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How to clean small glass panes - French (or Colonial) windows

For many professional window cleaners, cleaning small window panes are literally a big pain! This is because they take a lot longer do and can be harder to get a good result. This page will endeavour to help both professionals and householders to push through the pain barrier.


Besides the basics mentioned in the Getting Started page, it is important to have a small sized squeegee. I generally use a 6 inch one. Of course, it needs to be at least the same size - or smaller than the actual window pane you're going to clean.

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For a washer, it's ideal to have a small one that fits inside the window. However, you can take the sleeve off a larger t-bar and fold it into your hand to use without the bar.
You will probably need more rags (and patience) than normal too.

How to do it

The first thing to do is to wash the set of windows with soapy water. Make sure to give them a good scrub and get into the corners.

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Next, get the squeegee ready. If the window is big enough, use the regular 'snake pattern' technique. The advantage of this is that you minimise the amount of times you need to place the rubber of the squeegee back onto the glass. Each time you do this, there is a little trail of soapy water left from where you started.

If the window is not big enough to warrant the snake technique, you need to go straight across or down (it doesn't really matter which) several times. To minimise drag marks from the squeegee starting point, use a towel (it doesn't matter if it's a bit damp) to wipe the edge you intend to start from. This wipe should be on the glass, about a finger's width. Also, wipe the rubber of the squeegee, then go ahead and swipe across the window. Wipe the rubber with the towel each time before placing it on the glass again. Place it so there is a good overlap of already cleaned window (20 - 100mm). Make sure to push the rubber right into the frame on the finishing edge.

The goal is to remove as much water as possible from the glass with the squeegee, without needing to go over touching up with a rag too much. (Using rags sometimes runs the risk of leaving lint and smudges.) The frames will normally need to be wiped over with a towel, which both cleans them and prevents water running onto the next windows below.

Cleaning Louvered Windows

If French/Colonial windows aren't hated enough by window cleaners, louvres almost make them look easy.

louvre windows

There are certainly a variety of techniques that all work on louvres, but the professional is looking for good results with speed.

My preferred method is this:

  1. Open the louvres up fully and use the washer (on the t-bar) to wash both sides of a few panes.
  2. Squeegee the top then bottom of each pane. It is sometimes difficult to keep the squeegee flat on the glass the whole way across. Don't worry if a little water is left, even dripping down. Speed here is crucial!
  3. Once you've squeegeed the whole set, it's time to do the initial wipe with a towel. You need to wipe over just about all the surface of all the glass, and the frames on the sides too. Keep rotating the towel to a clean spot.
  4. Now go back over all the glass with a detailing cloth to get rid of any smears. Change the angle of the louvres while inspecting them to help get different angles of light on them.

Cleaning Lead-light Windows

Lead-lights are harder to clean the older they are. This is because the lead which joins the glass together decays over time, and releases a fine, whitish dust.

lead light windows

The best way I have found to clean lead-lights is to gentlywash them with the regular window cleaning washer, dry with a towel, then clean the smudges with a detailing cloth. Don't assume you've done a good job until you've done both sides! They can be deceiving.

Always be careful of any loose or cracked glass panes. This is pretty common, so just go around them.

Please feel free to contact me for an other questions. For a demonstration of how great your windows could look, make a booking now.