How to Clean and Care for Stained Glass Windows
Treat them as pieces of art in your home by using gentle cleaners and the best drying methods.
For as gorgeous as stained glass windows can be in a room, cleaning them is not a straightforward task. "The surface of the stained glass is not as smooth as regular window glass and can trap dirt more easily," explains Steve Blyth, president of the window cleaning firm J.Racenstein Company. What's worse, Blyth says that the intricate leaded frameworks of certain stained glass windows can trap liquids and moisture from cleaning sprays, leaving unsightly drip marks on the surface.
Fortunately, with the right cleaning methods, you can keep your stained glass windows sparkling and damage-free. "Regular cleaning can help to avoid an accumulation of dirt in the lead joints making cleaning easier to execute," Blyth explains. As for how to properly clean, maintain, and preserve your own stained glass windows at home? We asked Blyth and Bill Seekircher of Artistic Glasswork to share their best methods.
Check the condition of your stained glass.
Before cleaning, Blyth says you will need to check for a couple of issues. "Inspect the lead frame for any loose pieces," he advises. "These can cause liquid to get trapped in the crevices, and quickly leads to drips on either side of the glass," he says. He also recommends testing any cleaning solution or sprays you plan on using on a small piece ahead of time, to ensure they don't discolor the surface.
Choose cleaning solutions carefully.
Whether composed of painted, textured, or tinted glass, Seekircher says that all stained glass needs to be gently cleaned with a nontoxic cleaner. "Never use a cleaner with alcohol or ammonia, because it can damage the solder that's holding the window together," he explains. Additionally, Blyth says to avoid using dish soap when cleaning leaded glass, because the ingredients can react to, and discolor, the frame.
Consider a foam cleaning spray.
When in doubt about what cleaner to use on your windows, both Blyth and Seekircher recommend using a foaming spray, such as Sprayway Glass Cleaner Foaming Aerosol Spray ($3.27, homedepot.com), to play it safe. "Foaming spray from an aerosol can ensures that leaky lead joints won't seep liquid through to the other side," he explains.
Dry everything off with microfiber towels.
For drying, a microfiber towel, Blyth says, it's your best option. "Microfiber towels are key to both cleaning and maintaining stained glass windows," he explains. "Not only are they a gentle and effective way to clean and dry stained glass, they can also remove dust, dirt, and other residues from glass without any spray between cleanings."
Always be gentle.
Stained glass requires a delicate touch, so Blyth suggests folding a microfiber towel into quarters to help distribute the pressure from your fingers over the surface area. "If you have a really large surface to clean, say taller than six feet and wider than three feet, consider a boar's hair brush to perform the initial wetting and scrubbing of the window," he says. If you're dealing with an extra delicate piece of stained glass, Seekircher recommends spraying your cleaning solution directly onto a microfiber towel, and not directly on the window, to avoid over-saturation.