Whether you’ve run of paper towels, can’t find a rag or you’re just looking for an inexpensive hack to clean your windows, you may have encountered the age-old question that has sparked quite a few debates: Can you use newspaper for window cleaning. You might get a half dozen different answers, from “yes, it’s the best!” to “no way” to “what’s a newspaper?”
But as our experts explain, using newspaper for window cleaning is an excellent, inexpensive and quick cleaning solution! Read on to learn how and why.
What makes newspaper good for window cleaning
“Ever wonder why paper towels excel at soaking up red wine, while the pile of junk mail would fail miserably?” asks paper historian May Babcock, owner of PaperSlurry. The answer lies in a process called sizing. Sizing, she explains, is done during the paper-making process and involves adding a chemical — dozens of different ones can be used — that coats the paper fibers. “When sizing is added, it makes the paper stronger and more water resistant,” adds Babcock. That’s why if you spill a drop of water on a magazine page, which has sizing, it stays a droplet, but the same spill on a paper towel, soaks right in.
Newspaper is made with little to no sizing, which makes the paper thinner, cheaper and, as it happens, more absorbent. This absorbency is one point in its favor for window-cleaning: it will soak in whatever cleaning product you want to use, as well as hang on to the dirt, dust and debris it encounters rather than push it around.
The fibers in newspaper are also more tightly woven than, say, in paper towels — this is because when ink is printed on it, it doesn’t bleed all over the page. That means newspaper also doesn’t leave behind any loose fibers or lint, add the window-cleaning experts at Skyscraper Window Cleaning Company (SkySWC).
Last, according to the pros at SkySWC, unlike the ink in your ink-jet printer, newspaper doesn’t contain silica or calcium carbonate, which means it won’t scratch the glass.
Will the ink in newspaper cause streaks on my windows?
“I learned to use newspaper to clean glass from my first job at a carwash maybe 30 years ago,” recalls Bill Begal, who today has cleaned some serious messes as owner of a disaster restoration business Begal Enterprises, Inc. “It never streaks, it’s recyclable and I still stand by it as a glass-cleaning method to this day.”
The reason why: Despite some confusion about older inks vs. newer ones, companies like Google and Coca-Cola have concluded that the soy-based inks largely used today are much less likely to streak or transfer than the petroleum-based inks used in the past. You can easily test this yourself if you have any newspapers from before the 1970s, which is when they switched to soy-based ink: Just run your finger down the page; with older newspapers, you’ll smudge the ink and get it all over your finger. With today’s newspapers, there will be very little to no ink transfer making newspaper great for window cleaning.
Is newspaper the best method for window cleaning?
At the end of the day, newspaper is a highly effective, environmentally friendly and inexpensive method for giving your windows and other glass surfaces a streak-free shine. That said, most cleaning experts agree that reusable microfiber cloths (such as Amazon Basics Microfiber Cloths, Buy from Amazon, $14.35 for 24) and squeegees (such as Unger 10-inch Glass and Tile Squeegee, Buy from Home Depot, $10.97) are equally effective options, if you don’t have extra newsprint laying about.
This TikTok shows how well using news papers to clean windows works:
What works best with newspaper for window cleaning
Whether you’re using newspaper, rags or a squeegee, the cleaning product you apply to your windows also impacts whether you’ll get a streak-free shine.
“But no need to use that blue liquid,” says Stefan Bucur, founder of home décor, designing and organizing site Rhythm of the Home. “You can easily make an all-natural glass cleaner at home using products you already own, and it will work just as well.”
Bucur’s how-to: In a spray bottle, just combine 2 cups water, ½ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol and ½ tsp. dish soap. Spritz the solution lightly over the glass surface, then simply wipe dry. “Try using a clear, unscented dish soap in this recipe, as scented ones can sometimes leave behind a film or residue.”
No vinegar on hand? You can make an equally effective cleaner by swapping the vinegar for lemon juice or ammonia. “For an extra-fresh scent, try adding 10-15 drops of essential oils, such as tea tree, which also acts as a natural disinfectant,” adds Mallory Micetich, home cleaning expert at Angi.
How do I clean windows covered in fingerprints?
Fingerprints (and noseprints, if you have furry friends who like to take in the view) can be hard to remove from windows. One trick Helen Capon, cleaning pro at The Vacuum Experts, uses: teabags.
“The tannins in black tea are great at breaking down grease and grime on almost any hard surface, and won’t leave streaks,” she says, adding that to use, simply rub a damp, used black tea bag over the area that has fingerprints, leave for about a minute, then wipe clean.
How can I prevent water spots on my windows?
“I use rain repellent, specifically Rain-X, on all my windows. It’s made for cars, but it works wonderfully in the home, too.” Find it at any automotive store or buy it from Amazon ($6.89), and use as directed on the bottle after cleaning your windows.
And what about the window screens?
It doesn’t matter how clean you get that window glass if the screens themselves are covered in gunk. To make cleaning them extra easy, simply grab a lint roller, suggests Marco Bizzley, consultant at House Grail, a resource for practical guides and home inspiration.
“Just roll it over the screen and watch the dirt and webs go away,” he says. “You can also slide the lint roller onto a long-handled paint roller pole if you want to run it over the screens from the outside and need help reaching them.”
Got other things to clean? Check out these tips:
Lindsay Bosslett is currently associate vice president and managing editor for Health Monitor Network, a patient-education print and digital publishing company. In her role there, she oversees a staff of editors and freelance writers, as well as the production of guides and magazines designed to help both patients and healthcare providers in the ever-changing point-of-care space. As a regular writer for both Woman’s World’s Organized column and First for Women’s Life Smarts page, she delivers practical, creative tips to help women make their lives easier. In her free time, Lindsay enjoys reading, hiking, gardening and attending taco festivals. She lives with her husband, two dogs and lots of bears in a little house on a hill in West Milford, N.J.
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