Glass, Crystal, and Mirror Care

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What You'll Need
Dust-free cleaning cloths
Lemon juice
Baking soda
White vinegar
Lime, calcium, and rust remover
Dry rice

Glass is made from silica and other materials. It is not affected by the weather or by most chemicals, and it can be tempered or modified to be impact and heat-resistant. Crystal is made from the same basic material as glass, but lead is added to fine crystal, which gives it its sparkle and strength. Both materials are commonly used for many household fixtures and items such as windows, mirrors, range tops, counter tops, dinnerware, and cookware. Check out this guide to learn how to best keep all of your home's crystal and glass, clean and crystal clear.

Washing Windows and Making Window Cleaner

Using a cloth to clean a window

When washing windows, wash sills and cross pieces first, and wipe windows with lint-less cloth. To avoid streaks, smudges, and debris left on your glass after cleaning, make sure you're using the right techniques. Never wash windows while the sun is shining on them because your cleaner will dry too quickly. To polish windows or mirrors to a sparkling shine, try a natural linen towel or other soft cloth, a clean, damp chamois cloth, a squeegee, or crumpled newspaper. However, a word of warning; while newspaper does leave glass lint-free with a dirt-resistant film, people with sensitivities to fumes from newsprint may wish to avoid using newspaper as a cleaning tool. Also, when polishing, use up and down strokes on one side of the window and side to side strokes on the other to tell which side requires extra polishing.

There are several kinds of cleaners you can use to get all kinds of buildup off of your windows. These include both chemical and natural solutions.


For soil and grease buildup, dilute 1/4 cup of ammonia in two quarts of warm water; increase the ammonia to half a cup and the water to a full gallon before adding two cups of rubbing alcohol for heavier soil and grease.


Wash windows or glass with a mixture of equal parts of white vinegar and warm water, and dry with a soft cloth. If you have stubborn hard water sprinkler spots and streaks that won't go away, use 1/4 undiluted vinegar in two quarts of warm water.

Borax or Washing Soda

Two tablespoons of borax or washing soda mixed into three cups water is a good general window cleaner. Apply to surface and wipe dry.

Lemon Juice

Mix one tablespoon lemon juice in one-quart water for another basic cleanser.

Baking Soda

To clean cut glass, sprinkle baking soda on a damp rag and work it gently into the surface. Rinse it with clean water and polish with a soft cloth.

For touch-ups, keep any one of the above preparations in a spray bottle; spray on dirty area and wipe.

Scratches, Stains, and Discoloration in Glass and Mirrors

Small cosmetic issues with your glass can be taken care of with a few simple solutions. Heavy physical damage obviously means the integrity of the glass is compromised, so for anything larger, you will want to replace the glass altogether.


Rub a little toothpaste into any surface scratches. Gel-type pastes are not usually as effective as regular pastes, so it's best to stick with the latter. Gently work it in with an old toothbrush and then polish with a soft cloth.

Dry Mustard and Vinegar

Mix one part dry mustard and one part white vinegar into a paste. Apply this solution to any scratches and also polish with a soft cloth. Avoid eye contact with dry mustard, as it can be damaging to the cornea.

Cleaning Decorative Cut Glassware and Crystal

Crystal vase

Glass flower vases, cruets, or carafes used to hold water, wine, oil, or other liquids may develop stains in the bottom when allowed to sit for a long time. Normal washing with soap and water may not get off all the stain, so try pouring vinegar into the glass, filling it just above the stain mark. Allow it to stand 30 minutes to overnight, depending on the intensity of the stain. Before emptying vinegar, add about 1/2 teaspoon dry uncooked rice, or six to 10 dry beans. Shake the glass rapidly so the hard grains can rub off the loosened stain with a scouring action. Then, pour the contents out, rinse with water, and repeat if necessary.

If the whole stain is removed, pour ammonia into the glass to just above the stain mark and allow it to stand overnight. Add rice or beans like before, shake, and repeat if necessary.

Commercial products such as Lime Away can remove some stains. Read labels and follow directions exactly. You may need to add grains of rice or beans and shake to get scouring action with these products also.

Prevention, of course, can go a long way to keeping your crystal clean. If you have crystal vases or carafes, do not leave flowers or food in them any longer than necessary, since chemical changes can occur that permanently stain.

Washing Glassware Decorated with Gold or Silver

Some crystal or fine glassware have gilt rims and patterns as decoration. Never soak such items in solutions containing ammonia, washing soda, or heavy-duty detergents. Never use abrasive cleaning powders to wash them, either. Instead, use regular mild, hand dishwashing detergent and a soft cloth. An additional precaution would be to rinse such glassware in clear water while food residue is still fresh or soft to keep you from having to scrub at dried food on the surface.

Heat-resistant Glassware

Heat-resistant glassware can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher. Moderate alkalis such as ammonia solution may be used when stronger cleaning is needed. Do not use abrasive scouring powders or other abrasives as they will scratch glass.

This article has been contributed in part by Michigan State University Extension.