Caring For Stained Glass Panels

Stained glass windows are a beautiful addition to any home whether as part of a remodel or new construction. When most people hear stained glass panels, images come to mind of old cathedrals with extremely large panels depicting religious scenes. Those are beautiful examples of the art, but much smaller simplistic panels can be placed in your home to add character. Windows for your home can come in a variety of shapes, designs, and sizes, which can be used in many rooms throughout the home. Stained glass panels can also be set indoors whether it is a large exterior front door or interior sliding doors, stained glass can add a unique touch while allowing in light.


Time and the elements do take a toll on the glass, but much less damage occurs than you would think. In reality, too much cleaning can be worse for the panel than the sun and the rain. Stained glass panels in old cathedrals have been in place for centuries with minimal damage to the surfaces. With proper care and knowledge of the signs of damage, your panels can look great for generations as well.

Generally, any stained glass exposed to the outdoors, the exterior surface of a window, is kept clean by natural means. Any extra scrubbing is more likely to scratch and damage the glass deeming this an unnecessary task. Interior stained glass window panels, on the other hand, do need periodic cleaning. Generally, the glass surface should not be wet cleaned as water can do damage to the glass, lead, putty, and metal components. Light dusting is the best cleaning method on these glass surfaces using a soft, dry brush with possibly some combined vacuuming. Though you should always be careful that the brushes and implements used are soft as to not damage the glass surface in the process.

When inspecting your stained glass for possible damage there are several different areas to look at.

  • Glass – The glass can have single cracks from an internal stressor, or several cracks from an external source. Also, watch for pitting in the glass or discolorization which are signs of deterioration. On the other hand bubbles and textures within the glass are normal and were probably part of the artisan’s vision for the piece.
  • Lead – Due to the fact lead is soft, malleable, and easily soldered is also can sag and lose its structure. Be on the lookout for bulging in the stained glass panel, and cracking near the solder joints.
  • Paint – If the paint was not fired into the glass properly it can be more vulnerable and fragile. Watch for blistering and peeling of the paint on the glass.
  • Putty – Putty is usually used to seal the glass with the structure. Over time it can go hard, crack, and fall out which creates leaking in water usually between the lead and the glass.
  • Window Structure – If a stained glass panel is not installed correctly the window will begin to sag and bulge. If the window has been in for some time this could be regular settling of the structure and is actually better left alone.

So regularly inspect stained glass panels for defects such as bulging, sagging, faint paint, water leakage, cracks, rattling glass, peeling mortar, and loose copper ties. If the damage is bad enough to contact a stained glass conservator. Many times work to repair glass damages it more than just leaving it alone! Ensure any work to be done is absolutely necessary before going through with any glass restoration.

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