Not Martha

everything I know about window film

Two friends asked about window film at separate times last weekend so I figured that as long as I was gathering the information again I might as well post it again. I’ve mentioned window film before and a lot of this information was previously gathered for this post on window film for my stint as Guest Blogger over at Design*Sponge.

I love window film for a (possibly) inexpensive way to cover windows that don’t have a view of much of anything. It’s a low commitment and easy to remove solution for renters, takes up no space at all for a window that is in a hallway or a door, and lets in a lot of light. I use it in the place of cafe curtains in a few places to only block out the bottom half of some windows.

There are a few options which I’ll list below going from expensive to cheap to unfamiliar to DIY, but first I want to give you a warning. This is the warning: beware using clear contact paper. It seems perfect, and a few years ago I used and removed it easily in my SF apartment. But the second time I used it and went to remove it the @#$%ing adhesive stayed on the glass. I spent a very long day surrounded by Goo Gone, Windex and various scrapers picking that @#$%ing adhesive off three windows. Tears were involved. Arms were unable to be completely lowered to my sides for a time. I think the adhesive formula had changed in the intervening years. So, unless you are ready and willing to go through this yourself I suggest you use one of the options below.

Strossel Design: I have the Geranium film in the window over my kitchen sink, it’s a much nicer thing to look at than my neighbor’s siding. Upside: It doesn’t have any adhesive. Downside: It’s expensive. The height of the panels work out well to block out the bottom half of a window. There are a number of patterns available, white on translucent. Available at Rare Device and Scandinavian Design Center. Strossel Design website.

Maria Liv: I really like the effect of branches just on the other side of the glass. I have not used this one but Ex Libris shows how she used the branches design to block the view in from windows next to her front door on Flickr. There are a number of designs, white or gray on translucent. You can find this at Scandinavian Design Center.

Gila brand film from a hardware store. I see this in the aisle of Lowes that has the window blinds. Most of the designs are less that lovely, but the plain frosted film is fine. Upside: The roll is very, very wide. Downside: The roll is very, very wide. The roll is wide enough that it can be difficult to find a surface big enough to measure and cut the size you need. I currently use this on the window in our office that, sadly, has a view of our neighbor’s holly tree which is encroaching on our roof. (The picture above shows some seams, which is only there because I accidentally cut the film too small and had to create an overlap.) This has a pretty strong adhesive backing, but I’ve had little trouble removing it using the accompanying Gila brand removal spray (you can borrow mine if you need it). Also a plus, the Gila film offers some UV protection. Gila website.

See also: Door Sixteen left a gap around the edges to create some privacy in a bathroom without completely blocking out the window. Megan B at Shelterrific used some film from Window Film World to create a bit more privacy for the sliding glass doors in her kitchen without losing the light. I also really like the modern vertical slat design (first image) created using frosted film in this living room shown off over at Apartment Therapy.

Amorf Frost film from Ikea: I found this in the Bathroom section of the Marketplace. Upside: It’s very inexpensive. Downside: The rolls are narrow and so are better suited to small windows, and the texture of surface of the film isn’t as nice as other films. I currently use this on a door which has a few small windows, and a small bathroom window. Backing is not adhesive, really easy to remove.

Emma Jeffs: I have not tried this, but the description says it has a slightly adhesive backing. It comes in a bunch of graphic designs and a few colors, my favorite is the white pixels. Available at 2Jane, Pure Modern and Design Public. Emma Jeffs website.

Brume: This is a company in the UK and I know very little about the film, but I love the cut out designs they have. With a little careful work with an exacto knife you could likely do something inspired by these designs. Brume website.

Trove: These are new to me, I only know them from a post at Design*Sponge. Pretty and motion filled designs, and it looks like the panels are very large. Trove website.

Application and removal of window film. I’m going to quote myself from the Design*Sponge post here:

Window film is applied by spraying the window with slightly soapy water. I simply put a drop of baby shampoo in a spray bottle and fill it the rest of the way with water. You don’t want to use something like a dish detergent as this will create too many bubbles which can be difficult to push out from under the film.

Before removing the film backing cut it to the size of your window, you can hold it in place to see if you need to trim a little more off. Spray the window with your soap mixture, peel the backing off the film and apply right away. The back, or smooth, side of the film is statically charged and will attract lots of dust if you remove the backing too soon. The small amount of soap in the water creates just enough surface tension to hold onto your window film, you can slide it into place while it’s still wet, and once it dries it will hold until you remove it. After the film is in place I use a clean, dry cloth to gently push air bubbles to the edges of the film so that they can escape.

