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How to Clean RV Windows and Make them Sparkle!

How to Clean RV Windows and Make them Sparkle!

Like any home, your home-on-wheels has lots of windows. The difference is that not only do your RV windows travel down dusty, dirty roads… but they also may not be composed of the same materials as the windows of a sticks & bricks house. Today we’re talking about the specific tips you should know about how to clean RV windows, make them sparkle, and keep them in good condition.

What Are RV Windows Made Of?

There are a few different materials your RV windows could be made of, and it’s possible that you’re dealing with more than one type of window on a single RV. For example, your windshield may be made of tempered or laminated glass, while other of your RV windows are made of a different material. That’s why it’s good to know how to properly clean all three of these types of windows.


Tempered glass is the most common window material found in RVs. Most RV doors and windows are made of tempered glass, which is often referred to as “safety glass”.

This type of glass is made using a heating and cooling process that strengthens it to make it several times stronger than regular glass for both safety and durability. It’s also designed to shatter into tiny pieces when broken, rather than leaving large, dangerous shards of sharp glass.

Polycarbonate/Hard Plastic

Another common material used to make RV windows is polycarbonate, which is a hard plastic material. It has high clarity but weighs significantly less than glass, making it a good choice of material for RVs where weight is a concern.

This window material resists shattering and is easy to shape, which makes it a good material for windows that are curved for better aerodynamics.

Polycarbonate is also easy for manufacturers to tint /shade to protect the interior of the RV from heat as well as glare.

Flexible Plastic/Vinyl

A popup camper with flexible plastic/vinyl windows... you need to know how to clean rv windows like these the right way!

The plastic or vinyl material used to create windows on popup campers may be particularly easily scratched and damaged. Special care should be taken when washing flexible windows like these.

Some camper windows, particularly those found on pop-up campers, are made of a flexible plastic or vinyl material that enables them to fold up and down with the camper. This flexibility is great, enabling windows to be placed in flexible fabric sidewalls. But that flexibility means the plastic is also more easily scuffed, scratched, and damaged.

How Do RV Windows Work?

RV windows may be dual pane (more expensive) or single pane and are generally either framed and contain a sliding mechanism for opening & closing, or they’re set on a hinged/louvered mechanism that allows the window to open and close with a push/crank.

RV windows with sliding mechanisms may open & close on a vertical (slide up & down), horizontal (slide left to right), or “T-slider” combination sliding mechanism (a combination of a fixed window pane with a sliding window above it).

Some camper windows, such as those found on a pop-up camper, simply zip/unzip open and closed.

Why Is It Important to Know What Your RV Windows Are Made Of?

It’s important to know what your RV windows are made of for a couple of reasons.

First, in order to know how best to clean your RV windows, you need to know what they’re made of. For example, some techniques (using steel wool, for example) may work well for the type of glass in your windshield, but certainly don’t apply to polycarbonate or other plastic windows common on lighter RVs.

Some cleaning methods can actually damage your RV windows depending on what they’re made of. So you need to be sure you know what your RV’s windows are made of before cleaning.

Secondly, there may come a time when those windows need to be replaced. You may be able to do this yourself, but first, you need to know the type of window needed for your RV.

We hear a few of you saying that RV window replacement is one DIY project you’d never take on – but honestly, it’s not as difficult as you may think! You just need a few tools and, most importantly, the right replacement window for your rig!

Feel free to check out our blog’s step-by-step guide on RV window replacement, or watch our easy-to-follow video tutorial which you can follow along with if you decide to replace your own RV window:

And since we’re on the subject of windows, we know that van conversions are very popular right now, so we’ll include this van conversion window install post & video, for those of you who are considering undertaking the project of installing a window where there isn’t even a hole yet:

How to Clean RV Windows Made of Glass

Most people have some idea of how to clean glass, including windows and mirrors. Many have a preferred method and a preferred cleaning agent such as vinegar & water or a commercial product like Windex. We’re no different, though a home-on-wheels can present some different challenges.

