Most people grew up using newspaper to clean windows. Conventional wisdom said that the best way to clean windows around the house was to use vinegar and newspaper. But does that really work? Or is using newspaper to clean windows just an old myth that people kept repeating?
Using newspaper to clean windows does work. But it isn’t always the best or most efficient way to clean modern windows. Newspaper is better for cleaning windows than using rags or paper towels, it’s true. But wet newspaper can leave black smudges of ink all over window frames. That ink can be difficult to clean and may even require repainting. Therefore, while newspaper will work better than some other methods it is not a foolproof way to get great looking windows.
Here’s how newspaper became the homemaker’s choice for cleaning windows:
Rags were never good for cleaning windows because they leave streaks and smudges. They also then have to be washed which can make window cleaning even more work. But for years that was all that was available. Newspaper is a very dense material. It is made from soft fibers that are very tightly packed together; it is not abrasive and will not scratch or pit glass. In the past newspapers were a part of daily life and everyone got the newspaper daily. So using soft newspaper was a cheap and easy way to get cleaner windows without the hassle of rags.
When paper towels became common household items people tried using paper towels to clean windows. But paper towels were more expensive than newspaper. And paper towels have jagged fibers that are great for catching liquid but also can cause small scratches or pits on glass. So using newspaper remained the favored method of cleaning windows. Sometimes the ink would run when the newspaper got wet but that was a small problem compared to the risks of using rags or the cost of paper towels. In the 80s and 90s some small newspapers or local weekly papers would sell sheets of newsprint paper that hadn’t been printed on specifically for cleaning windows and packing delicate items.
But these days most households don’t regularly get print newspapers. Print newspapers have become obsolete thanks to the Internet. In the year 2000 most print newspapers switched to a different kind of ink that doesn’t run but by then homeowners had already stopped paying for newspaper subscriptions. The homeowners that still got the newspaper on a regular basis had to pay higher prices for subscriptions. The higher cost of subscriptions made it not very cost effective to use newspaper to clean windows.
Washing windows with newspaper is also pretty labor intensive. Spraying window cleaner on the window is the first step to leave them sparkling with no smudges or streaks. Then use newspaper and rub in a circular motion to loosen the dirt. After that, you have to wipe horizontally and then vertically to make sure there are no streaks and the entire liquid cleaner is absorbed. You have to do that for each section of the window. When you have a lot of windows in the home to clean that can be exhausting and take hours to complete. That’s one of the reasons why people cite cleaning windows as their least favorite household chore. It is tedious, it takes a long time, and you have to pay close attention to every window or you will end up with streaky dull windows even if you are using newspaper to clean them.
These days homeowners who want to make their windows look great without a high cost use a squeegee to clean windows. Squeegees have a thin piece of rubber like a blade on the end. That dull blade is perfect for washing windows because it’s abrasive enough to loosen tough dirt and grime but not so hard that it will damage the glass. Squeegees also cover a bigger area so that it takes less time to get the windows sparkling clean. That’s why professional window cleaners use industrial strength cleaner and squeegees to get windows clean.
When using a squeegee to clean windows you should use a rag to wipe off the squeegee after every stroke. That will prevent streaks and leave your windows shining clean. But even with a squeegee you might still end up with dirty windows, depending on the type of cleaner that you’re using.
Regular household cleaners or vinegar and water combinations do an ok job on indoor windows. But on outdoor windows you’ll get a much better shine if you use a commercial window cleaner. These professional strength cleaners are made to cut through all the dirt, debris, pollen, and other gunk that can end up being stuck on your windows. However, in many cases you can also make do with some water and a bit of dish soap.
If you have not cleaned your windows in a while, you may have a deep layer of crud on your windows. Driving winds can blow dirt and other debris onto the window. Hot summer weather can bake pollen and dust right onto the windows. There could also be leaves or larger debris on the windows. A regular household cleaner from the grocery store or big box store isn’t going to cut through that kind of buildup. If you are cleaning outdoor windows it’s a better idea to hire a window cleaner.
A professional window cleaner has the right cleaners and equipment to get all the accumulated debris off your outdoor windows quickly and easily. Commercial cleaners are also trained in different washing techniques so that they can efficiently move from window to window without wasting time. And they also have the right ladders and other equipment to reach high windows that it would be dangerous for you to attempt to wash.
Invest in a squeegee and a high quality glass cleaner if you prefer to wash the indoor windows yourself. But when it comes to making sure that your outdoor windows look great call a professional. The cost is minimal compared to the cost of the time and supplies you would need to make your outdoor windows sparkle. But if in a pinch, you can always reach for the newspaper to get your windows clean enough.