My name is Jonathan. I am a window cleaner from Sydney, Australia - a city with lots of glass. I have been washing windows professionally since 1997 (I started young!). I run a company that offers the best window cleaning service for residential homes, strata blocks, shop front windows and commercial buildings.
I'm often asked for tips on getting sparkling results - "What's the secret to getting the windows looking so clean?" my clients commonly ask. So, this web page (and the next one on cleaning small windows) answers this question - to help both householders and the professionals.
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To get off to a good start with cleaning your windows, it's important to have good quality equipment. Some of this may be a little more specialised, but you should be able to find it all at a large hardware store, or a cleaning supplies shop - a specialist window cleaning supplies shop is even better.
Here is a list of what you would find in my window cleaning bucket
Preferably wide enough to fit the squeegee and mop in. This blue one is great for professionals, but a little over the top for householders.
There are huge differences in quality available, and this is probably the most crucial tool of all. So I suggest purchasing a good one, not like the ones you find at petrol stations. Unger, Ettore, Sorbo are recommended brands. Wagtail is also a good brand and it's Australian, but the swivelling handle takes a little more getting used to.
Good quality squeegees will usually come assembled from three pieces. The handle, the channel and the piece of rubber supported by the channel. The rubber can be turned over when it gets old, and then replaced when both sides have worn out. (Window cleaners usually have their favourite brand of rubber, but I don't think it makes a big difference.)
I have various sizes of squeegee, from 4 inches to 24 inches, but I use the 14 inch about 90% of the time.
This comes in two pieces: the plastic t-bar and sleeve. When the sleeve gets dirty, you can detach it from the t-bar and put it in the washing machine. It's usually attached by Velcro or buttons. 14 or 18 inches is a good length.
The sleeves come in different versions: Porcupine - with little plastic bits throughout it to help scrub off tough marks, Regular, Scourer - with a scouring strip on one side. But my favourite is definitely the Water Retention one. It's handy not to have to return to the bucket so much to dab more water on it.
The handles can either be fixed, or swivel. The swivel one is easier on the wrist and far better when using a pole.
This comes with replaceable metal blades and is useful to get tough marks off, such as paint, varnish or stubborn insect marks. A little one inch, pocket scrapper (as seen to the right) is usually enough for most maintenance jobs, but larger 3 and 6 inch ones that fit onto the end of the pole are good for scraping larger areas.
Take care using scrapers on glass! If you don't know the correct methods, you could cause permanent damage! Check point 2 in 'How to do it' below.
I hate to be the one that lets the cat out of the bag since there are a lot of window cleaners who jealously guard their secret formula, but I don't see any point in not telling. 'Morning Fresh' and 'Palmolive' are probably the most popular detergents. At the cleaning supplies shop you can spend a lot of money on all kinds of window cleaning detergents. I've tried a lot of them, and seem to always come back to Palmolive (soft on the hands and does a great job).
Some people recommend vinegar in warm water. The biggest problem with this is that it doesn't sud up. The suds are important to lubricate the rubber as it passes over the glass, making it a lot easier to turn the squeegee. They help hold the water on the glass longer, and also make it easier to see any water marks that need wiping off.
In fact, suds help to show up dirtier areas that need more scrubbing because the pattern of the bubbles separate more around greasy marks and other dirt.
This could just be an old towel (old is best as the lint and fluff would have worn away). I usually carry a towel and a micro-fibre cloth. More about how to use them later.
I carry a short one that extends. It is 1.5m closed, 2.3m opened. This can be very handy for certain windows - but you need to know how to use it. I also use a 4 section pole that extends to 3 storeys high - though it is nearly impossible to clean accurately at that length. 2 storeys is about the limit for squeegees on a pole (even that is pretty tricky!).
I find a three step step-ladder is very useful, and the extension ladder that reaches about 2.5 storeys high - not advised for anyone not confident being at heights.
This supports a side bucket and is a good place to easily access your scrapper and rags.
This is really just for the professionals. It is a small bucket that hangs down one leg off a belt around the waist. It is a great place to easily stash you mop and squeegee, saving them from dripping all over the place, and also giving you two free hands while walking up the ladder, on the roof etc.
Rub the wet mop (that has detergent on it) onto the window. Give it a good rub to make sure all the dirt is lifted. This is the time to scrape any stubborn marks off with the scrapper. If you need to use the scrapper, make sure to only pass the blade in the forward direction, i.e. don't scrape backwards - this could drag the dirt, cement etc across the glass causing scratches.
Now get the squeegee ready. Let's assume you're right-handed. Hold the handle of the squeegee in your right hand with your thumb half way between the top and side. When you place it on the glass, you want to have it at the correct angle.
To work this out, say the angle when the handle is touching the glass is 0 degrees, and the angle when lifting it off the glass is 90 degrees (with the rubber still on the glass). You want the angle in between those two - about 45 degrees. Try to maintain that angle for the next step.
We also need to have the right amount of pressure on the glass. You can really only work this out with experience. Too light and you wont collect all the water, too hard and it will be difficult to move it around.Try to keep a constant pressure the whole time.
So there you have the inside knowledge on how to get a perfect finish to your windows. My next free tips page discusses how to approach cleaning small sized windows - French Colonial, Lead lights and Louver windows.