How to Clean Cloudy Glass

Plant in front of cloudy window
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Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 5 mins - 1 hr, 15 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Having to drink from a cloudy glass or look through a cloudy glass window can darken even the sunniest day. We want our glass, whether it's a drinking glass, a window, or reading glasses, to be clear and sparkling clean! If you suspect that your cloudy glass is caused by more than just a layer of dust and dirt, it's time to tackle the problem.

What Causes Cloudy Glass?

One of the most common causes of cloudy glass is deposits or spots left on the glass by the minerals in hard water. Hard water is rated according to the volume of minerals (usually calcium and lime) suspended in the water and is found across the United States in varying degrees of hardness. Homeowners with wells usually have the most problems with cloudy glass, unless they have installed a filtration or water softening system. Unfortunately, unless a water softener is used, glass pieces will become cloudy again after each treatment to get it sparkling. If care is not taken, eventually the minerals in the hard water will scratch or etch the glass. Once that happens, the cloudiness cannot be removed.

Cloudiness from etching can also occur when metal ions are leached from the glass by over-conditioning hard water and using too much dishwasher detergent.

Cloudiness is also caused when a film forms as the hard water minerals react with food particles. Serious culprits are the proteins in raw meats, eggs, and dairy products that react with calcium and magnesium in hard water. Washing the glasses in extremely hot water of the dishwasher makes the situation even worse by "cooking" the proteins and creating a tighter bond with the minerals and glass surface.

Finally, cloudiness can occur on windows that are made of double-paned glass. If the seal between the two layers of glass is broken by damage to the window, moisture, dirt, and even mold can invade the space between the panes of glass and cause the window to appear cloudy.

Fortunately, most cloudiness can be removed with proper cleaning and just a few products you probably have on hand in the pantry.

How Often to Clean Cloudy Glass

Glassware used for eating and drinking should be washed, of course, after every use. If cloudiness is a problem, you should take the extra steps to remove the cloudiness as soon as it appears and repeat as needed.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Sink or dishpan
  • Spray bottle

Materials

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cleaning vinegar
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Rinse agent for dishwasher

Instructions

  1. Test the Cloudy Glasses

    To determine if the cloudiness on glass is permanent from etching or can be cleaned away, use one of these tests:

    • Apply a drop of distilled white vinegar to the cloudy glass and rub a small area with a microfiber cloth. If the area is clear when the glass is dry, you will be able to clean away the cloudiness. If it is still cloudy, the glass is permanently etched.
    • Use a sharp edge to gently scrape the cloudy area of the glass. If some particles come loose and some of the cloudiness scrapes away, it is a film that can be cleaned from the glass. If the glass surface feels pitted and remains cloudy after scraping, the glass is permanently etched and will never be clear.
  2. Soak in Distilled White Vinegar

    Place the cloudy glasses in a sink or large dishpan. Add enough distilled white vinegar or cleaning vinegar to cover the glasses. If you don't have enough vinegar to completely cover the glasses, you can rotate them during the soaking process. Soak the glassware on all sides in the vinegar for at least 15 minutes.

    If you are cleaning a cloudy glass window or object that cannot be soaked, pour undiluted distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz the glass. Let the vinegar remain on the surface for 15 minutes before wiping it away and cleaning the glass surface as usual.

  3. Handwash the Glasses

    Drain the vinegar away and handwash the glasses with dishwashing soap and very warm water.

  4. Rinse and Dry

    Rinse each glass with warm or cool water and immediately dry the glass with a lint-free microfiber cloth. Do not allow the glasses to air dry or water spots may form and start the cloudiness cycle all over again.

Tips to Keep Glass From Becoming Cloudy

  • Always wash glasses by hand and dry them immediately.
  • Add a water softening system to your home.
  • Pre-rinse glasses used for milk or dairy products before placing them in a dishwasher.
  • Use the proper amount of dishwasher detergent for hard water areas by following the guidelines of your appliance's manufacturer.
  • If using the dishwasher, add a rinsing agent to the cycle.
  • Check the water temperature in your dishwasher. If the water is too hot, it can cook the proteins and cause a cloudy film. If the temperature of the water is too low, it can leave a greasy residue on glassware that also looks cloudy.
  • Clean your dishwasher frequently to prevent mineral build-up that can deposit on glassware.
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. "Map of Water Hardness in the U.S." U.S. Geological Survey.

  2. "Help! Our Glasses Are Cloudy." University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service.