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How We Clean + Style Our Vinyl Windows to Make Them Shine!

A step-by-step to cleaning our vinyl window frames and glass, including which products we use and how we outfit them to look their best!

Half-drawn solar shades in the living room | via Yellow Brick Home
solar shades | stools | pendant light (similar) | ceiling light

This post is in partnership with Bali Blinds, a brand we’ve used for years and continue to love. Fabric samples are always free, and Bali Blinds can be purchased at any of these retailers or you can call their customer service directly.

Often times, cleaning windows that may have been neglected for a little while is much more than simply wiping off the glass. Modern windows are composted of multiple parts and materials that all require different cleaning strategies. As we prepped our Chicago condo (and the namesake of this very blog!) for sale, we tasked ourselves with cleaning away every last bit of grime that had accumulated over the years. Today, we’re breaking down the simple tasks we tackled to get our vinyl windows – frames, glass, and shades – looking their best! ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

What You’ll Need

1| Clean Window Frames

White vinyl windows are likely the most popular window style in modern homes. While they look great when new, the white vinyl tends to gather a lot of dust and dirt and can look dingy over time. Luckily, we discovered a cleaning combo that got them looking good as new with very little elbow grease! It’s our secret sauce, if you will.

Scrub Daddy and Barkeeper's Friend are the secret sauce to cleaning vinyl! | via Yellow Brick Home

We mixed up a simple solution of Barkeeper’s Friend and hot water, then used our Scrub Daddy to wipe away years of grime with one swipe! We were shocked with just how easily this combo got the vinyl looking brand spanking new. After such great results on the first window, we then proceeded to clean all 7 of the condo’s large windows top to bottom. Just don’t forget your gloves!

Scrub Daddy and Barkeeper's Friend are the secret sauce to cleaning vinyl! | via Yellow Brick Home

2| Clean Glass Inside + Out

Obviously, right? Our windows are double-hung, which makes them incredibly easy to clean with both panes tilted inward. This means the outside of the windows can be cleaned from inside the home. If you’re not sure if your windows tilt in like the photos below, check the top of the lower sash for recessed spring-loaded levers; these are called sash locks.

Spraying the windows inside and out | via Yellow Brick Home

If your windows don’t tilt in, the outsides can be cleaned with a spray solution connected to a garden hose. (We’ve never tried this particular method, but the reviews are great!) Once the outside of the windows were clean, we moved to the inside. We love World’s Best Glass Cleaner, but some of our friends swear by vinegar and water! We like to clean once with a microfiber cloth, then go back and clean any streaks with paper towels or newspaper.

3| Touch Up Scuffed Paint

In the case of our condo, the windows are not trimmed with molding, but instead cased in drywall. First, we touched up any visual nicks in the drywall surfaces, then moved on to the sills, which needed a tiny bit of spackling, then a quick hit of paint to get them looking fresh and new. We say this all of the time, but is there anything paint can’t fix?

Touch-up paint the sills and walls after washing the windows | via Yellow Brick Home

4| Add the Perfect (Motorized!) Window Treatments

With the window frames and glass cleaned and the surrounding paint touched up, we were ready to install some fresh new window coverings! We opted for motorized shades throughout to add value to the home and keep things cord-free and easy to use. For the open-concept main space of the home, we opted for inside-mount solar shades from Bali Blinds in the color SafeElements Barely Tan with 2% openness. We’ve covered openness percentages of solar shades more extensively in the past, and we selected this fabric for its light-filtering properties and UV protection.

Solar shades closed in the living room, sun streaming in | via Yellow Brick Home
solar shades in SafeElements Barely Tan

In an incredibly cool invisible twist, the SafeElements fabric line is anti-micribial and anti-fungal, so installing these shades actually results in cleaner air in the home! From a decidedly more visible perspective, we absolutely love how the afternoon light casts beautiful abstract shadows through the trees!

Rechargeable Battery Packs

The windows in this condo unit are very tall, which allows in an incredible amount of natural light. The compact cassettes and new rechargeable battery packs (cleverly behind the shades) allow the windows to truly shine in more ways than one. The neutral fabric and cassette tones blend in perfectly with the tones of the walls, ceilings and kitchen cabinets. The overall effect is cohesive and calming and should appeal to a wide range of prospective buyers.

