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#1
Old 09-10-2011, 05:43 PM
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Is Windex Bad For Automotive Paint?

I bought a new car recently and touched it up between washes with Windex and a microfiber towel (mostly to remove bugs from the windshield and front bumper, and to touch up the chrome wheels).

I found myself wondering if an ammonia-based cleaner was bad for a car's paint or clearcoat. Googling around doesn't really give me too many definitive answers. Some people seem to think its horrible for your paint, others say its fine, and some say that it won't harm the paint but will remove wax (which apparently Dawn dish soap does too) from it.

So should I stop doing this and get a quick detailer spray instead? What's the Dope?
#2
Old 09-10-2011, 05:50 PM
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Windex might strip off any protective wax from the paint, but I highly doubt a quick wipe will harm it. After all, you can dribble gasoline on the car's paint and it's OK.
#3
Old 09-10-2011, 06:13 PM
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Buy a Clay Bar

Go to a parts store and buy a Clay Bar. If car is brand new, wash, clay bar, wax and wipe down with a quick detailer. This will form a good protection for your paint and keep sap, bugs ect. from adhereing to the paint. The clay bar will remove any thing stuck to the paint without scracthing plus car will have a mirror finish since your basically wet sanding. Good Luck.
#4
Old 09-10-2011, 06:45 PM
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I vaguely recalled something about regular glass cleaner being bad for cars. Googling around, the sites I find mention that you should not use ammonia-based glass cleaner on tinted windows.
#5
Old 09-10-2011, 07:22 PM
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Is Windex ammonia based? The glass cleaner I've always used, which I assumed was a "generic" version of Windex, seems to be isopropyl alcohol based.
#6
Old 09-10-2011, 07:27 PM
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Yes, Yes and Yes. Windex will destroy your paint over time. Stop doing it now. If you want something to keep it clean in between washings head down to the local auto parts store or even Wally World. They make products specifically for cleaning paint in between washings. I believe it is called "detailer", but my mind is drawing a blank right now. I keep some in both my vechicles and use it in combination with a microfiber towel.

Prior to use, I always take a car duster and wipe that surface dust off the finish prior to applying the detailer and using the cloth. That way I avoid sand and dust from scratching the paint. If you take care of your paint it will last a decade or more. If you don't it won't make it 5years. Keep the car waxed on a regular basis, every 3 or 4 months or when water stops beading. It will make keeping it clean between washings much easier and provide a layer of protection for the paint.
#7
Old 09-12-2011, 12:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
Is Windex ammonia based? The glass cleaner I've always used, which I assumed was a "generic" version of Windex, seems to be isopropyl alcohol based.
Windex does have ammonia. It advertises using some fancy version of ammonia that they call "Ammonia-D". Windex also makes a vinegar-based version. Other brands of glass cleaner are often ammonia-free, but not always.

I imagine ammonia would be bad for the paint, but generic ammonia-free glass cleaner should be okay. Although, I would never think to try it and I don't know of any situation in which you'd particularly want to use it on your car. For bugs, as the OP had, there is an automotive product called simply "bug & tar remover" that is made for that purpose. It's a common product, available at any hardware store or auto store. In a pinch, and lacking that product, I would be reaching for the Goo Gone before any glass cleaner.
#8
Old 09-12-2011, 01:44 AM
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I've used Windex (and other cleaners) to remove love bugs off the front of our vehicles when we lived in Florida. It may strip the wax, but it didn't touch the clear coat. Plus, the overspray from washer fluid hasn't touched the finish of any car I've ever owned. And I've used Windex to fill the washer fluid reservoirs on cars I've owned.

If you're planning on routinely washing and waxing your car with "correct" detailing products, and only using Windex to remove the occasional bug or piece of bird shit, I really don't think you'll have a problem.
#9
Old 09-12-2011, 08:47 AM
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What about on chrome wheels? Do chrome wheels have a powder coat like other types of aluminum wheels that can be damaged or stained by using harsh chemicals on them?
#10
Old 09-12-2011, 09:01 AM
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if they're actually chrome plated wheels, then they're pretty resistant. (ETA: assuming it's not flaking off. aluminum can be a bitch to get chrome plating to "stick" to. end edit) I think a lot of chrome wheel cleaning fluids are rather harsh acids to lift brake dust off of them.

if we're talking some of the "fake chrome" wheels out there, then it's a crapshoot. Some now are a regular alloy wheel with a non-removable plastic applique over it. "chrome plated" plastic is frequently actually a thin layer of aluminum laid down on the plastic using vacuum vapor deposition. Harsh cleaners can damage these finishes. Heck, 409 or Fantastik can strip this kind of plating if it's thin enough.

