A dirty, streaky mirror is a cringe-worthy thing. Whether you’re running low on glass cleaner, or simply looking for a way to reduce chemical-use in your home, we’ll show you how to clean a mirror without Windex.
Using simple ingredients you probably already have at home, you can make your own homemade cleaning solution to get sparkling clean glass and mirrors.
Types of cleaning materials
Not all cleaning materials are created equal. The type of cleaning tool you use when cleaning mirrors greatly determines whether you’re left with a streaky mess after all your hard work.
When choosing a cleaning material, ensure it is:
- Non-abrasive (you don’t want to end up with a scratched surface, after all!)
Let’s look at a few common cleaning supplies and evaluate each one:
- Microfiber cleaning cloth: Great when used dry or damp, microfiber is absorbent and lint-free. It’s a great household cleaning material of choice.
- Sponge: An all-around good choice. Just make sure you’re not using one with an abrasive surface that could scratch your mirror or glass. The downside? They’re not as absorbent as microfiber cloths and often leave excess water.
- Newspaper: An old-school tool used to clean windows (when every household used to get a paper newspaper delivered daily), newspapers still work. Being lint-free, cheap, and surprisingly absorbent, it’s still a solid choice if you have old newspapers lying around. If you’re worried about ink streaks from the newspaper, it’s not much of a problem with today’s vegetable-based inks. Just be extra careful about potentially leaving ink stains around window trim.
- Squeegee: While professionals use squeegees to clean windows, it’s not a tool most people have at home. While it works great, it takes some practice to get good results.
- Paper towel: A commonly used household cleaning supply, paper towels are abrasive and unfortunately can scratch or pit the surface of mirrors and windows.
Tip: Microfiber cloths are a must-have in my opinion to get a clean, streak-free mirror. Not only are they useful when giving the mirror a quick, dry, rub-down before applying a cleaning solution, they’re also effective to use while damp.
Cleaning hacks: the secrets to streak-free mirrors
- Before you start spraying any type of cleaning solution on your mirrors, use a clean, dry microfiber cloth over the entire surface. This helps to remove any dust or debris, a main cause of streaking.
- Work in a z-shaped motion, or zigzag across the surface of the mirror or window. Avoid rubbing in circles.
- After you’ve applied your cleaning solution, I again like to buff the mirror using a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
Doing these three things (no matter what kind of cleaning solution you use) helps to dramatically cut-down on streaks.
How to clean a mirror without Windex 8 different ways
Move over Windex. Check out eight alternative ways to clean mirrors and windows sans Windex.
#1: Vinegar solution
Vinegar’s natural acidic properties make it a popular household cleaning and sanitizing item. The acetic acid in vinegar helps break down scum and dirt.
What you’ll need:
- White distilled vinegar
- Spray bottle
- Clean microfiber cloth
Mix one part vinegar to one part water. Typically, one cup of water to one cup of vinegar is a good amount. Use a funnel to measure water and vinegar directly into your spray bottle. Swish gently to mix and voilà, your vinegar solution is ready to work its magic!
Tip: If you have granite countertops anywhere near your mirror or window, be careful not to spray vinegar on it. Over time, vinegar’s acidity damages the surface of porous materials such as granite.
#2: Liquid dish soap
If the smell of vinegar bothers you, try using liquid dish soap .
- A bucket or basin
- Warm water
- Liquid dish soap
- Microfiber cloth (or similar cleaning tool)
Be careful not to add too much dish soap as this can cause streaking.
Find a medium-sized bucket or gallon and add one or two small squirts of liquid dish soap to the bottom. Fill a basin or bucket with about one gallon of warm water. The dish soap mixes nicely with the water as it’s getting filled up.
Gently swirl your cleaning cloth in the dish soap solution. Wring out excess water. Apply the cleaning solution over the entire surface making sure not to get it too wet. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Wipe clean.
#3: Rubbing alcohol
Rubbing alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, is a powerful cleaning agent used to disinfect and kill germs on a variety of surfaces.
It’s also great for removing stuck-on toothpaste stains on bathroom mirrors.
- A cotton pad or cotton ball
- Rubbing alcohol
Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad or cotton ball. Target stuck-on stains on the mirror or glass. Follow with a cleaning solution as needed.
Tip: Rubbing alcohol is great to use for spot-cleaning bothersome toothpaste stains. Use it alone or together with your cleaning solution of choice.
#4: Plain water
The power of simple H20 is amazing. Using plain tap water works surprisingly well with a microfiber cloth if you have minor dust or light dirt buildup. You’ll obviously need something stronger if your mirror or window is grungy.
- Spray bottle filled with water
- Microfiber cloth
Spray the mirror or window with water as needed. Wipe clean.
#5: Dryer sheet
I’m a big fan of reusing or repurposing household items. But, I’m not really a fan of commercial dryer sheets in general as they contain a lot of chemicals. However, this DIY solution calls for used dryer sheets, so if you have some lying around, this is a great way to use them again.
- Used dryer sheet(s)
- Spray bottle filled with water
Dryer sheets have anti-static properties, so they’re great at collecting dust. If you have just a light layer of dust to clean, use a dry dryer sheet to quickly wipe the surface. Or, you can use dryer sheets in lieu of paper towels. For a more thorough clean, spray water as needed and wipe with a dryer cloth.
#6: Shaving cream
It doesn’t matter what brand you use, but shaving cream (not shaving gel), works wonders on your bathroom mirror. An added bonus is that it prevents the mirror from fogging up the next time you have a hot shower. Avoid rubbing the glass after you’ve applied shaving cream to protect the finish.
- Shaving cream
- Microfiber cloth
Apply a bit of shaving cream onto the mirror. Wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.
Because toothpaste is a mild abrasive often containing baking soda, it also doubles as a household cleaner. While regularly using toothpaste to clean mirrors and windows might not be the most cost-effective method, it works in a pinch if you’re out of other glass cleaners.
I would stick with a plain white toothpaste over a colored gel to avoid any potential staining on your clothes.
And just like shaving cream, toothpaste also works to defog mirrors.
- A tube of toothpaste (the cheaper the better)
- A microfiber cloth
Apply toothpaste to your mirror. Allow it to dry (around 20 minutes). Wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.
Tip: Most other methods work better with a zigzag motion. But with toothpaste, small circles seem to work best.
#8: Homemade DIY cleaner for mirrors and windows
I stumbled across a great DIY window cleaner from One Essential Community. The great thing is that this recipe calls for only four ingredients—all of which are natural and things you’ll have at home.
- Spray bottle
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup rubbing alcohol OR cheap vodka
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 10 drops of your favorite essential oil(s) (optional)
Pour all the ingredients into an empty spray bottle using a funnel in the order listed above. Replace spray bottle top. Swirl gently to mix.
Adding a few drops of your favorite essential oils minimizes the smell of vinegar and is a great way to personalize your DIY cleaner.