If you work in a tall office building, you’ve probably had occasion to notice workmen hoisted high up into the sky like acrobats, washing the windows with incredible dexterity.
Maybe that causes you to think about the windows of your home, covered with dirt, grime, handprints, and the endearing slime left behind from dog noses pressed up against the glass.
Really, windows should be cleaned at least twice a year, not only to keep them looking good, but to prevent buildups of mineral stains left behind by running water or rain.
When you do clean your windows properly, you’ll notice a dramatic difference in the interior of your home, as sunlight and the view outside can now filter through clear, sparkling glass.
Unfortunately, the most common approach of the layperson in cleaning windows is to take window cleaner, an old rag, and apply some serious scrubbing to those windows. Maybe if they’re a little more skilled in this area, they use some bunched-up old newspapers, thinking that they won’t leave behind any streaks.
For the next several hours, they move around the house, practicing the wax-on, wax-off motions we all remember from the Karate Kid, with so much repetition that you’d think they’re ready to fend off an army of ninjas after they clean the windows, if they’re not too tired from all the work.
To clean windows like a professional, you don’t need to scrub for hours. All you really need to invest in is a good quality squeegee and its accompanying wet cover (a cleaning cloth held to the squeegee with the elastic potency of rubber bands), and some dry cleaning cloths to pitch the final inning—preferably a chamois.
Whatever your preferred cleaning solution is (there are plenty of options) pour it into a large bucket and mix it with water. Make sure the resultant liquid is not too bubbly or foamy, and make sure that the bucket is wide enough for you to place in the squeegee in.
Dip in that squeegee (wet cover attached), and proceed to smear the entire surface of the window. Stand back and admire your work, like a painting of the great French impressionists, capturing the foamy swells of the ocean with bold strokes, and get ready for the next step.
Take off the wet cover from the squeegee, so that you can apply the rubber blade to the window and wipe off the cleaning solution. Working your way down from the top of the window to the bottom, move the squeegee over the windowpane, effectively scraping the window cleaning solution and dirt from the glass.
Some experts recommend moving the squeegee in a reverse-S stroke. As you finish your strokes, curve the squeegee downward to flick water away from the window, which will assist in preventing it from pooling at the bottom of the glass.
Make sure you have a fresh, clean cloth to dry the squeegee between each pass down the window (or with each S if you’re doing a reverse S-stroke), because a dry squeegee will help you avoid unwanted drips, and prevents streaks from forming.
After you’re done pulling the squeegee across the window, run a clean cloth (preferably a chamois) over any drops left behind, especially at the edge of the windowpane) and soak up any fluid remaining on the window sill. Follow that sponging up by polishing the window sill with another clean cloth.
Perhaps your windows are divided with mullions, thin strips that split the glass into compartments. These days, mullions are just for show, and the glass underneath is just one pane, but in older windows, each square is actually a separate piece of glass.
To clean each one of the little squares comprising your multi-paned window, consider using a handheld sponge or a hog-bristle brush. You may find that natural sponges are firmer and more absorbent than synthetic sponges.
Using the same cleaning solution, rub each pane right to left and top to bottom (basically getting every square inch of glass), and make sure to work the sponge or brush (whatever your preference has dictated you use) into the corners in order to loosen up any dirt and grime that inevitably worked its way into the nitty-gritty corners.
You’ll next want to take hold of a small squeegee. If you’re exceptionally handy, you may be able to take a normal sized squeegee and cut it down to size using a hacksaw.
Similar to the way we recommended cleaning large windows, just take your mini squeegee and pull it down from the top of each small pane down to the bottom in a single stroke.
Between each stroke, clean the squeegee blade so that it doesn’t leave behind streaks or drips. When you’re done with each pane, wipe away streaks or drips that have been left behind (especially at the edges) with a chamois cloth, and dry the mullions and sill with a dry cloth (if you are able to dry them without flaking paint).
Tip: If you hear the squeegee trying to converse with you by making a lot of squeaking noises, don’t respond. Add more soap or cleaner to your solution.
This next step is for the real die-hard professional window cleaners, who won’t take no for an answer, so if you feel that it’s a little above and beyond your commitment to home improvement on the weekend, feel free to pass this last step over.
You’ll see that there are some stubborn streaks or splotches that won’t come off. These have occurred because of hard-water (water with a lot more minerals than your average water) running off from the masonry, or rain falling through the metal mesh of your screen.
After you’ve given your windows the regular cleaning treatment, consider getting these tough mineral stains off with fine 0000 steel wool (for those out of the know, steel wool is rated on a scale of 0000 to 4, the quadruple zeros implying the finest steel wool, and four the coarsest).
Barkeeper’s Friend (a cleaning solution that contains oxalic acid) can also be useful for cleaning those tough stains, although other powders may be too coarse and scratch the glass). Just mix the Barkeeper’s Friend powder onto a wet towel, forming a paste, and then rub away the stains. Follow this up with a rinse and squeegee at least twice to remove the residue.
Don’t be surprised if the staining comes back after a few months. Remember, it’s being formed by hard water deposits that will inevitably be found in runoff water from your masonry, or rainwater that passes through your metal screen.
However, you may find that applying a layer of polymer coating, such as 3-Star Barrier Protectant can assist in preventing these stains from reappearing.
After you’ve removed the stains, apply the glass protectant according to the instructions, and then squeegee off the window pane. You’ll need to reapply the polymer after each window cleaning, however.
And there you have it! Whether you’re cleaning a wide storefront window of your business or restaurant, or cleaning the windows around your home, you’ll find that these techniques will make the glass of your windows crystal clear.