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rob's garage


I was watching a television program that demonstrated cleaning the interior windows of cars because they get a film on them over the winter. However, every time I try to clean my windows they streak and look worse than having the film. I have tried numerous products but nothing seems to take the film off. Do you have any suggestions?


Cheryl, cleaning very dirty car windows is a lot harder than it sounds. Auto glass is made up of compound curves and does not have the advantage of window sheers to hide cleaning imperfections that become magnified by direct sunlight, so the cleaning process has to be perfect to make the glass seem invisible.

Most people make the mistake of applying a glass cleaner once with the expectation that once is good enough and "that should do it". Automotive film is tough and comes from the gasses given off by the man-made components that make up the majority of the interior of a car. These gases tend to be oily and will require either a very strong chemical cleaner (which most people don't like to use - especially my wife) or a good quality micro-fibre cleaning cloth.

There are lots of household cleaning products out there with ammonia as the major ingredient, but I have found that almost every one leaves the mess that you described in your question. I have also discovered that automotive glass cleaner leaves streaks.

This is where most people get frustrated, but it's also where the magic begins.

I have found that the most effective way to clean car windows is to use a two-step method. Start with whatever cleaner you have on hand and do the best you can with one application.

  • TIP: When it comes to cleaning the rear window, use wiping motions that are parallel with the heating grid lines. This way, you can get the ridge edge of the copper heating element clean. If you wipe across the strips, the rag can't get to the edge - it skips over and leaves a film edge on both sides of the copper strip.

The next step is the best part. Pick up a micro-fibre cloth - there are tons of them available. They clean the cleaning that you will have done in Step One and it gets done without the use of chemicals. These little rags are amazing. You simply wet them in water, wring them out and start wiping. After finishing one window re-rinse, wring out and go again.

I know some of you are thinking that you don't want to use chemicals for Step One - and that's fine. The cool part is that if you can keep up with a regular cleaning schedule, you will be able to use only the micro-fibre cloths and never have to use chemicals on your windows again.

And while I'm on the subject of cleaning, how fun is it to clean multi-spoked wheels? Not! Give this a try: I use a 75/25 mixture of Rona Commercial Griddle Fryer Cleaner and water mixed in solution in a spray bottle. The secret to success is to spray the wheels and tires while they are dry. Let it sit for about a minute and use a tire and wheel cleaning mitt to scrub. These mitts are bristly and coarse so they do a great job on tire sidewalls. The mitt also allows you to get into all the crannies of the wheel.

Use a rubber glove over your hands and follow the directions on the label before you start with the cleaner; the chemical is quite powerful and can hurt your skin. The other option is to simply spray the solution off with a strong stream of water. Once sprayed, the brake dust and road grime on the wheels and sidewalls will start to run off.

  • FACTOID: The brown stuff that runs off a tire after being sprayed with a cleaner is wax. This wax is a UV protectant and is part of the manufacturing process of the tire.

After the tires and wheels have dried, rub a non-silicone based rubber dressing on the sidewall. This will restore the oils in the rubber and most dressings have UV protectant in them to replace the UV protectant that was lost during the cleaning process.

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