Cleaning tinted car or truck windows properly is important to ensure that they last a long time, don’t begin bubbling, peeling, or getting chipped or scratched.
Proper cleaning products, tips, and techniques will help ensure your tinted windows will continue to cut down on sun glare, keep your interior cooler, protect your car interior from UV damage, and most importantly, look sharp.
Making sure to read any instructions that are provided by your tint installer is my best tip. Your tinting may have unique requirements for cleaning that we might not cover here.
Tint Cleaning Supplies
Before we jump to the steps necessary for cleaning tinted windows there are some things we need to gather first.
- Ammonia-Free Cleaner – Now you may be thinking you can just get away with any normal glass cleaner here. It’s important to find one that doesn’t contain any ammonia though. A good ammonia-free cleaner, like Stoner’s Invisible Glass, will be extremely effective at removing any residue on your windows and tint film. Ammonia-based products could damage the film and eventually cause it to crack and peel away. One of the biggest considerations when choosing a glass cleaner is finding one that will not only safely clean your tinted windows but won’t leave streaks. Invisible Glass is my go-to choice for cleaning tinted car windows or regular untinted glass because it is the most streak-free product I’ve used personally. It comes in a few different forms such as wipes and aerosol but I prefer the spray bottle. It gives me better control when cleaning my car window.
- Microfiber Cloth – You might initially think a paper towel or regular terry cloth wound be fine to clean tinted car windows but if you want to ensure you don’t scratch or otherwise damage your window tint I highly recommend microfiber. These towels are extremely absorbent but they also are known for trapping dirt and grit in the nap of their fibers. Paper towels or terry cloth will let grit stay on the surface where it can easily leave fine scratches as you wipe across the entire window tint film. Microfiber is best for all of your detailing tasks. This is one of the best cleaning tips I can give you. I always get mine from The Rag Company. They make high-quality but inexpensive products. They also make some awesome towels specifically for cleaning windows that I highly recommend. But avoid using them on tinted windows. I recommend something more plush for cleaning tint, like their Eagle Edgeless 500 Detailing Towels.
- Window Cleaning Tool (Optional) – Some cars and trucks are easier to reach the entire window without any trouble. Others can require quite a bit of stretching and bending to reach the furthest corners. A window cleaning tool is a handy addition that makes reaching difficult spots a breeze. Stoner’s makes an excellent Reach and Clean Tool which I highly recommend. It comes with microfiber bonnets that fit the tool, an extendible handle, and a pointed shape that makes cleaning corners a snap.
Products To Avoid Using
- Paper Towel – It may seem like a natural choice you have handy at home but window tint is very delicate and can be easily scratched. This paper-based product isn’t the softest choice. Also, there is no nap at all so any grit on your tint will get dragged across the surface and likely cause fine scratches. Paper towels are fine on glass but should be avoided on a tinted window.
- Newspaper – Newspaper is one of those things that some people swear will get glass cleaner and streak-free better than anything else. I haven’t found this to be true at all. Plus it is even worse than paper towels when it comes to protecting your tint.
- Squeegee – A silicone blade can make short work of removing water or glass cleaner from windows but isn’t ideal for window tint. If there is any grit on your tint the blade can drag it across the tint and do some real damage before you realize it.
- Credit Card – Some people use a credit card or other card as a squeegee but just like squeegee’s, I don’t recommend them due to the potential of scratching window tint. At least a squeegee has a soft edge that provides some protection.
- Terry Cloth – Terry cloth also seems like a good choice you have around your home already. It isn’t the worst choice, but it doesn’t compare to microfiber cloth for protection of your car tint. Terry cloth has no microfibers so it can’t absorb grit anywhere near as well into its nap.
- Heat Gun – Never use a heat gun to try to dry your car tint. Heat guns are extremely powerful and a good way to ruin your expensive tinting. Even a hairdryer can damage a tinted window.
- Cleaners Containing Ammonia – We’ve already covered the need to use a window cleaner that doesn’t contain ammonia, but it’s worth reiterating. Be sure to clean tinted car windows with something proven safe for tint and not ammonia-based, like Stoner’s Invisible Glass.
Important Tint Cleaning Tips
- For those that might not know, window tinting film is applied to the inside of your glass and not the outside. This way the tinting is protected from the hard weather and other elements that could damage it. For general car or truck window cleaning tips, you’ll want to check out some of our other articles.
- It’s always best to clean your windows last when detailing. This is especially true of the inside of the glass. When using other products on your interior you can accidentally get greasy or sticky protectants and cleaners on the inside of your car windows. It’ll save you time and frustration if you hold off cleaning your window tinting until everything else you plan to clean is done.
