Is Windex® Toxic?

person spraying Windex bottle and wiping with a cloth

The Bottom Line

Windex® products are designed for cleaning glass, outdoor furniture, and hard surfaces. There are many different formulations of Windex®. The ingredients vary between products, but they typically contain surfactants, solvents, and dyes. These chemicals are irritating when swallowed and can cause unwanted signs and symptoms including vomiting and abdominal pain.

close up of Windex bottle

What’s in Windex®?

Windex® is best known as a glass cleaner, but Windex® also comes in formulations intended for cleaning electronics, hard surfaces, and outdoor equipment. Since Windex® products are designed to clean surfaces, the main active ingredients in Windex® are cleansing agents. Common Windex® ingredients include surfactants (wetting agents that also help lift dirt from surfaces), solvents (compounds that dissolve grime), fragrances, and dyes. Some Windex® products contain alcohol, ammonia, or preservative agents.

Does Windex® contain ammonia?

Some formulations of Windex® contain ammonia. These products should never be combined with bleach when cleaning. Combining bleach and Windex® that contains ammonia can lead to the formation of chloramine gas. Chloramine gas is highly irritating to the nose, mouth, and throat when inhaled. In some cases, inhalation of chloramine gas can result in severe symptoms that might require hospitalization. Chloramine gas inhalation is rarely fatal.

Does Windex® kill germs? 

Windex® products sold as glass cleaners are designed to clean windows but do not disinfect. Some Windex® products, including Windex® Disinfectant Cleaner Multi-Surface, are effective in killing germs including Staphylococcus aureus, influenza viruses, and Escherichia coli. To know whether a particular Windex® product kills germs, read the product label carefully as not all Windex® formulations are disinfectants. 

Is there a safer alternative to Windex®?

All cleaning agents are potentially toxic, but people who make and use homemade glass and hard surface cleaners can avoid exposures to fragrances and dyes that can cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. In many cases, homemade cleaning products are also less expensive than store-bought products. To make homemade window cleaner, add ½ cup of white vinegar to 1 gallon of water (or mix 2 tablespoonfuls of vinegar into a quart of water).

Is drinking Windex® dangerous?

Due to the presence of solvents and surfactants in Windex®, consumption of these products can result in toxicity. The chemicals found in these products can cause stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if swallowed. In severe cases, confusion, drowsiness, and mouth burns can occur after ingestion of Windex® products.

Was there a lawsuit involving Windex®?

In previous years, certain Windex® products carried a label that read “non-toxic formula.” The manufacturer of Windex®, SC Johnson, was the target of a recent lawsuit alleging that this labeling of Windex® products misled consumers into thinking that the product was not potentially harmful to humans. The lawsuit was settled prior to trial. As a condition of the settlement, consumers who purchased certain Windex® formulations between January 2019 and June 2021 were eligible to receive a cash payment.

What to do if someone gets Windex® in their eyes

The chemicals present in Windex® can cause eye irritation and can potentially cause eye injuries. If someone gets Windex® in their eyes, immediately irrigate the eyes with room-temperature tap water for 15–20 minutes to flush the chemicals out of the eyes. If the affected person is wearing contact lenses, remove them prior to irrigating the eyes. You can also contact Poison Control for expert, personalized advice by going online to www.poison.org or by calling 1-800-222-1222. Both options are free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day. 

What to do if someone drinks Windex®

If someone swallows Windex®, get guidance from Poison Control immediately. Help from Poison Control is available at www.poison.org and by phone at 1-800-222-1222. Both options are free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day. 

Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD
Medical Toxicologist

For media inquiries, please contact Krista Osterthaler at osterthaler@poison.org.

Poisoned?

Call 1-800-222-1222 or

HELP ME online

Prevention Tips

  • Use cleaning products only as directed by their package labels, and do not mix household cleaners.
  • Store all cleaning products in their original containers.
  • Wear rubber gloves when using cleaning products to avoid skin contact with potentially irritating chemicals. 
  • Clean in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhalation of cleaning chemical fumes.

This Really Happened

While at school, a 12-year-old boy was accidentally sprayed with Windex® by another student. Some of the Windex® solution got into the boy’s eyes. He was evaluated by the school nurse who contacted Poison Control because the boy complained of blurry vision. Poison Control recommended rinsing his eyes with water for 15 minutes, but he still had blurry vision after this was done. He was then taken to an ER where no eye injury was found. The boy was sent home and his parents were advised to follow up with an eye doctor if the blurry vision persisted.

For More Information

Chemistry Cleaning Hacks. Washington: American Chemical Society [accessed 2022 Oct 14].

Window Cleaner Poisoning. New York: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; reviewed 2021 Nov 13 [accessed 2022 Oct 14].


References

Chemicals in glass cleaner. Reading (PA): Brenntag North America, Inc. [accessed 2022 Oct 11].

Clark v. S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Kroll Settlement Administration [accessed 2022 Oct 11.

Cohle SD, Thompson W, Eisenga BH, Cottingham SL. Unexpected death due to chloramine toxicity in a woman with a brain tumor. Forensic Sci Int. 2001 Dec 27;124(2-3):13–9.

“Non-toxic” Windex® contains “harmful” compounds, class action claims. ClassAction.Org [accessed 2022 Oct 11].

Weatherford L. Homemade Cleaning Products. Morgantown (WV): West Virginia University Extension Service; 2015 [accessed 2022 Oct 11].

Windex® Ingredients. Racine (WI): SC Johnson [accessed 2022 Oct 11].

Windex® Original Glass Cleaner. Racine (WI): SC Johnson [accessed 2022 Oct 11].

Poisoned?

Call 1-800-222-1222 or

HELP ME online

Prevention Tips

  • Use cleaning products only as directed by their package labels, and do not mix household cleaners.
  • Store all cleaning products in their original containers.
  • Wear rubber gloves when using cleaning products to avoid skin contact with potentially irritating chemicals. 
  • Clean in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhalation of cleaning chemical fumes.

This Really Happened

While at school, a 12-year-old boy was accidentally sprayed with Windex® by another student. Some of the Windex® solution got into the boy’s eyes. He was evaluated by the school nurse who contacted Poison Control because the boy complained of blurry vision. Poison Control recommended rinsing his eyes with water for 15 minutes, but he still had blurry vision after this was done. He was then taken to an ER where no eye injury was found. The boy was sent home and his parents were advised to follow up with an eye doctor if the blurry vision persisted.