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How to Clean and Restore a Car Windshield to Like New!

Need to clean your windshield? Just spray, wipe off..and you’re done, right? That works most of the time, but what about really cleaning and restoring a dirty, smudgy windshield? That usually involves a few more steps.

Today I’ll explain how to properly wash, restore, and protect your windshield from start to finish. The same general technique applies to windows and mirrors, with a few small differences.

Quick tip: A complete glass restoration isn’t needed every time you wash your vehicle. However, if you notice any glue or residue after wiping down your windshield, a complete restoration may be needed.

Start by washing and rinsing

After you pop your wiper blades up, use soap and a wash mitt to start. If you notice stuck-on bugs after rinsing, what’s called a bug sponge can help remove them.

With all the noticeable junk off your windows, use a spray-on product designed for glass to see if you need to proceed with a few more steps.

I like to use Invisible Glass by Stoner’s, a product well-loved by detailers.

Invisible Glass by Stoner’s

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If you have a relatively new vehicle, you may be able to stop here. Dry, add a hydrophobic glass protectant and move on. However, if you’re still not 100% happy with the windshield…keep reading.

Use a razor blade to remove stuck-on substances

Warning: If you have tint on your windshield or windows, never use a razor blade or anything that can damage the film on the inside. 

Yes..a razorblade has its place in detailing, so long as you use lubrication. As I learned from Larry at AMMONYC, you can use a standard glass cleaner as a lubricant in this case. It helps to have a long-handled razor blade holder to scrape the windshield comfortably at a 45-degree angle.

12” Razor Blade Scraper

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Clay your windshield to remove embedded particles

After scraping off glue or sticky residue with a razor blade, you may need to clay your windshield. Claying will pick up iron or metallic particles lodged in your windshield that the razor blade or microfiber towel can’t. Windshields are in fact porous at a microscopic level, so clay will help unclog these pores.

Simply add your glass cleaner for lubrication, and slide the clay back and forth. Friction and slight pressure will help pick up particles. Clay, wipe down the excess lubrication, and move on.

Apply glass polish with a glass polishing pad

Sometimes to clean neglected glass you need to use a handheld polisher, a glass cutting pad, and glass polish. Griot’s Garage makes both pads and a good polish you can check out below.

Griot’s Garage Glass Polish

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At this point, the surface should be smooth. I like to use 50% isopropyl alcohol and 50% water at this point because it will remove any excess polish or debris left over.

Finish with a glass cleaner

To finish, I like to use Invisible Glass one last time…no matter if I clayed, used a razor blade, or any of the above.

At the end of the glass cleaning process, I like to use glass or low-pile microfiber towels only, since they’re better at preventing streaks than standard towels. For clean glass, you don’t need high-pile towels, since you don’t need pile to grab any debris.

Last step: Use a hydrophobic glass protectant

As a last step, always use a glass protection product like Rain-X.

Rain-X Original Glass Treatment

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I like to apply Rain-X with a foam applicator, but you can find other hydrophobic glass protectants. Simply apply, let dry, and buff off the excess with a towel.

How to clean the inside of your windshield

Always apply glass cleaners to a towel FIRST when cleaning the inside of your windshield. Overspray on your dash will dry, leave spots…and need to be removed. So just avoid spraying!

I like to sit in the passenger’s seat when cleaning the windshield and reach over to the driver’s side (instead of bumping into the steering wheel). You can also use a glass cleaning wand with a microfiber towel like this one:

Invisible Glass Glass Cleaning Wand

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That’s it! To wrap up, here are a few frequently asked questions about this entire process.

Frequently asked questions

Invisible Glass vs isopropyl alcohol..what’s better for windshields?

Both diluted isopropyl alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) and glass cleaners can give you a streak-free shine, but rubbing alcohol can damage tint and trim pieces if not careful. Applying rubbing alcohol diluted with distilled water is referred to by detailers as an IPA wipdown.

What kind of towel should I use to clean my windshield?

Use several! To keep it simple, use high-pile and/or medium-pile microfiber towels to pick up stuck-on substances…followed by a lower-pile towel for final wiping. A waffle weave microfiber towel is a good towel for glass cleaning because it traps stuck-on substances in the woven areas. Avoid cheap terry cotton towels as they leave behind lint.

What if I’m still seeing haze?

Often, a haze is formed when using an aerosol product like Invisible Glass initially. It’s best to apply the product, then wait for a few minutes before buffing off the top layer of product.

Offglass is another common reason windshields stay hazy. To read up on what can cause haze, check out my post, What Causes Windshield Haze and How to Remove It

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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