Since the first developments in the industry of auto glass more than one hundred years ago, we’ve seen dozens of advances in how glass is made, strengthened, installed and enhanced. In the first automobiles, auto glass was nothing more than traditional glass like is found in home windows, which presented a number of challenges and risks. Not only was it harder to form and install in any other shape than a flat, straight piece of glass, but the dangers it presented in the event of a wreck could be life-threatening. The glass was also harder to maintain and protect from the natural elements to which any piece of glass is subjected.
Thankfully, a variety of improvements have occurred since then. This has made it possible to shape auto glass repair in a multitude of forms, but the real challenge of today is making sure you clean the glass as needed. With so many different cleaning products on the market, many fall victim to the notion that any household cleaning product will do. This is a bad idea, as we’ll explain below. For those who need to remove tough residue from their windshields or who want to protect the quality of their glass for years to come, we’ve put together a series of dos and don’ts to aid in the process.
DO Use a Microcloth
Traditional paper towels or cloths can be a quick and easy solution when you need to clean your windshield, but the drawbacks outweigh the advantages. First of all, paper towels are wasteful and cannot be reused. Both paper towels and cloths have coarse fibers in them that do not do a good job at removing residue and can also create microscopic scratches on your windshield. This will allow more dirt, dust and mineral deposits to form on your windshield in spaces that make them harder to remove.
A microcloth is designed to be softer and finer, and is perfectly suited for cleaning auto glass. These cloths can also be used on your home windows (a win-win investment). Small and stubborn forms of residue will resist traditional cloth cleaning, but a microcloth can cut through protein and calcium deposits without doing any damage to the windshield requiring a windshield repair. When you also consider that microcloths have been increasingly inexpensive over the past few years, it really makes no sense not to use them.
DON’T Use Ammonia
A variety of household cleaners contain ammonia, which can be a powerful aid in various forms of cleaning. For auto glass, however, this is a bad idea. The first concern with using ammonia to clean your windows is the fumes it puts off – if you are inside the vehicle while cleaning, the inhalation of the product can cause irritation or even health risks in some. Another major worry is that ammonia has a drying effect on non-glass surfaces. Your seats, dashboard and headliner can all be damaged by it – basically, anything made of plastic, rubber, vinyl or leather. Nobody wants to have clean windows if the trade-off is a cracked headliner or torn seats.
Another concern with ammonia is its effect on tinted windows. This common household product can eat away at the film and cause it to become unbonded from the glass. Whether your tint is OEM or added aftermarket, the effect is the same – damage. There are great auto glass cleaners designed specifically for use with tinted windows, so don’t make this tragic mistake in pursuit of spotless glass.
DO Invest in a Cleaner
Your auto glass is one of the most important elements of the driving experience, so you shouldn’t ignore it just because it appears to be a static element. As we’ve said above, the use of traditional glass cleaner that contains ammonia is a horrible idea for most cleaning applications, which leaves the question, “what should I use then?”. With so many different types of auto glass cleaner, it is hard to recommend just one – a quick internet search for non-ammonia glass cleaner will yield dozens of results.
You may also want to procure an additional tool for cleaning the windows, to be used in conjunction with a microfiber cloth. A variety of long-armed scrubbers can be found at auto stores for just a few dollars and will work with most microfiber cloths – simply attach the cloth to the scrubber in order to reach out of place parts of the glass. This works well for both the interior corners of the vehicle and those hard to reach places near the middle of the outside portion of the windshield.
DO Clean in the Shade
On warm, sunny days, you may feel motivated to get outside and clean your auto glass. While it’s never a bad idea to clean your auto glass, you do want to avoid doing so in direct sunlight. Whether your cleaner has ammonia in it or not, the cleaning process will not go as planned if you try to clean while the sun’s rays are making direct contact with your vehicle. This can cause the cleaner to dry prematurely – before you get a chance to properly remove it from the windows – which will leave residue, streaking and spots. This can easily be solved by cleaning your windows in the shade, in the garage or under an outdoor structure with a cover/roof.
Your auto glass exists to protect you, so it only makes sense that you protect it. Traditional cleaning cloths can leave scratches on the glass and cause residue to build up easily. Ammonia as a cleaner may be acceptable in outdoor conditions and on windows without tint, but is a bad idea otherwise. To get the most mileage out of your windshield and ensure pristine, flawless visibility, you’ll want to invest in a microfiber cloth (and potentially a scrubbing tool along with it) and a professional cleaner that breaks down mineral deposits without the use of ammonia.