How to Clean the Inside of Your Windshield Like a Pro

Stephen Fogel
November 12, 2019

You probably know about the importance of keeping the outside of your windshield clean. Doing this provides you with good visibility and the extra margin of safety that comes from being able to see as well as you possibly can.

But what about the inside surfaces of your windshield and other car windows? When is the last time you cleaned them? The inside of your windshield can get just as dirty as the outside, and the accumulated gunk can impair your vision in much the same way.

Why does the inside of your windshield get dirty?

There are many reasons why the inside of your windshield can get dirty, but there is one major cause: the plastics that much of your car’s interior is made of. Once your car is assembled and comes off the production line, it emits vapors from its interior plastics, for a period of many years. The dashboard, door panels, the console, and even the seats can be sources of these vapors.

This process is called off-gassing, and it is what causes that “new car smell’ that we associate with a brand-new vehicle. The “new car smell” fades over time, but the off-gassing process continues, steadily depositing a hazy, oily coating on the inside of your windshield and the other interior surfaces. After a while, it becomes difficult to see through this haze.

There can also be other ways for the inside of your windshield to become dirty. They include:

  • Smoking inside the car
  • Children’s handprints and fingerprints
  • Dog nose smudges and slobber

Regardless of the specific cause, cleaning the inside of your windshield and other windows will improve your outward vision and your driving safety.

How should you clean the inside of your windshield?

As with many types of car maintenance and upkeep, starting with the right tools for the job makes the process much easier. Here is what you’ll need to clean the inside of your windshield:

  • Several microfiber towels
  • A scrubbing pad that is safe for glass (no steel wool or similar harsh materials)
  • Spray-on and foam-type window cleaners made especially for glass (no all-purpose cleaners, no ammonia)
  • A reach tool (optional, but makes the job much easier!)

Now you’re ready to clean the inside of your windshield! Here we go:

1. Protect the dashboard

Use a few microfiber towels to cover your dashboard. This will protect it from accidental drips of the window cleaner, as you clean the inside of your windshield.

2. Prime your scrubber and windshield

Using your window or glass cleaner, give the scrubber a quick spritz to prepare it. Next, select one corner of the inside of your windshield to work on, and give it a couple of sprays as well.

3. Scrub firmly but gently, from top to bottom

The film on the inside of your windshield will be stuck on pretty well, but your scrubber will cut through it. Use firm, even strokes to break it up and loosen it.

4. Wipe away residue with a microfiber cloth

Once the scrubber has done its job, the residue should come right up with your microfiber cloth. Give your cloth a couple of squirts of glass cleaner and wipe the window in both directions, to make sure you're getting all the gunk. Turn the cloth regularly. Switch to a fresh towel when the one you are using is full of residue.

5. Buff the windshield with a fresh microfiber cloth

To finish the first stage of cleaning, wipe away any remaining cleaner or residue using a clean and dry microfiber cloth. You can also use a specialty reach tool for this step. There are lots of different designs, but they all tend to have a triangular head with a low-pile cover and an arm to increase your reach. You can place your microfiber towel over the tool to have more clean surface to work with. When you finish one corner, move onto the next corner of the inside of your windshield and repeat steps 2-5 until all four corners are done.

6. Use foam cleaner for a streak-free shine

Both traditional glass cleaners and foam cleaners have a place and a purpose. While traditional sprays work well for priming scrubbers and towels, as well as for removing the residue on the inside of your windshield, foam cleaners tend to give you more control, extra time to work, and a more flawless finish. To start, spray a line of foam cleaner about one-third of the way down your windshield, from one side to the other.

7. Work top to bottom

Clean the inside of your windshield using a microfiber towel or your reach tool, making sure to catch all areas, and wiping in both directions.

8. Check your work

One of the biggest problems with off-gassing haze is that it's hard to detect during the day, but it can totally distort your vision at night. Spend some extra time on the outside of your vehicle looking for missed spots and streaks to catch anything that might have slipped by, and then redo those spots.

How can you keep it clean?

The haze on the inside of your windshield that results from off-gassing is accelerated by the actions of heat and the sun, as well as the sealed interior of your vehicle. Anything that you can do to keep your car cool and ventilated will slow down these effects. Some strategies to achieve this include:

  • Keep your car in the shade
  • Park in a garage or carport
  • Use a car cover
  • Use a windshield sunshade
  • Crack your windows when you park (when practical)

Of course, if you smoke, have kids, or transport your pets frequently, you will need to clean the inside of your windshield more often, regardless of how cool you keep your car.

Stephen Fogel

About the Author

Stephen has been an automotive enthusiast since childhood, owning some of his vehicles for as long as 40 years, and has raced open-wheel formula cars. He follows and writes about the global automotive industry, with an eye on the latest vehicle technologies.

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