Cleaning Stained Glass in Your Philly Home

You fell in love with the stained glass windows in your Philadelphia home the minute you laid eyes on them. Now that you own the property, the trick is figuring out the best way to clean and care for the glass. Here’s what you need to do.

It’s not every day that you find a Philadelphia home with decorative stained glass windows. But you were lucky enough to buy an older rowhome with a stain glass window on the front facade or above the door. Your big question now is, how does one go about cleaning stained glass? You don’t want to spritz blue window cleaner or anything abrasive over the delicate glass, after all. Although a simply dusting might be all you need, in some cases, cleaning stained glass is best left to a professional.

What’s Behind Stained Glass

Stained glass isn’t actually stained with a paint or dye. Instead, the glass panels that make up stained glass windows are made of colored glass. As the New York Times noted, a variety of metal oxides are added to glass when it is hot and liquid, turning the glass the desired color. The colored glass is then cut into a variety of shapes and arranged together to create a design. Strips of either lead or zinc, known as canes, are placed between the pieces of glass and everything is held together with a cement or putty. In the case of larger stained glass windows, support bars are often run across the panes of glass to keep the window from sagging or breaking.

Dry Is Best When Cleaning

The vinegar and ammonia found in many typical glass cleaners is bad news for stained glass, as they can scratch the glass and damage the metal canes. If you’re going to clean your stained glass window on your own, it’s best to stick with gently wiping it with a soft, dry cloth first. Dusting your stained glass is often the best way to keep it clean and free from grime and dirt.

Use Water for Heavy Duty Cleanup

If you find yourself facing decades of dirt and grime on your stained glass windows, a simple, light dusting isn’t going to do the trick. Don’t break out the harsh cleaners, though. You might be able to get your windows clean with a slightly damp, soft cloth. If you don’t have a water softener installed at home, your best bet is to head out to the grocery store and buy a gallon of distilled water to use when cleaning the windows.

Hard water will leave deposits on the glass, which you don’t want. Soak a cloth in the distilled water, then wring out very, very well. The cloth should just be slightly damp, not dripping. Gently wipe the glass with the cloth to remove the grime, then dry the glass with another cloth afterwards.

When to Call in a Pro

Sometimes, you need to hire a professional to clean or otherwise repair stained glass. If your windows are very dirty or if you’re concerned that they’ve worn out or are otherwise damaged, it can be worth the cost to work with a professional, to avoid causing further damage. A number of companies in Philadelphia clean and repair stained glass. You can use a service such as HomeAdvisor or AngiesList to find companies with good ratings and reviews.

Stained glass is fragile enough that it’s actually better not to clean it if you’re in any way unsure of its condition. While cleaning stained glass can seem like a simple enough project, it’s often best to get a pro’s opinion first before you try any DIY fixes.


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