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Cleaning windows is relatively straight forward once you have all the correct tools and know what you're doing.

Cleaning Solution

In your bucket all you need is cold water and some washing up liquid and that's it. There are people who swear by putting in a bit of vinegar and other rubbish but I wouldn't bother.

I've personally started using Ettore's Squeegee Off because I’ve found it actually allows you to clean windows faster than if you just use regular washing up liquid. I don’t think Squeegee Off gets the windows looking any cleaner than washing up liquid, but it does let you squeegee windows faster.

I’m not sure why, but the Squeegee Off solution lives up to its name by getting more of the water off the window when you squeegee it. This is important because it means you have less detailing to do. (Detailing is the mopping up of trails and water at the edges of the window with a scrim/cloth after you’ve squeegeed it.) Because you don’t have to spend as much time detailing, this makes you ultimately faster and capable of earning more money in a shorter period.

Another good thing I've found about Ettore Squeegee Off is that it allows the rubber blade of your squeegee to slide more easily over the glass. This again makes you faster, and it also prolongs the life of your squeegee rubbers.

The only real disadvantages with Squeegee Off I've found is that it's expensive, and that it also tends to dry out the skin on your hands a lot faster than regular washing up liquid. This can be irritating because your skin will begin to crack, and in winter the skin on your hands will crack anyway. I take moisturising cream out with me to counteract this problem. You could also rub some vaseline into your hands every now and again.

There are alternatives to Ettore Squeegee Off and Washing Up Liquid. GG3 and GG4 are two popular ones, you'll have to try them all to find out which you one prefer.

Like I said, regular washing up liquid works fine as it will get windows looking clean, and when you first start out as a window cleaner you won’t have many customers so speed won’t be an issue, you’ll just want to concentrate on doing a good job.

 

 

Water

Ordinary cold water is fine except when it is very, very cold. You may find the cold water freezes as you put it on the glass, and in these circumstances you'd be better off asking your customer for some warm water, or maybe even better off going home for that day.

A superior but more expensive alternative to asking your customer for warm water is to add alcohol to the water in your bucket instead. The reason for this is because alcohol has a far lower freezing point than water. I usually add methylated spirit to mine when it is very cold; I do this for three reasons:

1. Warm water will soon turn to cold water, especially on a cold day.

2. Customers often won't be in their house to give you warm water.

3. Warm water on a cold window could possibly cause the glass to crack (this drawback has probably only a remote chance of occurring).

 

With regard to how much water you need, the answer is you don't need much. You could probably get three of fours houses done out of one bucket filled a third full, but it completely depends on how dirty the houses are and how many windows they have.

In Summer you may find the water dries on the window very quickly before you manage to squeegee it off. There are various substances on the market that are supposed to help prevent this but because I have never used them I can't comment. I rely instead on keeping my T-bar sopping wet.

 

Squeegeeing for Beginners

I list some more complicated squeegee methods at the bottom of this page, but because you are just starting out in window cleaning keep it simple. Speed won't be an issue when you are starting out because you won't have many customers anyway.

For most windows you will be using your squeegee to clean them. The exceptions are lead windows, those French Windows that have small panes of glass, and windows that have bumpy decorative patterns in the glass.

I use a squeegee channel that is fourteen inches long. You can buy longer or shorter depending on your personal taste but I find fourteen inches is a good length.

Horizontal Strokes

For a big pane of glass you want to do horizontal squeegee strokes and then after each stroke dry off the rubber in your squeegee channel on your scrim/microfibre/cloth/t-shirt before doing the next stroke. A lot of windows cleaners don't bother with the drying off part to save time.

If you're intending on doing a really top rate job I think you need to dry the rubber off because when I don't I always end up with a series of water lines left behind on the glass. After squeegeeing the whole window you can run a dry cloth around the edges of the glass where the glass touches the frames to clear up any water that has been left there.

Most customers will expect you to do the sills because quite a lot of dirt collects there. I also give the frames a wipe as well if they look dirty.

