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What is a glass cleaner

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Cleaning glass can be a bit difficult. It is very easy to get streaks and smears. A dedicated glass cleaner will help a lot. But even with the proper product it depends on how you use them.

Types of glass cleaner

There are several types of glass cleaners, and most of them require a slightly different way of use.

  • IPA-based liquids
  • Cleaning agents-based liquids
  • Foam in a spray can
  • Paste
  • Wipes

IPA-based liquids

IPA-based glass cleaner
IPA-based glass cleaner

These glass cleaners are the most common one, and arguably the easiest one to use if you get the technique right. the formulation is based on the use of Iso Propyl Alcohol which is a very effective oil remover. IPA is also used to clean paintwork after polishing to remove all residues left on the surface. The IPA-based glass cleaner also contains certain cleaning agents and is soluble in water, which makes it easier for manufacturers to sell it as a concentrate. IPA-based glass cleaners evaporate. When using them to clean glass, one must finish cleaning just before it has evaporated.

Cleaning agents-based liquids

Cleaning agents-based glass cleaner
Cleaning agents-based glass cleaner

These glass cleaners are based on the same recipe that makes soap, only altered to work better on glass. The (often water based) formulation contains surfactants, emulsifiers and a carrier (which is often water). These products are sometimes cheaper than their IPA versions, but are not always as effective. Experience has shown that these are not very well if used just before applying a glass sealant. The problem can be that these products leave behind residue if not wiped off perfectly. The advantage is that these product don’t evaporate, so there is usually no problem if you work slowly or if you leave it for a short period of time.

Foam in a spray can

Glass cleaning foam
Glass cleaning foam

This product is quit different to the rest in the way that it contains a pressurized liquid that turns into foam after spraying. The foam can then be wiped off fairly easily with a MF towel. This product is not very common yet, but it is easy in use and not very expensive. They don’t evaporate, but it is not recommended to leave it on the glass for to long. It is also not recommended to use it in very hot condition, such as in the burning summer sun. A downside can be that this product is sprayed directly onto the glass, which makes it messy for the interior and can get into spaces where it is difficult to remove. Meaning you can end up with stains at places where it is difficult to clean those stains.

Paste

Glass cleaning paste
Glass cleaning paste

Not very common in the world of detailing. The paste glass cleaner is a paste that is directly rubbed onto the surface of a window and then buffed off. In a similar to applying wax and then buffing that wax. But unlike wax, this product doesn’t leave any product behind. The most common recipe for these products is a combination of solvents with a carrier. The solvents remove the oils from the glass and the carrier allows for easier application. Once buffed it should have removed the oils. The downside of this product that it can become a bit dusty when buffing, creating unwanted dust that needs removing. It also evaporates, which makes it less usable in the hot summer sun.

Wipes

Glass cleaning wipes
Glass cleaning wipes

A very economical and easy product are the wipes. These are usually sold in plastic bags with many wipes folded in each other, or wrapped as a single wipe. These wipes are taking out of its packaging and then directly rubbed on the window. The wipes are soaked with cleaning agents which will evaporate while using. Very similar to the glass-wipes for reading glasses. These are not very common, but can be made cheap and easy to take with you in your emergency-detailing-kit.

The need to use a glass cleaner

There is not always a need to use a glass cleaning product. Normal car shampoo is designed to remove dirt and dust, and will be a perfect maintenance product for cleaning glass. Just wipe your window in the same way you wash the rest of the car, and you will remove a very large amount of the dirt. If maintained properly, you will only need a dedicated glass cleaner every now and then. Some detailers only use a glass cleaner during their 3-months detail.

It’s all in the wrist

Even the best product in the world is only as good as the person who uses it. So even though you can have a very good glass cleaner, it will be as good as it can be when you use it properly. Meaning that it pays to read up a guide to glass cleaning. Knowing how to use a product makes any product far more efficient. It is also different for some situations. A certain glass cleaner might clean better, but if the circumstances don’t allow you to use it in the way it should be used, then it will be off no use to you. A big problem with glass cleaning is the hot summer sun or the very cold winter temperatures. To hot will make the product evaporate to quickly. If its to cold it might not be as effective on removing oils and general grime.

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