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Best car window cleaners for 2022, tested

Best car window cleaners for 2022, tested

We all tend to think of the driver’s seat as our personal throne. That’s where we’re in our element, so we feel comfortable — and complacent. Whether our fingers were last tapping our phone screen, gripping the handle of a wrench, or carefully unwrapping a half-melted Hershey bar, we all tend to jump in, tune the radio, adjust the air conditioning, and destination on the navigation screen – all without washing our hands first.

And if you have a family? Other drivers also use the car and the touchscreen. Of course, kids can’t resist touching a screen at some point, and who knows where those little fingers have been? All the parents have swiped their car’s touchscreen and felt… mysteriously dirty. Bah.

That’s why you should clean your touchscreen every time you clean your car, if not more often.

Do you need a car screen cleaner?

Touchscreens are probably one of the dirtiest, most germ-covered surfaces on any car. Sure, your dashboard gets dusty and your floorboard collects (a disturbing amount) of trash. However, it’s that dash-mounted screen that gets the most fingers, and thus germs.

But are car window cleaners really necessary? After all, it’s not just glass?

Not necessary. Many typical household glass cleaners contain ammonia or alcohol. Most manufacturers recommend avoiding harsh chemicals on touchscreens as they can compromise functionality and potentially damage the surrounding dashboard.

Sure, it’s cheaper and easier to use regular Windex or Glass Plus, especially since you probably already have that stuff. However, despite the temptation, you should avoid using household glass cleaner on your car’s touchscreen unless you’re sure the one you’re using doesn’t contain ammonia or alcohol. Plus, you may already have a great screen cleaner and not realize it.

Many modern automotive detailing products, including: Chemical Guys Interior Cleaner and Meguiar’s Total Interior Detailer, are safe and effective to use on your car’s touchscreen. Read the label to be sure.

An alternative to screen cleaner

The fact is, there’s an even cheaper method of cleaning your car’s touchscreen that doesn’t require any products other than a microfiber cloth. (Again, you want to avoid scraping any dust particles across the surface of your touchscreen to prevent scratches, so always use a clean microfiber cloth.)

Many of the experts and gearheads in our Hearst Autos test garage told us that they rarely use any kind of cleaner on their personal touchscreens. Down the line, those who saw us testing and photographing screen cleaners — we’re talking about people whose opinions we trust and whose bylines our readers know and respect — told us that when they get behind the wheel, they just drip a little bit of water onto a clean microfiber towel, and wipe. Done.

However, as a parent, I have to ask the question: Will a simple water wipe eliminate the germs in the family SUV? Yes No. Sorry, but knowing my kids, and the impressive but disgusting level of filth they can reach, I’m going to use a cleaner on my car’s touchscreen.

How we tested screen cleaners

To find out if car window cleaners were really necessary, we used a very scientific method. That is, we got our fingers and hands dirty and ran out of a screen in a test vehicle in the Hearst Autos stable. We let it dry for a while and then cleaned it according to the product’s instructions. We did that five times.

We first made sure that all the products did what they claimed to do – and they all did. The wipes left drops on the screen, requiring a second microfiber cloth. But they all cleaned the chocolate and grease off the screen and left it clean and clear.

During use, we looked for any residual greasy film or residue. We have also taken into account particularly strong odors and taken note of cleaning agents that leave residual marks. Most did, but they all came out clean with a soft buff – that is, a few softer wipes with the microfiber cloth.

Wise word: Don’t discount a screen cleaner because it will leave streaks on your screen. Take your time and do it right. We noticed that far too many people were complaining online that the product they were using wasn’t some kind of magic solution that cleaned perfectly with just one wipe. All screen cleaners – basically all glass cleaners – will streak unless you take the time and care to give the surface a soft buff at the end of the process.

Why trust us?

With a combined 206 years of automotive publishing experience, Hearst Autos—Car and driver, Road & Railand car week– knows cars better than anyone. The Gear Team is committed to providing honest evaluations, hands-on tests and product reviews based on decades of knowledge and experience. We get our hands on almost every product, tool and piece of equipment we offer.

When we can’t get our hands on the gear, we rely on the combined wisdom of our writers and editors, as well as auto experts we trust. We’ll never say something is “best” if we didn’t recommend it to our friends or buy it ourselves, and we won’t claim to have tested something if we haven’t. Read more about our product tests here.