Solar shades open from the living room, sun streaming in | via Yellow Brick Home

We continue to be impressed with Bali’s product innovation and constant improvements. The newly upgraded motors in all of these shades are incredibly quiet (30% quieter, in fact!) and the sound of the blinds opening and closing is nearly imperceptible.

Solar shades drawn in the living room | via Yellow Brick Home

Control with a Single Touch

From a control standpoint, the three windows that form the unified trio in the living room have two distinct options for now. They can be operated independently from one other on individual remotes, or can be controlled in unison with one touch on the additional remote. In the future, they’re also able to be controlled via voice with either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant or any other smart home hub if the new owner decides to go that route!

close-up of motorized shade remote | via Yellow Brick Home

Our unit faces West, so the afternoon light can be harsh. The solar shades truly work wonders in filtering out UV light while allowing some of the suns rays to peek through for a calm, glowy effect. The feeling is similar to being on the beach, but sitting under an umbrella; protected, but still enjoying the positive effects of the sun’s energy!

close-up of solar shade | via Yellow Brick Home

Last but not least, we opted for roller shades in Fiji Blackout Warm Gray in the two bedrooms to create a pair of cozy retreats. These two shades are 100% impervious to light and darken the bedrooms incredibly well.

Blackout Bali Blinds roller shades in the bedrooms | via Yellow Brick Home
roller shades in Fiji Blackout Warm Gray

Now that our window sashes and glass are clean, the sills and surrounds are touched up and these gorgeous shades are installed, the bright, airy feeling of this space is truly maximized. These freshly cleaned windows look brand new and the addition of high-tech motorized blinds will surely add value and a huge wow factor for potential buyers! Just a few more finishing touches and this gem of a unit will be ready for its new owners…

Living Room + Kitchen shades: Bali Blinds solar shades in SafeElements Barely Tan, 2% Openness​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​Bedroom + Home Office shades: Bali Blinds blackout roller shades in Fiji Blackout Warm Grey

Thank you to Bali Blinds, a brand we’ve used for years and continue to love. Fabric samples are always free, and Bali Blinds can be purchased at any of these retailers or you can call their customer service directly.

PS: Considering motorized shades? Read this first!

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  • Mariele7.1.21 - 7:48 AM

    It’s the grooves in the windows that get me! How do you clean those? Toothbrush?ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.1.21 - 10:48 AM

      You’d be surprised how the Scrub Daddy can smoosh into grooves! We didn’t need a toothbrush, but for the extra tough spots, it would be nice to have that, too.ReplyCancel

  • Amy Lloyd7.1.21 - 9:54 AM

    Hey there! What about Bali Blinds for a back door that has a big window?!ReplyCancel

  • Julie Marquez7.1.21 - 10:13 AM

    Ooooo, I see the kitchen and it looks like a whole new space! Also, thanks for making this sponsored post contain useful info about cleaning the windows, and not just about the product. But, about those shades – I think I will be buying some stat. We have a three panel setup like your living room windows and I spent $40 to put up the cheapest roller shades, but I can’t get the spring mechanism to work and pull them back up, it’s frustrating.  Are yours top mounted? Also, I love those stools, and I hope you’re getting some rest from all that gorgeous work!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.1.21 - 10:53 AM

      Thank you, Julie!

      Yup, ours are inside mount, but they’re mounted to the top of the window casing. Install is SO easy, and these battery packs are quiet and wonderful! I’m excited for you to place an order. It will eliminate one more stressor from your day!ReplyCancel

    • Ann7.1.21 - 4:00 PM

      In the meantime, the usual old shades have a spring that can be tightened. If the spring isn’t broken, they’ll last for many decades (and the usual old hardware store kind were very sturdy). I used to staple gun fabric onto the roller, instead of using the original white shiny fabric, for a cheap, color-coordinated custom window treatment (I ironed the side hems and the bottom hem with room for the wooden rod using iron-on hemming material.)  
      The springs will need tightening every so often, and always did. I used to just wind up the end with the flat tip that looks like a screwdriver tip using two fingers (as I was taught as a child) with the shade taken down and rolled up in my hand – but you have to get it where the end will catch and hold the wind up you’ve just done, and sometimes it lets loose and unwinds and you have to try a few times to get it to catch (and get your fingers out of the way quickly when it lets go.)  Also, if you look online, you’ll see youtube videos with a much simpler method (though with more steps) for tightening the spring, though I’ve never tried it (last time I used roller-shades was pre-youtube, pre-internet actually.) Good luck!ReplyCancel

