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Homemade Window Cleaner

I’ve been wanting to try making homemade window cleaner for awhile, so when I discovered we were completely out of it, I knew the day had come!

This stuff is so simple to make — and it really works. I put it to the test on our grimy, fingerprint-laden sliding glass door and it totally passed with flying colors.

Now my question is: why have I waited this long to try making my own window cleaner?? I certainly will never be able to justify paying even a $1 per bottle for Windex again when this is so easy to make, works so well, and is so inexpensive!

By the way, this does smell a little like vinegar, but I think that the essential oil helps to tone down the vinegar-y smell. If you try this recipe and you don’t think it works very well, there are two other homemade window cleaner recipes on The Family Homestead site.

Have you made your own window cleaner before? If so, what recipe did you use and do you think it works well?

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  • Karen says:

    The recipe I’ve used for years is 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and 2 cups water.

    • Crystal says:

      Does it smell alcohol-y and vinegar-y? How well does it work? I’d love to hear!

      • Karen says:

        When you first spray it, you can definitely smell the vinegar. But it’s gone pretty quick. I am *really* sensitive to strong cleaning smells (especially the “chemical” smell of commercial cleaners), and this doesn’t bother me, so I don’t think it’s too strong. Everyone’s different though, so I’ll hedge my bets and say it doesn’t bother me. 🙂

      • Kim says:

        That’s the mixture I use also, and the smell doesn’t bother me at all. You only smell it when you first spray it, but it doesn’t linger. I think I’d like to try adding some essential oil though.

      • I use lavendar essential oil and love the smell. 🙂

  • Miranda says:

    I put just one drop of dish soap in mine, and it even works on getting the dogs dirty paw prints off the glass door!!!

    • Crystal says:

      One drop of dish soap in water or in the recipe above? I’m curious!

      • Anna says:

        Me too! Dawn works wonders. Just did all my windows this week on both sides since I was following your 4 weeks to a more organized home!!

      • Miranda says:

        I use a water and vinegar mixture with one drop of dish soap. I haven’t ever heard of using essential oils, but I think I will try that so that the vinegar smell isn’t so strong.

    • Natalia says:

      That’s how I make mine as well! Though without the oil! I use it to clean windows, the carpet, my couch, EVERYTHING! It gets all smells out and all stains out that I have tried so far. My husband hates the vinegar smell but when I use it and he isn’t home he can’t tell I have used it (even 5 minutes prior). This stuff even got raspberry smoothie out of my white carpet without even so much as a hint that anything had been spilled there! I use Vinegar, water, and a drop of dish soap to clean just about everything!

  • Barbara says:

    What does the essential oil add? I just use vinegar and water. And I wipe with either a crumbles newspaper (yes I am still a part of the 19th century) or a lint free cloth.

    • Crystal says:

      It makes it smell less vinegar-y I think. 🙂 I’m sure it works totally fine without it, though!

    • Lana says:

      If you were to use lavendar essential oil it would be antibacterial.

    • Thanks for the giggle. 🙂 I’m happy to see I’m not the only one still living in the 19th century! I grew up using crumpled newspaper for cleaning windows and never got out of the habit.

      • Crumpled newspaper leaves windows completely streak free! That’s why I still use them…. I remember my Mom showing up to clean at church with her bottle of vinegar water (no essential oil) and her pile of unprinted newsprint and saying “I’ll do the windows” because she was tired of looking out through the streaks left by the commerical cleaners. No one could believe that it was that simple! But they asked her to do the windows every time after that. I think they were disappointed when she moved…. 😉


    • Patti says:

      Yes, this is the way I was brought up to clean windows. My mother has always had the cleanest windows in town!!

  • Delores says:

    I have used straight vinegar before as well. The kids tease me about the smell, but it works and it is quick and I never seem to have a spray bottle handy. Also, I was taught (while in the Army) to use newspaper for window cleaning. I don’t know if the newspaper works better or worse than paper towel or cloth — but it is a great use for the newspaper!

  • J says:

    We use this and it takes our two cats “nose” prints off our windows and our mirrors look great. We love it. We also clean our tile floors with white vinegar and water. PS The best part is it is cheap, does a terrific job and ants….don’t like vinegar. (Who knew?)

  • Shelley Pettit says:

    You can put lemon rinds and orange rinds in quart jars with vinegar. Put them in a dark place for 2-3 weeks, then use that vinegar to make your cleaners and you have a lemony or orangey smell!

