The Right Way to Clean Windows with Vinegar

Q: I can’t seem to clean windows with vinegar without leaving streaks. Any suggestions? –Pat B., NY

A: Oddly enough, it was the task of cleaning windows that
turned a huge number of well-intentioned, environmentally
friendly consumers away from non-toxic cleaning using the
simple ingredients that can be found in most kitchen cupboards.
Around Earth Day 1990, every newspaper in the country
(or so it seemed), offered tips for cleaning in ways that didn’t
harm the planet, and the recommendation for windows was
almost always to clean them with nothing but vinegar and water.
People by the thousands tried this, and many swore off cleaning
with homemade products for good because the formula left
streaks on their windows. (I wish I had $1 for every time
someone has said to me, “Well, I tried non-toxic cleaning and it
didn’t work. I used vinegar to clean the windows …”)

The problem was that the commercial window cleaner used before the switch to vinegar left a very fine wax residue. The vinegar alone wasn’t enough to remove it, and the result was streaky windows. If instead, everyone had added a dab of liquid dish soap to the vinegar and water, the wax would easily have been removed and the windows would have been cleaned perfectly!

My favorite recipe is to combine 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar, and up to 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap or detergent in a spray bottle. That’s all there is to it. (Make sure to label the bottle and keep it out of the reach of children.)