Identify the Type of Stained Glass
There are 2 types of stained glass windows:
- The traditional cut and pieced together with metal frames
- The single-sided painted window or simulated stained glass
The cleaning techniques for both are basically the same except when it comes to metal framing.
Before you get started, keep in mind that stained glass windows are pieces of art and should be treated gently and with care. You should never use acidic or alkaline cleaners on stained glass.
A pH neutral cleaner only should be used to avoid damaging the glass or the support frame. Avoid cleaners such as vinegar or ammonia. In fact, warm soapy water works best. Abrasive cloths, wire brushes, and other scrubbing instruments should also be avoided.
Cleaning Stained Glass
Stained glass windows should be dusted lightly on a regular basis. A soft cotton cloth, dry Swiffer cloths, feather duster, or microfiber cloth will work best to whisk away dust and loose dirt particles. Each panel of the window should be cleaned individually.
If you are using a liquid cleaner, spray the liquid onto the cloth first, and then wipe down the window pane gently. Do not spray the cleaner directly onto the window. For hard-to-reach areas, a Q-tip is a good option. Once you are finished cleaning the windows, dry them with a soft cotton cloth.
Unfortunately, any liquid cleaner you use will leave a streak. But you can use calcium carbonate powder to remove the streaks. This powder is also called whiting powder.
About Lead Stained Glass Windows
Many older stained-glass windows use lead in their frames or even to piece together the glass itself.
It is the number one cause of heavy metal poisoning today.
Unless you are restoring the windows, you don’t have to worry about wearing protective equipment such as masks or gloves (although you certainly can if it’s a concern for you).
Stained glass made with lead is actually supposed to be a darker color and polishing it isn’t necessary.
However, this type of stained glass can develop a white, powdery coating on the surface caused by lead oxidation. This can be cleaned using the method above, but you should wear a face mask, and gloves while doing so. Be sure to throw the gloves, mask, and cloth away once you finish.
If you think your stained glass needs more help than simple cleaning, call a professional to restore it, especially if you suspect it is lead-based. Once the window is restored, the area around where the work was done should be thoroughly cleaned.