  • Lydia at Five4 says:
  • Lana says:

    I use microfiber glass cloths that I purchased at WalMart for about $4 for a 2 pack. Just wet it and wipe. The glass is so clean that I have had people walk right into my storm doors. I just wash them with my cleaning rags. It makes glass cleaning really quick too because you have no need to wipe until the sprayed product is gone.

    • Andrea says:

      This is what I need to try! Newspaper works…but then it fills up the garbage can after you’ve cleaned all windows & is yucky on your hands with the ink.
      This sounds EASY & mess-free. Will be trying =)

    • Kay Thompson says:

      I use the microfiber cloths as well and unless the glass is super nasty (i.e. the outside of my storm door!) I never need to use any sort of cleaner. You can’t really beat $4 for a lifetime of cleaner!! They also clean anything with a shiny finish beautifully.

    • Connie says:

      I also use microfiber and water, no cleaner , for mirrors and windows.

  • Dawn says:

    I have been using this combo for about a year and will NEVER go back to traditional cleaner. I use it with a microfiber/polishing cloth combo and the mirrors and glass positively sparkle.

  • Teresa Hunt says:

    Try it using crumpled newspaper to dry the glass…no streaks!

  • We’ve used water and vinegar to clean our windows and mirrors for a couple of years. I love that I never have to worry about running out of window cleaner because I can make it myself and a big bottle of vinegar lasts a long time.

    I just glanced at my back glass door and I definitely need to add cleaning it to my list for tomorrow. An added bonus of using natural cleaners is that I don’t mind letting the kids do more of the cleaning…adding a spray bottle always makes cleaning more fun.

    We also use a vinegar & baking soda combination to clean our bathroom…so easy even a toddler can do it.

  • Frances says:

    I use vinegar/water/essential oils for almost ALL my cleaning around the house (countertops, spills on the floor, toys, etc.). But for my mirrors and windows, I use my Ultimate Cloth. All it takes is water and it cleans phenomenally and leaves no streaks. I bought more on sale to give as gifts, I’m so enamored. 🙂

  • Kristy says:

    I continue to be amazed at how well crumpled up newspaper does work instead of paper towels! You’d think it would get ink everywhere, but I’ve never had that happen. I don’t even mind the vinegar smell since it goes away after it dries.

    • Alison says:

      It took me forever to try newspaper because I was so incredulous about how that would work, but it does great! Better than paper towels which leave behind particles

  • Jessica says:

    What brand of essential oils do you buy?

  • Wendy says:

    I use the recipe on “fake it frugal.” It calls for 1 oz ammonia, 4 oz alcohol, a drop of dish detergent and then fill the bottle with water. I even added a drop of blue food coloring so it looks, works and smells exactly like Windex.

  • Kristi says:

    I use one part vinegar to 3 parts water to clean the windows at church every week and it works great!

  • daybreaking says:

    I’ve used this in the past and, although it works really well, I found the vinegar in it attracts fruit flies. I ended up switching to making my own cleaner using mostly water, with a few drops of Shaklee Basic H mixed in. It ended up being more cost effective than the vinegar mixture and I loved no longer having fruit flies on my bathroom mirrors and in my kitchen.

    • Tien says:

      My husband and I found this true also. I made a lemony vinegar cleaner but had to switch to another safe alternative using castile soap and essential oil. The fruit flies definitely have not shown up since I stopped using the lemony vinegar cleaner.

  • Letty says:

    Where do you buy essential oils? Are they very expensive?

    • Lisa says:

      I have the same question. I see these ‘essential oils’ written about alot, but I am not sure where to purchase them. I can’t wait to hear what Crystal says.

      • Catherine says:

        Sometimes you can find them in craft stores with the candle making supplies. (and use a coupon) You can also find them at the vitamin shoppe and some organic/natural markets. Hope that helps 🙂

      • Crystal says:

        My local Walmart carries essential oils in their craft section – where the candle making kits are.

      • Megan says:

        Certainly a Whole Foods or other organic/natural food shop would have them. I’ve purchased them during great sales from vitamin websites. They are very expensive (some oils are more difficult to extract and cost >$15 for a few ounces), but some of the more common oils are more reasonably priced. A little goes a long way, so think of it as a long-term investment.

