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Window Cleaning: Everything You Need to Know

window-cleaning-explained

Nothing beats having beautiful windows in your home. Along with enjoying plenty of natural light, there’s the fact that the right windows improve the look of every room. They also make quite a difference in the way your home’s exterior looks. As an important element in the home’s design, windows are not something to take for granted.

The attention doesn’t end once you select the right windows and have them installed. In order to truly enjoy them, the windows must be maintained properly. Part of the upkeep and maintenance is cleaning the windows on a regular basis. If you’re a little fuzzy on what that entails, keep reading.

Table of contents:

Why Clean Your Windows Regularly?

Is there any real point to cleaning the windows? After all, the rain will often wash off the outsides and that’s where most of the dirt is, correct? You’d be surprised how many people have this outlook.

There are actually quite a few reasons to clean the windows on a regular basis. One of them has to do with the practical benefit of being able to look out of them. Windows that never see any cleaning eventually have films that are thick enough to severely limit the ability to see through the glass. When that happens, getting the full effect of a beautiful sunrise or sunset is impossible.

Another factor has to do with the way that dirty window glass brings down the look of the entire room. Everything else can be spotless, but windows that are in obvious need of cleaning will make the space feel somewhat dingy. That tends to spoil the ability to feel as if the space is really clean.

Don’t underestimate the impact that dirty windows have on the home’s curb appeal. If it’s been a long time since they were cleaned, they will make the place look unkempt. That’s true even if the landscaping is perfectly maintained.

Apart from looks, there’s also the damage that a collection of dirt and grime can do over the long term. Depending on the materials used for the window casing and sashes, the grime can hasten the deterioration. If that happens, those windows will no longer work as efficiently and they will have to be replaced sooner rather than later.

How Often Should You Clean the Windows?

There are varying opinions about how often windows should be cleaned. Some believe that twice a year to do the outsides and the insides are sufficient. Others think that the cleanings should take place more often. The fact is that several factors influence how often you choose to clean the window glass and the other parts of each window.

One factor has to do with weather conditions. If you live in an area where there’s a fair amount of wind that kicks up dirt, your windows may need more frequent attention. This is not just true for the outside of the glass; if you ever open the windows, some of the dirt may also collect on the inside part of the frame as well.

Lifestyle can also have some impact on how often to clean the windows. If people in the home smoke, the residue can collect on the inside window parts with relative ease. Unless you enjoy a film that inhibits the view and leaves a stale scent, it’s to your benefit to consider cleaning the windows every couple of months.

Remember that extreme weather conditions can also mean the windows need to be cleaned as soon as those conditions pass. Do plan on cleaning the windows after the winter snow or once a major storm has passed through the area. More residue deposits on the windows than most people realize.

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Windows?

You already know that dirty windows interfere with the view. A lack of window cleaning also sets the stage for damage. Do you know what some of the most common damage happens to be? It’s called etching.

Etching is something that happens to the window glass over time if reside is left on the surfaces. Think of it as scratches that are a little deeper. As the etching gets worse, more deposits of grime can set up in them and further inhibit the view. It also makes cleaning the windows that much harder.

Etching doesn’t just happen to the glass. It can also happen to the materials used for the sashes, frames, and casement. Over time, the damage can be hard to cover, even with a coat of paint.

Keep in mind that etching can occur because of foliage that grows near the windows and rubs against them during higher winds. It may also happen due to dirt moved around when things are windy. If you want to protect the windows and get more years of use from them, paying attention to the cleaning is a smart move.

What are Some of the Best Products to Use When Cleaning Windows?

One look in many retail outlets will reveal there are all sorts of window cleaning products on the market. Many of them are quite good and may be formulated to work especially well with certain types of glass. Others are made using simple ingredients and will do a credible job in most cases.

The best way to clean windows is by using a product recommended by the windows manufacturer. You’re not likely to get much in the way of recommendations for brands, but many manufacturers do provide information about the type of ingredients that the product must include. You can take your cues from the material used for your windows. If there’s any indication that certain ingredients would harm those materials, it’s best to go with something else.

You also have the option of making your own homemade window cleaner. A popular and time-honoured option is a combination of plain or white vinegar mixed with tap water. Vinegar is acidic enough to help cut through most types of grime and leave the windows spotless. It doesn’t hurt that the vinegar also leaves a fresh, clean scent. Best of all, learning how to clean windows with vinegar is easy; even if you’ve never tried it before, it won’t take long to get the hang of it.

You may see some products that contain ammonia. This is also a popular ingredient for many window cleaning products. When diluted properly, it’s safe for use and will not harm most types of window materials.