Non-adhesive window film peels off cleanly leaving you with a little bit of soap you need to wash away, I used a regular window cleaner. Adhesive backed window film like the Gila film is more difficult to remove, but I was happy to find that the window film remover they sell worked like a charm to remove the film and any adhesive it left behind.


Image by and belongs to All Buttoned Up.

DIY options: There are a handful of DIY window film solutions as well. I really love this option at All Buttoned Up, she used a white-on-white cotton fabric soaked with spray starch to cover a window which turned out beautifully. Laundry starch will clean up easily. (I’ve also heard of people covering whole walls using a lightweight fabric and laundry starch. This frightens me as I imagine the clean up for a whole wall would be messy, but hey, it’s an option.)

Design*Sponge has a post on painting your own designs on window film. (I have to note again that I don’t recommend using clear contact paper because of the trouble I had getting the adhesive off the glass when I went to remove it. Use Gila or the Ikea stuff instead if you can.)

A few last notes on other things I’ve tested: One of the first projects I did on this site, way back in 2001, was testing what sort of DIY window film would work in my tiny San Francisco kitchen that looked out into the uninteresting space between buildings that did nothing but allow neighbors on four floors to see into my window. I used liquid laundry starch (which came in a bottle) to stick tissue paper on my window, a section of small squares of contact paper, as well as a section of various amounts of beer mixed with epsom salt. The tissue paper didn’t stay on the window long, the beer was fun (and can work as a holiday decoration) but the tidiest looking one was the clear contact paper. I used it for a year and a half in a San Francisco apartment and it came down cleanly (again, my later use of contact paper ended with tears during clean up, you’ve been well warned, etc.) Another thing I tried once up on a time was painting gesso directly onto glass. This worked well, and even covered the outside of a shower door without being affected by the water, but clean up was frustrating and I found myself tired of looking at brush strokes after not too long.

· comments [55] · 07-9-2009 · categories:the home ·

55 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Trey // Jul 9, 2009 at 7:11 am

    If you ever have an adhesive stuck to glass again, skip the Goo Gone and go for WD-40. It won’t score the glass, and removes adhesive (any adhesive – even crazy glue) easily.

  • 2 Cheryl // Jul 9, 2009 at 8:37 am

    My dad works with glass and clear contact paper on a regular basis. When the contact paper gets old or has baked in the sun, it tends to leave adhesive on the glass. The easiest method to removing it is to saturate the adhesive left on the glass with rubbing alcohol. Let it sit for about 3 mins. Spray it down with rubbing alcohol again, take a straight edge cutting blade and gently scrape away the adhesive. The high amount of alcohol on the glass will keep the blade from scratching and should allow you to easily remove the adhesive. Also, its best to shade the area so the alcohol doesn’t dry up quickly!

  • 3 Emily // Jul 9, 2009 at 9:13 am

    In my bedroom window which is about 10 feet from my neighbors house I used the Gila film and then applied some wall decals in varying shades of gray over the top to give it a bit more of a decorative look. Haven’t tried to take it off yet but it looks great!

  • 4 megan // Jul 9, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Thank you Trey and Cheryl, if I ever find myself facing a window pane of stuck on adhesive I will try both.

    Emily – Great idea!

  • 5 melissa f. // Jul 9, 2009 at 9:51 am

    hey– thanks megan!! as an update to the fabric diy version, it’s been up for a year with no sign of waning. it’s up in the kitchen and has handled the fluctuating temps and steam brilliantly. i was a little surprised.

  • 6 Jenn // Jul 9, 2009 at 9:54 am

    So, wondering about the fabric– the spray starch is the only thing adhering it to the window? If so, that’s awesome!!

  • 7 megan // Jul 9, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Melissa – Thank you so much for the update!

    Jenn – Yes, just spray starch. I’m quoting from the post at All Buttoned Up: “I used a bright white-on-white cotton print that I soaked in spray starch. I hung the fabric on the windows and re-sprayed the whole thing smoothing out the wrinkles, etc.”

    I have to say I think the spray starch + fabric option is the best DIY one I’ve seen so far, and the least expensive overall. Bravo Melissa!

  • 8 Minerva // Jul 9, 2009 at 10:20 am

    There is always the undecorative and permanent solution, spray on glass frost.

    http://doitbest.com/Spray+Paint-Rust+Oleum-model-1903-830-doitbest-sku-796125.dib

  • 9 megan // Jul 9, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Thanks Minerva, I was really focusing on reversible options. I started using window films when I rented and appreciated that they were easy to remove.

