less friction. You can use a glass specific protectant such as the Glass Science Rain Clear or a sealant used on the paint. The Rain Clear is a gel based formula that needs to be applied thin and buffed off with medium pressure and a clean microfiber towel. A traditional sealant like those used on the paint can also be used to protect the exterior glass. Both options will help repel the moisture and make driving much simpler no matter the weather.
Facts and Tips (Return to Top)
- Use as little glass cleaner as possible to minimize streaking
- Never use ammonia based glass cleaners on tinted windows
- Use multiple towels to clean your glass, this will help reduce streaking
- Always clean your glass when it is cool to the touch and out of direct sunlight
- Protect your exterior glass to reduce maintenance and to improve visibility during poor weather conditions
- Using a glass polish or distilled white vinegar can help remove water spots on glass
- Before cleaning the glass roll down the window and clean the very top of the glass and the window seal
Related Articles (Return to Top)
Here are a few articles related to Glass Care from our Ask-a-Pro Detailer Blog:
- Glass Cleaning Secrets: Delete Streaks with this Tip
- 3 Simple Tips to Clean Interior Windshields and Keep your Sanity
- Video | Glass Cleaning
- Product Review: Detail Factory Microfiber Glass Towel Video
- Glass Protection: Is It Worth It?
- Product Review: DI Microfiber Glass Polishing Towel
- Perfect Glass: Glass Cleaning Tips
Related Videos (Return to Top)
Ask-a-Pro Blog author James Melfi highlights his 2 step method for streak free glass cleaning.