How to Clean Window Screens

Front door with screened windown on either side

Cleaning the windows is a somewhat obvious chore because dust and fingerprints will eventually visibly obscure the view. But what about the window screens themselves? They’re often overlooked, but those outdoor screens tend to gather more dust and debris than the glass due to their exterior location. Don’t let dusty or dirty window screens lower the air quality when you open the window to let in a breeze. Clean those window screens without damaging them and figure out how often to repeat the chore to keep them dust-free.

Why Clean Window Screens at All?

Wind blowing curtains

There are a number of issues with leaving the window screens dirty year after year. Many homeowners assume that Mother Nature is washing off the exterior of their home, including the window screens, with each rainstorm. However, that’s not entirely true. Instead, dust accumulates on the screen material. That dust feeds mold and mildew growth when humidity levels increase outdoors. When you open your window to let air in, the breeze brings in mold spores, dust, and other debris instead of clean air. Even occasional deep cleaning of the window screens will improve both the view and the air quality coming through each window.

Gather Your Supplies

Generic cleaning supplies on a white background

With a few methods to choose from for cleaning window screens, it’s best to explore what’s available and choose a technique based on that. Start by collecting any old toothbrushes or other soft-bristled brushes you have lying around. Even worn-out but clean paint brushes can be repurposed for cleaning window screens without damage. Grab some large sponges you have on hand, or try purchasing some specialty melamine scrubbing sponges for stubborn dirt. Make sure you have a bucket and dish soap as well. A lint roller and a vacuum with a brush attachment are two more tools useful for cleaning window screens. Finally, grab a pressure cleaner with low-pressure spray settings if you already have one. It’s unlikely you’ll need to rent or buy one just for this routine chore unless you have a lot of second-story windows to clean.

Removing the Window Screens

Man removing window screen from the outside of house

For the most thorough cleaning of the window screens, you need to remove them from the window. This is easier than you might think unless you have very old windows with tacked-on screens. As long as the screens have a distinct metal or vinyl frame, they should be easy to remove for cleaning. Check the lower corners first. If you see any pins there, pulling them up should release the window screen. If not, then look for small tabs along the sides, tops, and bottoms of the screen where it rests in the frame. Lift these tabs to pop the screen free from the frame. If the screen is just held in by friction alone, you may need a small pry bar or butter knife to work it free from one corner at a time.

How Often Do Window Screens Need Cleaning?

Man spraying soap suds off of window screen with a hose

You’re free to wait until the screen is visibly dusty or dirty to scrub them all down. However, annual cleaning is recommended as part of your spring cleaning routine. This ensures that any dust built up over the year is washed off before becoming moldy or tightly adhered to the screen material. If you’re in a dusty or humid area, you may want to clean your window screens twice a year to prevent mold. The material used for making the screens doesn’t affect how often they should be cleaned. Both metal and fiberglass need cleaning just as often and with the same methods.

3 Different Methods for Cleaning Window Screens

Man using a mircrofiber to wash window screen

The proper cleaning method depends on whether you can get the window screens off or not and how much dust has accumulated. Filthy screens and those you can easily remove should be scrubbed down with a soft-bristled brush and dish soap while on the ground. If you can’t remove them at all, a pressure washer with mild soap and a very low-pressure setting is the best choice. For light cleaning from inside the window, try a melamine sponge and a vacuum with a brush attachment.

Vacuuming the Screens

  1. Open the window as much as you can so you can access as much of the screen as possible from inside the house.
  2. Dampen the melamine sponge, then run it over the screen to loosen dirt and debris. This will remove most of the mess, but it will leave small balls or lumps of dirt behind.
  3. Use a vacuum brush attachment to loosen the leftover debris and lift it away.

Scrubbing Window Screens on the Ground

  1. Remove the window screens and lay them flat on the ground over a tarp or plastic drop cloth.
  2. Spray them down with a hose to wet them all, then apply dish soap to the soft-bristled brush and begin scrubbing the first screen.
  3. Rinse each screen before moving on to the next one, so the soap doesn’t get a chance to dry on the screens.
  4. Let them dry completely before replacing them.

Pressure Washing the Screens

  1. Set the pressure washer to the lowest setting and test it out on a ground-floor level window screen from a distance of about 20 feet away. Add the cleaning mixture to the tank once you’re satisfied that the pressure won’t damage the screen or glass.
  2. Spray the window screens, starting from the highest parts of the home downward so that you rinse spray away as you work. Check your work from multiple angles to make sure you’re getting all the dirt.

Clean window screens are the key to good air quality when you’re letting in the fresh air. Don’t let dust or mold cause issues when cleaning window screens is a fairly easy spring cleaning task.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.


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