(Updated on July 28, 2022)
Driving at night or with glare from the sun can be dangerous when the windshield isn’t nearly spotless. Most drivers understand that the windshield needs to be clean and free of cracks in order to see through it well, but not everyone remembers to clean the interior of the windshield.
Doing this regularly dramatically improves visibility for a safer and better driving experience.
Interior car windows get dirty for many reasons. Smoking in the car releases chemicals that stick to interior surfaces, dust and dirt that circulate in the vehicle from normal use can land on the interior of the windows, and the surface accumulates an oily film from outgassing.
As the plastic or vinyl interior components heat up from the sun, oils are released from evaporation. This is especially true of the dashboard.
Best Way to Clean the Interior Windshield
Every company likes to tout their product as “the best”, but this method uses a few different products that you likely already have at home. Following these steps will ensure that the inside of your windshield is streak-free and clean.
You can also use this strategy to clean other windows, but don’t apply this to tinted windows. Otherwise, you risk damage which will cause you to have to remove the window tinting.
Plain soapy water followed by a glass cleaner will work fine for any tinted windows, since they’re not the main windows you use while driving and are easier to clean.
1) Clean Exterior Windshield
In order to get a good idea of how dirty the interior windshield surface is, the outside surface must be cleaned first. Use some car wash soap and water first on a microfiber towel or sponge. Rinse with water, then follow-up with a quality auto glass cleaner.
High quality microfiber towels are some of the most important cleaning tools you can buy. They are used everywhere throughout the vehicle detailing process. Good products don’t leave lint behind, don’t disintegrate with use, are less likely to scratch delicate surfaces, and absorb water very well.
Choose carefully when using microfiber cloths on exterior paint, as cheap ones have been known to scratch the paint. Make sure to remove the tags before initial use. Paper towels and shop towels can be used on glass but don’t usually work quite as well.
Some of the best auto glass cleaners are Stoner Invisible Glass and Sprayway. These have been specially formulated to remove common environmental debris such as bird droppings and bug splats. Both also work well for interior cleaning by dissolving the inner oils and dirt.
Invisible Glass has an option that can repel rain as well, so choose the best car window cleaner for your situation.
2) Clean Interior Windshield with Dry Microfiber
This step grabs the majority of the grime and dust on the inside of the windshield. The easiest way to get into the thin crevice between the dashboard and the windshield is by kneeling on the seat and facing backwards then wiping the glass with your palm facing the windshield. This is known as the “backhand method”.
First clean in circular motions then follow up with a side-to-side or up-and-down motion for a second pass at the dirt. Try to keep your microfiber cloth from touching the dashboard, so you don’t pick up more oils and dirt and put them back on the glass.
Fold your cloth to a new side with each pass to avoid putting the grime that was just picked up back onto the glass and get a new one as needed,
3) Degrease Interior Windshield
The next step is to remove the leftover grease from the glass. Use either a clean microfiber towel dipped in rubbing alcohol or a moistened Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Either way, make sure the material is wet but not dripping.
Clean the glass the same way you did in the previous step, taking care not to drip onto the dashboard. If any liquid drips, wipe it up with a clean towel immediately so that it doesn’t dry on the material and cause damage or discolorations.
As you clean, follow up right away with a clean microfiber cloth to dry the glass so that the now-greasy liquids don’t dry on the glass.
4) Polish Interior Windshield
Once all the contaminants have been removed from the inside of your windshield, polish with your favorite glass cleaner on another clean microfiber towel. Make sure to spray the cloth and not the glass directly in order to avoid overspray onto the dashboard.
If the liquid drips onto the dashboard, wipe it away immediately so that the material does not discolor.
If you are short on time, the glass cleaners mentioned above – Stoner Invisible Glass and Sprayway – will do a good job to clean auto glass by themselves. Use clean microfiber cloths to wipe the surface with circular and then side-to-side motions as before.
Once the inside and outside of the windshield are crystal clear, you can go for a drive at night to see the difference. Visibility will be much improved since the glare from other lights won’t have any streaks to reflect off of.
Having a clean windshield is so important for driving safely, as it has the biggest impact on the driver’s visibility. If you live in a humid area or don’t have air conditioning, maintaining an oil-free windshield is even more critical.
While you’re in there, it may be a good time to detail the rest of your interior.
Still not sure how to clean the windshield perfectly? Check out ChrisFix’s awesome tutorial below for a streak-free shine.