  • 10 CCherry // Jul 9, 2009 at 11:48 am

    re: starch and fabric- I regularly use large pieces of material soaked in liquid starch and placed on the wall and on plinths at the museum where I am the curator. I do NOT use it in a situation where it will be in contact with art or artifacts, but it’s nice for changing the background color. As to clean up, very easy- I use a damp cloth that gets rinsed often and just wipe the wall down.

  • 11 megan // Jul 9, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Thanks CCherry!

  • 12 Flo // Jul 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    How fortuitous, I was just checking online about this very topic yesterday! Does anyone know a removable or non-adhesive version that does not let light through?

  • 13 Seanna Lea // Jul 9, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I love all of these ideas. In my old condo, these would have been perfect. Our unit was subgrade, and people could look into our windows.

    Now it would be a neat decorative look, but no one can see into our windows from the driveway so I’ll just keep in the back of my head for doing something fun.

  • 14 pigtown*design // Jul 9, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I have some window film that looks like stained glass (no, really!), and I cut some diamonds out of the center so I could have a tiny look out. When I lived in the UK, my artist housemate did some great cut-outs in frosted film.

  • 15 Sara // Jul 10, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Is there any reason that I shouldn’t apply one of these to mirrored closet doors? I’m moving into a house where the master bedroom closet door is a huge mirror and that is not my favorite. Thanks.

  • 16 rachel // Jul 10, 2009 at 8:34 am

    For a really cheap and (sometimes) temporary window cover I’ve always turned to tissue paper and tape.

  • 17 megan // Jul 10, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Sara – I don’t see why not, though I cannot predict how it might look. Hopefully it will still reflect back some of the light without making porn music play in your head.

  • 18 Anotheryarn // Jul 10, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Is one of the pictures in this post of the Ikea film? When I went in search of their window film, I only found stuff near the drapery meant to go on picture frame glass and found it not nearly opaque enough.

  • 19 megan // Jul 10, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Anotheryarn – The picture with the small fern in front is the Ikea stuff. I bought it a few years back so it’s possible they don’t have it any longer. If so I apologize!

  • 20 Cheryl // Jul 16, 2009 at 6:44 am

    I recently discovered the fabric & liquid starch concept and it is ideal, except I did it by brushing it on from a cup (better control than using as a spray). I’ve done it on a wood treasure chest and on the wall (pics of both are on my blog sewcando.blogspot.com) and I was thinking about doing a window with it, so thanks for showing some. It really isn’t messy at all and removing it is SO easy. Just peel off. WAY better than anything adhesive and you can rewash the fabric and use it for something else later. Win-win!

  • 21 ryan // Aug 4, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Hi….
    I used the liquid soap solution to put up adhesive film. Now it looks like its very blurry with white marks and uneven. I don’t know if I did it right. Is it me or was this supposed to happen like this? Would it still dry/clear up?

  • 22 megan // Aug 4, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Hi Ryan – Did you use soap? Or detergent? They recommend a low foaming something – I used baby shampoo and didn’t have any problems. Does the packaging specific one or the other? Are you using a clear or frosted film?

  • 23 ryan // Aug 4, 2009 at 10:13 am

    its a frosted film. just used a mild liquid soap. A few drops of it in a cup of water which i used as as spray.You’re probably right. it may be the foam/soap or something. Anyway, is there anything i can do to salvage this? The last hope was that there’s this one panel I took out because it had a tear did dry up again and got better. but then the ones posted already are the same.

  • 24 megan // Aug 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Ryan – Sorry, I just don’t know. What kind of film did you use?

  • 25 ryan // Aug 4, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I think its a PVC film. Anyway, will wait it out for a week before removing it. Will see if it clears out. Thanks!

  • 26 Sarah // Sep 28, 2009 at 10:22 am

    I have old windows, more than 40 years old. What window film would you recommend? Thanks!

  • 27 kim // Oct 20, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Thanks for the great post. I bought my house and I love my beautiful front doors. Except that they have small areas of clear glass that I would prefer to have frosted/obscured for privacy. Do you have any ideas for this small project? What kind of fabric would you use for the fabric/starch application? Do you think it will be very noticeable since only small parts need the treatment and other parts of the door have a decorative obscuring design built in. Any help with this would be Very Appreciated.

  • 28 megan // Oct 20, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Kim – For smaller panels you could certainly cut fabric to fit over each window panel. I have a window in my door which looks like Trival Pursuit wedges and I’ve been planning on frosting each pie shaped piece individually. Now being able to see your door I’m afraid that’s all the advice I can offer.

