How to Clean Skylights Safely and Effectively

Rose Morrison

Jun 2, 2023


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Skylights make a stunning addition to your home, especially if you love bringing the great outdoors in. They let in ample sunlight, brightening your rooms and your outlook. Letting the sunshine in is a great mood booster and puts your home in a positive light. However, their position on your roof makes them challenging to keep clean. The last thing you want is smudgy, dirty skylights ruining your home’s sunny aesthetic. Therefore, knowing how to clean skylights is vital. Here’s how to do so safely and effectively so you can enjoy all their benefits. 

Gather Your Supplies

Before you begin, you must gather all the supplies you need. These items are what you would expect to use on your regular windows, with a few necessary extras.

  • Glass cleaner
  • Mild dish soap and water
  • Paper towels or newspaper
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Window-cleaning pole
  • Plastic tarp
  • Ladder
  • Safety harness

Don’t be intimidated by the need for a safety harness. It’s best to use one for your safety — after all, you will climb a ladder and be up on your roof. They come in handy for other projects, so invest in one that best suits your needs. You may need two different ladders to clean your skylight, depending on where they are located in your home. An extension ladder is necessary to access your roof. Stepladders are ideal for indoor cleaning.

You can buy streak-free window cleaners or make your own with water and vinegar. You can also forgo paper towels in favor of newspapers or reuse old T-shirts instead of buying microfiber towels to make your cleaning project more eco-friendly.

How to Clean Skylights Inside

Your skylights won’t be as dirty inside as they are outside, but you still need to keep them clean. Here’s what you need to do to make them sparkle.

  1. Clear the area: Remove the furniture where you will be working and place a plastic tarp on the floor. If your furniture is heavy, such as a bulky sofa, you can protect it by covering it with another plastic sheet. You don’t want to drip cleaning solution on anything below.
  2. Set up your stepladder: You may need a stepladder if your skylight is too high to reach by hand, such as in a room with vaulted ceilings. A stepladder will help you safely climb to the height you need to clean your window.
  3. Remove dirt: Wipe away dirt or debris from your skylight with a rag or cloth. Here’s where that old T-shirt will come in handy. You’ll want to remove the worst of the dirt before proceeding.
  4. Wash with soapy water: Dip a sponge into your warm water and dish soap solution to clean your skylight. Go in a circular motion and from side to side to ensure you tackle all the grime. Keep paper towels on hand to catch any drips.
  5. Dry the skylight: Use a microfiber cloth to thoroughly dry the glass. This is vital before moving on to the final step in the process.
  6. Polish it up: Use glass cleaner and a lint-free cloth or newspaper to add a streak-free sparkle and shine. 

That’s it! It’s a rather straightforward process that takes little time but makes a big difference.

How to Clean Skylights Outside

Your skylights will obviously be most dirty outside, where they are exposed to the elements. They could be streaked with dirt, covered in moss or bombed with bird poop. Cleaning the outside is a tougher job than indoors, and it’s vital to be properly prepared. Here’s how to clean your skylights safely outside.

  1. Set up your ladder: Extend your ladder and place it against your roof at an angle you feel comfortable with, and ensure it extends 3 feet over the top of the roof to make it easier to climb off. Reinforce it with standoffs to stabilize the rungs and anchors to keep the bottom of the ladder in place. It’s also a good idea to tie the top of the ladder to a solid support point on the wall for extra safety. Finally, as an extra precaution, ensure you have someone to hold the ladder in place and be on hand in case of an emergency.
  2. Secure your harness: Using a safety harness ensures you will not fall if you take a bad step or slip on your roof, especially if it has a steep angle that makes work challenging. Ensure you are wearing it before you climb the ladder. You must secure roof brackets to attach your safety harness to, about 18 inches from the eave and about 4 feet apart. Don’t worry — they won’t damage your roof and you can remove them when done.
  3. Clean your skylight: Follow the same set of instructions for cleaning your skylight indoors. The challenging part is getting the supplies you need up on the roof. Do not carry things up the ladder with you — this is a safety hazard since you will not have an effective grip and will be at risk of a fall. Instead, tie a rope to a bucket and hoist items up once you are on the roof and harnessed in. Your helper can assist with this.
  4. Remove moss: You may have to tackle major messes on the outside of your skylight, and one of the toughest to deal with is moss. It can be challenging to remove and obstruct your views. It’s best to tackle it as soon as you notice it because, in addition to being unsightly, it absorbs water that can eventually lead to decay and cracks. Use a stiff brush and water to scrub it away. You can also bring out the bigger guns and use a store-bought solution to kill moss, or make your own with chlorine bleach mixed with water.

Learn How to Clean Skylights and Soak in the Sun

Once you know how to clean skylights correctly, the process will become easier each time. Going up on the roof can be challenging but well worth it if it keeps your home safe and gives you a clear view of the sky. Enjoy those unobstructed views and soak up the sunshine from above.

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