These days, harsh chemical cleaners are so passé. A natural, eco-friendly cleaner exists for almost everything under the sun, and your windows are no exception.

I don’t know about you, but about a second after I clean my windows, they are back to being all fingerprinty again. With four little ones running around, windows stay clean for all of 15 seconds. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

The secret to cleaning windows, I have found, is in the cloth you use to wipe them dry. A regular paper towel or cotton cloth will often leave lint and residue on the glass, even after you’ve wiped off all the fingerprints. So what to do? First, let me explain the best way to clean the windows and then the best way to buff once you’re done.

I have a spray bottle of vinegar, water and a little dish soap under my sink that I use on the kitchen countertops. It works on basically everything in the house — I’ve used it on spots on my upholstery, floors and even children. Just kidding. Well, as it turns out, this nifty magic mixture works wonders on windows, too — inside and outside.

If you’re cleaning outdoor windows, it may be best to use a bucket filled with the mixture and a soft bristle scrub brush because that will help you do the job quicker than a spray bottle. If you’re outside your house, make sure to hose down the windows right after you scrub the mixture on, because it will dry quickly. Inside, spray the mixture on and wipe with a cotton cloth. I like to use old, cut up T-shirts.

Then spray with water and wipe with … wait for it … a lint-free microfiber cloth or a chamois cloth. This will ensure that your sparkling windows stay sparkling after you clean them — at least for a minute or two, until someone gets his or her grimy hands on them.

The chamois cloth works really well when windows are dusty but not actually dirty (in my grandmother’s house with no pets or children around, for example). Gently dampen the cloth and wipe the dust off, no harsh chemicals necessary.

A chamois (pronounced sham-wa, but often called a shammy) is actually a leatherlike cloth used to dry cars and is a great tool for the windows in your home, as well as your car. It’s usually made from oil-tanned sheepskin.

If it needs to be cleaned itself, just soak it for a few minutes in a little warm water and dish soap, rinse till clean and let it dry away from sunlight. Be sure not to throw it the washing machine because harsh chemicals can strip its oils, and sticking it in the dryer or drying it in the sun can dry it out too much, causing it to lose its absorbency and softness.

There you have it, folks. If you’ve got time to clean your windows, now you have a great way to do it. If you don’t, we’re not judging. Happy cleaning!

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