How to Clean Skylights Without a Ladder

Have you noticed that your skylight is looking a little dingy? If dust, dirt and cobwebs are clouding your sky view and hampering the flow of natural light into your home, it’s time to get your shine back.

But, unless you’re a thrill-seeking acrobat, climbing a ladder to do the job is not a good idea. According to the World Health Organization, there are 164,000 ladder-related injuries in the U.S. annually, and approximately 300 deaths.

Skylight cleaning can be particularly dangerous because it requires you to gaze upward as you work, impairing your balance. The good news is that skylight cleaning doesn’t need to be a harrowing experience or a balancing act.

Knowing how to clean skylights while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground will keep you safe and get those panes sparkling again.

A Few Things to Know Before You Start

  • Unlike typical windows, skylights may be made from acrylic or other plastics instead of glass, or they may be coated with protective film. Only use mild soap and water or a water and vinegar solution to clean, or check with manufacturer for specific guidelines. Using ammonia or alcohol-based glass cleaners may damage the surface!
  • If you have hard water, use distilled water to clean skylights to avoid mineral deposits.
  • If your skylight is too high to reach, even with an extension rod, choose a wide, stable surface to stand on, rather than a ladder. For a small boost, an exerciser step can double as a sturdy alternative, or consider interior scaffolding.

Skylight Cleaning in 6 Easy Steps

Follow these steps to clean the interior surface of your skylight(s):

  1. Assemble materials. Gather the following items: extension rod or long mop/broom handle (one that will reach the skylight); bucket; several rags or cloths; soft, absorbent towel or microfiber cloth for drying, string, duct tape, or rubber bands to secure rags to handle; mild dish soap; distilled white vinegar (optional); plastic tarp.
  2. Prep the area and get your supplies ready. Move or cover nearby furniture and place tarp on floor directly under the skylight to catch falling debris. Fill the bucket with approximately 1 gallon of warm water. Add a small amount of dish soap and swish to mix. Secure a dry rag to the end of a mop handle or extension rod. (For stubborn grime or grease, add ¼ to ½ cup of white vinegar to the bucket.)
  3. Sweep first. Use the dry rag tool to gently sweep away cobwebs and excess dust and debris.
  4. Gently wash. Remove the soiled cloth from the pole, and replace with a fresh one. Dip the cloth-covered end of the pole into the bucket, wring excess water, and begin washing at the top, left corner of the pane. Work horizontally back and forth, then vertically, covering the entire skylight. Use a circular motion for stubborn dirt.
  5. Rinse thoroughly. Once the pane is clean, empty and rinse bucket and refill with fresh, clear water. Remove rag from the pole and secure a clean rag. Dip in clear water and wipe entire surface of skylight pane. You may want to go over it with clear water a second time to avoid leaving soap residue behind.
  6. Dry to minimize streaking. Remove rinse rag and secure dry towel or cloth to the pole. Use side-to-side motions, vertically and horizontally, to remove excess water from the pane.


How to Clean a Skylight’s Exterior Surface

When it comes to cleaning the outside surface of your skylight, your best – and safest – option is to hire a professional. Although you may be able to use a pressure washer to do the job from the safety of the ground, using the correct pressure can be tricky. A setting that is too high may damage skylight flashing or other components, and one that’s not strong enough is not likely to clean well. 

If you choose to attempt the job yourself, you will need a ladder or scaffolding to reach the skylight. Use extreme caution when working from high places. Avoid over-reaching and keep your feet firmly planted as you work. (You may be able to avoid climbing on the roof by using your handy extension pole, though, depending on where the skylight is located.) Use the same steps as above to clean the skylight’s exterior.

Don’t Forget to Check Your Skylights for Damage

With the dirt gone, it’s easier to check for damage. Damage and even normal wear and tear to the flashing can lead to leaks, which may eventually cause serious problems. If you notice excess condensation or clouding between panes or ceiling stains near the skylight, you may have a seal failure or flashing leak that needs prompt attention. If the skylight surface is heavily scratched or if it remains cloudy despite cleaning, it may be time to think about replacement.

Let Glass Doctor Fix Your Skylight Panes 

Ready for a skylight face-lift? Notice signs of wear around your skylight pane? Trust your local Glass Doctor to replace skylight panes, or upgrade the whole unit for a fresh, new look. We offer in-home estimates and upfront pricing. Call (833) 365-2927 or request an appointment online to get started.