How to Clean Stained Glass Windows and Hangings

Stained glass windows and art hangings are becoming more popular in private homes today. It’s no surprise that the beauty of glass that’s often seen in churches and cathedrals has now been downsized and added to our home decor.

Besides being comprised of several different colors and shapes, the real beauty of stained glass is that its look depends on the light it receives. The amount of the light and the direction that it hits the glass can constantly change the appearance of the art work. To see a working example of this, take a good look at a stained glass window in the early morning sunlight. Then, go back and look at the same window in the afternoon sun. The biggest difference you’ll notice is that some of the colors look lighter, while others look darker.

Normally, The Stained Glass Association of America recommends that stained glass just be lightly dusted from time to time. The less this type of glass is cleaned, the better.

The exterior side of stained glass windows are subjected to the elements and the pollution of the outdoors. The inside of a window, as well as both sides of hangings, can become dirty and dulled because of household dust and dirt, tobacco smoke, cooking grease, and more. All stained glass art tends to become oxidized over a period of time. Oxidation causes the glass pieces to look milky and dull.

Once stained glass becomes dirty, the amount of light that can shine through it is reduced. Its beauty is also reduced. If the build up of dirt and grime is heavy enough, the light cannot pass through it and the stained glass window or hanging takes on a dull, dreary look.

If you’re like me, when you think of cleaning glass, you automatically reach for the WindexâÂ?¢ spray and the paper towels. Or, you grab your jug of white vinegar to do the job. Bad moves! Especially if your stained glass is painted, and the paint wasn’t fired on. Never use glass cleaners that contain ammonia, vinegar,
soaped steel wool pads, and other abrasive products on your stained glass windows or hangings.

Actually, you should try washing this type of colored glass with a soft, clean cloth and distilled water first. Distilled water is better than tap water because it contains no impurities in it. (You can find distilled water at your local grocery store.) Tap water often contains chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals than can discolor, dull, or streak stained glass.

Simply dip the cloth into the water, then wring it out so it’s not sloppy wet. Wipe it gently over each piece of glass. You can allow the stained glass to air dry. Or, you can use a dry, soft cloth to buff the glass until it shines.

If cleaning your stained glass window or hanging with distilled water doesn’t work, then try the second method.

The second method is to use a glass cleaner that does not contain ammonia. You’ll also need some paper towels or some soft, clean cloths. Spray a little bit of the glass cleaner onto the towel or cloth. (Never spray water, glass cleaner, or any type of liquid directly onto your stained glass.) Then, gently wipe the stained glass- one piece at a time- until it’s clean. If the glass pieces are small, and you’re having trouble getting into the corners, try using Q-TipâÂ?¢ cotton swabs. Or, wrap a cotton ball around the end of a pencil eraser.
Lightly moisten the cotton end with the non-ammonia glass cleaner. Then, use the end to clean around the corners and edges of the stained glass.

Gently buff each piece of stained glass with a soft, clean cloth. If you want to add a brighter look to your window or hanging, you can then use a tiny bit of Whiting to shine the glass with. Whiting- which is simply calcium carbonate that has been turned into a fine powder- should be readily available at your local hardware store. Lightly dip a dry cloth into the Whiting. Then, buff your stained glass until it shines.

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