      • liz says:

        I’ve also bought essentials oils in my local grocery store in the natural/organic aisle. The price really varies but you can get a lot of different scents in the $3-$8 range in my experience.

      • Jen says:

        If you live in the midwest, I saw little bottles of essential oils at Marsh Supermarket. I think they were around $5.00 a bottle (one ounce).

    • Priscilla says:

      not all essential oils are the same. Essential oils are very concentrated. I like to think of them as ‘concentrated goodness from plants’ Here is where I buy my essential oils, (this is my referral link 🙂 they have a variety & free shipping is available. I don’t have one favorite essential oil,…so many I like lemongrass, peppermint, lavender, orange, lemon. I have gotten 3 different essential oils from VitaCost (lavender, tea tree & eucalyptus…In my opinion, they didn’t smell as good/strong as the same essential oil in the Beeyoutiful brand I bought from the store/see above link.

    • Jen says:

      I like to buy mine from Mountain Rose Herbs. They have a website if you google it. They’re great quality!

  • Allie says:

    I’ve used this for a while and never thought I would buy Windex again until my 4 yr old spilled nail polish on my light colored carpet. Let me tell you, that $1 bottle of Windex was so worth it when it saved the carpet. There was no nail polish left after about 10 minutes of alternately spraying Windex and dabbing with a cloth.

    • Hairspray also gets nail polish and ink out of carpet. I’ve heard rubbing alcohol might work too, but I’ve never tried that.


      • Crystal says:

        Hairspray gets ink out of everything — I keep a bottle of it near my washer to use to remove ink stains on clothes before laundering. It works better than any other stain remover I’ve ever tried on ink!

  • Ashley - Embracing Beauty says:

    I just splash a little water on our mirrors and it works better than anything! I’ll definitely give this a try on our dirtier windows and doors!

  • Celia Husmann says:

    I would NOT use vinegar on stainless steel though..makes it rust.

    • Celia Husmann says:

      WHOOPS, I was thinking of something else, drats, the vinegar is perfect for stainless steel, please ignore my last comment!

  • Shirl says:

    I have found just water works well for most light jobs like mirrors with almost no smears if I wipe it dry with a good paper towel, or lint free cloth.

  • Dorothea says:

    I have been using equal parts vinegar and water. I use old terry cloth wash cloths to wipe it. The vinegar disinfects, so I spray it all over the bathroom fixtures when I clean them. (I follow that with a little dish detergent to help get soap scum off the sink and tub.) The kids complain that it makes the bathroom smells like pickles, so adding essential oils sounds like a good idea.

  • Trisha says:

    This is a great way to save! I had used this recipe with tea tee and lavender oils for quite a while for pretty much everything, windows, counters, table, bathroom sink etc… Now I do add some orange oil and leave out the lavender and tea tree. Orange oil has a lot off good cleaning/disinfecting properties and I can get a 32oz bottle for less than $20 at the local farm and garden store (organic gardening department). I mix about an ounce or two per gallon (old vinegar jug), then when I need it, mix it half and half with vinegar in a spray bottle. I’ve still got my first bottle of orange oil, going on three years, stuff lasts forever! And doesn’t smell too bad either. Between window cleaner, spray to clean counters and tables and even some furniture, tv, wipe down appliances, icky spots on floors, you name really is an all purpose cleaner.I spend about $35-40/year on cleaning supplies for the whole house (not counting dish soap- I have not found a worthy substitute) but that does include laundry. I know some people who spend that each month! 🙁 Glad to see that you tried it and liked it. I have some of my old cleaner recipes listed on my website, I should get over there and post my newer, improved and more simplified ones. 😉

  • I use club soda to clean mirrors and windows. Just as effective as Windex and no smell. It does take a little more elbow grease if things are really dirty, but it’s minimal. I learned this from a book called Clean House, Clean Planet. Lots of recipes for green cleaners, and it includes efficacy ratings as compared to commercial cleaners.

  • Trisha says:

    P.s. I buy my essential oils from a company called wfmed on ebay….great prices compared to what you find in health food stores. I think they may have a regular website too. (not affiliated, just passing along a great deal, been doing business w/them for a few years now.) They don’t have every thing essential oil wise, but pretty much everything you’d need for cleaners.

  • toni says:

    The recipe I am currently using works sooo well.
    1/4 cup white vinegar,
    1/4 cup rubbing alcohol,
    2 tsp. cornstarch,
    2 cups warm water.
    I know it sounds wrong that cornstarch is in the recipe. All I can tell you is, this stuff WORKS. It definitely works as well as Windex and is much more cost effective and without all the chemical additions.

