Don’t let it get you down. There are a few simple rules to getting a piece of glass to look nice and clean.
Cloudy days beat sunny days for window cleaning: It’s true, if you want your glass to come out looking good with less effort, pick a cloudy day if possible. (Some of our best work has been done on rainy days!) The sun, although it makes everything look nice and shiny, can dry your glass prematurely while you are trying to clean it. You want your glass to stay wet until you begin to clean your glass.
Use a bucket, clean warm water and soap (dish detergent is fine): You’d think this goes without saying, but I’ve seen all kinds of “solutions” people like to try using to make their glass look good. Mix a gallon or two of warm water into your bucket with a one to two-second squirt of your liquid soap. We like to use Dawn, or soap for window cleaners like Ettore Squeegee off. (If there are smokers in the house, add a little ammonia to your water for inside work (an ounce or less is plenty). This will cut through the nicotine that builds up on your glass.)
Use a good squeegee: Having a good squeegee is an essential tool if you’re going to clean glass quickly and with regularity. They sell these at the local hardware stores, or you can order online. They aren’t very expensive. I recommend having a small, medium and large squeegee…but if your budget is tight, start with a medium one. (Just make sure it fits the majority of the glass you want to clean.)
More about your squeegee: Check the edges of your squeegee blade. It should look clean and squared off. If it is rounded or has nicks, flip or change the squeegee blade. You always want to get off to a good start. Between cleaning, try to keep your squeegee blade from getting damaged. Lay it down rubber side up instead of touching a surface. (A squeegee has two sides, so if one side goes bad, you can flip it to the good side before replacing the squeegee.)
A sponge, cloth, or strip washer works well with getting your cleaning solution onto your glass. Scrubbing the glass with these before actually using your squeegee will ensure good results. Generally, a strip washer will save you a lot of time. For inside work, squeezing out your strip washer or cloth well will prevent excess dripping. If you’re cleaning in the direct sunlight, use more water to prevent the glass from drying up before you squeegee.)
Use two or three towels: I like to use a clean towel (preferably lint-less) for finish work (picking up leftover water on the top and sides of the window). I use a second (sill) towel (micro fiber or terry cloth is good), to pick up water that falls to the bottom of the glass. You can use the sill towel to clean up your ledges, etc. (Some people use a separate towel for their sills and ledges.)
Use a good technique: Once you get your glass wet, try using your finger behind your sill towel to “score” the glass on the top and one side. Pull the glass from the side you scored to the opposite side. (Don’t start in the middle of the glass) Keep an even pressure on your squeegee. (You can also pull from top to bottom.)
Tip: Keeping your sill towel in your hand, you can towel off your squeegee blade between each pull. This ensures you won’t pull excess water into the glass from the edges. Lift your squeegee off the glass carefully so as not to splash the clean glass with water. (Don’t shake off your squeegee…you can mess up the glass you just cleaned.) Overlap your strokes by at least an inch to inch and a half.
Check your work: Once you’ve finished, a window. Double check your work by moving your head around side to side and up and down while looking at (not through) your cleaned glass. This allows you to get a fuller perspective of what you cleaned and catch anything that got missed. Use your finish towel with your finger behind it to pick up the last spots. (Don’t just wipe the entire piece of glass with the finish towel.)
Sticky debris can often be successfully addressed with a good scrubby pad. (A dish washing scrubby is great. Make sure it is white (not green). The blue ones work well to, but just double check you aren’t scratching the glass.
Large towel for inside work: Putting down a large towel for your inside work will help catch drips and debris from cleaning the windows.
#0000 (four ott) Steel wool can be used like a “magic eraser” to pick up stubborn debris that won’t come up after you cleaned your window. You can use it dry or wet. If you use it dry, it won’t rust as quickly. (WARNING: Do not use steel wool on plastic film, or plexiglass…it will certainly scratch and leave a mark that won’t go away.)
- squeegee your glass from the middle of the window (it will leave a mark)
- towel off your glass in the middle (let the squeegee catch the water in the middle)
- use a wet part of your towel to finish off an edge of glass or pick up something in the middle
- use steel wool on plastic filmed or plexiglass windows.
- let your glass dry before passing over it with your squeegee
- make your access to the glass as easy as possible by removing or moving obstructions and obstacles.
- use plenty of water for your outside work (it helps with cleaning up the window sills)
- use dry portions of your towels to pick up water
- use a white scrubby pad to stubborn sticky debris
Other helpful tips:
Keeping your equipment relatively in the same place (in reference to your body) each time you come up to a window helps you save time, because you will know where to reach each time you need it. (Using a utility belt with loops and/or pouches can really help with that.) Once you’ve done your initial cleaning and checking, walk away to the next window. Don’t agonize over whether you’ve missed anything. After everything dries off, you can come back and check a final time with steel wool and finish towel in hand for anything that remains.