Although cleaning window screens is about as exciting as scrubbing gutters, it needs to be done. Many of us keep moving this chore to the bottom of our to-do lists until it becomes necessary — meaning the screens are so dirty you can’t see through the windows.

When they’re this grubby, your window screens can reduce your home’s curb appeal and affect the air quality in your home. So when you decide it’s time to stop procrastinating and finally clean your window screens, we’re here to help. Below, we outline the process in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide on cleaning window screens to take the headache out of the task.

If, while cleaning your window screen, it gets damaged, and you’re unsure how to replace it, we recommend watching our video guide on window screen replacement.

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    How To Clean Window Screens Step-by-Step

    Cleaning your window screens is straightforward and should take only a few hours. With the right tools and materials, you can complete this DIY project in less than a day.

    Choose a warm, sunny day to ensure the screens dry quickly and completely. Of course, you can do the project on a rainy or cold day, but it may take longer.

    So, when the weather is working in your favor, follow these steps to clean your window screens:

    1. Gather Your Materials

    Before you start, you’ll need to gather a few tools and materials for the task. Here’s what you’ll need:

    • Baking soda
    • Cleaning vinegar
    • Dish soap or all-purpose cleaner
    • Extension cord (as necessary)
    • Funnel
    • Garden hose and spray nozzle
    • Large bucket
    • Masking tape and pen
    • Soft cloth (such as microfiber)
    • Soft-bristled cleaning brush or sponge
    • Spray bottle
    • Stepladder
    • Tarp (if needed)
    • Vacuum with a brush attachment

    2. Prep Your Workspace and Materials

    Once you gather your materials, set up your workspace, so things go smoothly. It’s easiest to put the screens on a flat surface for cleaning, so you can lay them out on a concrete driveway or a tarp in your yard — whatever works best for your circumstances. Alternatively, you can lean them against the side of your home for cleaning if you have nowhere to lay them down.

    If you’re going to lay the dirty screens down, spread out a tarp in your yard to go under them. If you’re laying them on the driveway, sweep it first to ensure you’re not putting them on a dirty surface. 

    Next, mix a cleaning vinegar solution of one part vinegar to one part water and pour it into a spray bottle. Use a funnel, as it’s easy to spill without one. Fill the large cleaning bucket with a few drops of dish soap or all-purpose cleaner and warm water to create a sudsy solution. You’ll use this soapy water in the following steps.

    3. Remove the Screens

    After you finish setting up your materials and workspace, it’s time to remove the screens. To make things easier when you reinstall each screen, label each one with a piece of masking tape. Write the general location of each screen (such as “west living room window”).

    Then remove each screen and take it to your work area. Generally, you can remove a screen by pulling up on the sides of the screen, then pushing it out with both hands positioned on the small tabs at the bottom of the screen. But some windows may differ. Be careful as you maneuver the screen out of the window frame because it’s easy to damage the mesh.

    4. Vacuum the Gunk

    Before you rinse the screens, use a vacuum to remove excess dust and grime. While you could spray the gunk off the screens, it could create a muddy paste that adds extra time to your cleaning project, so it’s usually easier to vacuum beforehand.

    Plug in your vacuum near your workspace (use an extension cord if needed) and hook up the brush attachment. Gently vacuum each screen to remove dust, dirt, and lint from the mesh.

    You can also use a lint roller to remove dust, lint, and loose dirt.

    5. Wet the Screens

    After you vacuum dirt and dust from the screens, it’s time to soak them. Attach a spray nozzle to your hose and move it to your work area. Wet each screen using a gentle spray setting. Douse the entire screen, frame and all, as this will help dampen and dislodge gunk to make it easier to scrub.

    Once you spray the screens, they’ll be ready for scrubbing. You can lean the screens against the side of your house or leave them on the tarp or driveway — whatever works best.

    6. Time To Scrub

    Saturate the soft-bristled brush or sponge in your soapy cleaning solution. Gently scrub each screen, including the frame, in circular motions to remove caked-on dust and debris. Be careful not to use too much pressure, as this could cause the mesh to pull away from the frame.

