How To Clean Double Pane Windows (Step-by-Step Guide)

Michael Oconnor
by Michael Oconnor

Double pane windows can be an incredibly energy-efficient addition to a home. By keeping in heat and preventing cold from penetrating the glass, double pane windows can save you money. However, they can be difficult to clean when moisture gets trapped between them.

Drill small holes in the bottom of the windowpane with a Dremel or drill bit to let moisture out. Place a dehumidifier in the remove to remove moisture from the air so the windows don’t fog up. Remove the sash at the bottom of the window, pull the glass out, and wash it with a rag to clean it.

In this article, we will cover each step in-depth and offer some tips on cleaning double pane windows efficiently. We will also cover safety tips to ensure that you don’t accidentally break the window. Individual panes are incredibly delicate and must be handled with care.

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Step 1: Use a Dehumidifier

Most double pane windows get dirty and foggy because moisture builds up between the panes. The best way to clean out this fog is to draw it out with a dehumidifier. This is the safest way to clean moisture from between window panes.

Dehumidifiers work by taking air from the room and running it over a refrigerated coil. Water vapor in the room-temperature air collects as condensation on the refrigerator coil. This drips down and is collected in the dehumidifier’s basin.

To use a dehumidifier to draw moisture from between window panes, set it up as close to the window as possible. You can buy small dehumidifiers that can fit right on the windowsill. The closer you can get it to the double pane windows, the better.

You can also make your own DIY dehumidifier using charcoal and a plastic bucket. Put the charcoal in the bottom of a plastic bucket small enough to fit on your windowsill. Cover the bucket and poke holes in the top and the charcoal will absorb the moisture.

Step 2: Drill Holes

Before getting into the specifics of this step, it should be noted that it is slightly risky. When dealing with glass, always wear eye protection and gloves. This will ensure that any accidents will have the lowest possible risk.

With a tiny Dremel or drill bit, drill two to three small holes in the lower left and right corners of the window. These holes will act as a vent to let the moisture escape from between the panes. If you make the holes small enough, this will not unseal the panes.

This is a delicate procedure that should only be done if you are confident with power tools. If you are not confident using a Dremel or drill, you might be better off trying to use the dehumidifier for longer. This option may not be the best for you.

Step 3: Unseal Them

If you have tried all the above and you still have dirty, foggy window panes, you can unseal them. Window panes are sealed together to prevent moisture from getting in the space between them. However, if your windows are foggy, that seal has already been broken somewhere.

To get the panes out of a window, you will have to disassemble the sash that is holding them together. Oftentimes, the sash is made of metal or plastic and can be disassembled with a screwdriver. However, if your home is older, your window sashes may be made of wood.

If your window sashes are made of wood, you will have to use solvents to unglue them. When doing this, be very careful with the actual glass. Always have a helper to help you hold the glass and ensure that it does not come crashing down accidentally.

Step 4: Replace the Glass

Sometimes, moisture and dirt make their way into the glass so much so that it needs to be replaced. If you have tried all the above steps, and your windows are still dirty and foggy, this may be the case for you. Luckily, replacing windows is cheaper than replacing the entire frame.

When replacing windows, you can choose to replace the entire frame or one sash. Obviously, replacing the entire frame will be more expensive. If you are replacing the glass in order to mitigate a moisture problem, you do not need to replace the frame.

Replacing a window sash can be done an hour or so. Simply unscrew the threshold in front of the frame track and set the new sash on top of the track. Screw the threshold back on and enjoy many more years of fog-free windows.

Why Do Double Pane Windows Fog Up?

Double pane windows have a layer of gasses in between the panes of glass. These gasses are usually made up of Oxygen and Argon. They are meant to seal in heat and keep cold air from penetrating the windows.

When moisture gets in between the windowpane, it evaporates and gets trapped. This forces it to bead up and create a mist or a fog between the panes. As the weather changes, the moisture may fog up more or less.

If your double-pane windows are fogging up, this means that the sealing layer of gas has failed. No matter how much you clean it, moisture will still get in between the panes. Depending on how much this bothers you, you may want to replace the window.

The Best Way to Clean Windows

Regardless of how much moisture is trapped between your window panes, you will still want to clean them. There is a tried-and-true way to clean windows efficiently and cleanly. It is how many professional window cleaners get such a reflective shine.

Mix one part vinegar with one part water. With plain water, moisten the window and with a sponge, spread the solution over the glass. You can then clean the water and vinegar solution off with newspaper to prevent streaking.

This simple solution works just as well as many of the harsh, corrosive chemicals marketed for cleaning windows. It is also much more eco-friendly and better for the environment. Not to mention, it is much cheaper to buy a bottle of vinegar than industrial cleaner.

Cost of Replacing Windows

Depending on what kind of windows you have, replacements could cost anywhere from $150 to $750. This variation in price is what will determine which steps you take before deciding to replace them.

If your windows are incredibly expensive to replace, it might be worth it to try all of these steps first. if you were going to end up replacing them anyway, you may as well try everything before spending the money.

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Related Questions

Are triple pane windows worth it?

Triple pane windows are much more expensive than single or double pane. However, the amount of extra protection they offer is negligible. Many users of triple pane windows report that they don’t offer any more insulation than double pane.

Can you replace a single pane?

It is possible to replace a single pane of a window. However, it can potentially be very dangerous since single panes are easily broken. Should you decide to replace a single pane, take extra care not to shatter it when removing it. 

Why are my windows streaky after I clean them?

If your windows are streaky after you clean them, that means that you have not cleaned them properly. Streaks are usually indicative of film and dirt that have been left behind. To prevent streaks, use the cleaning technique outlined above.

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Michael Oconnor
Michael Oconnor

I am a writer and editor from The Bay Area, CA. When I'm not typing, I enjoy hiking, woodworking and gardening. I love sharing tips and discovering new trends in home improvement.

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