Glass cleaners were born of necessity during World War II. The United States Air Force was having a problem with buildup on the plexiglass gunner sights of the B-29. The grime and dirt made it nearly impossible for gunners to see or aim at anything. A product was needed that would clean effectively without leaving streaks.
The rest is history.
From WWII To Hollywood
Commercially produced glass cleaner became available to the public in the 1940s. The powerfully effective new product took the hard work out of cleaning windows, mirrors, and other shiny surfaces in the home. Today, glass cleaner is one of the staples of home cleaning. Glass cleaner even had a supporting role in the 2002 hit comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The film, which focused on the traditions of an eccentric Greek family, featured a patriarch who believed in the curative properties of glass cleaner.
While we don’t recommend glass cleaner for healing physical ailments (remember to always follow directions on any product’s label), the film’s memorable use of glass cleaner is proof of the product’s place in our homes and our popular culture.
The Science Behind The Shine
Glass cleaners have a tough job. They have to dissolve dirt and grime, leave a surface shiny, and most importantly, they have to do it all without leaving telltale streaks or films. It’s a tall order, but the research and chemistry behind glass cleaners have made it all possible.
Glass cleaners usually contain surfactants and solvents that adhere to the glass surface and lift away dirt and grime, providing shiny surfaces extra sparkle. Sometimes they even have fragrances for a pleasant aroma. This highly efficient combination helps to easily clean surfaces without leaving the residue that appears in our mirrors and windows as streaks.
What About “Alternative” Products?
With the recent buzz about “green” or “alternative” cleaning products, you’ve probably heard about homemade, “natural” glass cleaners. Search the web and you’ll find hundreds of recipes for alternative glass cleaners using vinegar, natural soap, or ammonia. But what’s better about them? And are they really as effective?
Homemade glass cleaners usually lack the cleaning power of commercial products, which are balanced for effective cleaning and provide a streak-free shine. Alternative cleaners such as ammonia and vinegar in water lack the necessary detergency and solvent action required to give the optimum results. Other alternatives such as diluted dish washing liquids usually leave a film or residue which can be hard to remove. Commercially produced glass cleaners have been formulated with safety and effectiveness in mind. If you use these products as directed, you’ll spend less time cleaning your surfaces and more time enjoying the sparkle of your windows and mirrors.
A Clear Winner
From the battlefields of World War II to your battle with streaky mirrors, glass cleaner has evolved and improved over time to make cleaning easier and more effective.