How to Clean Window Screens

By Amanda Lutz Updated March 12, 2024

Cleaning your home’s window screens will improve the aesthetics of the house and keep pollen, dust, and pests from getting inside. We’ve listed out some of the best screen-cleaning methods in the guide below. Read more to learn how to maintain window screens, for ways to deal with rust, and for cleaning tips for nonremovable screens.

Importance of Cleaning Window Screens

Most homes have at least 10 windows, which make up approximately 15% of the average house’s wall space. Dust and grime can collect on your home’s windows if you neglect screens, which could make the space look dirty and unkempt. Dirty window screens also encourage pests to build nests in the corners of windows and screens, potentially leading to damages.

Dirty window screens can also cause problems inside your home. Dirt, webs, and plant debris could collect along the screen, making it tougher for you to see through windows. Dust and pollen that accumulate can push through the screen when your windows are open, too, increasing your exposure to allergens and respiratory irritants.

Cleaning window screens will likely eliminate these potential issues. Here are the benefits that come with clean window screens:

You’ll need to use proper cleaning techniques to make sure that you get these benefits.

Gathering Cleaning Materials

You don’t need any special tools or cleaners to scrub or wipe down your window screens. Simply gather the materials below before getting started.

Cleaning Removable Window Screens

Most residential windows have removable screens, which are relatively simple to clean. Take care of removable window screens by following the do-it-yourself (DIY) steps below.

Step 1: Remove the Screens

Remove the window screens to clean both sides of them. Most removable screens have tabs or simple spring mechanisms that you can push or pull to set the window screens free. Other screens use friction to stay put, allowing you to easily take them out.

Make sure you have a plan for keeping window screens organized before removing them. If you have a single-story home, you can remove all the screens and lay them out on the ground in front of their respective windows. If you have a multistory home, label the screens and the windows to which they correspond with tape.

Set the screens on towels or old blankets to protect them from the ground as they dry.

Step 2: Remove Debris with a Vacuum or Dry Towel

Begin the cleaning process by using dry cleaning methods. Run a vacuum with its brush attachment up and down the screen and then in horizontal rows. This will remove most debris that’s caught in the screen or in any crevices. Once you’ve completed one side of the screen, move on to the other.

You can also use a dry towel to brush the screen in a vertical and then horizontal motion on both sides. Don’t apply too much pressure as this could damage the screen. Remove all of the spiderwebs, dust, leaves, and pollen that you see.

Step 3: Wash Both Sides of the Window Screens

Next, wet clean the screens to remove stuck-on dirt and debris. Create a soapy solution by combining 1/2 cup of dish soap with a gallon of clean water in a bowl or a bucket. Stir the mixture so that it thoroughly combines.

Gently hold the screen upright without twisting it or pressing down too hard. Soak your microfiber cloth with the cleaning solution and start washing both sides of the screen. Be sure to wash the edges of the screen, both of its mesh faces, and any tabs. Continue until you’ve removed as much debris, stains, and buildup as possible. You may not be able to remove all stains if the screen is old.

Wash your window screens in small batches so the soapy water doesn’t have time to dry and leave films or sudsy layers.

Step 4: Rinse the Screens and Let Them Dry

Lean your screen against the wall or a secure surface before gently rinsing it with a hose on its low-pressure setting. Rinse both sides of the screen along with its exterior frame. Then, lay the screen flat on a laid-out towel to dry. Repeat this step for all the window screens you’ve washed before the soap can dry.

Let the screen air dry in the sunlight for an hour or two. Use this time to clean and inspect the windows and their edges for spiderwebs, debris, or any clumps of pollen. You can also use a cleaning solution and another cloth to wipe down the window frames that screens typically block. If you see cracks or cloudy glass, it might be time to replace your windows.

