Homeowner Helpers: The best way to clean your windows

Homeowner HelpersWhat’s the best way to clean your windows?

It takes a bit of work but it’s not very complicated and cheaper than hiring a pro.

Washing windows — or at least the result — is also rewarding when you look outside and notice how vibrant the spring colours have suddenly become now that there’s no layer of dust and grime between them and you.

What you’ll need to get those windows spic and span:

  • A bucket of hot water
  • White vinegar
  • Dish detergent
  • Large sponge or lamb’s wool window brush
  • Rubber squeegee
  • Lint-free cloths

You can also use ammonia instead of vinegar, but wear gloves if you do — ammonia is harsh. There’s no real need for commercial window cleaners, which can be pricey, leave a waxy residue on the glass and come with spray devices that can’t be recycled.

As to the old trick of using balled-up newspaper dipped in hot water and vinegar: don’t bother. It’s a lot of unnecessary work and can leave ink streaks on the glass.

Many windows are now made so you can access the outside of the lower pane of second-storey windows from inside the home. Look for plastic or metal slides at the top of the lower sash frame; squeeze the slides, and the window should tilt inward toward you. If you can’t do that, or if you have fixed windows on the second storey, you’ll need an extension pole for the window brush and squeegee (all the equipment is available at building materials stores).

Now, let’s get started:

  • Don’t wash windows that are in direct sunlight: the water dries too quickly, leaving streaks.
  • Start by cleaning the frame with a brush and hot water.
  • Mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar to two or three cups of hot water (or one part ammonia to three parts water). A drop of dish detergent helps remove waxy build-up from previous commercial cleaners.
  • Lightly scrub the entire glass with the sponge or window brush, then use the squeegee, held at a 30-degree angle to the glass, to remove the water. You’ll find the squeegee technique you like best, but try starting at the top and going across the glass horizontally, then moving down to the next wet area. Wipe the squeegee dry after each pass. It takes a bit of practice to get used to a squeegee, but you’ll love it when you do because it’s fast and effective.
  • Finish up by wiping the glass closest to the frame and the frame itself with the dry cloth. It’s a good idea to also go over frames with a clean damp cloth to remove any cleaning solution and then dry with a fresh, clean cloth.

When washing an interior window, put a cloth on the sill to absorb water from the sponge or wash brush and the squeegee. When you’re finished with the the glass, wipe the frame with a clean damp cloth to remove any cleaning solution and then dry with a fresh, clean cloth.

Here’s how the pros wash windows:


Tip: The Scotch-Brite Glass Cleaning Cloth does a great, streak-free job on windows with just hot water. You don’t even need to use a squeegee; just wash the glass with one side and wipe down with the other. Find it at Walmart, Amazon and elsewhere for under $5.

Got a maintenance task you’re not sure how to do?
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