In case you couldn’t tell, I enjoy washing and detailing my own cars. I’ve shared product recommendations for car wash soaps, waxes, foam cannons, and even towels. But no car is truly clean until all its windows are crystal clear. After all, visibility is important to your safety while you’re on the road. You might be eager to use your standard household window cleaner on your car’s glass, but you shouldn’t — especially if you have tinted windows. Some household window cleaners have ammonia, which can ruin your tint.
More importantly, household glass cleaners aren’t typically designed to deal with things like dead bugs and tree sap. Your vehicle’s windshield deals with all sorts of dirt and grime, much of which would never appear on your bathroom mirror. There are automotive-specific glass cleaners out there that are designed to safely work on your car’s windows. Best of all, these can also be used around the house and some will even do a better job at cleaning than conventional glass cleaners.
Below, you’ll find my picks for the best glass cleaners to get your car’s windows spotless, followed by some tips and advice on how to properly clean your car’s glass.
1. Top pick: Stoner Invisible Glass
Of all the glass cleaners I have used throughout the years, I always come back to Stoner’s Invisible Glass as my preferred choice. It’s very easy to apply and wipe away, with its unique foam cleanser formula getting even the most stubborn of stains off my windshield. While many glass cleaners say they leave behind a streak-free finish, Invisible Glass is the only product that has consistently lived up to that claim.
Since it is designed for automotive use, it’s an ammonia-free solution so you can safely use it on tinted glass. I do know that not everyone enjoys using aerosol cans, so you can also get Invisible Glass in a conventional spray bottle, but you won’t get the same type of foam cleaning action. Still, it’s one of the best glass cleaners you can buy regardless of which option you choose.
2. Runner-up: Chemical Guys Streak Free Window Clean
If you’ve read any of my other car care recommendations, you can probably tell I’m a fan of Chemical Guys. I’ve used many of its products throughout the years, and they have performed well at a competitive price. Chemical Guys’ Streak Free Window Clean glass cleaner follows that tradition with an ammonia-free solution that’s safe to use on tinted windows. I find that it works really well as a glass cleaner, but personally I prefer Invisible Glass because it’s easier to apply and wipe away.
Of the conventional automotive glass cleaners I’ve used from a spray bottle, I would have to say Chemical Guys performed the best. It mostly leaves behind a streak-free shine, although sometimes I have to do another quick wipe with a dry towel. Otherwise, it works pretty well and a bottle is pretty affordable.
3. Best on a budget: Rain-X automotive glass cleaner
On a real budget? Can’t justify spending money on something like glass cleaner? That’s completely understandable and that’s why I have a budget recommendation from Rain-X. The company is well known for its water repellent formula, which you may have used in the past. This glass cleaner is pretty basic, but it is safe to use on tinted windows.
From my experience, it does a decent job cleaning glass and getting rid of residue, although I didn’t find it to be as effective at cleaning as Invisible Glass. Depending on how dirty your glass is, you may have to use a little elbow grease to get nasty residue off when using this product. It is mostly streak-free, so long as you control the amount you’re using on your windows.
4. Adam’s glass cleaner
Adam’s Polishes is another brand I frequently use when it comes to washing and detailing my car. And while there isn’t anything particularly wrong with the company’s glass cleaner, I didn’t find anything particularly special about it either. Now, it does work much better than some no-name, off-the-shelf glass cleaner you can buy at your local auto parts store, but I’d have a hard time justifying its price difference when compared to my other recommendations.
It simply works well like all of Adam’s Polishes’ other products, but it is a bit more expensive. You will get an ammonia-free solution that is safe for tinted glass, and it is mostly streak-free. No real things to complain about, but no real things to praise either. If it was more affordable, I’d feel more comfortable ranking it higher.
5. Meguiar’s Perfect Clarity glass cleaner
My final recommendation comes from Meguiar’s, a brand you have likely come across if you’ve ever shopped for car care products. I always found Meguiar’s to be very consistent with its products, offering a great bang for the buck option for the average car enthusiast. Its Perfect Clarity glass cleaner is perfectly fine, but I do find that I often have to do another wipe with a dry towel for that crystal clear appearance.
Generally, a little more effort is required when using this glass cleaner. Of course this doesn’t matter as much if your windows aren’t particularly dirty. Overall, it’s a well-rounded option and if you catch it on sale, it’s a great buy.
Why do I need special glass cleaner for my car?
Most off-the-shelf, household glass cleaners contain ammonia, which you absolutely do not want to use on tinted windows. But even if your glass isn’t tinted, you still want to use automotive glass cleaner since it’s formulated to deal with the contaminants you’ll find on your car — like bug residue and bird droppings. In addition, household cleaners with ammonia will streak when exposed to direct sunlight while it dries.
Any automotive glass cleaner you choose to use should be ammonia-free. Almost all will claim to leave a streak-free finish, but some products just don’t live up to that claim.
Tips to properly clean your car’s windows
There’s nothing difficult about cleaning your car’s windows, but there are some tips and advice we can share to make your life a lot easier. Before you even start using your glass cleaner, grab a microfiber towel and wipe down the inside of your windows. This will help get rid of any dirt or dust clinging to the glass surface. Personally, I recommend spraying the glass cleaner onto a microfiber towel instead of the glass. Not only will this keep overspray from getting onto your vehicle, it’ll also control the amount of glass cleaner you use. If you use too much cleaner, your window could get hazy.
Once you’ve applied some glass cleaner onto your towel, wipe it onto the glass. I also alternate patterns so I can differentiate whether streaks that form are on the inside or outside of the window. For example, do a horizontal pattern for the exterior and a vertical pattern for the interior. When it comes to your side windows, don’t forget to roll them down so you can get to the top of the glass. If you just finished washing your car, roll your windows up a couple times and dry them off before using your glass cleaner.
After cleaning the windows with the glass cleaner, I like to do a final pass with a separate and dry microfiber towel. As a finishing touch, use another towel on your wiper blades. This is also a good time to check if you need replacement windshield wipers by looking for tears or cracks. Cleaning them helps prevent streaking when you eventually have to use them.