    Scrub both sides with your soapy solution, then use the hose to rinse away the suds.

    7. Tackle Caked-on Rust

    If you have metal screens, there’s a good chance rust will become an issue at some point. So if your metal window screens are caked in rust, follow these steps to remove it:

    1. Liberally spritz the cleaning vinegar solution over the affected areas.
    2. Wait several hours for the vinegar solution to penetrate the rust.
    3. Use a soft-bristled brush, sponge, or soft cloth to scrub the residual rust. Rinse the brush or rag as needed to remove rust particles.
    4. If the rust won’t lift, mix a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the affected areas, then scrub gently with the brush or sponge. As the rust lifts, rinse the screen with clean water.
    5. After removing the rust, wipe with a soft, dry cloth to remove residual vinegar and rust particles.

    8. Give It Time

    You’ll need to give the screens time to air dry before reinstalling them, so let them sit for a few hours. Ideally, you should leave them in the sunshine or prop them up on a windy day, so they’ll dry completely.

    In some cases, this can take less than 30 minutes, but in others, it may take a few hours. Let the screens dry completely before you reinstall them. To expedite the drying process, you can wipe down the excess water with a microfiber cloth.

    9. Reinstall Each Screen

    When the screens are completely dry, you can reinstall them in their proper place. To do this, align the frame in the channel on the right and left sides of the window jamb. Once it’s aligned, pull the screen up and into the top track. Then, use both hands (positioned on the tabs at the bottom) to maneuver the screen up and into place.

    If you install it correctly, the screen should lock into place. Be gentle as you maneuver the screen into its spot, so you don’t damage the mesh.

    Final Thoughts: Window Screen Cleaning How To

    While cleaning window screens is a project most homeowners tend to avoid or forget, it’s not a big deal. It only takes a few hours to complete. Once you’re done, you’ll be able to see clearly out of your windows again — especially if you clean the windows too.

    Of course, there are scenarios where it might be time to replace the whole window setup, so if that’s the case, we encourage you to explore our step-by-step guide on making window screens.

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    FAQs About How To Clean Window Screens

    Can You Use Windex Outdoor on Window Screens?

    Yes, you can use Window Outdoor on window screens. The product is designed for use on various surfaces, including window screens, so you can safely use it for this particular task.

    Can You Clean a Window Screen With a Magic Eraser?

    Absolutely. Magic Erasers can be incredibly helpful for removing dirt and dust from your screen, especially if your vacuum can’t pick it up. Simply dampen a Magic Eraser and lightly scrub the screen to remove the gunk. Don’t use too much force, as you could stretch or damage the mesh.

    How Do You Remove Oxidation From Window Screens?

    If your window screens are plagued with oxidation — a crusty buildup from oxidation of the aluminum screens — use vinegar and water to tackle the stains. You can use regular, undiluted cleaning vinegar for large areas, but for smaller areas, use the 50-50 mixture of cleaning vinegar and water. Let the mixture sit on the oxidation marks for a few hours, then gently scrub the area with a soft cloth, sponge, or soft-bristled brush.

    Is Alcohol a Good Solution for Cleaning Window Screens?

    Although you could use alcohol to clean your window screens, we recommend sticking with a milder cleaning solution. All-purpose cleaners or mild dish soap diluted in warm water should do the trick in most cases, but cleaning vinegar should work for rusty marks and oxidation.

    Does Vinegar Damage Window Screens?

    Vinegar won’t damage window screens if you use household cleaning vinegar. Regular white vinegar will do, but cleaning vinegar offers a bit of extra strength, as it contains about 6% acid. Avoid using concentrated vinegar solutions, which are highly acidic and could damage the screens. And always wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Elisabeth Beauchamp

    Elisabeth Beauchamp

    Senior Staff Writer

    Elisabeth Beauchamp is a content producer for Today’s Homeowner’s Lawn and Windows categories. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Journalism and Linguistics. When Elisabeth isn’t writing about flowers, foliage, and fertilizer, she’s researching landscaping trends and current events in the agricultural space. Elisabeth aims to educate and equip readers with the tools they need to create a home they love.

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