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Matthew Wright

Windex Bad For Your Windshield?

By July 30, 2009

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This was an intriguing letter that recently popped up in the inbox:
Matthew, I noticed in one of your car repair Q&As, you mentioned to use Windex, which under most circumstances contains ammonia. Though it is a good disinfectant and degreaser (having ammonia in it), I've heard it can "dry out," discolor surfaces, etc. and shouldn't be used on automotive glass. What's your take on this? -- Adam
Thanks for having the courage to ask this question Adam. I've never heard of ammonia being bad for auto glass, nor have I experienced anything like this myself. Our shop works with glass dating back to the 1950s and no ill effects yet. We have found that ammonia will hurt very old (as in ancient) paint jobs if they have already dried out severely, but that's to be expected. If anyone out there has had an experience with an ammonia based cleaner I'd love to hear about it.
July 31, 2009 at 10:16 am
(1) Dusty says:

Cleaners with ammonia can be harmful to some of the sunshade films applied to the inside of auto glass. Just the fumes can cause trouble. That is the only concern I know about.

I still clean the outsides of the glass on my car and the inside of the windshield with Windex sometimes and take care to ventilate the interior to prevent the fumes from damaging the dark film. Otherwise, I dampen paper towel with washer fluid and some water and clean the glass.

The film itself needs be wiped with a drop or two of non-ammonia liquid dishwashing soap per glass of water used to dampen paper towel. If there is doubt about soap residue, do it again with clean water and paper towel and then dry it with paper towel.

July 31, 2009 at 10:22 am
(2) james says:

I believe ammonia can harm after market window tints as well as tv/computer monitors that have anti-reflective coating…

July 31, 2009 at 6:07 pm
(3) ppp says:

I’ve used vinegar and water for years with no ill effects? Wipe with newspapers on non-tinted areas, and a sponge on the tinted areas (so it won’t scratch).

August 1, 2009 at 3:22 pm
(4) RSDavis says:

Ammonia will dry out and discolor the rubber gaskets and stripping surrounding the windows. If you use an ammonia based product be sure to dress the rubber after you are done.

August 4, 2009 at 12:24 pm
(5) Steven O. Longoria says:

Ok first of all the windows dont have any color…so there would not be any discolor…however it may affect the color of the new tint you just got on your windows…hmmm.

August 4, 2009 at 12:52 pm
(6) FichenDich says:

I gave up on Windex years ago. Instead I use Wal-Mart’s house brand. It is far more powerful than Windex, and is much cheaper to boot !

One precaution: NEVER use it on plastic eyeglass lenses ! It will melt them !

August 4, 2009 at 1:31 pm
(7) Craig says:

Let me weigh in by starting out that I’m a car guy who has done virtually all repairs on his cars for over 40 years. I also happen to be a chemist.

First of all, since nobody has given direct evidence that Windex with Ammonia-D® has caused any damage to window tint, rubber trim, or whatever, I’m very suspicious that this is just an urban myth maintaining itself in cyberspace.

Second, have you ever sniffed a bottle of Windex? It doesn’t smell at all like regular household ammonia, which is a solution of ammonia(NH3) gas in water. SCJohnson, the maker of Windex, says the product contains “Ammonia-D”®. That is certainly NOT just regular ammonia solution, because they wouldn’t be allowed to trademark plain ammonia. It could be a chelated form of ammonia which would be less oderous and less reactive. I looked up the MSDS for Windex with Ammonia-D® and they only say it contains 90-100% water, 1-5% isopropyl alcohol, and less than 1% ethyleneglycol monohexylether. No other ingredients are listed. The way the government requires ingredients to be listed, that means that any ammonia containing material would be less than 0.1% of their formula, so it’s not much to worry about.

Third, if you are really concerned about this, either use a product which doesn’t contain ammonia (there are several on store shelves which proclaim on the label they don’t contain ammonia) or call SCJohnson at 1-800-494-4855 and ask the friendly folks if it’s ok to use on your tinted windshield, and if not, what they recommend. I’m sure you won’t be the first person to call with this question.

To avoid all this concern, make your own window cleaner with 3 parts distilled water, 1 part 91% isopropyl alcohol, and 8 or 10 drops of Dawn dish liquid for each quart. Works great, is cheap as heck, and doesn’t contain ammonia. Keep those windows shining…

August 4, 2009 at 1:46 pm
(8) Jimmy says:

I was in Advance Auto yesterday and a customer asked the clerk whet he could do to clean his head light covers. The clerk said Windex. The customer quickly says no as he heard Windex will “..melt the covers.” Next thing you know, Barney’s dead!

August 4, 2009 at 5:56 pm
(9) Jim says:

My secret formula to date has been 10% windscreen washer bottle fluid and 90% water in a spray bottle, my reasoning being the washer bottle fluid is designed not to ruin the paintwork with its spillage. In my day to day job as an electronics repairer I use the same formula to clean the screens of Plasma and LCD TVs and computer monitors and it works magic. I am however going to try Craigs formula above.

August 4, 2009 at 10:23 pm
(10) peter says:

Be advised that washing up detergents/soap are corrosive and should definetely NOT be used on automobile glass as drips can mark the paintwork…don’t be stingy..use approved auto window cleaner..