      • Kim7.1.21 - 4:10 PM

        Thanks for those tips, Ann!ReplyCancel

        • Ann7.2.21 - 5:21 PM

          Thanks for yours!  I now have vinyl windows, though I haven’t tried to clean these yet. 
          When I cleaned a place I owned to sell, cleaning the windows made such a difference, way more than I expected, even after cleaning the place within an inch of its life, and having moved out everything but some furniture pieces I left behind for awhile just to stage the place. And it hadn’t been that long since I’d cleaned the windows, but they do get dirty quickly in a city.  
          I started cleaning the front windows while the movers were moving my stuff out, so I could watch them load the truck and keep an eye on my stuff on the sidewalk (which I have known to disappear in previous moves in the big city when no one is watching the stuff carefully).  With no tilt, I was leaning out the windows, as I have usually had to do to clean windows, that time only one-and-a-half stories up, but I’ve done 4th floor ones as well. I’ve since had some tilt ones, and they are much easier to clean.  But you can clean other double-hung windows fairly well, being careful not to fall – having a squeegee you can stick on a longish handle is essential for that.  I got a bad cold doing that in November, but the clear sunlight it let in did make the place shine.  
          Like you, I did way more than necessary to sell, also installing new lighting, etc. – I also think that having a place where potential buyers don’t see anything that needs immediate fixing, replacing or cleaning helps for a quick sale at the best price.  Good luck!ReplyCancel

      • Julie Marquez7.1.21 - 4:46 PM

        Yes, thanks for the tips – I had no idea about the springs, and yup, we have those plastic-y shades. I like your upgrade ideas.ReplyCancel

        • Ann7.2.21 - 4:53 PM

          You’re most welcome – I had an idea from your post that you didn’t know.  Many people these days haven’t grown up with roller shades, as they aren’t as ubiquitous as they were decades ago (my age is showing…)
          Thanks for replying – I felt like I might be overstepping if you knew how they worked and just had ones with broken springs – I suppose a spring *could* break, but I figured that was unlikely, as all the ones I’ve seen, whether the solid wood roller kind or the thick cardboard roller kind, had springs that were still going strong after many decades. (Things used to be designed to last longer.)
          Good luck if you replace the fabric – it’s easy to do – the hardest part is making sure to staple the fabric on straight so it rolls up and down straight, especially important if the fabric has stripes or plaid (which look great, I used both.)  I made them for my first two apartments in …. Chicago, when a student there, and took them with me and used them in my next few places after I moved to another city. You can reuse the fabric to fit on shorter or less wide roller shades, and also reuse it to make cafe curtains for other windows where you don’t want shades.ReplyCancel

  • lak7.1.21 - 2:22 PM

    Wow…those windows look incredible.  Thank you for the cleaning tips and I will definitely be considering these blinds in the future if I need some.  The condo looks so beautiful and tranquil!ReplyCancel

  • Southern Gal7.2.21 - 12:49 PM

    Thanks for the tips re vinyl window cleaning… my new old house previous owners put vinyl upstairs (thankfully they left the seven huge windows downstairs alone although they are in horrid shape …. lots of work to do there.)  I spent a day earlier in the spring cleaning the vinyl window and just never got the glass to be squeaky clean.  i used bleach on the vinyl – probably not the best idea but they were almost black in some places – the whole house did not get a cleaning after they vacated and many areas had obviously not been cleaned in years it seems … anyway – will try your idea next time. ReplyCancel

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We’re Kim + Scott, Chicago based content creators behind the Home + Lifestyle brand Yellow Brick Home.

Join us as we renovate and nurture vintage homes across Chicago + SW Michigan!

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