How To Clean Without Streaks

Cleaning Chemical Streaks Mean It’s Not Clean

Cleaning without leaving streaks on windows and other surfaces is always a big challenge. When there are still smudges on the glass after cleaning, it makes the effort seem wasted. Why does this happen? After all, it is window “cleaner” isn’t it? The whole reason for its existence is to get rid of marks on glass, not add to them? How to clean without streaks isn’t really difficult. You just have to understand what is going on.

Why Can’t I Clean Without Streaks?

There are many reasons that cause streaks and smears, but there are 3 that are most common:

  • Too Much Cleaning Chemical
  • Not Enough Cleaning Chemical
  • The Wrong Cleaner

Too Much Cleaning Chemical Causes Streaking

A little works good, a lot works better, right? Wrong. While there are special cases when increasing cleaning chemical dilution may be necessary, for most daily use products, less is more. When a product such as a de-greaser or restroom cleaner appears to not be performing properly, it is almost always cause by lack of dwell time. Just because the front of the bottle label says “Spray and Wipe” doesn’t mean that it will remove everything within the first 10 seconds after being sprayed. If you were to turn the bottle around and read the directions, there is most likely instructions that mention letting the product dwell, of stand for a period of time. This lets the chemical reaction happen and allows the chemical to break down the soils you are trying to remove so they can be suspended it the liquid.

When you use more, the compounds in the cleaning chemical are not completely removed with wiping, leaving a film behind. The moisture left on the surface continues breaking down the soils, while the liquid evaporates. This leaves the chemical compounds with broken down soils behind on the surface, that appear as streaks.

Ready To Use Cleaning Chemicals

Just because the cleaning chemical comes “Ready To Use” does not mean that it won’t cause streaking. Many cleaning products are sold at a higher dilution to compensate for “Spray and Wipe” claims. Surfaces may appear clean at first glance, but once it is dry, steaks appear.

Then you just have to use MORE cleaning chemical. Make sure that your cleaning chemical isn’t making it worse. Generally, to clean without streaks left behind, you need to spray less product. That is unless the surface is really dirty.

Not Enough Cleaning Chemical

Just the opposite of having too much, not using enough cleaning chemical will cause streaking. When you use too little, there are not enough cleaning compounds to properly break down the soils and there is not enough liquid to allow you to remove them. They are just moved around on the surface by wiping, appearing as streaks.

It is worth mentioning that the type and cleanliness of the cloth or towel you are using to wipe the surface can have an impact on the amount of streaking. The more the wiping tool can hold and remove, the less cleaning chemical you need while still avoiding streaks.

Microfiber Cleaning Without Streaks

Microfiber cleaning cloths do not require nearly as much cleaning chemical, if any at all. This is because of how they are made. They use poly-amide, which is a material that makes the fiber more aggressive to physically remove soils from surfaces.

The threads that make up microfiber also have microscopic splits in the fibers that hold dirt. This helps to remove soils with less moisture and chemicals. Removing more soil with less chemical will help you clean without streaks.

Here is an article to learn more about how microfiber cleans.

Using The Wrong Cleaner Can Cause Streaks

The pH Scale is important to know if you use cleaning chemicalsCleaning chemicals are designed to cause a chemical reaction. Most of them break down soils so they can be suspended in liquid. It has been popular over the last several years to call products “Multipurpose” or say that you can clean everything with just one chemical. It may be true that you can do a lot of cleaning with just a few chemicals, to say one product does it all is just not possible.

In order to remove soils from a surface, you have to alter its chemical make up. This is done with pH or acid and alkaline chemicals. Regardless of which side of the pH scale the soils are, the goal is always to get to neutral or 7.  (The pH scale goes from 0-14 with acid being less than 7, alkaline being greater than 7 and neutral being exactly 7)

If you are trying to remove soils that are alkaline with an alkaline cleaning chemical, they will not break down, the agitation from wiping or mopping, combined with the moisture, will cause smears and streaking. If you were to test the smeared liquid with litmus paper, you would see that it is still on the alkaline side of the pH scale. Switching to a cleaning chemical that is even slightly acidic will allow the soils to start releasing. Once this happens the same litmus paper test will show that the liquid will be very close to a pH of 7 and will not cause cleaning chemical streaks.

Neutralizer Vs. Neutral Cleaners

During winter months, many struggle with removing ice melt and salt residue from floors. This is because they are using the same neutral cleaner they use all the time. Because most neutral cleaners are slightly alkaline, they have little to no affect on the highly alkaline salt based ice melt.

Using a neutralizer, rather than a neutral cleaner will quickly solve this issue. You can learn more in the article about the difference between a neutralizer and neutral cleaner?

Any time there are cleaning chemical streaks after cleaning, the surface is in fact, not clean and should be re-cleaned until there is no visible dirt. Streak indicate that there are still soils present that will attract more soils and can serve as food for bacteria to spread. Always make sure to read labels, and use some common sense when cleaning. If it still looks dirty, it probably is. Find out how to clean without streaks, there will beless work tomorrow. Always continue to Learn Clean!

6 replies
  1. Tri-State Paper & Chemical Supplies
    Tri-State Paper & Chemical Supplies says:

    this is awesome! keep the posts coming, i love reading your thoughts and ideas! the cleaner the chemicals, the better!

  2. Barb
    Barb says:

    You are sure hitting nail on the head in these articles! You are offering us facts, not hype.

    And you are so right about the right cleaning cloth. We have volunteers clean our building and all too often they bring their own mystery rags which have been washed with too little detergent, or too much detergent but both not rinsed adequately.

    Then they spray the rags with too much or too little Windex and complain to me that the glass streaks. I bought the wrong window cleaner.

    I’ve been using quality imitation chamois cloths, but now I’m going to try good microfiber cloths. I wonder if they will buy the right window cleaner.


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