Q&A / 

What is Smokey Film on Car Windshields and Windows

Quick Column Summary:

  • Car windows developed film
  • Film comes from plastic off-gassing
  • Will come off with soap and water
  • Streaks mean you did not clean it well

Vicki Mead, who resides in Jonesboro, Arkansas, asked me with a tinge of smoker's guilt this question:

"First of all:  I don't smoke, so that is not an issue.  But there is a film that develops on the INSIDE of the car window.

I live in the sunny south and when the sun strikes that film, it is blinding!  Do you have a solution for that? I don't think the ideas given in your window cleaning videos (which are great for outside windows) would be good for the inside of a car window."

Here's my response to Vicki:

Vicki, maybe someone is borrowing your car and they're smoking. Just kidding!

The film you see is created by all the plastic that's inside your car.

When your car is out in the sun, the sun heats up the interior to 130-145F or so. This heat creates off-gassing of the plastic dashboard and all other components.

The plastic molecules get into the air and then settle on the glass surfaces.

It's easy to remove it with just a soap and water solution. I use any decent liquid dish soap and water.

It's important to wash the glass when it's cool and in the shade. I prefer to wash my truck glass in the morning when I know the glass is cool.

I wash it twice with soapy water made from regular liquid dish soap. Rinse out the sponge well in the soapy solution as you wash.

Then you need to rinse well with clear water. Rinse twice using fresh water each time.

Dry the glass with an old, but decent, bath towel.

The glass will look like new. If you get streaks, that means you don't have all the plastic crap off the glass yet. Repeat the cleaning process.

From now on, NEVER get into your car if it's been sitting in the sun without opening both doors and allowing fresh outdoor air to replace the polluted air in the car. Who knows, inhaling that plastic could cause lung cancer or cause you to grow a tail, fins or something.

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8 Responses to What is Smokey Film on Car Windshields and Windows

  1. I've found that a small squeegee works much better than any absorbent wiper for window cleaning, even the windshield. I stuff a towel into the narrow space at the bottom to catch runoff, and use a second towel to wipe the rubber blade dry after each swipe. No streaks or smears!

  2. Tim,
    I know you are an alchemist, but how do you know all these things?
    Actually, you must be a Wizard! I always wondered what was fouling my windshield on the interior. I thought it was from running the heater or AC. I'll be darned! Thanks for the tip.

    • Fred - Ha, ha, ha! I thought that, too, though - how does he know this?! I thought it was just the dirt from the outside world getting in when the doors open or from the vents. Interesting.

  3. Another idea: If you use an automated car wash consider putting the car's vent system on recirculate when you run through. Theory being, the waxes and whatever else they spray on the car may be being sucked in and coating everything. If you can smell it, it's in there.

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