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 [65] · 07-9-2009 · categories:the home ·

65 responses so far ↓

  • 1 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.

  • 2 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 […]

  • 3 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?

  • 4 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!

  • 5 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

  • 6 Elke Davis // Dec 28, 2014 at 8:44 am

    We recently bought an older model Pick up, and each of the windows had the tinted paper applied. We live on the coast, hot weather and plenty humidity which did a number on that tinted paper. We stated scraping, and it look like at that rate we would have it off by 2020. I checked the internet and found the following. Buy a cheap cloth steamer and steam it off. And it worked, my husband had all the paper off in less than an hour and very few streaks, which were removed with soap and water. It was a live saver for us.

  • 7 izzymae // Jan 12, 2015 at 11:56 am

    i use Etched lace by artscape-inc which I purchased at Home Depot. The house is full of windows in all shapes and heights making it difficult to cover. The film is applied to glass with water (easy on and off) and comes in 36″x72 (and smaller).
    Everyone who’s come over loves it and asks where I got it. The best is that it’s made in the USA!!

  • 8 Corinne // Jun 30, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Thanks for the ideas! I also found some attractive removable stained glass and clear window appliques on that you can use if you want to cover a window or create accents. They also have rolls of caming which is used to create the look of the lead lines in stained glass…

  • 9 Bev // May 14, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Have you ever tried cutting clear or frosted contact paper with a cutting machine (ie. Silhoutte Cameo)? Thought I might be able to make some unique window decals of a design of my choice.

  • 10 Susie Chase // May 16, 2016 at 10:14 am

    The glass on my oven door is a mess from all the dips. The drips are on the glass between the interior and exterior. Raher than take it apart, I thought I could put something on the outside of he door to disguise the drips. Would window film work? Thanks for your help.

  • 11 TK Mays // Jun 28, 2016 at 5:23 am

    Just a little tip; if someone only has regular starch and water, make sure to heat the mixture to activate the starch and it will stay.
    Of course let it cool some first, so u dont burn yourself.
    May be why others have had trouble getting it to stay. Hope that helps some!

  • 12 Mark // Aug 24, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Had Gila tint on a window. When I tried to remove it a good portion had melted onto the window. First time it ever happened. Will goo gone work to remove the melted portion? And has this happened to anyone else? My guess is that it occurred to due excessive heat as I am in SoCal.

  • 13 Samantha // Sep 25, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    Gallery Glass. Simple but beautiful. Google gallery glass on windows for tutorials – it’s as easy as just painting it onto your windows for privacy effect (go slow and careful and with small sections to prevent dripping and drips on your floor). The “Crystal Clear” gives a water/rain effect, whereas the “Clear Frost” gives the frosted look. You can also get faux leading strips or leading liquid to make your own pattern/design from the same product line, thereby creating colored “leaded glass” if you want. ( )

    I did this with a glass side-lite on my front door – I made my own pattern with the lead strips, then used Crystal Clear for water effect (using a pouncing effect with an artist brush), and used two subtle colors and Clear Frost between some of the leading strips on edges of the window – it turned out beautiful, and best of all can be easily removed if you want to change or remove it (the Frost paint however could be trickier to remove, but the others just peel off from a corner, much like a cling).

  • 14 SUSI // Nov 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Help…applied vinyl film in lovely stained glass pattern on bathroom window…it is a textured semi private glass right by the bathtub…well…it fell off less than 24 hrs later! Used application kit that came with a spray solution, squeegee n cloth. Any way to make it stick to textured glass?

  • 15 megan // Nov 18, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Susi – I’m afraid not, it needs that surface contact to hold in place. Perhaps try some of those clear Scotch brand mounting squares? They’re removable and will hopefully disappear under the design of the window film.

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