Can I Clean My Windows When It’s Cold Outside?

It Is A Challenge to Keep Windows Clean in Cold Weather

This subject of window cleaning becoming more difficult in winter primarily affects individuals in climates where the temperatures make being outside uncomfortable or downright difficult. It’s certainly not as pleasant to be using tools with your hands in the 40’s or lower as compared to the 70’s and 80’s. Personal taste enters in for sure. For me, living in northeastern Pennsylvania, I feel the most pleasant working temperature range is from 60-75 F, provided it is not too humid. I am not thoroughly familiar with other countries, but know that in quite a large portion of the United States, there can and will be air temperatures below 32 F overnight from October to April, and from November through March there may be several days where it never breaks the freezing mark. Also, there are some states or parts of states that consistently get even colder than that.

Window cleaning in colder conditions can become an act of bravery and grit if one is hard set on having a clear view. Having to wear more layers and gloves puts freeness of movement and hand dexterity at a potential disadvantage. And when air temperatures get down into the low 30’s, freezing liquid becomes a real concern. Many of my own customers or passerby on streets where we may be cleaning windows assume our company does not work when it gets this cold or simply wonder what we do to keep working. All very good questions.

What Solution Works on Windows Below 32 degrees Fahrenheit?

Window Cleaners hear the stock phrase “you missed a spot” pretty often! When it’s cold outside they may hear something such as “you must be cleaning them really fast!”, perhaps because it is assumed that the solution will freeze within seconds if not cleaned off. For companies whose livelihood depends on being able to work no matter how cold it is, there is obviously a way to manage this that is simple cost-effective enough.

For you homeowner who may just want to clean a handful of really high-profile windows, here are some helpful pointers for doing so in subfreezing conditions.

Generally speaking, any solution that can actually clean well and stay in liquid form below 32 F will be the starting point. You may be able to cheat the air temp a bit if the sun has heated the outside glass where you would like to clean, or if the room temperature inside is warm enough to radiate some heat. Conversely, wind will tend to negate any heat advantage you have as well.

Anyway, what mix of liquids will get you where you need to be? I’ve never tried mixing white vinegar with water to work in cold conditions, but several sources give this as one method. Your typical household concentration will not freeze, even diluted with water and a drop or two of dishwashing liquid down to the upper 20’s.

Simple Directions to Successfully Clean Glass in Subfreezing Temperatures

Depending on your tolerance level for cold air, dress as you need to when outside. If you are working in the sun, that will be an advantage. Also, if the air is mostly calm, all the better. If you need a hat, wear a hat. A few thin layers and a medium to thick outer layer will afford you comfort and the range of motion to use your arms and hands. Unless you are sure to keep your hands from getting wet, gloves or mittens made out of cotton or wool would not be the best. Something waterproof or water-resistant at the very least would be preferrable, as long as your digits have enough dexterity to ‘feel’ what you’re doing.

Here is a comprehensive list of materials, depending on your chosen method that, you’ll need and the tips to effectively clean


  • spray bottle with half water and half 70% rubbing alcohol and 3 drops of dishwashing liquid or a bucket with the same ratio of water to alcohol, and 10 drops of dishwashing liquid
  • a cotton or microfiber applicator on a t-bar to work your solution around on the glass
  • a squeegee (size doesn’t completely matter, but one in the 12-18″ range is easy to work with)
  • microfiber rags, paper towels, scrim, or surgical towels
  • Ladder or pole for the applicator and squeegee that will allow you to safely reach the highest points of the window safely.


Spray solution in bottle to thoroughly cover glass. Work the solution around the glass very well with an applicator, or wad up a microfiber towel and work it through that way. If you use a microfiber rag by hand, respray the glass again.
If using a squeegee, you can work across the glass from right to left or left to right, or down from the top right or top left. Overlap the squeegee channel onto the dry part of the glass by 1/2-1 inch. It is not necessary to wipe the rubber blade off each time you make your pass. If you can use paper towels, scrim, or surgical towel to detail the edges and possibly streaks left in the middle, that will probably be better than a microfiber rag for detailing. If you have to use a microfiber to detail, run it along the residual solution as lightly as you can while still getting it off. Despite what many claim, all but super high quality microfiber rags tend to leave a lot of lint on glass, especially when dry or in the sun.
Since you will be working in cold conditions, even water mixed with rubbing alcohol will freeze on the glass if you let it sit too long. Wind will accelerate that as well. Also, the dirtier the suspended solution on the glass is, the less time it will remain workable before freezing. If any part of your work does freeze on you, try buffing it with one of your towels to create friction and melt it away. If it is beyond that, you can wet your rag with straight alcohol and try melting the ice. Or you can patiently wait until the liquid evaporates and do the whole process again, either more quickly or with a stronger initial mix.
Keep in mind that while a moderate amount of this solution in a ventilated area is pretty safe, weak lungs might be affected if not careful. Also, excessive handling of rubbing alcohol at consumer levels without wearing gloves will dry out skin. In a stronger state it can enter your bloodstream through your skin and cause a toxic reaction. So, give it the respect it is due
If you have any questions or want to discuss this subject you can email me at
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