You’ve washed your car, cleaned the wheels and tires, and cleaned every inch of the interior. You’re feeling accomplished and proud of your ride. Until you hop in to take it for a spin only to find yourself squinting through bright glares and streaks across your windshield.

Ever been here? Most of us have.

All too often, after cleaning your car and cleaning the interior windshield, you’re still left with a streaky mess. Is it the cleaning solution? Are you using a window cleaner or generic glass cleaner? Or just paper towels and warm water?  Do you wipe back and forth or in a circular motion? When you wipe a window down, why does glass cleaner still leave streaks?

On top of being unsightly, a streaky, hazy windshield poses a risk to your safety, your passengers, and other drivers by inhibiting your field of vision and increasing the likelihood of a wreck.

Here are a few glass cleaning and window cleaning tips (and a few things to avoid) to help you clean your interior auto glass without being left with smears and streaks.

Make a DIY cleaner

  • Mix a bowl of warm water with a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and add in just a few drops of vinegar (whatever you have in the kitchen should do the trick).
  • Have two microfiber towels ready to go. Soak one in the bowl of cleaning solution and make sure the other is clean and dry. (You can also mix this solution in a spray bottle to save the excess for later.)
  • Twist the excess water out of the soaked microfiber cloth and wipe the interior of the car windshield. Once you’ve thoroughly washed the inside of the windshield, dry the surface with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. Follow the same process with your windows and back windshield.

Pre-clean, clean, and dry.

  • Before applying a store-bought glass cleaner or DIY solution to your windshield, go ahead and clean it up with a dry microfiber towel. Use circular motions initially and follow up by wiping in an up and down motion. This pre-clean will remove the bulk of the oil, dust, and other build up so that the window cleaner can more easily remove any stubborn lingering residue.
  • Clean it up with a cleaner specifically formulated to remove grease, like dishwashing detergent and vinegar, auto glass cleaner, or a magic eraser.
  • Use newspapers or microfiber cloths to dry the windshield. Leaving harsh cleaning solutions sitting on the glass can damage any protective coatings or tints, particularly if your car is parked outside in the heat and exposed to direct sunlight. On top of removing any streaks, you’ll want to be sure that any residue from the cleaning solution is completely gone.

What not to do:

  • Don’t spray cleaning solution directly on the windshield. This is more likely to cause smeared patches and streaks, and really just moves gunk around instead of removing it.
  • Don’t skip the drying step. Lingering residue can damage your windshield, even if you’re using a cleaner formulated specifically for autoglass. Not drying the windshield after you clean it will also cause streaks to develop.
  • Don’t reach for any old towel. Make sure you’re using lint-free materials like microfiber cloths, newspapers, or paper towels.

If you still notice streaks and glares on your windshield after following these tips, the issue could be on the outside of your windshield rather than the inside. Give the outside a thorough cleaning with these same tips and double check your windshield wipers.

Still streaky? Dirty, old, or damaged windshield wipers can quickly ruin your hard work. If it’s time for a replacement, check out:

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