Saturday, September 15, 2007

Window cleaning made easy

It's that time of year again. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we're getting ready to do the Fall cleaning, while in the Southern Hemisphere it's gearing up for Spring cleaning.

I'm employed part-time as a custodian for my church. Like most churches, we have a lot of glass that needs cleaning. I had to learn to do it quickly and efficiently.

There are a number of ways to clean windows. From getting out buckets of water, lots of rags and/or rolls of paper towels or newspaper, to spray bottles and a squeegee. This is my favorite way, to clean windows. I think it's quick and cleanup is a breeze.

Here's what you'll need:
A cleaning liquid
A spray bottle
A squeegee (I got mine for $1.00 and it works just fine.)
Preferably an old rag, but paper towels work too -they're what I have to use at work.

Here's how:

First mix up your favorite cleaner. Some people swear by vinegar and water, others like ammonia and water, others nothing but 4-6 drops of "Dawn" dishwashing liquid in a quart of water. And some just buy window cleaner. You need a recipe or product that will cut the grease - which is most of what is on dirty windows. At work, I have a commercial cleaner I have to use. It's a product that is water and hydrogen peroxide with a stabilizer in it. I like it so much better than the ammonia-based cleaner we used to have to use. At home, I'm going to more green products. I've found that vinegar and water will clean well. If the window is heavily soiled, a drop or two of liquid soap can help, but don't overdo the soap, you don't want a filmy residue.

Once you have your liquid, we're ready for the next part. Oh, by the way, you don't need tons of the recipe. How many windows you have and whether you're cleaning them inside/outside only or inside and outside and how often you clean windows, will determine how much cleaning fluid you need. At church, a quart will clean all the door glass and entry area glass inside and out. We have 12 doors, plus the floor to door-top glass "picture windows"on both sides of each door. I only refilled the bottle about every two weeks. A little goes a long way.

Next, I put the cleaner in a spray bottle. This is so much easier than using a rag and dripping water everywhere. The spray bottle makes the job quicker, keeps your solution clean and helps the little go a long way. Also, I wear an apron so I can hang the trigger of the bottle on the waistband. This lets the bottle hang while I'm working with the squeegee and rag.

It doesn't matter if you do the insides or outsides first, you just don't want to wash the window with the sun blazing straight through it. The cleaning solution will dry too fast and it streaks badly.

On the outside, you're going to need to remove the screen and wash it. When I was a child, we would need to use a screwdriver to loosen the screws that held the brackets that kept the screens in the window. We'd remove all the screens, fill a bucket with soapy water, lay the screens flat on our lawn and use a scrub brush gently to clean both sides of the screens, then rinse with the spray nozzle on the hose. We'd then stand the screens up along a dry side of the house and let them dry while we washed the windows. That doesn't work in this house. The screens are attached to the top of the window frame. And I only have to pull two L shaped handles to release the bottom of the screen. I can wash the outsides of the screen, rinse it, prop the screen open (window closed ;) ) wash it and then rinse it.

Once you've taken care of your screens, if you're washing them, you're ready for the windows themselves.
I generously spray the window. If there are a lot of smudges or sticky stuff, use a corner of a rag or towel to moosh the cleaner around to break up the gunk. Next, take your squeegee and start at one of the top corners. I usually start at the upper left-hand corner. Draw your squeegee down following the seal of the window, making as straight a line as you can. Next, using your cloth or towel, COMPLETELY DRY off the squeegee. All you have to do is hold the squeegee in one hand and the towel in the other. Place a dry spot of the towel over the wet blade and pull the cloth down the edge of the rubber blade. This is what keeps the squeegee from streaking and keeps it from making a wet spot at the top of the window
Next, go to the wet spot, towards the center of where you just squeegeed. Overlap a little - so that you've got about an inch or so of window that you just squeegeed and is now dry, under the blade. Pull as straight down as you can. By overlapping, you won't end up with a wet spot between the first and second strips. People then try using the towel to rub the wet spot = streaks! Dry the blade again and repeat until the window is clean. Remembering to dry off that blade between each pass of the squeegee and to leave a dry margin under the blade so that if you "dog-leg" a bit, you don't have that wet spot to deal with.

Most of the church doors require 3 passes with the squeegee, a couple of them only require two. It's better to make an extra pass than to miss a spot and try to correct it. It WILL take more time to try and correct that streak than to make an extra pass with the blade!

Now you're almost done. The last thing to do is to take a dry section of the rag and carefully wipe the edges of the window - where the seals are. You don't want all that fluid running down the window and puddling on the ledge. I start at the top left and carefully go down the edge to the bottom, then I go to the upper right side and again go straight down. Last thing I do is wipe off the window sill. This may take several rags - you don't want water getting on that clean glass!

I have been known to not do a section of glass until the sun has changed directions later in the day. Too many times I tried cleaning glass with the sun directly hitting it. It's hard to see - the sun is in your eyes, the fluid dries before you can do a complete window, it's terribly hot, and it streaks something fierce. Just wait until later in the day - even if it's sunset - or do that side early in the day.

Reinstall the screens, put your equipment away, toss the rags into the laundry and you're done.
Well at least with the windows. lol I'm not sure if Mom is ever DONE?!!?

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