Window Painting Guidelines

Type of Paint to Use
The most common paint used for window painting is tempera paint, commonly called “poster paint”. Window chalk has been used but it is very difficult to clean off and, at times, requires power washing and extensive scraping. Tempera paint is frequently mixed with liquid soap or soap flakes to ease in cleanup. However, when painting on glass, it is important to NOT mix detergent in with paint no matter what. Detergent will quickly etch any glass that it is applied to, resulting in repair and cleanup costs in the thousands of dollars. Therefore, it is important to know the difference between soap and detergent.

Soap vs. Detergent
Soap is essentially reduced animal fat or vegetable oil mixed with lye. Detergent, on the other hand, can mean a variety of things. In general, detergent is a surfactant, which means that it lowers the surface tension of a liquid such as water and makes it easier to clean whatever is immersed in that liquid. Some detergents use very caustic agents in order to achieve this effect. In addition, many detergents used in automatic dishwashers have an acid wash additive that removes hard water stains at the end of the rinse cycle. This corrosive nature of many detergents is why they should NEVER be used for window painting. To help keep this problem from happening here are some common examples of soap and detergent.

Common dish washing soaps

  • Ivory® concentrated dish washing liquid and hand soap
  • Meyer’s® liquid dish soap
  • Palmolive® de-greaser dish liquid

Common dish washing detergents (never use these on windows)

  • Cascade® dishwashing detergent
  • Tide® dishwashing detergent

It is preferable that students cleanup any window painting project themselves, with special attention paid to the concrete and silicone seals surrounding the window frames. Cleanup should occur immediately after the publicized event is over to aid in ease of removing the paint. Students should also coordinate their efforts with Housing & Dining custodial in case additional assistance is required or if questions arise during the cleanup process. Keep in mind:

Safe to use in paint:

  • Ivory® concentrated dishwashing liquid
  • Do not use in paint
  • Cascade® dishwashing detergent

The do’s and dont’s of window painting are shown in this video provided by Duncan College:

If you have any questions related to window painting, please contact the operations manager or director at the college.