You’ll also need window cleaning tools in order to do the job properly. Clean cloths are definitely a help, although you can use paper towels on the inside. Squeegees are also excellent for helping to clean window glass on the inside and the outside. There are also products designed to connect to a water hose that allow you to clean outside windows without having to climb a ladder.

Do the Outsides of the Windows Have to Be Cleaned As Often as the Insides?

Part of knowing how to clean windows is understanding how often to do the cleaning. When you do clean, it is necessary to address the outside of each window as well as the inside? While some say yes, others say no.

One school of thought is that the windows need a thorough cleaning twice a year. Typically, the recommendation is to time the cleanings for the spring and the autumn. The goal is to get rid of any winter and summer grime that may still be present.

In between these two cleanings, some recommend washing the inside part of the windows once a month. That helps to keep the interior looking clean and cuts down on any buildup that may have happened over the last few weeks. The outside can be done less often, possibly every other month.

You’re the best judge of how often to tackle the outsides of your windows. If a lot of reside does tend to collect quickly, more frequent cleanings with a magnetic window cleaner or some other product makes sense. When the residue doesn’t tend to collect very fast, you can make do with less frequent cleanings.

What are Some Options for Cleaning the Outer Side of the Glass?

Even homeowners who have no problem cleaning the windows on the inside may balk at tackling the outside. It’s true that the task can be more labour-intensive, especially if a ladder is involved. One solution is to use a window cleaner that eliminates the need for climbing.

Today, there are a number of options for a window cleaning solution that can be sprayed on windows and don’t require any type of wiping or scrubbing. These tend to come in containers that allow you to mix them when needed, attach the container to a water hose, and then aim it at the windows. The ingredients are formulated to remove dirt and grime while also allowing the windows to dry without streaking.

Of course, you can haul out the ladder, climb up, and do the windows using your water and vinegar solution. If so, remember that you will need one cloth to do the cleaning and one to help dry the window glass before it streaks. This important part of knowing how to clean outside windows will help you be happier with the results.

What About the Windows You Can’t Reach?

If you need to know how to clean outside windows you can’t reach like the attic or possibly windows that run all the way to the top of a high ceiling, there’s only one real solution. Inside, you definitely need a ladder. Invest in an extension ladder that will easily reach the proper height while providing plenty of stability.


Outside, you can use some product that works with the aid of a water hose. Should you find that this method won’t work, it may be time to call in reinforcements; that means contacting professional window cleaners who may bring along some scaffolding or possibly climb on the roof to complete the job.

How Do You Clean Windows Without Leaving Streaks?

Squeegees are far and away one of the best ways to clean windows without leaving streaks. When and as possible, do use this resource. Since they come in different sizes, find ones that happen to be a good fit for your window panes.

In times past, newspaper was a good option for avoiding streaking. That’s not necessarily the case today. The reason is that the ink used for the newsprint is not the same as used in decades past. Instead of resulting in a nice clean window with no streaks, you’re likely to have one more mess to clean up.

For the outside, use an outdoor window cleaner formulated to prevent streaking. There will still be the need for some muscle to ensure the glass is uniformly dry, but it will be worth it.

Do You Have to Be a Pro to do a Professional Job?

You do not have to be a professional to do a credible job cleaning windows. What the amateur inside and outside window cleaner needs is the development of basic cleaning skills. You can pick those up by doing a little reading and possibly watching some how-to videos. As it relates to basic window care, it won’t take long to master those basics.

What if the Windows are Really Dirty?

Windows that have been neglected for some time may require more stringent methods. There are concentrated window cleaning supplies made to tackle windows on homes that have been vacant for some time or just haven’t been cleaned for several years.

Keep in mind that residential window cleaning involving long-neglected windows will take longer to accomplish. You may want to break the task down into segments rather than trying to do it all in one day. Washing the windows in a couple of rooms per day until you make a complete sweep of the house is perfectly acceptable.

How About Windows That Won’t Come Clean at All?

For really tough jobs, you may need to pull out all the stops. One approach is to make use of Karcher window cleaner paired with a Karcher window vacuum. This can lift quite a bit of the grime and provide a better idea of the window’s current condition. Once you ascertain that, it will be easier to decide if you should continue with the heavy-duty window cleaning equipment or consider another alternative.

Keep in mind that if your best efforts and those of one of the local window cleaning companies don’t result in windows that look spotless, cleaning may not be enough. At that juncture, it’s worth considering a complete window replacement. Starting fresh with the latest window technology like the newer DraftLOCK means enjoying superior energy efficiency as well as having windows that are not etched or otherwise damaged. Once the new windows are in place, you can set up a schedule for window washing that keeps them looking great for many years to come.


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