Efficient and Effective Window Washing

by Count On Me 4 All

washing windows image
It was a long winter, and looking out the windows in the spring shows how dirty our windows have become. The ice and snow of winter and the winds of spring have left the windows spotted and grimy.

Early summer is the perfect time to clean windows. Getting this task completed before the mosquitoes and insects of summer arrive make opening the windows for cleaning a less hectic task.

Washing windows can be a tough job, yet it can be made easier if we follow the suggestions of professional window washers. They have ideas and tricks to make the task more efficient and effective. Joe D’Agnese from This Old House Magazine has written an article on how to wash windows easily and effectively.

How to Clean Windows Like a Pro
You don’t have to like doing it, but you can at least love the result of a truly good window washing.

photo:  Kenneth Chen

Introduction
Ideally, windows should be washed twice a year, but it’s a task most people don’t look forward to. Part of what makes window washing such a chore is that homeowners insist on doing it with wadded-up paper towels or newspaper, spray cleaner, and a ton of elbow grease.

“All that rubbing isn’t a good idea,” says Brent Weingard, owner of Expert Window Cleaners in New York City. “You’re just moving dirt around from one spot to another and putting a static charge on the glass, which attracts dust and dirt. As soon as you finish, the window looks dirty again.”

As Weingard demonstrates, it’s easier and more effective to clean glass like the pros do: with a squeegee and a few other readily available tools. The techniques aren’t complicated, he says, and the results may surprise you.

“I don’t know of anything that can transform living spaces so well. You don’t know what you’re missing until you do the windows,” says Weingard. Here are two 3-step methods; one for picture windows and another for multipane windows. Got stubborn spots? Step 7 will help you with those.

photo:  Kenneth Chen

Step 1: Wash with a strip applicator (Picture Window)
Picture windows call for large tools. The long cloth head of a strip applicator soaks up a lot of soapy water and knocks dirt loose without scratching the glass. For a cleaning solution, Weingard uses just a squirt of dishwashing liquid in a bucket of warm water—the less suds, the better.

photo:  Kenneth Chen

Step 2: Wipe clean with a squeegee (Picture Window)
Starting at the top left, pull the squeegee over the soapy pane in a reverse-S pattern (left-handers would start at the top right). At the end of each stroke, wipe the squeegee’s blade clean with a lint-free rag. Cloth diapers or old linen napkins are perfect for this task.

image #4 window washing blogStep 3: Dry off remaining drips (Picture Window)
Remove any water remaining on the edges of the glass with a damp, wrung-dry chamois, which soaks up wetness without leaving streaks. Dry the windowsill with a rag.

image #5 window washing blog
Step 4: Customize the squeegee (Multipane)

To clean a divided-light window, you need a squeegee that fits the panes. Weingard uses a hacksaw to cut one to size. He trims the metal channel ¼ inch narrower than the window pane, then files the cut edges smooth.
With a utility knife, he cuts the rubber blade to the pane’s full width and fits it into the channel so that it projects 1/8 inch at each end.

image #6 window washing blogStep 5: Scrub the panes (Multipane)
A handheld sponge or hog-bristle brush works best on multipane windows. Weingard prefers natural sponges. “They’re firmer and more absorbent than synthetics,” he says. Using the same solution of a squirt of liquid soap in water, he rubs each pane from left to right, top to bottom, working the sponge edges or brush bristles into the corners to loosen dirt.

photo:  Kenneth Chen

Step 6: Wipe clean with a squeegee (Multipane)
Pull the squeegee down each pane in a single stroke from top to bottom. After each stroke, clean the blade with a rag so it doesn’t leave streaks. (If the squeegee squeaks a lot, add a bit more soap to the water.) As above, remove any streaks on the glass with a chamois, and dry the muntins and sills with a rag.

photo:  Kenneth Chen

Step 7: Get rid of stubborn spots
Over time, hard-water runoff from masonry or rain falling through metal window screens leaves stubborn mineral stains on glass that normal washing can’t erase. So after a regular cleaning, Weingard wets the glass and gently “supercleans” it either with fine 000 steel wool (if the panes are small) or with the cleansing powders Zud or Barkeeper’s Friend, which contain oxalic acid. (Other brands of powder may scratch the glass or fail to remove stains.)

He mixes the powder into a paste on a wet towel, rubs away the stains, then rinses and squeegees the glass twice to remove the residue. Even with that treatment, the staining generally comes back in about six months.

To get rid of stains for good, Weingard recommends the application of 3 Star Barrier Glass Surface Protectant, a clear polymer coating. “After the stains are gone, you just put the coating on with a strip applicator and squeegee it off,” he says. Protection against staining is permanent, as long as the polymer is reapplied after each regular cleaning.

photos by Kenneth Chen