Before the blue bottle.

It’s not hard to imagine that the first glass cleaners, other than water, were composed of either alcohol or vinegar since these were the first relevant solvents discovered. Glass cleaners almost certainly go back to when glass was first produced. Glass cleaners do contain a variety of ingredients. Still there are some universal factors that go into making a good glass cleaner.

First, a reasonably quick drying solvent is essential to dry from the face of the glass with no spotting. The most frequently used solvents are: vinegar, ammonia, glycol ethers, and alcohols.

Second, soaps or detergents are added to decrease the surface tension of the water and solvent. These days synthetic detergents are generally used. Detergent applications are kept to a bare minimum to reduce the likelihood of streaking and leaving residue behind.

A glass act.

During World War II B-29 navigators in the United States Army Air Force had dirty dilemmas with grimy buildup on their gunner sights. Out of this need came a heavy-duty formulation created to clean the plastic without streaks, smears, or leaving any built-up residue. By the late 40’s the United States Air Force was using it on their Plexiglass gun sights and in1946 the A.J. Funk Company in Illinois began manufacturing it as Sparkle Glass Cleaner.

    After the war, A.J. Funk acquired the formula for this special cleaner and hired a local retiree to make it in the back room of his paper company on North State St. in downtown Elgin, Illinois. At first, the mixing was done by hand, and the bottles were filled one gallon at a time. The purple formula called “Sparkle” caught on fast as word spread in the Fox Valley area of Illinois where its distribution began, mainly through a network of paper salesmen.

    A.W. Funk, son of the founder, managed the company’s growth over the years and now A.J. Funk & Co. manufactures millions of gallons per year of its famous Sparkle Glass Cleaner in addition to its Auto Glass Cleaner and PC Screen Glass Cleaner. Celebrating its 50th year of business in 1996.

Shine time!

Don't be fooled by the hype. Sparkling clean doesn’t have to include toxins. There were spotless houses in the days before foaming action tile cleaners and blue-watered toilets. Ask Grandma how she got her house clean and she'll give you a short list of everyday ingredients that can be used to put together cleaners that equal and sometimes out-clean cleaners at the supermarket. This is a handy little recipe can be used around the house. It does an excellent job and costs a lot less than commercial products.

Pour ingredients through a funnel into the milk container. Top off with water. Use the glass cleaner in a spray bottle. To avoid streaking or spotting use a lint-free rag to wash and a second one to dry. For extra sparkle , polish with a piece of newspaper when nearly dry. When the drying rag gets too damp, use it to wash and get a fresh dry rag.

Alcohol is the secret ingredient, and what commercial window washers use. Use like Windex or any other general purpose spray cleaner. This particular recipe comes from Consumer Reports. They rated it to work better and it’s much cheaper than most commercial window and kitchen sprays. It’s safe on most but not all household surfaces.

Along came a spider

Did you know that arachnidologists slow down spiders they are trying to catch by spraying it with a glass cleaner made with ammonia? It will stun the spider and make it easy to collect.

Time and again studies carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency have categorized indoor air pollution along with the top five environmental hazards to public health. Many cleaning goods are not only prime indoor air polluters, and poisonous if ingested, they’re dangerous to inhale as well. Manufacturers are not even mandated to list all the components and their concentrations on the labels, even if they are hazardous. But spring-cleaning can be simple, economical and toxic-free by using many basic ingredients such as club soda, olive oil, vinegar, and baking soda. For example, use olive oil with some lemon essential oil added for fragrance to polish furniture; vinegar, water and an essential oil for fragrance to mop your floor; or salt and lime juice to get rid of rust.

Since they are so diluted glass cleaners are competitively low in acute toxicity. Nevertheless, several include chemicals such as glycol ethers and ammonia, which can cause chronic exposures through inhalation or skin absorption. Researchers have found that plain water was more effective than half of the commercial glass cleaners on the market. Lemon juice and water was the most effective at removing greasy fingerprints. Glass cleaners are very easy and inexpensive to make yourself.


Consumer Reports (1992). Glass Cleaners: Cleaner Windows Cheaper.


What is the history of glass cleaner? :