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Cleaning automotive glass is perhaps the most dreaded of all detailing tasks, except maybe cleaning the tires. The reason is that glass cleaning just isn’t that rewarding…but it can be. All you need is the right glass cleaner, towel, and technique to get clear, practically invisible glass.
Clean glass is important! You can drive around with dirty paint but dirty glass can actually obstruct your view of the road. It’s a safety hazard. Every time you detail your vehicle, don’t forget the glass.
Choosing A Glass Cleaner
The one primary rule of choosing an automotive glass cleaner is this: Stay away from ammonia. Ammonia works great to mop the kitchen floor but it is not kind to your vehicle.
Ammonia destroys window tint! Window tint is actually a thin plastic film called Mylar®. Ammonia dries out the Mylar® and causes it to peel. Look for a glass cleaner that states on the label that it is Tint Safe.
Ammonia overspray is detrimental to plastics and rubber. Ammonia dries out the plasticizers in your dash and in the wiper cowl (the trim piece where the wipers are located). An ammoniated glass cleaner will actually speed up the aging process of these surfaces.
Ammonia releases fumes that will make your head spin! Inside your vehicle, an ammoniated glass cleaner will release fumes that are hard to escape. These fumes will make you light-headed and may trigger a coughing fit, at worst.
Use only glass cleaners made for car care. Product manufacturers know what ammonia does to window tint and most auto glass cleaners do not contain ammonia. Most household cleaners do contain ammonia. Choose an auto glass cleaner that says Tint Safe on the label.
Choose Your Weapon
A towel is a towel, right? No way! For truly clean, streak-free glass, you have to use a microfiber waffle weave towel. Microfiber is absorbent, extremely soft, and eliminates streaks better than a terry cloth towel, paper towel, or newspaper. Microfiber grabs dust and dirt, soaks up excess moisture, and buffs glass to a clean shine. Plus, microfiber does not leave lint like a terry or paper towel can.
Water Spot Eliminators
Water spots are mineral deposits that have etched their way into the paint and they can be very tough to remove. When a drop of water evaporates, all the minerals contained in that water remain on the paint. Etching is a gradual process, but those little spots will accumulate before you know it. The best way to avoid them is to dry your vehicle each and every time it gets wet. If that sounds too ambitious, at least dry it after washing and after a rain. If it’s already too late, here are some tips for removing those cloudy spots.
Glass can take a polish just like paint. A quality glass polish like DP High Performance Glass Restorer will remove water spots and cloudiness to restore perfect clarity to your windows. You can apply it by hand or with a polisher, but set your machine on a low speed (1000-1200 RPM on a rotary or 5000-6000 OPM on a dual action) and use a polishing pad. Do not apply pressure; the pad will do the work for you. When the polish starts to dry, stop polishing and buff the residue away with a microfiber towel.
Another option is Diamondite Spray Clay. This is a clay foam that removes embedded contaminants from glass, as well as mineral deposits, using an included sponge. Spray Clay is part of the Diamondite Glass Cleaning System, which also includes Diamondite Glass Cleaner and Diamondite Shield. Spray Clay will not remove etching, but it will correct spots that are still on the surface.
Diamondite Shield will keep your glass clean and provide some protection against future water spots. It seals the glass and causes water to bead. Think of it as a wax for your glass. It improves the performance of wipers and provides a huge improvement in visibility when it rains.
Glass Cleaning 101
Glass should be cool to the touch before cleaning it. A glass cleaner will dry too quickly on hot glass and inevitably leave streaks.
Mist one side of the windshield with the glass cleaner of your choice. Use the folded microfiber waffle weave towel to wipe up and down the glass in long strokes. Then wipe side to side in long strokes. Flip the towel to the dry side and wipe the glass again in this method. Then move on to the other side of the windshield and on to the rest of the windows.
* Auto glass gets bombarded with dirt and exhaust films every day. You may not be able to clean it perfectly the first time. Repeat the above process and continue to wipe in long strokes. Always finish by wiping the glass with a dry side of the towel to eliminate streaks.
When you clean the car’s windows, roll down each window a couple of inches so you can clean the top edge.
When cleaning the interior glass, use the same technique you used on the exterior glass. When you reach the back window, it can be helpful to place the folded towel on the back of your hand to clean the lower edge of the glass. Because most rear windows are on such a slope, this technique gives you easier access to the bottom edge of the glass.
Window Tint Care
If you’ve used a tint-safe glass cleaner, you’re already doing a lot to preserve your tint. You can go a step further by applying a plastic polish and protectant, like Plexus. This product cleans, shines, and protects all types of plastic with a clear, dust-resistant coating. It will keep window tint clean and clear for weeks.
Erase Water Spots
Water spots are actually mineral deposits that have accumulated on the paint. Over time, water spots layer on top of each other to form that cloudy film that appears in the top corners of your windshield. The only area that seems exempt from water spots is the well-worn path of the windshield wipers.
You can remove water spots! Glass cleaners won’t do it, but a fine glass polish will. DP High Performance Glass Restorer is a very fine grade polish formulated just for glass. It levels the mineral deposits that make up water spots. Apply it by hand, with a drill, or with a polisher.
Clean the glass well.
Apply a nickel size amount of glass polish to the applicator pad. Choose a light cutting foam. If applying by hand, rub the glass in an overlapping motion. If applying the polish by drill or polisher, set the speed at no greater than 1000 RPM. Go over the water spots several times using light pressure.
Polish until the glass polish starts to dry. Buff off the residue with a clean, soft microfiber towel.
To prevent future water spots, regularly apply a polymer glass sealant.
Windshield Wiper Care
As long as we’re on the subject of auto glass, we should discuss the wipers. First and foremost, replace your wipers regularly. A driving rain storm is not the time to discover that your windshield wipers are ineffective! Maintain your wipers longer with 303 Wiper Treatment Wipes. These pre-soaked wipes treat the rubber wipers to prevent skipping, chattering, and freezing.
A polymer glass sealant will also make your wipers more effective at clearing the windshield. Before applying this type of product, clean the glass well for the best results.