  • 29 Window film as cheap DIY window covering | This Tiny House // Oct 21, 2009 at 8:33 am

    [...] been perusing a bunch of great design sites for window covering ideas. You can buy this pricey paper at Scandinavian Design, Gila, Brume, Trove, and Emma Jeffs. Or [...]

  • 30 Amanda // Mar 1, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    What can you recommend for someone who wants to see out to a nice view but doesn’t want people looking in? Do you know of any products for that?

    thanks.

  • 31 megan // Mar 2, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Amanda – You might take a look at the mirrored privacy film that is also made by Gila and sold in hardware stores. It’s not pretty, but a shop near me used it in their windows and I couldn’t see inside easily. (Fun trivia: They were later busted for being an illegal gambling joint.)

  • 32 Morning LInkage (Jul 10) // Jun 11, 2010 at 9:51 am

    [...] Massive collection of info on window film. Which besides being cool is um, cool. Here mostly so that I can send it to one of the thousands of (liar) people who get this via BCC. http://www.notmartha.org/archives/2009/07/09/everything-i-know-about-window-film/ [...]

  • 33 Patti // Jul 7, 2010 at 10:10 am

    An update on Trove – I was going to order some and their site popped up a recommendation that I buy their installation kit, but didn’t say what was in it. I sent them an email and never heard back. Today I called them and the guy said the kit included a squeegee and their application solution, which is proprietary. When I asked if you could just use soapy water, he said it didn’t work well, and the film is not re-positionable. It turns out the film has an adhesive and is PERMANENT. There’s nothing to even hint this on their site. Beautiful stuff, but horrible support, dang it.

  • 34 magnus kemp // Nov 16, 2010 at 6:30 am

    I’m looking for a sticky window film thats about 2m wide. The film needs to be at least 72inches wide. anyone got any good ideas?

  • 35 Stunning Privacy Film for Windows « Elaine Butler // Jan 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    [...] found it through a great blog post by someone called Not Martha, which gives a very detailed overview on the options regarding window [...]

  • 36 Three things I learned about adhesive window film // Sep 7, 2011 at 5:26 am

    [...] I did a little research and discovered entire websites devoted to this stuff — see here, here and here – though I will admit, I found a lot of the design options less than chic.  More like Lowes chic.  I became discouraged.  Then I stumbled onto the design-y not martha blog, which compiled a list of some of the chicest design options out there. [...]

  • 37 Ashley // Nov 2, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    This is such great information and gave me some really good ideas.
    My project is a very large cut out window that sits 12 feet above the ground and faces the west. Because of this, the sun really beats in everyday from 2-7pm. I’m wondering if window film is the best option due to the high heat. I don’t want to completely eliminate the light just cause a bit more shade. What would you do with this kind of project?

  • 38 megan // Nov 3, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Ashley – I believe there is window film that cuts down the UV (even further than the windows do) but still lets in the light and is clear so the view is still there. Ask at a hardware store. Otherwise maybe get one of those fancy remote controlled shades :)

  • 39 Window Film // Mar 12, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Really some great examples of using decorative or frosted film. I always think how something so simple can transform the feel of a room. I saw previous comments on removing window film and I do want to caution on the use of cheap window film . They actually tend to be harder to remove and can leave a window stained.

  • 40 denise // Jul 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    When I was a teenager in 1967 I did tissue paper mosaic on my bedroom windows with starch water. Just tore up variety of solid colors and layered them–looked like a kaleidoscope gone riot.

  • 41 allison // Jul 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    The fabric route is so easy, plus with a simple washing, the fabric is usable for sewing again.

    I didn’t use stray starch, I just mixed a tiny bit of cornstarch and water and applied it with a paintbrush. Maybe a spray bottle would have been easier. Don’t use too much starch or it will show from the outside.

    A few tips:

    I like using fabrics that are contrasty enough the the pater sort of shows on both sides.

    Wash that fabric first and make sure it doesn’t run.

    Clean the edges of your windows well. We live in an old house. I did not clean well enough the first time, and the dirt around the outside was sucked up into the fabric and the edges were disgusting and ugly.

    If covering a whole window (not just the bottom half) consider leaving a three to six inch slit at eye level. You still get a lot of privacy, but can see out.

    Last, remember this only a solution when the windows are closed.

  • 42 MrsP // Aug 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Hi Megan, Thanks for all the helpful information! You mentioned that you had tried using tissue paper with liquid starch but that it didn’t stay on very long. I’m renting and have windows that face the main walkway. I’m wondering if adding a little Elmer’s White Glue (the kind Kindergartners use & which is washable) to the liquid starch would help the tissue paper adhere to the glass? Yet, also allow the tissue paper to be removed with water later? Did you have trouble with the color from the tissue paper running onto the window frame?

