How to Clean Windows - dummies

By Gill Chilton

Always choose a dull, overcast day to clean your windows. You can’t see streaks in bright sunshine and hot temperatures may make your cleaning solution evaporate quickly. Don’t choose the coldest winter day either. Severe cold with frost can make older windows more vulnerable to breakage as it hardens glass and glass-holding putty. Clean too vigorously and you could have a smashed pane. Rainy days are an obvious non-starter!

Self-cleaning windows?

Pilkington Activ is the world’s first self-cleaning glass for domestic windows. An invisible coating on the glass works to keep windows clean and free from rain smears. It’s perfect for conservatories, which can be such a chore to clean, and for hard-to-reach windows.

To get technical, the coating on the glass reacts with the UV rays that come from the sun (even on cloudy days) to break down dirt – even tough marks such as bird droppings and fingerprints. As a bonus, the coating causes rain to sheet rather than drop pitter-patter (and spot-spot) on window glass. So you don’t get raindrop smears either.

At the moment, you pay around 10 per cent more for this clever glass. Check their website for stockists (distributors) and technical details.

Put together a basic window-cleaning kit

Professional window-washers use surprisingly little equipment. To marry speed and safety, they typically prune their tools to one squeegee, one cloth, and for the dirtiest windows, a bottle of window-cleaning concentrate that gets diluted and applied to the cloth.

All the fancy and not so fancy cleaning tips – such as using crumbled newspaper to buff glass to a streak-free shine – go out the window (so to speak). Only serious grime gets a professional to back down from the ladder for more window-cleaning concentrate. To be a fast and effective window-washer, the following equipment is all you need:

  • A good-quality squeegee with a flexible rubber strip: Choose one that’s 20 centimetres (8 inches) long for normal windows. For smaller or cottage-style windows, get a second squeegee small enough to fit the panes.

  • Washing cloth: This is your main washing cloth. Microfibre is best. Spontex make Window Wonders, which are beautifully soft, but any soft, lint-free material – such as a quality dust cloth – will do.

  • Kitchen roll (paper towels): Use this on extremely dirty areas of the window to save your cloth from getting grimy and unusable.

  • Plastic bucket: A standard 5-litre (1 gallon) bucket is a good size to hold your cleaning solution.

  • A step stool: You need this for reaching tall windows inside and ground-floor windows outside. To reach the upstairs windows from outside, you need a stable ladder.

  • An old toothbrush: Use this to get grit from corners of older windows.

    If you tackle windows that haven’t been cleaned for years you may need an abrasive nylon scrubber to shift bird muck, paint slashes, and other such caked-on delights.

  • An apron with pockets: It can hold tools if you’re using a ladder – you need both hands free – and you can wipe your hands and squeegee on it.

Add the cleaning solution and you’re set to go!