Asked on May 27, 2016

Anyone know how to clean stained glass window?

Kelley MacKay
by Kelley MacKay

Does anyone know how to clean stained glass windows? I have a large framed stained glass from an old church. It needs to be cleaned but have read you have to be careful not to damage it. I have researched but have yet to find any info. TIA

with light
  36 answers
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on May 27, 2016
  • MN Mom MN Mom on May 27, 2016
    Whichever route you go, be sure that you're not using a cleaner on painted glass. Stained and painted glass are different products. Oftentimes a clean soft brush, clean white cloth and some warm soap water are all you need.
  • I do stain glass art. Stain glass is simply colored glass and can be cleaned the same as any other glass. However you will want to be sure what you use doesn't effect the solder. Most solder is either lead (if old) or zinc based. I would use a water/ammonia solution and put it on a cloth instead of spraying directly on the window. This gives you the best control of where the cleaner is going. If you need to get close to the solder I would use a Q-tip dipped in the cleaner. After cleaning I would rinse the window with plain water. Good luck.
  • Porland1624 Porland1624 on May 28, 2016
    Equal parts of warm water and vinagret
  • Carol westcott Carol westcott on May 28, 2016
    Get powdered whiting at the hardware store and a soft scrub brush. sprinkle the powdered whiting onto the glass that is laid on a flat surface( to help contain the mess if possible) and scrub gently. Brush away or vacuum away the excess . voila. shiny window.
    • Dallas Sills Dallas Sills on May 28, 2016
      @Carol westcott That is the absolute archival way to clean antique glass!!! Thank you for posting it for Kelley before I did. The only thing I can add is that the lightest DRY sheetrock mix is also 'whiting'. This dry method keeps water from going into the channels.
  • Karen Reilly Karen Reilly on May 28, 2016
    I used seltzer water and two micro fibre cloths. Lightly moisten the first one then wipe the glass. Dry with the other one you won't believe how nice your glass comes out.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on May 28, 2016
    I think your problem is that these windows have metal (usually lead) holding the pieces together so you do not want to use anything caustic. Nor would I use anything abrasive. I would just use a warm damp cloth and wipe them down...which make take several wipes to get the grime off. When you get the grime off, just gently wipe down with a warm wet cloth, doing a small area at a time and drying immediately with a soft dry cloth.
  • Gerald Gilling Gerald Gilling on May 28, 2016
    Vinegar and warm water 50/50 0ne damp non lint cloth and one to dry.
  • Jeanne Martin Jeanne Martin on May 28, 2016
    My hobby is stained glass (copper foil, not leaded). I've always just quickly washed them with a little Dawn & warm water and then quickly rinse and dry well. I apply a light coat of Turtle wax (yes, the car wax) and buff to a beautiful shine. I've been doing this for 10+ years with no problems whatsoever.
  • Chiricahua Cowgirl Chiricahua Cowgirl on May 28, 2016
    I have several stained glass pieces that I made. They are the copper foil kind, but I also made a leaded piece. To clean my pieces I mix a little ammonia with water in a spray bottle. Spray the glass lightly with this then use a soft non shedding towel and wipe off. So far has not harmed the copper foil or the leaded. Just try not to get very much on the metal. Has always worked for me. I use this mixture on all my glass, even ceramic that my husband made.
  • Francesca Francesca on May 28, 2016
    My very first reaction was be very careful! These windows can't be treated like regular stained glass.So, here's a link for you about specifically cleaning old glass windows
  • Johnchip Johnchip on May 28, 2016
    If you are concerned about water getting into the spaces in-between, keep your blow dryer on low and close by.
  • Linda T Linda T on May 28, 2016
    I use warm water and dawn with a very soft brush. Then rinse well and let drain.
  • Sharon Campbell Duff Sharon Campbell Duff on May 28, 2016
    Francesca has the answer if it is really old stained glass. If relatively new one quart of water plus 1/2 teaspoon of Dawn plus one tablespoon of baking soda should do it.
  • Carrie Hawk Carrie Hawk on May 28, 2016
    Do you have a photo? Could this be glass that is painted? Some old stained glass is actually painted, especially if there is a scene and several colors in a single piece of the glass. That would be hard to clean and maintain.
    • Kelley MacKay Kelley MacKay on May 29, 2016
      @Carrie Hawk here is a pic...since its dark outside you cannot see all the pretty colors
  • Cindi Cindi on May 28, 2016
    Use Norwex cleaning cloths. They're a little expensive but work great on any glass, and cuts your cleaning time in half. Very easy too, just dampen the one cloth to wipe off dirt, and dry with the other. No glass cleaner or chemicals of any kind. They use them at our Antique Mall to clean the glass cases and they work great. They sell them on Amazon, and on their site,
  • Barbara Bromwich Barbara Bromwich on May 28, 2016