Vertical Strokes

Sometimes your squeegee channel will be too long to do horizontal strokes because a window isn't tall enough and this means you will have to do vertical strokes instead. After wetting the window with my T-bar I run a dry cloth across the top of the window then between every stroke I dry the squeegee rubber. You can then do the edges afterwards just as you would with horizontal squeegeeing.

 

Glass Scapers

Glass scrapers are an extremely useful and integral part of your kit but you need to to be careful with them because when used wrongly they can scratch the glass. Never use a glass scraper on a dry window, make sure the area you intend to scrape has been wetted.

Regularly inspect your glass scraper blade for damage, rust, chips, etc. If there is any damage to the blade replace it before using your scraper again.

I use the a four inch glass scraper and have a pack of ten replacement blades for it. The blades with this scraper are reversible, there is a blunt edge and a razor edge. I like to use the blunt edge just because I know if I used the razor edge I'd probably do something stupid like accidentally cut my wrist open.

Using a glass scraper is fairly self explanatory, just place the steel blade flat to the glass and rub it forwards over the stubborn deposit you have discovered. Don't rub the blade back and forth over the glass because you can trap grit under the blade and then pull it back over the glass scratching it. After rubbing the blade forwards over the glass give it a wipe on your cloth/jeans to take off any debris that may now be on the blade and could cause a scratch.

You also need to careful of low-quality tempered glass because this type of glass has been known to scratch easily.

Before scraping a window try an inconspicuous area first like the bottom left corner to see if this produces any scratches

Golden Rule: Always wet the glass first.

 

Lead/Lattice Windows

You will not be able to clean lead windows with your squeegee unfortunately. To do lead windows wet them as normal and then get your dry scrim or microfibre cloth and rub it over the glass to dry up the water and wipe off the dirt. This can be a lengthy process and that is why you should charge a bit more for houses with lead windows.

You need to be careful with lead windows because the lead work can be at times very delicate. It can easily pull off under the pressure of your hand and cloth.

When doing lead windows you will find your cloths will change from dry cloths to wet ones very quickly and so you will need to have a good number with you because once they become very wet they are pretty much useless and will need to be washed and dried before they can be used again. I actually take about 50 microfibre cloths out with me. I keep twenty in the back of my van and another 30 in my rucksack.

A good way of conserving cloths when doing lead windows is to use one cloth to wipe off the majority of the water, and then a seperate one as a buffer to soak up any remaining residue.

 

French/Georgian Windows

In general I think you should avoid doing these because they're just too much hassle. I heard of one window cleaner who cut one of their squeegee channels with a hacksaw to the same length as the size of the little panes of glass and after this was able to clean through the windows fairly fast. Personally I couldn't be bothered doing this and would have passed up the job.

For other small windows, for example the little panes of glass you might find in a door, just use your dry scrim/cloth to mop up the water like with lead windows. Or sometimes I might use my six inch squeegee channel.

 

Decorative Pattern Windows That Are Bumpy

Again done exactly the same as lead windows

 

Cleaning Inside Of Windows

You clean the insides exactly the same as you would clean the outsides.

Cleaning insides is a lot more awkward than cleaning outsides because of all the things that get in the way. The ornaments and other rubbish people place on their window sills, as well as stuff like blinds can make life difficult. In general I would avoid doing insides because of the high risk of damaging something.

Also, if you accidentally knock you bucket over (very easy to do) outside it doesnt matter, you just go and get some more water for it. Knock your bucket over on the inside though and you're a dead man. You're customer understandably will not be very happy.

 

Conservatory Roofs

These are a serious hassle for a guy with just a bucket, a ladder, a traditional window cleaning pole and a squeegee. I have a special conservatory ladder that cost me £400 specifically designed for conservatory roof cleaning. With regard to cleaning conservatory roofs, it is probably something you don't want to attempt until you've gained a fair bit of experience first at regular window cleaning.

