Written by contributor Donielle Baker of Naturally Knocked Up.

Over the past few years I’ve been able to find a replacement for just about every conventional cleaner I’ve ever purchased, but the windows have been my nemesis.

You see, I happen to have a very large dog. A 125-pound rottweiler to be exact! And he loves nothing more than to stand at the window, with his nose smushed right up against it. He also licks the windows. And head butts them from the outside when he wants in.

His head level also happens to be my children’s hand level. This means that pretty much across the windows and sliders, it’s a mess from that level down. Keeping the windows clean is a full time job around here! (which also means that if you happen to drop by at some point, my windows most likely won’t be clean. Just sayin’.)

I figured it was time to buckle down and figure out this whole window cleaner thing. I’ve used a few different homemade recipes, but usually revert to a store-bought version when company comes over. You know, so we can actually see outside.

The Experiment

  1. A vinegar and water mix – I chose to use 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar, which seemed to be the most commonly used ratio.
  2. Alcohol – Many actually said they used vodka, but like others, I used 70% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol since it’s much cheaper.
  3. Cleaning mix – 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol.
  4. Norwex polishing cloth – granted, this isn’t a homemade option, but you only use water with the cloth.
  5. Newspaper and vinegar – I’ve always been told that newspaper does a great job and had never tried it.

Other notables:

  • I do not currently own any paper towels, and haven’t for some time, so I used a regular microfiber cloth while testing.
  • It’s cold here in Michigan! This means the windows are pretty chilly when it’s only 25 degrees out.
  • Each cleaner, unless noted, was given the same amount of swipes on the window – ten.
  • I waited until the sun was not shining on the window to help make sure we didn’t see streaks.
  • I used the dirtiest window in the house, full of kid prints and dog slobber along with mud and over spray from the sprinklers.
natural window cleaner

Photo by Donielle Baker

1. Vinegar and Water Mix – 1:1

This mix caused me to feel like I was making pickles! The vinegar scent was pretty strong and I had a hard time wanting to spray any more than my small strip of test window, even though I know it dissipates rather quickly. This mix was very “wet”, and after 10 swipes I felt I had to go a couple more or risk leaving major streaks.

  • Result: As you can see above, after cleaning, there are some spots and streaks left (more outside than inside). It was effective in cleaning, just not in polishing.

2. Rubbing Alcohol

I don’t know if it was the already overwhelming smell of vinegar, but the rubbing alcohol pretty much stunk too. I was realizing why people were buying vodka as it doesn’t have near the scent. The one bonus of the rubbing alcohol though, was the fact that I could just use a spray top screwed onto the bottle I purchased it in. I also keep this in the house more often than vodka, which is normally only purchased for making vanilla extract and herbal tinctures.

  • Result: Almost spotless, the rubbing alcohol worked very well with minimal elbow grease. On the outside it dried so quickly while I was scrubbing a mud mark that I had to spray more.
natural window cleaner

Photo by Donielle Baker

3. Cleaning Mix (1c. water, 1T alcohol, 1T vinegar)

My poor nose didn’t know what to smell with this one! The rubbing alcohol and vinegar together was an odd combo and definitely could have used some essential oils in the mix. (though I don’t know how well that would work on the window)

  • Result: not as many spots as #1 (the water vinegar mix) but definite streaks there. This one did dry faster than just the water/vinegar mix though.

4. Norwex Polishing Cloth

If you haven’t heard of these before, they basically look like over priced micro fiber cloths that you buy from a “Norwex lady”. You’re supposed to only get it wet and wring out as much water as possible before using. Then you clean your object. Also to note, you’re supposed to use the regular cloth first and then the polishing cloth. But I’m not doing my windows twice.

  • Result: That strip took less than 10 swipes and with the lack of liquid on the cloth, it remained streak and spot free.
natural window cleaner

Photo by Donielle Baker

5. Newspaper and Vinegar Mix (1:1 with water)

I had to scrounge through the bottom of one of my closets before finding an old newspaper from December of 2008. Yes, you read that right – I have a three year old newspaper in my closet, kept around for packing gifts and messy crafts. When you come over, don’t look in this closet.

For this one I met up with my good friend google to make sure I had the procedure down correctly. You just crumple and use like a paper towel.

Got it.

  • Result: Oh. My. Word. People actually like washing their windows this way!! It was messy and wet. The newspaper does not handle easily and it took forever to wipe the window clean. I was so glad that this strip started cleaner than the others. The outside fared even worse than the inside. I just couldn’t get the outside dry enough, even after re-crumpling the paper.

Final Verdict

I’d have to say the polishing cloth and rubbing alcohol tied for first. Both were streak free and dried quickly. The rubbing alcohol smelled a bit while spraying, but the smell dissipated quicker then the vinegar smell did.

What effective homemade window cleaners do you use?