Repair or replace any screens that feature sagging mesh. This maintenance task is extra work, but it could extend the life span of a screen. Visit your local home improvement store to find patches for small tears. You can also replace mesh within the screen by opening or loosening its splines, discarding the old screen, and installing replacement mesh that’s been cut to size.

Step 5: Reinstall the Screens

Once the window screens are dry, reattach them to their corresponding window frames. Orient them so that the front face of each is pointed toward the outside. Carefully inspect each screen to make sure that there are no gaps along the edges.

When your window screens are clean and back in place, open the windows and enjoy a fresh breeze throughout your home.

Cleaning Nonremovable Window Screens

Many homes come with nonremovable window screens, which are more challenging to clean. Follow the steps below to remove grime, dirt, and debris from nonremovable window screens.

Step 1: Dry Clean the Window Screens

Dust or vacuum the window screens to remove dust and debris. Then head indoors, open the window, and repeat the process on the screen’s inside face. We recommend cleaning one room’s window screens at a time.

Step 2: Clean Window Screens With a Cleaning Solution

Prepare one bucket or bowl of warm water and one bowl or bucket of cleaning solution. Dilute the cleaning solution with water at a ratio of 1/4 cup of cleaning solution per half gallon of water, or 1 teaspoon of cleaning solution per cup of water. Lay down towels near the windows so the cleaning solution doesn’t drip onto the floor.

Gently scrub the exterior and interior of each window screen. Carefully clean both the frames and the edges of windowsills to remove any loose dirt.

Step 3: Dry the Window Screens

Mop up excess water with a clean, dry cloth, and open your windows for a few hours to let the breeze dry your screens. Remove any drips or pooled water with the towel. Keep an eye out for spiderwebs, wasp nests, mud dauber nests, or any gaps in the caulk.

Managing Screen Rust

Window screens can rust or corrode since they’re constantly exposed to the elements. Corrosion can weaken screens’ metal mesh, splines, and frames, so it’s important that you act quickly if you notice damages.

To remove rust stains and corrosion, pour or rub distilled white vinegar over the rust. Let it sit for an hour or two and repeatedly rub the area with a towel soaked in vinegar. If the stain is stubborn, create a one-to-one solution of baking soda and water. Scrub the stain with the cleaning solution using a toothbrush or towel.

Once the stain is gone, rinse away the vinegar and baking soda mixture and let the screen dry. Look for potential causes of the corrosion and remove them. Cleaning can preserve your window screen, but ongoing exposure to rust will make it deteriorate over time. If the rust has weakened the mesh, it’s time to replace the screen material or the entire screen.

Our Recommendation

Cleaning your home’s window screens every year reduces the amount of pollen and allergens that enter your house. The sight of clean screens also increases your home’s curb appeal. We recommend cleaning screens at least every spring so you can enjoy fresh air throughout the warm seasons. Use the time spent cleaning screens to also clean windows, inspect your trim and siding, and complete other home improvement tasks.

How to Clean Window Screens FAQ

What is the best way to clean my window screens?

The best way to clean window screens is with a gentle cleaning solution of diluted detergent. Gently rub both sides of the screen with a wet towel and allow the screens to dry while flat.

How do you clean windows without removing the screen?

Clean windows without removing the screen by spraying the windows through the screen with a garden hose. You can also clean the window above the screen by using a glass cleaner spray bottle. Wipe surfaces dry with a microfiber cloth to ensure that you don’t leave any streaks.

Can you use Windex on window screens?

Yes, you can use Windex on window screens. The cleaner can damage plants and grass that are stationed under the window, though, so lay the screens on a towel before spraying them.

How do you clean windowsills and screens?

Clean the sills and screens of windows in two stages. First, wipe the surfaces clean with a dry microfiber cloth to remove dirt and loose debris. Then, wet a towel in a gentle cleaning solution to remove stains and built-on debris.

How often should window screens be cleaned?

Window screens should be cleaned at least once a year. If you have allergies or frequently open your windows, we recommend frequently following a cleaning routine.