Jalousies, or louvered windows. The best way to clean them (Revised)

By Jeffrey the Barak.

This is the fifth rewrite of this old article, because research is ongoing.

I have hundreds of jalousie panes to clean at home. I live in Hawai’i where they are very popular, as they are good for allowing the trade winds keep the house cool.

Cleaning these multiple panes of glass is hard work, so over the last few years I have tried as many different ways as I could think of to make it a less than diabolical job.

I will start with the conclusion, so you do not have to read this whole article if you don’t want to.

(1) The first best way: Denatured Alcohol, mixed 1:1 with water in a spray bottle, and some microfiber towels

Known in some parts of the world as methylated spirits, denatured alcohol is a very inexpensive alcohol, poisonous to ingest, sold by the gallon at hardware stores, without any of the taxes that you would get on whiskey or wine.

Don’t worry if you see a metal can or plastic jug that says “clean burning fuel” as opposed to “cleans glass”. It is the same stuff.

It is basically 70% alcohol, mostly ethyl alcohol, plus some methyl alcohol and carbonol, with additives that make it taste terrible, including the very poisonous propylene glycol, and around 30% water.

The exact formula varies across different brands, but we can simplify the description and call it a can of 70% ethyl alcohol.

For windows you mix this in equal parts with water, making it 35% alcohol. This water slows the evaporation from your towel so it can work its magic on the glass jalousies.

Why is it so good?

Because it dries with no cloudy hazing or streaking. No other method does this so well, so quickly or so easily.

Spray your 1:1 onto a microfiber towel, wipe the jalousie panes clean and that’s it! No matter if they are quite clean or completely filthy, the result is the same, extremely fast and perfect.

Remember to change the quadrant of the towel once it looks dirty. Bring several towels if cleaning a lot of panes.

Thanks Ethyl!

(2) Another best way: very hot water on a wet microfiber towel, followed by drying with a dry and clean microfiber towel.

Yes the water should be hot, and therefore thick rubber gloves are needed to protect the hands. But for most types of dirt, no detergent is needed if the water is hot.

A variation here is to use a steam cleaner, however the majority of affordable steam cleaners are not very good at producing a lot of hot steam. Only the expensive, very expensive, types are worth the trouble of bringing it out and setting it up. If you have an expensive steam cleaner, give this a try. If you have a budget one that costs under $100, don’t waste your time because a bucket of hot water is faster and better.

(3) The best waterless way: Waterless car wash, a microfiber towel and a light touch.

This is fast. It may leave some haze at the left and right edges sometimes but fast is a good thing. Spray a mist of waterless car wash or airplane wash onto a microfiber towel. The towel may be damp or dry. Wipe the windows using a very light touch. Rubbing the glass hard does not work as well! The idea is this substance lifts dirt off the jalousie and deposits it in the fibers of the towel, hence the light touch.

Fold and re-fold the towel to use a clean section after 2 or 3 panes are cleaned.

(4) Equally effective if you can stand the smell, “Dawnegar”.

I dislike the smell of vinegar, but this works. There is a home recipe known as Dawnegar, a blend of water, white vinegar and Dawn dish soap. It is normally used to cut through calcium deposits on shower doors, and so if your jalousies have whitish dirt that never completely rubs off, a fine mist spray with Dawnegar, wiped away with a damp microfiber towel, might be what you need to cut through it.

It does not dry as streak-free as the alcohol, and it smells like fish and chips, but if calcium is your foe, acetic acid, a.k.a. vinegar, works.

(5) The previous best, and now fourth best way: damp Magic Eraser followed by dry microfiber towel.

This method is fast and easy, makes no mess, and uses no soap or window cleaning products. It is great for certain types of dirt that have a texture.

Method: Open the jalousies and use a melamine pad, (either a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or generic equivalent). Wet the pad under the tap, wring it out and then wipe the top of a pane with circular motions, rubbing until the sound of dirt abrasion fades away. This top side is the outside side and will be the dirtier side. Quickly wipe the bottom (inside side) with a brief left and right motion with the same eraser, and then dry both sides with a dry and clean microfiber towel.

Repeat for every pane. You will need to rinse, squeeze and re-wet the eraser pad after a few panes. The result is no smears, no haze, and no excess water. It is reasonably quick, clean and easy. Use no pressure, just a light touch is all you need during both stages.

A variation of this is to use a clay bar, real or synthetic, and clay bar lubricant. Use as directed on the packages.

Other ways to do it, and I’ve tried all of these plus a couple more:

Pressure washer or garden hose from the outside.

Okay this sounds like fun, but if you’ve ever observed jalousies in a hurricane, you will know that water under force will simply come right inside the house. You have to have a second person inside with a big towel. The only good thing about this method is you wash the screens in place, but really, it is a lot of effort and you will never have enough towels to dry up the mess.

The results are unfortunately disappointing. There will be haze.

Windex brand or similar window cleaning product, or car windshield wash, wet application, followed by a squeegee and towel, or just towels.

These window cleaners may or may not work better than plain water or soapy water, but only if the glass is cold to the touch, which is unlikely in Hawai’i. The windshield fluid is actually much better and much less expensive than the window cleaner, but the squeegee is not really suited to multiple tiny panes held at each end with a clip, and in practice, this method always results in hazy glass. Using newspaper rather than towels creates an even bigger mess as jalousies tend to shred up paper.

As above with a barely damp towel application.

Sadly this still results in haze, and unlike melamine pads, stubborn dirt does not always get dislodged. After a few panes, the towel will deposit as much mess as it removes, and the glass will dry hazy.

I have tried other methods, too ridiculous to share here, but the bottom line is, the ethyl spray and microfiber towel has a slight edge over the other methods for this potentially miserable job.

Jeffrey the Barak is a professional idiot who wasted a thousand hours failing to clean jalousies before ethyl alcohol arrived to save the day.

7 thoughts on “Jalousies, or louvered windows. The best way to clean them (Revised)

  1. Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I too live in Hawaii (Kailua Kona) and struggle with cleaning the jalousies I’ve been using a microfiber towel wet with water and a few drops of environmentally safe dish soap. Then following with a dry microfiber towel. I’m going to try your denatured alcohol method and see how it works for me. Mahalo! Connie


  2. I live in a mid century house in Michigan with Jalousie windows in my sunporch (yep we have those here too). Worst chore of the year is cleaning them. I tried your method using denatured alcohol today and it was amazing. They were dirty, with city grime and winter crud. Cut my cleaning time by a third. I love my windows but have often thought of replacing them because they’re such a pain to clean. But no more…beautifully sparkling windows in an hour.


  3. Thankyou so much for your genius tip on using alcohol and water to clean jalousie windows. We are in Illinois with a 3 season room which is all windows like this. I almost never clean them because until now, nothing worked. What a blessing to have found a solution. Best regards…


  4. Love this information and love that you take me away from my Santa Monica kitchen window … dreaming of Hawaii, while we clean our jalousie (new word) windows.


  5. Greetings from louver central Darwin Northern Territory. Wet season has just started preceded by 65% Humidity for 2 months means many many dirty louvers in my tropical home.
    Thanks for the tips – it seems elbow grease and timeliness are key ingredients supported by concentrates discovered in the rock age – alcohol or vinegar- and woven cloth also centuries old, are still favoured choices. I was hoping it had got easier.
    Still, the glitter of sunlight and the feel of a clean breeze is a strong motivator.


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