We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in our home for the past two decades, and we know the toll traveling through the dusty desert, over dirty roads, and in various types of weather can take on RV windows.

Most RVs have lots of windows and plenty of mirrors too, so it can take a lot of time to keep them clean. Here’s our trick for cleaning all of the glass in our RV super fast… without window cleaners of any kind and without wasting a single paper towel. All you’ll need are two microfiber cloths like these:

Zwipes Microfiber Towel Cleaning Cloths, 36 Pack, Assorted, (737)
  • 100% machine washable, super-soft microfiber cloths are ideal for cleaning, drying, dusting, and polishing within the home, garage, auto, office, and...
  • With just water, Zwipes microfiber cleaning towels can attract dust, dirt, and grime and trap these particles within 110,000 fibers per square inch,...

With specific regard to the windshield, we’ve learned that the best way for us to clean that big stretch of glass (as well as the one on our toad), completely removing the buildup of bugs & tar that accumulate from long driving trips, is to super clean our windshields using a combination of these products:

Red Devil 0320 Steel Wool, 0000 (Pack of 8)
  • Smooth shellac, lacquer or varnish before final top coat
  • Buff furniture & woodwork - rubs out a high luster finish
Invisible Glass 92164 22-Ounce Premium Glass Cleaner and Window Spray for Auto and Home Provides a Streak-Free Shine on Windows, Windshields, and Mirrors is Residue and Ammonia Free and Tint Safe
  • RESIDUE FREE: The Invisible Glass CLEAR DRY formula contains no streaky soaps, scents, or dyes leaving absolutely ZERO residue on your glass.
  • AMMONIA-FREE: This unique formula contains no ammonia, so it’s perfect for use on tinted and non-tinted glass

Here’s how we super clean our windshield, super fast!

A couple of important notes:

When we originally noted using 0000 steel wool on our windshield, we received a couple of comments noting that there are people who’ve noticed fine scratches when they’ve used steel wool.

Note, first of all, that we specifically recommend using 0000 steel wool – it’s a very fine mesh. And as always, we recommend trying any new product or method in an inconspicuous area before going for the gusto, and this is no different.

Also, whenever you use steel wool for anything at all, use caution when storing it. Steel wool is highly flammable and storing it with its excessive flammability in mind is critical.

Others have voiced concern for the potential of rusting from any bits of the 0000 Steel Wool that break off during use. We’ve used steel wool to thoroughly clean our windshields for years and have never encountered this as a problem. But if you’re concerned about it, you can also consider replacing the 0000 steel wool with the finest bronze wool you can find.

Rogue River Tools Bronze Wool Pads (3pc) - Fine
  • A soft, reusable set of bronze wool pads for polishing, buffing, cleaning, etc.
  • Great for woodwork, glass, ceramic, tile, metal, or other general cleaning and smoothing

How to Clean RV Windows Made of Polycarbonate/Hard Plastic

Polycarbonate windows scratch easily, so you’ll need to be aware of this when cleaning them. For example, you’d never want to use a hard-bristled brush or abrasive cleaners on this material.

The best way to start the cleaning process is to hose down the windows first, removing loose dust, dirty, sand, salt, etc. that could scratch the windows as you clean them.

Use a mild detergent or a good quality car detergent, as well as non-abrasive microfiber cloths, chamois leather, or soft sponges. Be aware that even a rag such as an old t-shirt can scratch polycarbonate windows, so ordering a package of microfiber cloths is a good idea.

Zwipes Microfiber Towel Cleaning Cloths, 36 Pack, Assorted, (737)
  • 100% machine washable, super-soft microfiber cloths are ideal for cleaning, drying, dusting, and polishing within the home, garage, auto, office, and...
  • With just water, Zwipes microfiber cleaning towels can attract dust, dirt, and grime and trap these particles within 110,000 fibers per square inch,...

How to Clean RV Windows Made of Flexible Plastic/Vinyl

Note that although strong, flexible plastic/vinyl windows are prone to scratching, using non-abrasive products will allow you to keep them in near-new condition, given the appropriate caution used while cleaning.

