We tested 10 different glass cleaners to find out which one is the best for your automotive needs.

Michael SimariCar and Driver

Cleaning your car windows might seem like an afterthought—after all, that’s what wiper blades are for, right? Sort of. While keeping the outside of your windshield clean and clear is essential, you shouldn’t forget about the side windows, the rear window, and the inside of the glass all around the car.

Cleaning your vehicle’s glass will greatly improve visibility; you might be surprised to see the difference after one good wipe-down. And of course, clear vision has safety benefits too. But there are a ton of glass cleaners on the market, so which one works best?


Our Top Picks

  • Best Overall 3M Glass Cleaner $9 AT AMAZON Read More $9 AT AMAZON
  • A Close Second Meguiar’s Perfect Clarity Glass Cleaner $14 AT AMAZON Read More $14 AT AMAZON
  • Best Ceramic Rain-X Cerami-X $10 AT AMAZON Read More $10 AT AMAZON
  • Best Budget Rain-X Glass Cleaner + Rain Repellent $7 AT AMAZON Read More $7 AT AMAZON
  • Honorable Mention Griot’s Garage Ceramic Glass Cleaner $10 AT AMAZON Read More $10 AT AMAZON
  • Honorable Mention Invisible Glass $12 AT AMAZON Read More $12 AT AMAZON
  • Chemical Guys Streak Free $9 AT AMAZON Read More $9 AT AMAZON
  • CARPRO Clarify $22 AT AMAZON Read More $22 AT AMAZON
  • Windex $3 AT AMAZON Read More $3 AT AMAZON
  • Armor All Glass Wipes Armor All $10 AT AMAZON Read More $10 AT AMAZON
  • Load More Show Less

Considerations on Car Glass Cleaners

Right off the bat, we’ll tell you this: Using an ammonia-free glass cleaner is a must. Ammonia can break down window tint—especially the cheaper stuff—so if you’re not a fan of the fishbowl look, stay away from ammonia. Most automotive glass cleaners are ammonia free and say so right on the bottle, but it’s always a good idea to verify.

You’ll also see ceramic glass cleaners pop up when searching around. These leave a hydrophobic film on your windshield that allows water droplets to slide right off, even to the degree where you don’t need to use your wipers. While that sounds great, we found that it takes a bit more effort to properly apply, and there’s no sense in using it on your other windows.

To find which product best cleans windows, we assembled 10 different cleaners and got to work. As we ran them through the Gear Team testing gauntlet, we determined which ones work best.

Our Test Vehicles

Glass can be a fickle thing. All it takes is a bit of rain or a dust-bunny-induced sneeze, and it’s due for a cleaning. While this is frustrating, it made it easy for us to find properly grubby windows among the usually sparklingly clean Car and Driver fleet. We decided to use Eric Stafford’s 1997 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, with its massive tinted rear glass, for our side-by-side test. Austin Irwin’s Honda Civic Si also lent some windows.

How We Evaluated Glass Cleaners

We taped off 10 sections of the Camaro’s large, dark rear glass and set to work. Our testing process was simple: liberally spray the section and wipe for 15 seconds with a clean microfiber towel. This gave us the opportunity to check each car glass cleaner for:

  • Cleaning power
  • Cleaning speed
  • Spray pattern
  • Streaking
  • Leftover residue
  • Dry feel

    Comparing our detailed notes on these parameters allowed us to choose which glass cleaners were best and which fell short. Here are our top picks for the best automotive glass cleaners.


    Best Overall 3M Glass Cleaner

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    $9 AT AMAZON $9 AT WALMART

    This is our winner for the best overall: 3M Glass Cleaner. We loved the ease of use and control with the aerosol can, and a combination of cleaning power, speed, and dry feel rocketed this stuff to the top.

    Using the can was easy, as the cleaner sprayed out and foamed instantaneously on the window. There were some minor streaks in the first few seconds of wiping, but they evaporated quickly.

    3M left behind a slightly grippy dry feel, but that was better than every other non-ceramic option. It’s tint-free and easy to use. This is the product to get, and that’s why it’s our best overall automotive glass cleaner.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    We loved this stuff so much we cleaned the entire rear window with it after our testing was done.