    Try using Sudsy Amonia and rinse. I use eukanuba war, the non buffing kind. Wipe on, let dry. Wipe off until the rag does not jave any black oxidation on it. DO NOT press hard.
  • Jennie Lee Jennie Lee on May 28, 2016
    I've made stained glass, too (a great and satisfying craft!). When cleaning any that is made with the copper foil method, care should be taken to not pull loose any of the solder lines where the adhesive on the copper foil is not stuck down well. The solder lines are sort of like the gums, holding in the teeth (glass). You want to clean the teeth while being careful not to damage the gums! I just use window cleaner on modern stained glass. A microfiber cloth is nice, to avoid leaving lint. Treating the solder lines with care is the real challenge.
  • J.b. kelly J.b. kelly on May 28, 2016
    To avoid damage use soft brushe with waterand soap and vinegar ,keep in mind amonia is hard on metal
  • Christine Christine on May 28, 2016
    As long as it is real stained glass & not painted glass - use rubbing alcohol and an old t-shirt. pour a little alcohol on the glass & wipe the the cloth. I use it on my stained glass projects & it works great. May have to do it a few times depending on the amount of grim and usually does not leave streaks.
  • Kelley MacKay Kelley MacKay on May 29, 2016
    Thanks everyone...LOTS of choices...I'm not sure if real stained glass or was purchased at an auction and I was told that it came out of an old church.
  • Carrie Hawk Carrie Hawk on May 29, 2016
    That is a beautiful window. Don't think it's painted. You probably need to take some of the advice you received here. Only problem might be affecting the metal. I think it's probably zinc. That's what most stained glass is made with.
  • Lynn Palmatier Lynn Palmatier on May 29, 2016
    I venture to say that the window has camming and are not foiled edges. If there is dirt on the edges of the sections, just use a soft brush around the sections before cleaning the section itself. Came is soft and can scar if hit or scratched. Lots of work to clean each section, but it is the best way. I think Christine's use of alcohol or J.B.Kelly's cleaning solution works best.
  • Kimberly Kimberly on May 30, 2016
    I worked with a professional window washer several years ago. When he had a job that involved stained glass windows, he used double-aught (00) steel wool. It is almost as soft & thin as human hair but is very mildly abrasive. You should wear gloves & work outdoors, if possible. The wool will "shed" while working with it. Just lightly rub the camming & the glass - it will not scratch the glass. You can test a small area first, if you are unsure. Once you clean it completely with the steel wool, use a soft brush (paintbrush works best) to dust the entire window. Believe me, it will look amazing when you are finished. I use this technique to clean the glass in my front door all the time.
  • Jennie Lee Jennie Lee on May 31, 2016
    Now that you've included a picture, I see that you have a camed window that has been painted. Please listen to Francesca, above! Either follow the instructions in the link she provided, or get a pro to do it. (I do not advise the steel wool, either. That's fine for stained glass, but yours is also painted.) Personally, I'd be afraid to do it myself. It's a beautiful window, and the paint is a very important feature.
  • Gwen Barham Loftus Gwen Barham Loftus on Jun 03, 2016
    IF you decide to use steel wool, please use the 0000 not the 00. I use this on my car windshield to get the bugs off and I know it does not scratch the glass at all. I learned that trick from an auto detailer :)
  • Rita Hemphill Ham Rita Hemphill Ham on Jun 09, 2016
    I make stained glass panels, the BEST way to clean them is to use auto wax. It will clean and protect at the same time!
  • Julie Yeary Julie Yeary on Aug 06, 2016
    Te only thing I know about them is that the came most likely has a high concentration of lead in it and it will be very fragile. The glass is probably brittle.
  • Lynne Lynne on Sep 26, 2016
    I am a lead lighter from Australia. NEVER use any sort of soap or window cleaner, wash only with damp cloth rinsed in clean water, dry with old towel use a black shoe brush and go over whole window which polishes the lead cames and makes the glass sparkle, it also gets into all the little corners and makes everything sparkle. Any sort of cleaner or soap breaks down the putty around each piece of glass which keeps it water proof and keeps your window from warping. Best of luck, LYNNE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Deborah slone Deborah slone on Mar 06, 2018

    Dawn dishliquid water

  • Deborah slone Deborah slone on Mar 06, 2018

    That is the best thing I wash my all the time

  • Jen Jen on Jan 12, 2019

    What did you end up using? Has it held up well since?

    • Kelley MacKay Kelley MacKay on Jan 13, 2019

      Well I didn’t! Really made me nervous lol so it’s still sitting in my window

  • Dawn Dawn on Oct 28, 2020

    I have old stained glass windows is my home that was previously owned by a heavy smoker. Do I get the sticky soot out?

  • Michael Michael on Jun 24, 2022

    How to clean house paint off of old stained glass window

  • Chas' Crazy Creations Chas' Crazy Creations on Aug 01, 2022

    I have several cleaning tutorials that might help you