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What is the Best Way to Detail Auto Glass?

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Why Detail Your Auto Glass?

Properly detailed auto glass not only gives your car a beautiful, finished appearance to match the freshly waxed paint job and shined tires, it also ensures the safety of you as the driver, your passengers, and other people on the road. Peering through a dirty window can be dangerous as any small obstruction can distort your view of obstacles.


4 Steps to the Perfect Auto Glass

To get perfect glass, there’s a lot more to it than just spraying the windows and wiping them with a paper towel. For starters, don’t use paper towels (I’m guilty). Let’s take a look at the steps:

1. Save the glass for last.

Your car’s glass should be the last thing you tackle when detailing your vehicle. This is because it can be easily contaminated. Washing and drying your car thoroughly will ensure that most of the dirt is already gone. Even small specks of sand or dirt have the possibility of scratching the glass. Making sure the vehicle is dry also ensures that pesky water spots won’t be left behind on the glass.

2. Use the right glass cleaner.

Household glass cleaners often contain ammonia. Ammonia has drying properties which is helpful in obtaining a streak-free shine. But this shouldn’t be used on auto glass because overspray could harm nearby trim or paint. If your windows are tinted, the ammonia will also harm the film. Pick up a quality auto glass cleaner at your local auto parts store.

3. Don’t use just any towel.

A good towel can mean the difference between a perfectly clear piece of glass and one with streaks, so don’t skimp here. Many make the mistake of using household paper towels which will leave behind particles. Some swear by newspaper or blue shop towels which both work adequately. However, auto detail professionals almost always prefer microfiber towels. And not just any microfiber towels- waffle weave towels offer a slightly more abrasive surface than regular pile towels which helps when attacking bug splats and water spots. One towel will suffice, but two are better and three is optimal. Be sure that these towels are washed regularly and used exclusively for glass cleaning as not to become contaminated. Contaminated towels can scratch your car’s glass.

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detailing car glass

4. Proper cleaning technique.

Why three towels? Cleaning glass is a three-step process. First, you will apply the cleaner to the car’s glass, then dry the window, and then buff it to a shine. If you try using the same towel for all three steps, you will end up with too much moisture on the towel and unable to obtain the streak-free shine.

  1. Take your towels and fold them in two. This will allow for a good amount of surface area, but also give you good control.
  2. Apply glass cleaner to the towel. A few small sprays should be enough to dampen the towel. You don’t want it to be wet. Although contrary to instinct, spraying the cleaner on the towel instead of the glass is key. If you were to spray the cleaner on the glass, it is likely that overspray would land elsewhere on your vehicle which can undo detailing efforts. It also helps to eliminate drip marks which appear when applied directly to the glass.
  3. Start with the exterior windows and then move on to the interior windows. In theory, the glass on the outside of your vehicle will be dirtier, so cleaning this first will help you to better spot dirty areas once you move to the inside surfaces.
  4. Apply in small circular motions, one area at a time. Avoid the edges and corners as these tend to hold the most dirt and should be saved for last so they do not contaminate the rest of the glass.
  5. Use the drying rag to dry the area. If it is obvious there is still more cleaning to be done, start again with the step above and apply the cleaner again. It may take 2-3 applications. Once you have cleaned and dried to a contaminate-free surface, it’s time to buff it to a streak-free shine.
  6. As you work your way around the vehicle from one piece of glass to the next, you may notice your towels are becoming dirty. Re-fold them as needed so you are always using a clean surface of the towel.


    clean car windows

Go Beyond the Glass

It’s important to clean more than just the glass. The trim around the glass usually harbors a bit of dirt because it gets trapped in the grooves and corners. A toothbrush or other small, soft-bristled brush can be helpful in removing this.

The windshield wipers also deserve attention because they are constantly in contact with the windshield’s surface. If you have a clean windshield, but dirty windshield wipers, it won’t be long until your windshield is dirty again. Lift the blades and clean them with the same towel you applied the glass cleaner to. Simply run the towel along the bottom side of the blade where it comes in contact with the glass.

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Car Detailing

Other helpful tips:

  • Don’t let the glass cleaner dry on the glass. Work quickly to ensure this doesn’t happen, otherwise it may leave a film or spots. Make sure to detail your car in a shady spot to help avoid this too.
  • If there are bug guts or hard water spots, glass cleaner by itself may not be enough.
    First, try using an automotive clay bar to remove the contaminants. If they still remain on the glass you may need to use a glass polish. Be careful when using them as using them incorrectly could potentially cause some distortion in the glass. Use the least abrasive polish you can to get the job done. Also be sure to only use polishes formulated for use on glass as those meant for other parts of the car could cause damage to the glass.
  • If there are specific spots that will not come off using any other technique, use a new razor blade held at a 45-degree angle to lightly scrape the soiled spot. Spray glass cleaner on the glass first in order to lubricate the process and use a back and forth motion to push and pull the blade perpendicularly across the soiled spot. Do not use a slicing motion and be sure to be careful so that you do not harm yourself or the glass.
  • Make sure your windshield wipers are in good condition. If your windshield wipers are old or damaged they may leave streaks on the glass when used.
  • Use quality washer fluid. And use it often as it can help keep your windshield clear between cleanings. A quality washer fluid will be formulated to help remove bugs and other buildup. There are also additives to strengthen the cleaning properties.
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clean auto glass - interior

For more helpful auto glass care tips, be sure to check out and if you’re in need of auto glass replacement, compare instant price quotes from local shops and book with them right from our site.

Please note, this article may contain links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate, earns from qualifying purchases.



Daniel Snow

Daniel Snow serves as the Vice President of Operations for and is also a contributing editor. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from George Mason University and has a background in the real estate industry. After high school, Daniel even worked at a family-owned glass shop for a short period of time and is an Auto Glass Safety Council certified installer. In his free time, Daniel enjoys being outdoors, especially around the water where he can be found surfing, fishing, and boating. He has a passion for bringing old vehicles back to life and loves working with his hands to restore cars, boats, and motorcycles. Find out more about Daniel on Linkedin.

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One Response

  1. It helped when you mentioned how you should clean your glass with microfiber towels. I understand that doing this can help you avoid scratching it. We need to replace the windshield of our car, so I wanted to look into it before choosing a professional.

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