Some plated plastic parts have a sputtered layer of copper on the surface of the part, then an actual chrome plating over it. I don't know if this can be done on something which needs a shiny, smooth finish, though.

Last edited by jz78817; 09-12-2011 at 09:02 AM.
#11
Old 09-13-2011, 11:44 AM
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Why would one use/put windex on a car finish? Windex for windows. Car wax for car. Simple.
#12
Old 09-13-2011, 12:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obbn View Post
Windex will destroy your paint over time.
How? What is the mechanism by which Windex hurts paint?

I've heard it said that ammonia will cloud plastic, like motorcycle windshields, over time. I don't know why. My granite countertop is sealed, and the installer said not to clean it with ammonia. I don't know why.

Everybody tells you not do use ammonia on certain things but I haven't seen an explanation of what occurs chemically that causes the problem.
#13
Old 09-13-2011, 01:03 PM
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If you want to wipe your car down there are products specially made for that that that won't harm wax or clearcoat, like Meguiar's Quick Detailer. I used that to touch up my Mustang that sat in the garage most of the time and didn't get that dirty.
#14
Old 09-13-2011, 01:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NNN99 View Post
Why would one use/put windex on a car finish? Windex for windows. Car wax for car. Simple.
You have to clean it before you wax it, otherwise you are just sealing in the dirt, and possibly even scratching as you rub in the wax. The question as I understand it is, can you touch up with ammonia-based cleaners between thorough wash/wax jobs.
#15
Old 09-13-2011, 08:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NNN99 View Post
Why would one use/put windex on a car finish? Windex for windows. Car wax for car. Simple.
I'm not washing my car with it....just getting rid of a few bugs here and there in between washes with it and a microfiber towel. I operate a pair of car washes and our clear coat sealant/drying agent gives me the benefits of a wax without me having to apply it by hand. I don't really have time to spend the couple hours it would take to hand apply a good carnauba wax job.

I think the question is still unanswered. Like Cooking With Gas says....if it is harmful, then how is it harmful? Lots of opinions...but I was hoping something factual would pop up. Gary T and the car nut guys...can you shed any light on this topic?
#16
Old 09-13-2011, 08:49 PM
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I worked at a body shop and have seen glass cleaner used this way on high end sports cars with no trouble. When doing that, the rag is more likely to damage the paint than glass cleaner, but microfiber should be ok. However I doubt they were using ammonia based windex, it was probably alcohol based no-name glass cleaner they bought by the drum and watered down until it could barely be considered glass cleaner. Some people even used it as a lubricant when using a clay bar, but when I do my vehicles I use soap and water for that.

However, if you plan to do this a lot, why not get a bottle of cleaner wax to use instead? Just put a little on an applicator pad, scrub the bugs off with it, and wipe clean with a towel. It'll probably last for years if you're just doing touch up, you'll probably have to throw it away because it gets old.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FoieGrasIsEvil View Post
What about on chrome wheels? Do chrome wheels have a powder coat like other types of aluminum wheels that can be damaged or stained by using harsh chemicals on them?
What jz78817 said. Actually, a great way to clean real chrome wheels is with glass cleaner and fine steel wool. But if they're plastic plated, you can't even look at them without screwing them up.
#17
Old 09-13-2011, 08:56 PM
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I am pretty sure the wheels on my car are real chrome. See here: http://i427.photobucket.com/albums/p...ti77/004-2.jpg

http://i427.photobucket.com/albums/p...7/MyCar001.jpg
#18
Old 09-13-2011, 08:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
How? What is the mechanism by which Windex hurts paint?

I've heard it said that ammonia will cloud plastic, like motorcycle windshields, over time. I don't know why. My granite countertop is sealed, and the installer said not to clean it with ammonia. I don't know why.

Everybody tells you not do use ammonia on certain things but I haven't seen an explanation of what occurs chemically that causes the problem.
I couldn't tell you the exact chemical reaction that ammonia would have with paint. But from a common sense standpoint it would reason that putting a chemical like ammonia on a painted surface repeatedly, especially a painted surface that is then going to bake in the sun isn't a good thing. Why would you even take a chance. A bottle of task specific detailer or even a liquid wax product is surely cheaper than having to have a panel re-sprayed or loss value from a dull paint finish.

