How to clean double pane windows?
The new season is finally here and double pane windows don’t have to be double the pain to clean this year. As we clear the way for springtime, the annual ritual of deep cleaning our living spaces has also arrived. Longer, warmer days have shone bright new sunlight onto the built-up gunk on the walls, the dirt in the corners, the mystery particles behind the glass panes, and the places that weren’t reachable over the snow banks in front of your home. Spring cleaning is the opportunity to bring a little of the newness of the outside world into your own home.
While we may all agree that the first line of defense in spring cleaning is dusting, vacuuming, and trading out the winter bulk for a lighter decor, it’s highly likely you haven’t considered freshening up your windows yet. Luckily, you probably already have all that you need to give your windows the springtime TLC they deserve.
Double pane windows, for instance, are a beautiful addition to many homes. Not only are they visually stunning, but they are also energy savers. In spring cleaning, everyone knows that glass cleaner is the way forward for single pane windows. But can you clean double pane windows? Let’s take a closer look at how to clean double pane windows.
When it comes down to how to clean the inside of a double pane window, it comes down to choosing what your priority is. Unfortunately, if there is condensation or dirt between the panes, that means the seal broke in the window at some point. You can have a professional reseal it, replace it with a new one, or try one of these DIY methods below. Don’t let the nooks and crannies be forgotten in your Spring Cleaning routine this year!
Anatomy of a Double Pane Window
What is a double pane window? Simply put, a double pane window contains two separate pieces of glass. The two pieces are sealed together with a space between each pane of glass. The seal is designed to lock the air in to act as an insulator of sorts. Due to the inherent design of the double panes, they can be prone to fogging up on the inside. When the windows fog up, they look filthy and reduce the visibility through the windows themselves. Eventually, double pane windows get foggy, as many homeowners will tell you.
The insulating airspace between the glass panels maintains consistent temperature and reduces heat loss, which is why double panes are considered energy efficient windows. Many modern windows have two seals to make the insulated glass work: an inner seal that protects against corrosion and condensation and an outer seal that protects the strength of the window itself. There is typically a tube that contains water-absorbing chemicals, known as a desiccant, acting as a spacer between the seals.
When Seals Break…
Don’t get us wrong – insulated double pane glass windows work extremely well in general. They handle all kinds of weather, withstanding very cold temperatures, extreme heat, and heavy humidity – as well as the normal wear and tear of constant opening and closing. Additionally, there is a logical benefit to the double seal; when one seal breaks down, the other can hold the line for quite a while. The standard lifespan of double pane windows is 10 to 20 years. The seals will hold until old age starts to wear them down.
Other additional factors that impact seal breakage:
- Direct exposure to sunlight. More sun means more heat. More heat causes expansion and contraction for the pains, which ultimately weaken and damage the windows.
- Retaining water in the frame or ineffective drainage around the window.
If the seal is broken, a foggy look can begin to appear between the panes. In addition to condensation, there are some other considerations to make when deciding to get your windows fixed: age, style, safety, energy saving goals, or defects like drafty or leaking panes.
Challenges to Consider when Cleaning
When looking into how to clean double pane windows, there are some things you want to consider before starting the task. A professional can possibly reseal your broken seals or replace the window if you find your double-pane windows have been compromised. Some indicators that you need to pursue next steps are:
- Dirt and grime are evident
- Rust will start to build up between the glass
- Moisture can be seen
- There’s a foggy or milky look on the panes of glass
If any of those are present on your energy efficient windows, it’s time to consider DIY methods of how to get the fog out and get rid of those cloudy double glazed windows!
DIY #1: Drilling to Clean Double Pane Windows
The first go-to method to clean inside double pane windows is drilling holes. Yes, you heard that right. Disclaimer: if using a drill makes you nervous, or you lack confidence in using an electric drill, skip right to calling a professional in to repair or replace your window. If you are willing to attempt this hack, it will buy you some time before needing to pay for a full replacement. However, it will officially end one of the major double pane window benefits. Any energy efficiency the window brings to your home (and utility bill) as the insulation will no longer be effective.
With your decision made to move forward with the first DIY trick, drill one or two small holes ¼ inch into the seal of the window about 2 inches away from the corner. Take a small dessicate packet and place it inside the gap within the windows to absorb the moisture. The drilled holes will also allow you to remove fog and rinse out the window with rubbing alcohol and remove any remaining dirt.
If it’s been a while since cleaning your double pane windows and there is a lot of built up gunk, you can get creative and make a device that threads through the holes to wipe out extensive dirt. An example of this device might be wool material wrapped around a drain snake. (It works!)
DIY #2: Be a Big Fan of Fans
Another idea to help dry out the trapped condensation of your double paned windows is to prioritize air circulation. Placing fans in line with the drilled holes detailed above will get air flowing to help the water evaporate. This method won’t take care of the dirt, but it will support the foggy issues inherent with trapped moisture in your windows. Drilling holes can be a huge step forward of how to clean double pane windows.
Additionally, when you drill holes, don’t reseal them; leaving them open will allow you to use fans in the future and any other device you’ve rigged for cleaning out dirt and other unsavory elements. An adjacent idea to utilizing fans is to place a dehumidifier near the window, lay a moisture absorber along the bottom edge, or even put a space heater near the window. Again this won’t address window haze between panes or cleaning between the panes for anything that’s not moisture-related.
Solution #3: Consult Professionals for Repair or Replacement
While many think that once the seal has been broken, the full window needs to be replaced – there’s another school of thought that believes just the glass panes need to be replaced, not the entire window frame. Others contend the savings of energy efficiency inherent in a double pane window where seals are fully intact (as evidenced by no moisture or dirt between the two panes of glass) is comparable in pricing to replacing the windows totally.
Call a professional if you need to consult about what you’ve done so far and what the next steps are. They can accurately diagnose what stage you’re at with your double pane windows and recommend the best replacement for your specific home.
At this point, you should be past asking yourself, “what is a double pane window” or “how to clean double pane windows” and onto knowing how insulated glass works. Making the supreme effort to clean between double pane windows can involve many decisions. Whether you need to flex your DIY muscle or purchase brand new windows, we never want you to spend your springs saying, “my house windows look foggy.” Knowing the steps in front of you to make those stunning double pane windows sparkle again is the best way to move forward for your spring cleaning ambitions.