When some of the most basic things you wouldn’t expect to have issues with such as being able to slide a window open and shut smoothly, it can be a downer. There are multiple reasons why a window does not slide smoothly, ranging from build quality to overtime wear.

To make windows slide easier, use lubrication on the tracks. This is the most common fix due to friction being the number one enemy for sliding windows. Another fix may include aligning the window properly so that it can slide evenly.

This article will be going over more in detail how you can make windows slide more easily. If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to read further.

Reasons Why a Window Does Not Slide Smoothly

It is safe to say that many, if not most people, have experienced having to put a good amount of force to get a sliding door to move. And If it is hard enough to open, it could lead to a broken window when suddenly the frame slams against the wall. Why does this happen? Are not sliding windows supposed to work?

Most windows work just fine when they are new, but they can suffer from complications as they age.

Dirt, Dust, and Other Debris Clogging the Tracks

Anything stationary in your home is going to gather at least some amount of dust. The same is true for window tracks. Dust is not the only thing you have to worry about. However, forgoing to maintain your windows will allow gunk to build up after a while.

It is recommended to clean the window tracks once a week. Most people do not do this, but unkempt windows are a common reason why a window can become difficult to operate.

The Tracks Have Gotten Rougher or Have Bent

If the material used for the tracks is peeling over time, it can make it more difficult for the window to operate as intended. This is typically the case for very old windows, but it can happen if the window’s build quality is not up to par or if you have a wooden window in a humid climate.

Speaking of wooden windows, another thing that can happen is that the tracks can actually start to warp over time. This is because wood does not play well with moisture, and if you are in a humid climate or the tracks are getting drenched in a liquid such as rainwater, then over time, that wood will become deformed.

This can happen to anything made of real wood – floors, desks, etc. have this potential problem. This is why wood flooring, for example, is not recommended for bathrooms or sometimes kitchens.

The Window Is Not Lubricated

For something to slide, friction needs to be kept to a minimum. This is why oil changes need to be done for cars; the oil allows the engine parts to move without causing friction that results in overheating.

For windows, you do not have to worry about heat caused by friction, but you will have a hard time operating a sliding window if there is not any lubricant to lessen said friction. Windows do not need to be lubricated very often if done properly, only about once a year or so, depending on the material and method of lubrication.

4 Ways to Make Windows Slide More Easily

Old windows have at least one of these problems, if not all. Sometimes, however, even a newer window is not performing as it should. But never fear, this is a relatively easy fix! Below we will go over the troubleshooting tips.

1. Lubricate the Window Tracks

A fix that works most of the time is to lubricate the tracks. As we previously stated above, friction is the enemy of sliding windows. The act of sliding in the first place requires very little friction.

You can use WD-40 or some other lubricant to make your window slide as good as new. But there are a few things to note before lubricating your window.

Different Windows Need Different Lubrication

  • Wax works the best for wooden window tracks. You do not need a fancy special type of wax either – white candle wax can be used just fine. Just rub it on the tracks and slide the window a few times for distribution. It is important not to get wooden windows wet.
  • For Vinyl-track windows, it is recommended to use silicone lubricant. You can apply it to a clean cloth and wipe the entire track for an even coating.

Caution Regarding Oil

It is important not to use any kind of oil to lubricate the window tracks. While oil is a great lubricant for many other things, it is a poor choice for windows. The reason is that it will not last long, and it tends to attract grime and dust. And speaking of grime and dust, that leads us to the next section.

2. Clean the Tracks

Over time window tracks collect dust, grime, and other debris, making it harder for the window to slide freely. Cleaning the tracks is very simple. For a deep clean, you can follow these steps:

  1. Cover the tracks with baking soda.
  2. Mix dish soap, water, and vinegar. Pour into a spray bottle and cover the tracks.
  3. Use a toothbrush or a dedicated door track cleaning brush to remove gunk.

The window should operate as good as new after cleaning this way! It is also recommended to clean the tracks every week to prevent all that debris from building up. A simple wipedown is usually enough since not many filth builds up in only a week.

Be Careful With Wooden Windows

Moisture and wood do not mix. It is okay to wipe down wooden surfaces with a damp cloth, but drenching them will cause the wood itself to warp, potentially making the window even harder to slide.

Instead of spraying the tracks themselves, spray a cloth to where it is damp and wipe down the tracks. 

3. Repair Double-Hanged Windows

Older sliding windows typically operated on a counter-weight system known as double hang. This system consists of cords and pulleys that are attached to metal weights.

If the window is difficult to move, the problem is likely that this system needs to be repaired – namely the cables in most cases. The window will need to be removed to repair these cables. Below we will link a video on how you can do this:

4. Check for Hidden Locks

Some sliding windows have a hidden lock as a security feature. This can be for preventing young children from escaping, for example. It also prevents people on the outside from breaking in. It is intentionally hard to see, and if you do not know it is there, it will not be easy to see it.

Some sliding windows are anchored to a wall with screws. These screws are intentionally hidden inside of the pane when the window is shut. This is also a security feature. There are times where a screw may have come loose, which can prevent the panel from sliding.

You can remove the pane easily by lifting it and pulling it towards you. From there, you can tighten the screw or put it back into place. If you cannot lift the pane, you can call a professional to look at it.

An additional tip: if the pane was not placed back properly, it could prevent the window from sliding all the way across. It is easy to make this mistake – just ensure that it is secured how it should be.

When to Get a Replacement

Sometimes, the frame can have problems such as denting or warping. We spoke about how wood can warp due to humidity, but there are other ways for this. It is either due to issues with build quality or an installation process that went wrong.

These are known as irreparable damage, and they can prevent a sliding window from functioning properly. In this case, you will need to either get the frame replaced or the entire window. If you are renting a home, there is a good chance that the landlord will pay for a replacement, depending on the terms when you signed.

If you are a homeowner, this will come out of pocket. If you want to do a DIY replacement, a vinyl sliding window will cost, on average, around $120, with costs fluctuating if you want a different material and depending on the window’s size. You can check out our list of the best window manufacturers for more information.

Labor costs can quickly skyrocket the total price of installation if you choose to have it done professionally. Depending on your area and the complexity, an installation job can total to around $400.


In most cases, a window that is refusing to slide can be resolved with simple troubleshooting methods such as cleaning and lubricating the tracks. These can help make the plane slide easily. In other cases, the problem might be due to issues like damage to the frame from warping, dents, and so on.

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