Building An Addition: A Homeowner's Guide

How To Clean Your Windhshield To Minimize Damage

by Toni Richards

Vehicle windshields from sites like are made with both visibility and safety in mind. This is one reason why the windshield is made from two pieces of tempered glass with a piece of plastic in between. All three pieces of the glass are clear, and the plastic sheeting in the middle of the two panes helps to keep the glass together during an accident. Fortunately, normal amounts of pressure and stress from debris will not cause the windshield to break. However, a small chip or crack may appear in the surface on occasion. This small section of damage may be due to wear and tear, like when your windshield wipers force small pebbles and gritty debris across the surface of the glass. You can prevent some chip and crack concerns by washing your windshield regularly. However, if you are using the wrong tools or techniques, then you may be doing more harm than good during the cleaning process. Keep reading if you want to avoid windshield cleaning mistakes.

Pick Out the Right Cleaner

Many people think of windshield glass as a somewhat indestructible material that can be cleaned with any sort of cleaner. This is not true though, and some materials can actually cause glass corrosion. There are certain chemicals that will actively break down glass in a relatively quick manner, like hydrofluoric and phosphoric acid. The acidic materials work to degrade the alkali in the glass to leave a pitted surface behind. Strong basic substances, like sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide will instead attack the silica in the glass. 

You probably are not going to pour strong chemicals on your windshield on purpose. However, you may use acidic or basic cleaners without realizing it, and these materials will cause pits to form if used over a long period of time. In fact, most common window cleaners contain ammonia, which is a strong base, because it removes grease and oil that may be present on your windshield. Many homemade glass cleaning solutions contain vinegar, which contains acetic acid. 

Good Cleaning Solutions

Instead of buying a regular glass cleaning solution, look for a product that says it is ammonia free. You can also use regular soap and water to clean the windshield. Most soaps are only slightly acidic or basic depending on the materials used to make them. If you want a soap variety that is as close to pH neutral as possible, think about buying a castile soap made from vegetable oil to clean your windshield glass. 

Place two or three tablespoons of the soap in a small bucket of water and spread it on your windshield

Choose a Cleaning Rag

Brushes and other scrub tools are not appropriate for use on your windshield either. Most scrub brushes are made from a hard polypropylene material or synthetic nylon that can scrape the surface of the glass. Even a regular cloth may contain sharp fibers if you pick the wrong material. Cotton is usually safe in regard to texture. However, cotton cloths come in a wide variety of fiber counts. Low count fabrics will be highly absorbant, but they can hold debris as well that may scratch the glass during cleaning. Also, cotton materials are often scratchy if a low fiber count fabric is purchased. High count fabrics are much softer and contain little space to hold dirt. However, they may not absorb water or soap during the cleaning process.

Consider Microfiber

Instead of using cotton cloths to clean and dry your car's windshield, think about buying microfiber ones instead. Microfiber cloths are made from synthetic threads that are extremely thin and narrow. In fact, the fibers are about one-fifth the size of a human hair. Hundreds of thousands of these fibers are needed to create a cloth, and this helps to form an extremely soft fabric with tiny holes that will absorb water, but will not pick up dirt. You should use a clean cloth when cleaning and drying the glass though, just in case debris does cling to the rag.