Washing windows, especially the exterior of upper-story windows, is a perennial household challenge. Vlad Agapov, of Quality Cleaning and Remodeling in Greenfield, Mass., offers some tips on methods and products to help your window-washing project go more smoothly.
Tools to assemble
Agapov suggests starting by assembling the following tools: One or two buckets, a soft sponge, a razor scraper, step ladder, cleaning solution of your choice, squeegee, optional extension poles for sponges and squeegees and drying materials, such as paper towels, lint-free cloth or crumpled newspaper.
Agapov says that he prefers to not use ammonia, and recommends Unger products, which can be purchased at big box stores and online. Unger products are "environmentally preferable," come in a variety of solutions and are gentler on skin than ammonia. If you want to use a green DIY product, you can mix ¼ cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water to wash your windows.
When it comes to drying materials, Agapov says that he uses the most inexpensive paper towels. “The inexpensive paper towels are as lint-free as any other paper towel,” he says. Crumpled newspaper also works well, and it's a great way to repurpose a material that might otherwise get thrown away.
Getting the process down pat
According to Agapov, depending on how dirty the windows are, you may want to start by putting a drop cloth down to avoid damaging your floors. Then wipe down the window frame and sill. Once you have wiped down the window frame and sill, you should use a razor scraper to take off sap, bird droppings or paint. He adds that many people wash their windows once a room has been painted, and the razor scraper is the best tool for removing paint from glass. “You don’t ever want to use steel wool (for this type of clean-up),” Agapov says.
Next, he recommends that you just scrub the glass pane with your soft sponge dipped in cleaning solution, then squeegee and/or dry with drying materials. When using a squeegee, it is best to overlap your strokes starting partially on a dry area. Wipe your blade often and clean up any drips.
Agapov says to clean your windows from inside the house and outside the house – even if you have tilt-in windows. “Some windows are very easy to clean by tilting in. Others, you need two people to tilt them and you can damage the window. I would never clean my own windows by tilting them in,” Agapov says.
Safety while washing from outside
"I remember as a child watching my mother sit on the window sill on the second story of our house, leaning out scrubbing away at the window," Agapov says. "Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this dangerous technique."
Agapov says that even though the use of extension poles doesn’t always leave your windows as clean as they could be, it’s a much safer way to wash your upper-story windows from the outside. “It won’t be as good, but they will do the job,” Agapov says.
Hard water stains and the effects of acid rain
Depending on where you live, you may experience the effects of acid rain or hard water deposits, such as sprinkler water that hits the windows while watering your garden. Hard water deposits, which often appear as a white powdery substance, are a bit harder to clean. There are cleaning products designed to address mineral/hard water deposits or you can just use more elbow grease.
Agapov says that acid rain can be damaging to window panes and sometimes creates “etching” where dirt can get trapped. If it’s an older window, Agapov recommends taking extra care if there is heavy etching, as the glass may break more easily.
Agapov says that screens should be cleaned more often than windows as they “collect fine dust, mold and pollen ... Take the screens outside and wash them well with water and a soft scrub brush,” he says.
When to hire a professional to wash your windows
If you simply want to save time or your windows haven’t been cleaned for a very long time, Agapov says those are good reasons to hire a professional. “Other reasons would be if they have a lot of old storm windows or there is a lot of climbing involved,” he says.
Thumbnail photo: Jupiterimages