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Will Windex Hurt Car Paint?

Cleaning a car window with windex.

Windex is a popular household cleaning solution that works well for reflective surfaces. A common question is whether or not it can be used to clean the exterior of a car.

Windex can harm car paint and should not be used to clean the painted surfaces on the exterior of a car, as it contains chemical ingredients like ammonia and isopropanolamine that can damage the vehicle's clear coat and paint layers. While the cleaning solution can be used for windows and mirrors, original or ammonia-free Windex is not suitable for the exterior of a vehicle.

If you're considering cleaning your vehicle with this popular solution, stop right there and keep reading. In this article, we will provide an in-depth explanation of why Windex is harmful to car paint with some suggestions on what you should use instead.

Table Of Contents [show]

    Cleaning a car window with windex.
    Cleaning a car window with windex.

    Can I Clean My Car With Windex?

    You should not clean the exterior of your car with Windex. Apart from the car's glass surfaces, such a strong cleaning solution is not ideal.

    While car paint does have a similar shiny finish to a mirror or window, this type of surface is not strong enough to hold up against the chemicals Windex contains.

    The chemical cleaner is made with a long list of ingredients that are harmful to the exterior paint. These include linalool, isopropanolamine, butylphenyl methylpropional, and 2-hexoxyethanol. The main ingredient in Windex that concerns car owners is ammonia.

    While Windex can be used carefully on your car's windows and mirrors, you should be cautious to avoid spraying the solution anywhere else. If it comes in contact with your exterior paint it can cause a lot more damage than it's worth.

    Regular windex contains ammonia.
    Regular windex contains ammonia.

    Does Ammonia Hurt Car Paint?

    Ammonia is extremely harmful to car paint. Vehicles have a clear coat on top of the paint as a protective layer to shield the exterior from the elements.

    Ammonia is an irritating gas that can easily penetrate this layer, exposing your car's paint completely. With long-term use, ammonia can burn through the actual paint after the clear coating has been removed.

    For cleaning, ammonia is typically diluted with water to create a safer solution. When it comes to cleaning your car, no amount of ammonia is ideal. Even a diluted spray is much too strong for your car's paint to withstand.

    Is Ammonia-Free Windex Safe On Car Paint?

    Ammonia-free Windex is not safe on car paint, either. Being that ammonia is one of the key ingredients in Windex that makes it less than desirable for cleaning the exterior of a vehicle, this is a common misconception.

    If ammonia is the root of the problem, it would make sense that removing it from the list of ingredients would make Windex a safe option. However, the other chemical additives found in Windex will be just as harmful to your car's paint. Instead, you should use a gentle cleaning solution that won't damage or strip the paint.

    What Cleaner Is Safe On Car Paint?

    Many gentle cleaning solutions like car wash soap, vinegar, and baking soda can help you add shine to your car's exterior without stripping the paint. Continue reading this section if you're wondering “what cleaner is safe on car paint if Windex won't work?”

    Car soap bubbles on the surface of a car.
    Car soap bubbles on the surface of a car.

    Car Wash Soap

    The first answer to this question is also the most obvious. You can purchase a gentle car wash soap online or at almost any retailer. These products are specifically formulated to clean your vehicle's exterior without ruining its appearance.


    Vinegar is an ingredient you probably have in your cabinets already. Mix 3 parts water with 1 part vinegar to create a paint-friendly solution for your car's exterior.

    Baking Soda

    Baking soda is a natural cleaning agent that can work wonders for cleaning your car. Fill a bucket with water and add one cup of baking soda to every gallon for a DIY car wash soap.

    What Ruins Car Paint Instantly?

    Substances including dust, bird droppings, and coffee can ruin the paint on your vehicle's exterior almost instantly. Windex and ammonia are not the only culprits of stripped car paint. Below are some of the most common causes of this problem.


    Dust that sits on the exterior of your car, especially for an extended period of time, can be detrimental to the paint job. Any movement of the particles can result in instant permanent scratches.


    Spilling beverages on your car, including soda and other carbonated drinks, can ruin the paint. This also applies to hot beverages like coffee and tea. These liquids are strong enough to alter your vehicle's exterior permanently.


    Salt is pleasant when used for cooking and other household purposes. However, the same is not true for cars, specifically the paint. In areas that snow in the winter, salt is sprinkled in public places, making it more likely for cars parked outside to sustain paint damage.

    Brake Fluid

    Brake fluid contains harmful chemicals that should not come in contact with your car's exterior. Similar to Windex and other strong cleaning solutions, brake fluid can burn the clear coat off the paint on your car almost instantly.

    Bird poop on car paint.
    Bird poop on car paint.

    Bird Droppings

    Bird droppings are commonly seen on the windshields, roofs, and hoods of cars parked outside. If you're unlucky enough to be a victim of this, your car's paint could be in trouble.


    Along with chemical solutions and harsh liquids, physical damage to the body of your car can cause the paint to chip or crack. If you collide with another vehicle, your paint can be immediately destroyed.

    Improper Cleaning

    Finally, improper cleaning of the outside of your car can cause problems with the finish. A common mistake many vehicle owners make is using dish soap, hand soap, and window cleaners as a car washing solution.

    While these materials are readily available and convenient to use, they are too harsh for the delicate paint on a car. In addition, using a dirty cloth to clean your vehicle can result in scratches that damage the paint.

    Final Thoughts: Windex and Car Paint

    Although Windex works great for glass, it should not be used to clean your car. The chemicals contained in the solution should never come in contact with your vehicle's exterior paint. The same is true for ammonia-free Windex, as this ingredient is not the only concern.

    It's perfectly fine to use Windex for cleaning your car's mirrors and windshield, however this should be done carefully to avoid contact with nearby surfaces.

    Instead of Windex, use a dedicated car wash soap. Some gentle DIY solutions include vinegar or baking soda mixed with water. Be sure to use one of these solutions and a clean cloth to avoid paint damage from improper cleaning.