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A guide to glass cleaning

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There are a multitude of types of product available for cleaning glass. some or all of these may be required depending on just how much residue, dirt or traffic film has built up on the surface of the glass. Glass cleaning is part of regular maintenance.

Suitable products for glass cleaning are:

  • Car shampoo
  • Spray on glass cleaners
  • Traffic film removers
  • Liquid glass polishes
  • Clay and lubricant
  • Waffle weave glass cloths
  • Heavy duty, centre feed type paper towel
  • Applicator pads

Additional

  • Jewellers rouge

The Cleaning Process

As with all things detailing related it is sensible to begin with the least aggressive products first, so begin with a simple wash on the outside and use a spray glass cleaner on the inside. Glass cleaners generally work best with a very small amount of product. Over saturating a surface can often lead to problems with streaking, so less is more with these products. It is also advisable to use a dedicated glass cloth. These are generally of a waffle weave design, and will offer better cleaning power than a standard microfibre cloth. Alternatively, using good quality, heavy duty, paper hand towel from a dispensing roll can be very effective.
If normal cleaning with shampoo and a wash mitt has not had the desired affect on the exterior glass, or you are using a ‘wash and wax’ type shampoo which will leave behind a waxy residue on the glass, then it is recommended to use the spray glass cleaner on the outside as well.
One of the difficulties faced when cleaning glass is that it is sometimes difficult to tell if a smear on the glass is on the inside or the outside. It is therefore recommended that final passes made with a cloth should be vertical on one side of the glass and horizontal on the other. This will enable you to see at a glance which side the smear is on.

Traffic Film Removers

Over time traffic film will accumulate on the glass and so a more aggressive cleaner may be required. In this instance Traffic Film Removers (TFR) can be sprayed onto the exterior glass in order to facilitate its removal. Care should be taken when using this type of product to avoid damage to rubber trim, wiper blades and sensitive finishes. Always follow the manufacturers directions and rinse throughly after use.

Claying

Another option for the removal of traffic film and stubborn residue from glass is the process of ‘Claying’, which can be safely carried out on glass using a mild or medium clay bar. Once claying is complete ensure that all traces of lubricant are removed by rinsing, and clean throughly with glass cleaner.

Glass Polishes

These are another excellent product for glass cleaning, and are generally a thick liquid containing extremely light abrasives. The abrasives are generally too light to remove scratches and are there primarily to aid with cleaning. This type of product can be applied either by hand using a foam or microfibre applicator pad, or in some cases by machine polisher using a finishing pad. Apply using an overlapping circular motion with light pressure. Once the polish has cured it can be removed with a clean dry cloth and buffed to a streak free finish. Glass polishes may also contain some water repellant properties which can help with visual clarity in poor weather. Avoid contact with the rubber surround as some polishes can leave behind a chalky residue.

Jewellers Rouge

This is a specialist abrasive product, which with careful and correct technique can be use to remove light to moderate scratches from glass. Whilst it can be used by hand, it is far more practical to apply it by machine polisher. Jewellers rouge commonly comes in powder form and must be mixed with water to form a polishing paste. It can then be applied with the same technique as a traditional automotive compound. Extreme care must be taken when using a machine polisher on glass to avoid heat build up, as this can permanently mark, damage or weaken the glass. It is therefore recommended that this type of process is only carried out by a trained professional.

Cautions

Automotive glass can be surprisingly easy to scratch, it is therefore recommended that scouring or abrasive pads, even plastic ones, are never used on glass surfaces.
If a glass polish has been applied it should be removed by ‘claying’ or by cleansing throughly with glass cleaner before applying Glass Sealant. This will help to enable full bonding of the sealant with the glass, and avoid possible product interference issues.

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