    For the Epsom salts & beer, it looks like it’d work well for privacy but allowing light in and then being able to be washed off with water. However, did the Epsom salts damage the metal window frame?

    Thanks for your help!

  • 43 megan // Aug 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    MrsP – Colorful tissue paper will stain your windows! I used white tissue paper. I don’t think it will hold for long before peeling off the glass

    I would suggest either using plain film from a hardware store or using liquid starch and fabric (the last link in my post above).

    Sorry the answer isn’t more DIY, I tried it and still recommend film or the fabric with spray starch. Good luck!

  • 44 Dorothy // Sep 17, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    I’m thinking about using your concepts to make “window hangings” on a lightweight piece of mylar or plexiglass. Sort of a poor mans stained glass. Not so heavy, no lead, no hassle.

  • 45 Judy // Jan 15, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks so much for this blog post! I was looking around at the Brume window films and loved their simplicity but not their price tag lol And contact paper is such a great alternative. I ended used black faux leather contact paper to mimic the stencils and they ended up looking like this:

    http://cleaningjunkie.com/2013/01/15/easy-diy-window-privacy-film-week-2/

  • 46 Decorate Your Windows with Window Films | The Greens of Bedford // Jan 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    [...] local Lowe’s or The Home Depot, too. There are plenty more designs to find online and even DIY window film projects. Not only are they creative alternatives to hanging curtains, but the window film styles [...]

  • 47 Sergey // Mar 2, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Hello. I have couple of bathrooms with small windows out to a large deck. I want to get rid of dusty shades and mold behind them. I’d like to expose the glass so it dries up quickly, and apply something to the glass for privacy. The issue with the frosted films is that people on the desk can see through into the bathroom. Another issue the windows are dark and depressing in the night. Someone above mentioned applying the fabric with starch. It might do. Are there other options? Thanks!

  • 48 beth c // Mar 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Thanks so much for ask this info. I’ve got a window with film on it and it’s stuck to the window. I started with the scraper – what a nightmare. I’ll try the alcohol trick tomorrow and then the wd40. I’ll report back.

  • 49 Sherry K // Oct 3, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    All this info has been a fantastic help. Thank you all – I was ready to fling myself out the windows that are creating a problem. Surely one of these ideas will work. Kudo’s.

  • 50 Sheena // Jan 17, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Hi!
    I realize this is a few years old but you may want to update it. I came across your website first as I was searching for window film. I’m looking for something not permanent for the narrow windows beside our front door for privacy but eventually we want to get sidelight shutters. I’d like to be able to easily remove the film when we do. I looked into some of these brands and I was surprised to read many negative reviews about Gila. I did however read great ones about Artscape which is non-adhesive. That may not have been around when you wrote this article so just throwing that brand out there for someone like me that is looking and comes across your website first ;-) It’s not too costly and can be found at local hardware stores ie Lowe’s… So convenient as well. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m putting it on my weekend errand list :-)
    Thanks again for the article! I really like the starch and fabric idea on something though.. Just thinking of what I can do that to now! :-)

  • 51 megan // Jan 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Sheena – Thanks! I have not needed to look back into window film for a few years so I appreciate the prompt to update it. Last time I looked into it the Lowes near me still had Gila brand films.

    I will add, I took a trip to the UK and Ireland last year and noted that window films were used by a lot of houses, far more common than here in the US.

  • 52 The Totally Free, All-Natural DIY Window Covering | Mr. and Mr. Blandings // Jan 23, 2014 at 10:01 am

    [...] Everything I Know About Window Film on Not Martha [...]

  • 53 Cindy // Apr 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I’ve been researching window films off and on for while, but now I think I’m ready to pull the trigger. What’s better, the adhesive versions or the cling (non adhesive) version? It is for a fairly large kitchen window. I want to take down the blinds I currently have, but I want to be able to look out and she what my small children are up to in the back yard. Also, what about daytime/nighttime privacy? I expect the films designated for privacy work well during the day, but what about at night?

  • 54 megan // Apr 28, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Cindy – The adhesive version will look better, but be more difficult to remove. If you get something frosted people won’t be able to see in at night but you also won’t be able to see out of it unless you’re looking through clear areas — but it will make peeking out at your children more difficult so keep that in mind. Good luck!

  • 55 barbara // Aug 2, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Very interesting reading all your ideas. my problem is a bathroom window too close to neighbors…, at this time there’s a mini blind in the window, are kinda “blah” looking, want some color in this small bathroom……thanks for your ideas and need to keep in mind that I want some sunlight too come in. thanks again

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