Always inform your customer you'll not be able to clean the windows above a conservatory because standing on a conservatory roof is a certain way to achieving an early grave. You can get up on some conservatory roofs with a couple of wooden planks but it is very risky.

 

Tops First

Always make sure you do the top windows of a house first because when you're doing a top window the dirty water from your t-bar and squeegeeing will drip down onto the ground level window below it, making it dirty. It will be very annoying for you if you clean a bottom window that has another window above it first because you will end up having to do the bottom one again.

 

Work Your Way Down

This may seem obvious but I just want to state it because what can seem obvious to one person isn't to another. When squeeging a window you should start your strokes at the top of it and work your way down and you should overlap your strokes by say or three maybe four inches. When I am doing vertical strokes on a window I tend to overlap slightly more.

 

Detailing

Unless you are the Zen master of window cleaning, you will need to do detailing, that is of course based on the presumption that you're intent on doing a good job. Detailing is basically what you do after you've squeegeed a window, it's the mopping up of any little trails/streaks of water and the water left at the edge of the glass where it meets the window frame. To do this job you'll be using either your dry, clean microfibre cloth, or scrim.

 

More Advanced Squeegee Methods

Because this website is predominately for people who are just starting out as window cleaners you may want to wait until you attempt this.

Once you have a few customers and all the equipment you need you will starting wanting to get something else: speed. The faster you can get the better because if you can get more speed you'll be able to clean more windows and make more money in less time.

However, what you ideally want is not to let your high standards drop. You still want the windows to look pristine after you've finished.

 

The S stroke/Fan Stroke

This is key if you want to start cleaning windows very fast like other professional window cleaners and start making some real dollar.

The normal horizontal stroke window cleaning method will get windows looking immaculate and the s stroke will not make the windows look any cleaner, but once you have perfected it you'll be flying through jobs in half the time.

You start at the top of the window, you bring the squeegee across just as you would with a horizontal stroke but before you reach the other side you turn the squeegee around so that you are going in the opposite direction, then before you reach the other end turn the squeegee back on itself again and gradually work your way down the window. You will need to make sure you catch the water you leave behind as you make the turn.

The best way to describe this technique is it's like you're drawing an S on the window except the S has been knocked onto its side. You work the S down the window until you reach the bottom. With this technique there may be a fair amount of water left around the edges of the window so you'll need to mop this up with your dry microfibre/scrim.

Before attempting this technique on your customers windows it will probably be better to practice it a bit at home because it can take a while to get the hang of, although it's well worth persisting because it will make you a lot faster.

You may find it easier to do this technique with a shorter squeegee channel at first.

The video below is a visual example of this technique

 

Two Handed Window Cleaning

Once you've perfected the S Stroke you might want to try two-handed window cleaning. It is a technique which is really useful on large panes of glass like patios.

You start in the top left hand corner with your squeegee in your right hand and your wet T-bar in your left and bascially it's the same as the S Stroke but faster because your wetting and squeeging the window at the same time. The video below is a visual example of this technique

 

 

Don't Overcomplicate Things

Although doing the S-stroke/Fan-stroke makes you look good at window cleaning, and two-handed window cleaning makes you so good it's almost embarrassing, you don't always need to use them. I still use basic horizontal and vertical stokes on some windows. The reason for this is that on windows of a certain shape it's just sometimes easier to keep it simple. When you're starting out you don't need a whole lot of speed because you won't have many customers. Using horizontal and vertical strokes will be more than adequate for a newbie window cleaner, as they'll get the windows clean, and afterall, that's all the customer cares about.

 

Lastly…Do a Thorough Job

Like I said earlier, I always make sure I clean not only the glass but also the frames and sills. Once you get the frames clean on the first clean, they won’t need much work to keep them looking good.

In my opinion it is short-sighted to cut corners in this game. The customers will notice if your work is slapdash, and after all, we are window cleaners, the window frame and window sill are all part of the window.

If you wish to get recommendations and also keep the customers you’ve got, clean the sills and frames. And also, never neglect your detailing as that’s very important as well.

 

 

 

 
     
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