August 5, 2009 at 12:45 am
(11) Friedfrog says:

Each of the above comments, when they address the question of Windex itself, contain assumptions, guesses, and home remedies. The question of whether or not Windex can harm the tint on auto glass and prescriptive lenses should address the entire “Windex” product and not some single component that may or may not be present in the product.

In each of the above comments an assumption is made that it is the tint on the glass that may be harmed by Windex. While I would agree that this is a logical assumption, It certainly is not a scientific fact.

I would suggest that the best way to get a factual answer to the question of “does Windex harm automotive glass?” is to pose the question to a chemist associated with an auto glass manufacturer. A chemist working in the prescriptive lens industry might also be asked the same question. The answers from these individuals would most likely be based on scientific investigations and not Mom’s award-winning recipe for chicken soup (that works for you but does not necessarily work for me).

August 5, 2009 at 2:24 am
(12) fran says:

I found something that will clean the plastic lens on the headlights. Toothpaste, regular toothpaste not the fancy stuff. I tried it on mine and they came out pretty clean not like brand new but perfectly acceptable.

August 5, 2009 at 5:42 pm
(13) S Williams says:

I prefer foam type window cleaners, the stuff that GM dealers sell is excellent. Windex type liquid cleaners don’t clean as well in my opinion, being more likely to streak. Have been cleaning glass on customers cars in dealerships for thirty plus years.

August 6, 2009 at 11:28 am
(14) Len Warren says:

How to bleed the cooling system on a BMW 523i. I think you loosen the plastic screw next to the flle cap and release the bubbles. I tried tha and the screw broke off. OOOOPS! What do I do now?

August 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm
(15) Tony says:

I just got my windows professionaly tinted and the shop has a hand out with care instructions for all their customers. It says “DO NOT USE PRODUCTS CONTAING AMMONIA TO CLEAN THE WINDOWS”. I assume they have a good reason!

August 11, 2009 at 6:59 pm
(16) Thomas Garrison says:

Back in the “70″ my Virginia inspection sticker got washed off my Jeeps windshield because I had left it down overnight, (the windshield was horizontal,) the glue was washed off the sticker, and a friend told me to soak the sticker in Windex, and that would help it stick. I did it, put the sticker on, and using an old credit card pressed out the excess Windex. It stuck great, so great when it came time to reinspect my Jeep the inspector took over 15 minutes scraping it with a razor blade and you could “see” the old sticker. He told me to NEVER do that again!!

December 16, 2009 at 6:58 am
(17) jay says:

Craig that formula works a treat…. chemist ay?? have you seen breaking bad?

google it…

February 2, 2010 at 11:21 am
(18) IreMetal says:

Don’t use windshield washer fluid for anything except pouring into your windshield washer fluid reservoir (and squirting). It contains methanol, which is toxic to humans by both skin contact and breathing in. Ok in very well vetilated areas with gloves on.

April 15, 2010 at 3:44 pm
(19) Tony says:

Are there surfaces I can’t use Windex® Wipes on?

We don’t recommend using Windex® Wipes on wood, cooking utensils, plates, glasses, or upholstery. Also, you should never use Windex® Wipes for personal hygiene or as baby wipes.


May 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm
(20) Cal says:

the lens on my new vet made many tiny cracks on the inside of my headlight cover and also on my fog light cover when I called the dealer and we had many words the final words were what do you clean your lens with he said windex at that time they told him he caused the cracks in the ammonia in the windex he used, I do not see any thing that segests that it will hurt lens on a car.

October 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm
(21) Crystal Blickem says:

If you want to use a safe and effective and non chemical product and only need good hot water, go to my web site and order the Norwex Basic Package. One microfiber cloth to wash with using good hot water from the tap, and then wring out until nearly no drops of water left, fold in half and then 1/2 again (now you have 8 cleaning surfaces) wash window and use purple cloth to dry and polish. We have car polishing cloths also!! No more waxing needed!! You may have to touch the glass to see if its still there when done. Windex leaves a residue that attracts and holds dirt, Norwex leaves no residue as the silver agent embedded in the fibers does the cleaning. No more need for Pledge, Vinyl cleaner, or Windex!!

October 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm
(22) Crystal Blickem says:
February 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm
(23) paul says:

I used the greenwise windex brand on my passenger side window and the tint instantly crystalized. I was very confused at first and I started to wipe it away with more paper towels. It ended up making tiny flakes of tint come off everywhere which even started to scratch the window. It really sucked because I had just finished detailing my jeep for at least two hours and last minute I thought it would be nice to wipe down the windows.

June 12, 2012 at 6:24 pm
(24) Bill says:

I use mustard. French’s. Seriously, it works great.

July 29, 2012 at 5:25 pm
(25) gef says:

a comment on craig’s formula: don’t mix alcohol and liquid soaf because it will produce ammonia.

November 5, 2012 at 2:42 am
(26) Rico says:

for safe side, just use water. that’s it. I never use auto car wash or any thing like that. Water is the most safe cleaning solution to your car inside and outside.

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