- Don’t use a towel that you used for other purposes such as wiping down your dash on your tint. Oils and/or grit will likely still be on it and can cause streaks, or even worse, scratches in your tint film.
- Don’t use a lot of pressure when cleaning your windows. This is especially important at the edges. Be gentle and careful. Excess pressure can cause scratches even with a proper towel if there is grit trapped in the nap. You also don’t want to compromise the adhesive on the edges of the windows. If there happens to be a spot that hasn’t adhered well it can more easily become damaged if you’re pressing down too hard. Try moving your towel with the edge of the tinting instead of against it. This way you minimize chances of lifting the tinting up from the surface.
- Don’t clean your tint just after the tint has been installed. Your tint installer will likely have told you not to do this. You’ll also not want to open your windows for a period of time after it’s been installed either. The adhesive needs time to cure before cleaning or opening windows.
- Sometimes it isn’t possible for your tint installer to use one continuous piece of tint on unusually large or uniquely shaped car windows. If you’re cleaning tinting with a seam be sure to wipe with the seam direction and not across it as you dry. You want to make sure you don’t catch the edge of the window film as you’re moving your towel across the film.
- Don’t leave cleaner or water on your tint without wiping it away. Excess moisture from a car window cleaner or plain water may not be kind to some tint or tint adhesive if left exposed for too long. You may think water is harmless but it can weaken adhesive and can also leave hard water spots that cause an entirely new and difficult problem to solve. It can be extremely difficult to remove hard water spots caused by water that has evaporated on your car tint.
How To Clean Tinted Windows - Step by Step
Now that you have your glass cleaner (that isn’t ammonia based), a proper cloth that won’t scratch your tint, and a tool for reaching hard to get at corners and crevices (if you need one), it’s time to clean the windows of your car or truck.
Even though using the right products and tools is the most important thing to know about how to care for window tint, it’s still worth reviewing the following steps for a few extra tips.
Let’s go through the process step by step and cover some great tips for the process.
- Step 1 – It’s important to find a shady spot for your car or truck so you can get away from the heat of the sun and its harsh UV rays. This is one of several great tips that will help both when cleaning your car windows and making the job easier. You don’t want your cleaner drying too fast on your car tint. Also, you don’t want to be cooking yourself in the hot sun. If you have a garage at home or other covered parking area that is great, but any trees around your home will work too. One of my best cleaning tips is to wait until later in the day when the sun is beginning to set. Even if you’re still in direct sunlight it will be less powerful than during midday.
- Step 2 – Slightly open any windows that are openable so you can take care of the edges. Before you finish you can close the window to clean the rest of it before you move on to the next one. I also like to open all the doors (and hatch if it has one) so I can move freely.
- Step 3 – Apply your cleaner lightly to the first window you want to clean. There’s no need to soak it with cleaner. That’s just a waste of product. It doesn’t take much to remove streaks, fingerprints, and light grime. The cleaner can also run or drip onto places you don’t want it to go such as your door panel or seats. This can undo the detailing you did previously and you might have to reapply vinyl, upholstery, or leather protectant. It’s also not ideal for the tint and the tint adhesive. Use a clean towel and gently wipe the window cleaner away. Don’t use any more pressure than necessary. If necessary, close the window and clean the portion that was hidden.
- Step 4 – Moving from the first window to the next, repeat step 3. If your towel has become too wet you’re probably using too much spray cleaner. Grab a new towel if necessary. Use your window cleaning tool if needed to get into hard-to-reach corners.
- Step 5 – When all of your car or truck tinting has been thoroughly cleaned, give it a last review to make sure there are no streaks or fingerprints left to be removed.
The best tip to clean tinted windows is to make sure you’re using the right products on your car or truck tint. Cleaning tint film requires care to prevent scratches and not weaken the adhesive used to apply the film to the glass.
Be sure to read and follow any instructions provided by your tint installer when you get home. These instructions could provide instructions that are unique to your specific car tinting type or brand.
Use only spray cleaners without ammonia to avoid breaking down the adhesive at the edge of the film. Stoner’s Invisible Glass is probably the most popular product for cleaning tinted or non-tinted windows by professional detailers. It’s my favorite because it has proven the best at not leaving streaks on my car windows or tinting.
Use a soft cloth, specifically microfiber to dry your window tinting. Microfiber will protect your tint film from potential scratches. It is also less likely to catch the edge of the tinting and cause it to peel away.