Cars aren't cheap. In fact, for most people it represents the 2nd most expensive thing they own. I am not refering to the OP, but it does amaze me how people will spend 15k to 40k on a vechicle and then neglect it. Take a look around you next time you are at a red light. Look at how many cars and trucks next to you have faded tops, trunks and hoods. All because someone was too busy, lazy or whatever to wax it 3 or 4 times a year.
#19
Old 09-13-2011, 09:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obbn View Post
I couldn't tell you the exact chemical reaction that ammonia would have with paint. But from a common sense standpoint it would reason that putting a chemical like ammonia on a painted surface repeatedly, especially a painted surface that is then going to bake in the sun isn't a good thing. Why would you even take a chance. A bottle of task specific detailer or even a liquid wax product is surely cheaper than having to have a panel re-sprayed or loss value from a dull paint finish.

Cars aren't cheap. In fact, for most people it represents the 2nd most expensive thing they own. I am not refering to the OP, but it does amaze me how people will spend 15k to 40k on a vechicle and then neglect it. Take a look around you next time you are at a red light. Look at how many cars and trucks next to you have faded tops, trunks and hoods. All because someone was too busy, lazy or whatever to wax it 3 or 4 times a year.
you came in and said that Windex would "destroy your paint over time." You haven't proven that. An emotional screed about how much cars cost isn't proof. Especially when (as I mentioned) the paint on cars can evidently tolerate gas/diesel being slopped all over it without damage.
#20
Old 09-13-2011, 09:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
you came in and said that Windex would "destroy your paint over time." You haven't proven that. An emotional screed about how much cars cost isn't proof. Especially when (as I mentioned) the paint on cars can evidently tolerate gas/diesel being slopped all over it without damage.
And windshield washer fluid, which has got to be similar to Windex-type cleaners. Or are they different in a significant way?

Last edited by FoieGrasIsEvil; 09-13-2011 at 09:27 PM.
#21
Old 09-13-2011, 09:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoieGrasIsEvil View Post
And windshield washer fluid, which has got to be similar to Windex-type cleaners. Or are they different in a significant way?
washer solvent is methanol. diluted somewhat.
#22
Old 09-13-2011, 10:18 PM
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Given that quick detailer and other appropriate cleaning supplies are not dramatically more expensive than Windex, I have to ask why are we even having this discussion? Even if Windex doesn't damage the finish, why would you want to use it when you can get purpose-made products that you KNOW won't damage the finish, and will probably do a better job of cleaning too?

FWIW, I don't even use Windex on the glass on my cars. I use Stoner's Invisible Glass, which is less harsh and does a better job to my eyes. But my cars are high end, and I like them to look perfect. I don't mind spending 10 bucks to get a product I know I can trust.
#23
Old 09-14-2011, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoundWaldo View Post
Given that quick detailer and other appropriate cleaning supplies are not dramatically more expensive than Windex, I have to ask why are we even having this discussion? Even if Windex doesn't damage the finish, why would you want to use it when you can get purpose-made products that you KNOW won't damage the finish, and will probably do a better job of cleaning too?

FWIW, I don't even use Windex on the glass on my cars. I use Stoner's Invisible Glass, which is less harsh and does a better job to my eyes. But my cars are high end, and I like them to look perfect. I don't mind spending 10 bucks to get a product I know I can trust.
Meguiar's Quik Detailer is between 8 and 9 dollars a bottle. A generic glass cleaner is like a dollar fifty. So while less than 10 bucks isn't all that expensive, its quite a bit more expensive than glass cleaner. And I had the Windex handy, I'd have to make a special trip to Autozone or something to get the detailing spray, so there's the gas expense too. Which I will at some point (get the detailing spray) but I still want to see if it can be demonstrated that what I am doing in the short term is somehow harmful to my car's finish.
#24
Old 10-13-2011, 03:18 AM
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ammonia evaporates into the air very quickly that is why it is used in glass cleaners too provide zero streak......glass cleaners that dont use ammonia have other substances in them that behave in the same manner...

Just about any serious cleaner you use will take wax off.Any high quality clear coat is going to be able to withstand far more hazerdous chemicles then just windex... My rule of thumb is if you can use it on your hands without it burning the living crap out of you there is no way its going to get even close to going through your clear coat.
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