    A Close Second Meguiar’s Perfect Clarity Glass Cleaner

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    $14 AT AMAZON

    Meguiar’s Perfect Clarity Glass Cleaner comes in second in our test and is a fantastic option if aerosol cans aren’t your thing. We noted the streak-free cleaning performance and bottle ergonomics as the top perks.

    There wasn’t any residue left behind, and the picture below really showcases its cleaning power. The only thing holding it back from being top dog was a grippier dry feel than the 3M; this grip will grab onto dust and dirt a bit easier and shorten the longevity of the clean look.

    But for a quick, powerful glass-cleaning product, this is a very solid option.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    The cleaning power of this stuff is obvious.

    Best Ceramic Rain-X Cerami-X

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    $10 AT AMAZON $9 AT WALMART

    On to the ceramics: This Rain-X Cerami-X Glass Cleaner features the twin aspects you want in a ceramic glass cleaner. It lifts and removes dirt and grime while leaving behind a hydrophobic ceramic coating to repel water droplets.

    We were impressed by the dry feel; it felt impeccably smooth without any grip, allowing water to bead right off. It’s at a nice price point too.

    However, be aware that you might need some extra effort as you wipe. We had to perform two spray-and-wipe cycles with some heavy-handed pressure to get true clarity. In the picture below, you can see some slight haze to the left side after the first cycle.

    But for the price and dry feel, this is the best ceramic glass cleaner we tested.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    There’s still a bit of haze on the left side of our test area—which would inevitably come up with more wiping—but our test parameters were kept equal across all products.

    Best Budget Rain-X Glass Cleaner + Rain Repellent

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    $7 AT AMAZON $7 AT WALMART $6 AT FARMANDFLEET.COM

    For the best bargain deal, the Rain-X Glass Cleaner + Rain Repellent is the way to go. While this might seem like a ceramic glass cleaner, it isn’t. However, it does act like it.

    This stuff contains Rain-X’s famous water-beading technology found on its wiper blades. It’s not a ceramic coating, but it’s close. We were impressed by the dry feel and price point, but it took some extra time to eliminate all of the haze.

    For a budget option that cleans well and offers some level of water repellence, you can’t go wrong with this.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    A little bit of haze is visible toward the bottom; it went away after a second cleaning cycle.

    Honorable Mention Griot’s Garage Ceramic Glass Cleaner

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    $10 AT AMAZON

    Griot’s Garage Ceramic Glass Cleaner comes in as an honorable mention. We enjoyed the cleaning power and dry feel.

    The oddly shaped spray bottle is ergonomically a little funky, which could get annoying after extended use. The ceramic coating felt smoother than non-ceramics, but not as glossy as the Rain-X ceramic above. It also required a second cleaning cycle to achieve perfect clarity.

    It’s not the top ceramic glass cleaner, but a decent option nonetheless. It’s fairly affordable too, so if you like the brand it’s still worth the purchase.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    Some smudges remained after our first cleaning pass.

    Honorable Mention Invisible Glass

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    $12 AT AMAZON $5 AT HOME DEPOT

    Invisible Glass performed quite well against the dirt and grime, removing it quickly and effectively. We liked the large spray pattern and the lack of streaks.

    However, the dry feel was concerning, as it was one of the grippiest of the bunch. For show cars, this might not be a bad option; it’ll get your windows clean in a jiffy. But for daily drivers, they’ll get dirty again nearly as fast.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    It removed nearly all of the grime from the window, but the grippy dry feel was concerning.

    Chemical Guys Streak Free

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    Now 10% off

    $9 AT AMAZON

    Chemical Guys Streak Freefell a bit short in our testing. We were concerned with the cleaning power when it left some grime behind after the first cleaning cycle. There were streaks, but they evaporated quickly, and a slight grip was felt when dry. We were surprised by an underwhelming performance from this popular brand.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    Seemed to leave behind some grime that other cleaners would take off with ease.

    CARPRO Clarify

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    Now 15% off

    $22 AT AMAZON

    CARPRO Clarify glass cleaner has sleek, contemporary packaging—but seems to be priced higher than its performance. It cleaned decently but left behind some light spots, as seen in the photo below. The grippy dry feel was a strike against it too. For the price, we can’t recommend it.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    Some undesirable faint spots remained after cleaning.

