Ask the Experts – Cleaning Stained Glass

The Cleaning Experts at  A Clean Streak answer your toughest cleaning questions.

Retro Stained Glass DoorErich M. from WA asks: My family and I have a wonderful little home on Whidbey Island that includes a retro style front door. I call it “retro’ because there’s a pie-shaped stained-glass panel inset at the top of our east facing door. We’ve always loved how it “glows” with the morning light – especially during the summertime –  but recently, we’ve noticed that the outside of the pane has some spotting, and the metal framework used between the individual pieces of glass looks really dull. We’d like to give it a thorough cleaning, but we’re concerned we’ll damage it. Do you have any professional tips you could share with us on how to clean stained glass?

A Clean Streak, The Window Cleaning Experts answer:  Hi Erich. You really do have a “retro” door as stained glass has been used for windows as far back as 675 AD! These days many “stained glass” panels are actually just single sided painted panes…but from your description, it sounds as if your door contains the more traditional cut glass pieces, held together by a metal framework.

The first thing to remember when cleaning a stained glass panel is to choose your cleaning products with care. Neutral pH is the key – so stay away from ammonia based products (like Windex) and vinegar based solutions. A better choice is just a dash of mild dish soap in a bucket of warm water. You can also find commercial window cleaning products in your local big box store – look for labels specifying “ammonia free”. We like to have a bucket of clean warm water on hand for rinsing, and a small container of powdered calcium carbonate (called “whiting”) to remove soap streaks. You can find whiting at hardware or paint stores, marketed under the names “Amchem” or “Synko”.

Along with these cleaning solutions, you’ll also want to gather some cotton swabs, and someCleaning Stained Glass clean microfiber cloths.

After you’ve assembled your materials, dip your cloth in the cleaning solution. If you’re using a spray bottle, be sure to spray the solution onto your cloth instead of directly onto the window panes. Clean each pane separately, using the cotton swabs to get into the hard-to-reach areas. After you’ve wiped a panel with cleaning solution, wipe it again with fresh water. Then apply a tiny dab of whiting to another cloth, and wipe the pane again – this will rid it of any remaining soap residue and water spots. Finally, wipe it all one more time with a clean dry, micro-fiber cloth.

Don’t fret if the pieces of metal framework (called “cames”) holding the glass look dull grey or black – they’re actually supposed to look like that. If the cames are really dirty, you could try running a piece of #0000 steel wool over them, but be careful, as you don’t want to disrupt the integrity of the window. Many old stained glass windows use lead for the cames, and besides loosening the panes, vigorous scrubbing could also release toxic lead particles (most toxic to small children and pregnant women), so be sure you’re wearing gloves and maybe even a dust mask if you’re going to tackle this part of the project.

We hope these tips help you let the light back in Erich —  don’t forget that summertime is a great time to make sure each one of your windows sparkle, and the professionals at a Clean Streak can help you with all your window cleaning needs. Call us at 360-395-5748 for a free project estimate today. WA License # CLEANCS851PA

If you have a question for us, leave a reply in the comment section below, EMAIL the pros at A Clean Streak or call us at 360-395-5748 today.