Water spots and dust on car

How to Remove Water Spots from Your Car Windows

There are few sights as calming as a shiny, clean car that looks almost brand new. It’s a shame about those pesky water spots on the windows, though. Water spots are a naturally-occurring phenomenon, often appearing after a car wash or rain shower.

They can crop up in many more places than just your windows, too; on metal bodywork, plastic veneers, and headlight covers, for example. However, transparent glass is where water spots tend to be most visible. Often, applying water does little to get rid of them, and may even result in more showing up.

Until you know why they appear, you may be fighting a losing battle. Luckily, getting rid of water spots isn’t always quite as difficult as you may think. Once you understand why they appear, there are various effective solutions you can apply or try.

Why Do Water Spots Appear on Windows?

Water spots on glass

Wondering why you keep getting water spots on your windows and vehicles? Water spots are usually made up of microscopic particles, like dust, minerals, and grease. Essentially, this dirt becomes suspended in water, remaining on the surface on which it lands, after the water dries up. Hence the name, “water spots.”

The severity, permanence, and best remedy for water spots depend largely on their origin. For the most part, the leading causes of water spots are:

  • Hard water that contains lots of mineral deposits, like calcium and magnesium.
  • Not adequately rinsing off soapy water, resulting in soap residue deposits.
  • Rainwater containing high levels of minerals and microscopic particles.
  • Not drying vehicles and windows sufficiently, resulting in etched water spots.
  • Corrosive deposits from acid or toxic rain, resulting in permanently etched water spots.
  • Contact with water or liquids containing fats, oils, or grime that leave streaky grease deposits.
  • Sand, dust, or fine particles trapped in water or mud from off-roading or dusty conditions.

How to Remove Water Spots from Car Windows

The most effective way to remove water spots from your car windows will depend on their makeup. For streaky, oily water spots, an acidic or soapy cleaning solution that cuts through grease is best. In contrast, something more abrasive is preferable for etched water spots that don’t come off with soap and water.

Apply a Cleaning Solution

Natural cleaning agents

Cleaning solutions range from mild to powerful, abrasive to acidic. Try one of the homemade, natural, or store-bought solutions below to see if it works for you.


Vinegar is a staple most households have in their pantry or cupboards. Being very acidic, this relatively inexpensive natural cleaner is best for greasy or stubborn mineral water spots. For best results, mix equal parts vinegar and water (vinegar is too corrosive by itself) in a spray bottle. Then spray the solution onto the spot, and leave for a few minutes before scrubbing it off with a microfiber cloth.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is also ideal for removing water spots from car windows, and it’s easy to apply. Simply cut a lemon in half or into slices. Rub the lemon on the water spot, making sure to apply pressure and release as much juice as possible. Then scrub the area with a microfiber cloth to remove the water spot before rinsing the area with water.

Citrus Essential Oils

Concentrated essential oils from citrus fruits, such as lemons and oranges, are also gaining popularity as a home cleaning solution. Apply a few drops of essential oils and some water to the water spot with a sponge or cloth, then leave it to soak. Afterwards, clean the spot with a glass cleaner to remove any residue.


Toothpaste is almost as good at cleaning water spots as it is at cleaning your teeth. You can apply a dollop to the area, leave it to sit, then rinse it with water. Remember to clean the area with a glass cleaner to remove any toothpaste residue.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the best treatments for limescale build-up and stubborn etched water spots. It is abrasive, but without being too harsh, so it can be used to scrub away tough spots gently. Make a paste with water, apply it to the area with a microfiber cloth, and scrub gently.

Chemical Cleaners

Traditional chemical cleaners are designed to remove specific types of dirt, grime, and build-up. If you’re having trouble removing water spots from your car windows with a more natural method, be sure to visit your local hardware store. The attendants there may have some suggestions on the best products to use.

Dry Your Vehicle Windows Thoroughly

Many people leave their vehicles and windows to air dry after a wash. Because water spots form when droplets of water remain on the car, manually drying is the key to preventing future spots.

Microfiber Cloths

Man drying car windscreen

Microfiber cloths are particularly good at removing water from non-porous surfaces, like glass and metal. Just make sure you buy good quality cloths with a thick pile and absorbent fabric. Instead of rubbing, you should set them down and press gently on the wet spots to avoid scratching. Regularly swapping damp cloths for dry ones is also recommended for more effective water absorption.

A Squeegee

A squeegee with two sides — one for washing and another for scraping — is the perfect tool for washing windows. There’s a reason why petrol pump attendants and window washers use these tools. The scraper side effectively removes the water droplets that result in spots forming on the glass.

How to Protect Your Car Windows from Water Spots

Rinsing soap off car

Water spots may be a reality, but surrendering to them is optional. Effective ways to fight water spots and protect your car windows from them include:

  • Installing a hard water filter to remove the minerals that cause water spots from your wash water.
  • Rinsing your vehicle off thoroughly after a wash to get rid of soapy water and residue.
  • Applying a hydrophobic or water-repellant treatment to windows to deter water build-up.
  • Wax isn’t just reserved for bodywork — try using an approved car window wax to protect the glass.
  • Get your car washed immediately after you suspect contact with toxic or acid rain.
  • Park undercover to avoid contact with rain, especially if you just got your car washed.
  • In the event your car does get wet in a shower, rinse, wash, or dry it soon after.
Water spraying on car

Wrapping Up

With so much going on in your life, tackling water spots may be quite a way down the to-do list. Ultimately, the best way to fight spots is to prevent them from forming in the first place, using the methods above. Whether simple water spots have formed, or stubborn, etched marks, there are many ways to treat them.

Caitlin Greyling

Caitlin Greyling is a professional writer and editor with a fine art, design, and photography background — focusing on sustainability, climate change, equality, travel, tech, culture, and societal issues. She’s currently studying journalism with the NCTJ and has written for The Daily Mail, Durability Matters, CNN, PictureCorrect, Pilot Plans, and more.

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