  • Adrienne says:

    Crystal, do you still use Basic H2? Have you tried their dilution for windows? Or does vinegar work better?

  • Priscilla says:

    This evening I saw a Norwex demo…they have a dust mit that did wonders to a window screen, it caught ever bit of dust…none fell onto the clean window that was angled out into the room. I have a friend who really hates to clean but loved the Norwex products so much she became a consultant. I can hardly wait to place an order & try the products out in my home.

    • tami says:

      I have the Norwex products which disinefect without chemicals. Love them. Don’t use anything but water though when doing windows or anythingthe else. Great for people with allergies and/or chemical sensitivities.

      Regarding using newspaper, even if it doesn’t leave print on the window, I’d be concerned about the chemicals in the ink reacting with the vinegar, etc. If my arms rest on the newpaper while reading it, I itch because of the chemicals.

      I use vinegar for everything. Spray bottle in each bathroom, the kitchen and laundry. Everyday after getting out of shower I quickly spray the shower which prevents mildew and keeps germs down. Use 7th Generation 1-2x/wk. Ran out of Vinegar and used 7thher Generation instead daily and ended up with pink soap scum/mildew. Couldn’t believe the vinegar worked better.

      • Jen says:

        Hi Tami. I’ve got pink soap scum/mildew on my shower grout now (new tile only about 6 months old too!). Thanks for the daily vinegar tip. Do you have any suggestions for getting the pink scum/mildew off first though. I haven’t been very successful with natural cleaners so far.

    • Amy says:

      I don’t use Norwex, but I do use e-cloths ( These things are amazing! They clean windows, mirrors, granite, stove tops, etc. with only water. It truly works. And they are reusable hundreds of times over! Check and you should be able to get free shipping and a discount code.

    • Rebecca says:

      I use the Norwex cleaning cloths for my windows and love how clean they get with just water! The Norwex cloths have imbedded silver in them and this provides an antibacterial property. There is absolutely no chemicals or solutions that are needed for cleaning any smooth , hard surfaces in your home with the Norwex cloths. After you are finished cleaning with the cloths, you simply rinse out with water and air dry. Once you discover Norwex, you will love it!

  • Adrienne says:

    Crystal, do you still use Basic H2? Have you tried that for windows? Or do Windex and vinegar just work better?

  • Lindsay says:

    I use Crunchy Betty’s glass cleaner recipe and it is absolutely fantastic. I can’t imagine using anything different now. It uses cornstarch and rubbing alcohol. I also add some lemon essential oil to tone down the vinegar/alcohol smell and hardly notice it at all.

    Here’s the recipe:

  • We actually just use the water & vinegar combo – we use it for counter cleaners too – we completely stopped cutting out coupons for those kind of cleaners – no sense in purchasing cleaners. Sometimes I got cleaners for free but it took a lot of time to organize and I can make a bottle of cleaner w vinegar for pennies – so it is just so easy and saves a little time too! i might have to try w the essential oils – i have a friend who sells them =-)

  • las artes says:

    I also spend money on purchasing air fresheners for the house as I can’t stand the cooked food smell. Who knew you could simmer some vinegar and toss in some lemon peels or cinnamon sticks to freshen up the air.

    • Jen says:

      The simmering citrus peels and cinnamon sticks are much safer than chemical fragrance smells too! A lot of those fragrances have been linked to asthma and other health issues.

  • Marissa A. says:

    I work at a pet store and we use vinegar and water for everything. In the fish department it gets the hard water spots off the tank an leaves them shiny. We also use it when cleaning animal habitats. It kills the bacteria but will never harm the animals. I don’t mind the smell at all, to me it means “clean”.

  • Amber says:

    You can also use newspaper rather than paper towels or rags to wipe off the cleaner. I use newspaper/cleaner to clean my mirrors, windows, and glass tables.

  • I will definitely be trying this out. Thanks for the tips, everyone 🙂

  • You can add me to the list of vinegar/water junkies. 🙂 I use it for everything, too. I will never go back to chemical-based cleaners!

  • Stephanie says:

    I have been using homemade glass cleaner for about 2 years now, using vinegar/water/dish soap. You don’t really need essential oils because the vinegar smell goes away after it dries. I use newspaper to save money on paper towels and it works so much better.