Again, be sure to remove as much of the loose dust, dirt, sand, salt, etc. with your hose, but it’s best to use a light spray of water.

Wash the window surface with a mild solution of soap and water rather than harsh detergents or other cleaning agents that could damage the vinyl. Always use a water-based cleaner for vinyl windows.

Another good option for these windows is a solution of vinegar and water. One part vinegar to two parts water in a spray bottle works well. And if you’ve got mold/mildew on your pop-up camper’s vinyl or canvas, try that vinegar and water solution there as well.

Rinse your vinyl windows using clean water (again using a lighter jet spray) and pat the windows dry using a soft cloth.

Note that it’s good to use a protectant on both sides of your vinyl camper windows. A product like 303 Aerospace Protectant works well. Always use a soft cloth to polish and dry.

303 Graphene Nano Spray Coating - Next Level Carbon Polymer Protection, Enhances Gloss and Depth, Extreme Hydrophobic Protection, Beyond Ceramic, 15.5oz (30236CSR) Packaging May Vary,Blue
  • Beyond Ceramic – Get over a year of superior protection for your car. Our specially formulated graphite-oxide coating will increase the durability...
  • All-Season – As you prepare to get on the road, make sure your car is ready to face the sun, dirt, and whatever else your adventures bring. Our...

What’s Your Preferred Method for Cleaning Your RV Windows?

Tell us your preferred method for cleaning your RV windows and let us know how it has worked out for you over time. As always, we’re interested in hearing from our readers, so drop us a comment!

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Phil Ruffin

Thursday 14th of July 2022

I don't have a picture of it with me, but my 2009 Bigfoot has coated windows over the dinette, and someone has used improper cleaning and created a large hole in the coating. I didn't see anything in the article about coated windows, and I don't know what the coating is or what to avoid when cleaning it.


Friday 15th of July 2022

Hi Phil! If any type of coating has come off the inside of the windows, it's most often some sort of tinting. If that's the case, you do indeed need to be extra careful, as those sorts of coatings are not even close to as hard/solid as the glass itself, and could come off if care isn't taken with them.


Wednesday 1st of June 2022

I have used the 0000 steel wool on the windows for the entire seven years we've owned our coach, as well as the Invisible Glass products (rain repellant on the outside and normal on the inside) and have never had an issue, including scratching the glass. The steel wool really gets everything, including baked-on bugs) off and preps the glass for a good-ol wet down and cleaning. This has been by far the best method for cleaning I've seen and works well! THANKS!


Wednesday 1st of June 2022

We use Rainx window cleaner on the windshield, mirrors, and headlights. All the other windows, we use just Windex.

The Rainx also works well on the shower walls.

Jim Keltner

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

We used Invisible Glass for years but have now switched to Sprayway Glass Cleaner. The foam seems to "lift" some of the bugs, etc off the window easier than than Invisible Glass and there is less residue after the job is finished.


Sunday 5th of June 2022

Good to know, Jim. We'll have to check it out. We love Invisible Glass (it's so streak free), but have had the same issue with it not necessarily CLEANING a dirty window all that well.

Steve Welch

Sunday 6th of August 2017

Just wanted to say thanks for all of your great videos - as a dedicated DIYer, I'm always interested in learning from others experiences. Also, regarding microfiber cloths, I purchased a bundle from Costco some years ago for car washing. I have noticed that if use one to dry my windshield I will often end up with some fiber residue on the glass. That is, you can see the tiny shiny fibers on the glass when the sun angle is right.

This leads me to believe that not all microfiber cloth is created equal, and I should maybe look for better ones. I am interested to know whether you've experienced anything similar...


Sunday 6th of August 2017

Thanks Steve! We've used several different microfiber cloths (including some from Costco I think), and haven't really noticed much discernible difference between brands. Seems like a little lint that catches the sun isn't that uncommon. You might try washing them to see if that de-lints them a little, but sometimes a little dusting off of lint is needed in places where the sun catches it just right. If there are higher-end cloths out there, we're not aware of it.

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PLEASE NOTE: We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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