    Windex

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    $3 AT AMAZON

    We wanted to add Windex to the fray because, why not? It’s the most popular window cleaner on the planet. (For those considering it for automotive use, be advised that plain Windex contains ammonia and is NOT recommended for use on tinted windows.)

    While this may be a household favorite, its performance against car window grime was poor, especially when compared to the purpose-made competition. Many spots remained, and the glass felt grippy once dry.

    Use it around the house, by all means. (Although we’d think twice if we lived in a place such as Arizona or Nevada, where homes commonly have tinted windows.) But for the car? Forget it.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    You can easily see spots and grime on the bottom left after use—not worth the risk.

    Armor All Armor All Glass Wipes

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories

    Andi Hedrick

    $10 AT AMAZON

    Armor All Glass Wipes boast great convenience but poor performance. As you can see in the before-and-after photo below, a nice juicy streak was left behind and refused to evaporate. There’s no point in trying to clean windows if the product leaves behind streaks, so we’d steer clear of these.

    Before & After

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Michael SimariCar and Driver

    It’s like a giant snail left a trail of yuck along the rear window.

    How We Tested Automotive Glass Cleaners

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Nathee Sanbooytho / EyeEmGetty Images

    We wanted to find a vehicle with a large, dark window—so we settled on a Car and Driver staffer’s 1997 Camaro Z/28. The rear glass of the car was noticeably dirty with typical dust and road grime. Once we threw on a blanket to protect the fenders from our belts, we got to work.

    We taped off 10 sections equally, which proved to be a slight challenge thanks to the curvature of the window. Unless the bottle instructed us otherwise, we liberally sprayed the respective cleaner onto its section. We then wiped it with a clean microfiber cloth for 15 seconds.

    Why 15 seconds? Any piece of glass will sparkle if scrubbed and buffed for minutes—but we wanted to test for cleaning power and ease of use, so we set a standard and left it at that.

    In total, we noted each product’s:

    • Cleaning effectiveness and speed
    • Streaking, if applicable
    • Sprayer and bottle ergonomics
    • Leftover residue
    • Dry feel

    FAQs

    exterior, interior, parts, parts-accessories
    Andi HedrickCar and Driver

    Why is ammonia bad for car windows?

    Ammonia isn’t bad for car windows—it’s bad for tint. The tint can bubble, lighten, and disintegrate after prolonged cleaning with ammonia-based cleaners. For this reason, nearly all automotive glass cleaners are ammonia-free.

    How do I clean the inside of my car windows?

    Just like you would the outside. Ideally, you want to get as much heavy grime off the window as you can before buffing it to a sparkle. Use a clean, lint-free microfiber cloth to wipe your cleaner in slow, circular motions. Avoid using paper towels, as these can actually leave small scratches in your window. Make sure to roll your window down a bit to clean the very top too.

    What is ceramic glass cleaner?

    Ceramic glass cleaner seems to be gaining traction in the automotive-detailing world. This stuff features a combination of cleaner and ceramic coating to remove contaminants while leaving behind a water-repelling residue. Some ceramic glass cleaners boast that you won’t need to use your windshield wipers, as the water beads right off as you drive.

    We found that ceramic glass cleaners take a bit more effort to properly apply. You may need to perform additional spray-and-wipe cycles to get it truly crystal clear—and we had to use extra elbow grease to remove some pesky streaks and haze. The longevity of ceramic glass coatings varies between products, but using your wipers will decrease the lifespan of the coating.

    Why trust us?

    This test was conducted in an environment that provided equal testing procedures for each product: the Car and Driver garage. We tested each glass cleaner on an equally dirty section of a large rear window, taking detailed notes on each cleaner’s performance, streaking, dry feel, and residue. Upon tallying up our findings, we agreed that our test provided enough information to recommend picks to our readers.

    Hearst Autos combines the talent, resources, and expertise of three of the largest, most influential automotive publications in the world. We don’t need to scramble for traffic or promote lousy products to make a sale. We’re concerned with our legacy, our reputation, and the trust that our readers have in Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track to deliver honest evaluations and expert opinions.

    Read more about our product testing and evaluation process here.

    From: Car and Driver

    Collin Morgan Associate Commerce Editor Collin Morgan is the Associate Commerce Editor at Hearst Autos, where he presents the best gear for your automotive endeavors.

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