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13 Things You Should Never Clean with Windex

You can't use Windex like an all-purpose cleaner. Cleaning experts weigh in on when Windex should stay in the cleaning bucket.

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Cleaning with Windex

It’s found in most homeowners’ arsenals of cleaning must-haves, but as great as it is, the original Windex Glass Cleaner shouldn’t be sprayed on every surface. We interviewed cleaning experts who share when it shouldn’t be used and what they prefer to use instead. Make sure you also know about these things you should never clean with water.

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“I often see homeowners make this big mistake: they clean their art pieces framed in plexiglass with original Windex,” says Maria Brophy, owner of Brophy Art Gallery in San Clemente, California. “Windex with ammonia will ruin the plexiglass.” Instead, she recommends cleaning the way it’s done in her gallery: apply a little soap and water on to Quickie General Purpose Microfiber Cleansing Cloths to gently wipe down (and then dry) the plexiglass frame. Or you could try Windex Ammonia-free Glass Cleaner. Make sure you never clean these 12 things with paper towels.

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Shower doors

“In my experience, Windex does not work well on soap scum buildup on a glass shower door,” says Maria Mendoza, branch manager, Housekeeping Associates. “Instead, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with Dow Scrubbing Bubbles and/or vinegar to clean your glass shower doors.”

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Stainless steel

“I don’t recommend using Windex on stainless steel appliances,” says Carol Smith, owner of Toronto-based Hireamaid. “Their finishes and how they interact with Windex can vary, and it’s not something to take a chance on.” On stainless steel, try Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner & Polish, she says. “It’s excellent and my staff loves it.” Watch out for these cleaning mistakes that are making your home dirtier.

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TV or computer screens

“Monitors can be damaged by the chemicals in original Windex because they can warp plastics, including the tint on your flat panel screen,” says Greg Shepard, founder of Emily’s Maids in Dallas. Instead, use a damp cloth or Windex Electronic Wipes to wipe down the screen. If a more thorough cleaning is in order, isopropyl alcohol (commonly called isopropanol) works wonders, adds Candace Kantzler of Michigan’s Housekeeping Associates. But however you clean your screens, do so lightly. “Use a gentle touch so as not to cause damage to the screen by pushing too hard.,” Kantzler says. Make sure you never use vinegar to clean these 8 things.

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“The alcohol contained in Windex will affect the patina of the copper and could cause permanent discoloration,” shares Sarah Steeb, a home cleaning expert with Housekeeping Associates. Instead, use water on those copper pots, pans, trays, etc. and buff it out with a microfiber cloth, she says.

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Car windshields

The same soapy water you use when hand washing your car is fine to use on your automobile’s windshield—no need to carry the Windex out to your car. “The trick for a streak-free finish is how you dry it,” Shepard says. “Emily’s Maids uses blue medical rags, which we buy in bulk. Also, newspapers are a ‘trade secret’ to dry windshields without streaking.” Find out the 15 car cleaning secrets only car detailers know.

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Home windows

“There is nothing better than a squeegee and Dawn dish soap to clean windows,” says Shepard. He recommends adding a small squirt of Dawn into a water-filled bucket and a Scrubby Pad to remove dirt without residue. Use the squeegee for a squeaky clean finish by starting at the top and work your way down, using vertical or horizontal swoops. “For extra shine, make sure to clean the blade with a cloth after each swoop,” he says. Make sure you never use baking soda to clean these things.

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Granite or marble

This is a big NO. “Windex shouldn’t be used on granite or marble kitchen tops. Cleaners like Windex can etch or dull the surfaces of natural stone,” says Rick Glickman, president of Dream Kitchens, a design studio in Highland Park, Illinois. “Instead, use a neutral cleaner such as Trinova Daily Granite Cleaner which is made specifically for stone, so it safely cleans, and has a sealer in the formula to help prevent staining.”

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The ammonia in original Windex can damage wood, so if there’s a mess on your backyard deck, keep the Windex inside. “Wood is a natural surface that can dry out and crack, like your skin,” says Glickman. “John Boos Block Board Cream is an excellent conditioner that has food-grade mineral oil and natural waxes to keep wood moist and protected.” These are the cleaning products you should never use on your wood floors.

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Laminate countertop or glass top stove

It’s important to note that original Windex offers no disinfecting or cleaning properties, notes Jennifer Gregory of Molly Maid. However, Windex Disinfectant Cleaner Multi-Surface does and is a good choice for laminate countertops and glass stoves—areas you want to be disinfected since they’re where you cook.

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Avoid spraying or pouring Windex into your dishwasher, even to clean it out, as the chemicals in Windex should be kept away from your plates, cups, and silverware. “Instead, use a cup of vinegar and ½ cup baking soda and run it empty to remove soap residue and build up that has accumulated over time,” Gregory says.

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White subway tile wall and dark grout for a kitchen or bathroom backsplash
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Want the grout in your kitchen or bathroom to be white and bright? Don’t reach for Windex—it won’t lighten up the lining between your tiles. For an effective cleaning treatment, mix one-part bleach to ten parts water and let the solution sit for five minutes before scrubbing, rinsing, and wiping clean, Gregory suggests. Tackle this deep cleaning task at least twice a year.

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Bathtubs, showers, and toilets are other areas you’ll want to scrub down and disinfect, so hands off the original Windex. “The best cleaning product for the bathroom are any products that are bleach or peroxide-based, like Lysol with Bleach or Comet,” says Monica Bowman of Two Maids & A Mop. “These products effectively remove all bacteria, mold/mildew, and soap scum without damaging the surface.” These household items are also clever solutions for a sparkling bathtub. Find out the 10 times you should never use antibacterial wipes.

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Rachel Sokol
Rachel Sokol is a longtime contributor to Reader's Digest, tackling mostly cleaning and health round-ups. A journalism graduate of Emerson College, she's a former education writer, beauty editor, and entertainment columnist.