  • Jennifer says:

    I use a combination of water, vinegar, alcohol, and cornstarch. Yes, cornstarch! I don’t know why it works, but it does. The recipe is here: (she compares several different recipes actually).

  • Shelly says:

    I use just water to clean my mirrors and windows inside the house. I spray some water on or use a damp rag and wipe/scrub. Then just wipe dry with another rag. If I have really dirty windows I will use this homemade window cleaner.

  • Jill says:

    No recipes, no chemicals, no oils. 2 WORDS: water & Norwex cloth.

  • Jen says:

    I put one squirt of dishsoap in mine. Works even better. The rest is the same 50/50 vinegar /water

  • Teri says:

    I mix water with a few drops of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo in a spray bottle and shake. Works great, doesn’t streak. Plus, I usually always have it on hand and it’s tear free. Which means my children can help with the windows without worring about it getting in their eyes.
    My husband had tinted for many, MANY years, and that’s what most window tinters use. We haven’t used Windex in forever.

  • Courtney says:

    I use straight vinegar and water, too, and the smell doesn’t bother me. I actually prefer the smell of vinegar to more flowery/fruity smells.

  • Sara says:

    That’s funny! All I could think when I read this was… Crystal, where have you been?!

  • Sarah T. says:

    I alternate between Caldrea (2 T in the bottle) and vinegar/water. BUT I truly believe the secret to a streak-free window is using a squeegie (if that’s what it’s called)- those things professional window cleaners use. It has revolutionized my window cleaning.

    • Nancy says:

      My husband does all our outside windows with a squeegee and a big bucket of homemade window washer. Cheap and non-toxic. 😀

  • lyss says:

    I use this for just about everything. I don’t buy bathroom cleaners. Vineger water works great for wiping everything down, from the mirrors to the toilet. If that doesn’t cut it, I use baking soda and a scrubby sponge. No more harsh chemicals for me!

  • Tara says:

    While I love the idea, I have yet to find a decent spray bottle that I’ve liked. True, I’ve never gone fancy, but I’ve tried $ store ones and ones from Target, and they send out this sharp stream that doesn’t “mist.” Too concentrated in one spot, and have to be quick to catch, wipe and spread it. I know where to find my essential oils, and would really love a referral for a spray bottle!! 🙂

  • carol says:

    Oh my goodness!!! I just tried this and I LOVE it! I used orange essential oil in mine. Something about that orange fragrance that just makes me smile . Thank you for sharing!

  • ann says:

    I use vinegar/water solution all the time as an allpurpose cleaner for kitchen counters, cabinets and wood floors. I had no idea I could use it for window cleaner. I will have to give it a try

  • Debbie says:

    This is how I clean everything. Except sinks, toilets, and tubs where I use plain baking soda. I don’t add water to mine. What’s the purpose of the water? My husband complained about the vinegar smell – it does linger even after dry for some of us highly sensitive sniffers – I can smell it for hours after cleaning as can he, but it doesn’t bother me like it does him. I do add essential oils now though, why not?! They smell divine! I’m on a lime kick right now.

  • Kari says:

    I haven’t read through all of the other posts, but I very highly recommend the Norwex window cloth. It is absolutely amazing! You just use a bottle of plain water and use the cloth – not only does it get everything off, but it leaves the window completely streak free. It’s shocking what a great job it does. On dirty exterior windows we do a quick scrub and wipe with a squeegee, and then wipe them down with the Norwex cloth and – no streaks! I think they’re around $17 here in Canada, but will last for years since you just pop it in the wash when it’s dirty.

  • Busy Mom in Alabama says:

    I was so glad to see you posted a link to Crystal’s website! I LOVE her recipes. She has down-home delicious meals that are made from whole foods and every one I have tried is wonderful! Be sure to go to her home page and click on the left side to visit her blog. She has a series right now in which she is making crockpot meals for the freezer in gallon ziploc bags. I have tried several and they are really good. Just thaw and put in the crockpot in the morning and dinner is ready! 🙂

  • Bri says:

    newspaper works great too for wiping the mirrors/windows- leaving them streak free. No buying towels, reuses the newspaper.

    • Lauran says:

      This is true- I once worked for a man who had us wipe down the windows to his restaurant with nothing but a spray bottle of vinegar and newspaper- never seen anything so clean!

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