The Right Tools
Professional window cleaners make the job look quick and effortless—because they use the right tools. You’ll want a good quality squeegee; a 10- to 16-inch professional quality stainless steel one is best. The size depends on the size of the windows you’ll be cleaning. You may also need an extension pole, depending on the height of your windows.
Rags are great for cleaning around the house, but for windows, use microfiber cloths, which hold cleaning solution better and grab more dirt. And let’s not forget a window bucket (or spray bottle for smaller jobs), a safety scraper for hard-to-clean dirt, stains, and sticker residue, and a chalkboard eraser to wipe away any final streaks.
There’s more to your windows than just the glass, so you’re going to need a few more tools—but happily, you should already have on hand most of what’s needed.
Get out your vacuum cleaner crevice tool to remove as much loose debris as possible from the window tracks. Next, fill a spray bottle with vinegar, set it to mist, and set it aside. Dust some baking soda on the tracks—apply just a little, or you’ll have a bubbling science experiment on your hands—and prepare to clean.
Spray vinegar on the baking soda, to see a little bit of fizzing. Then use an old toothbrush on the mixture to loosen the dirt. Wipe the treated area clean with a microfiber cloth. It may take two to three applications to remove all the ingrained dirt, and more than one cloth to wipe the tracks clean.
Blinds and Screens
You’ll want to clean blinds and screens before the glass, lest their dust and grime ruin your newly cleaned windows. Wrap your kitchen tongs—or better yet, buy a spare set—with clean microfiber cloths for an instant blinds cleaner. Rewrap the cloth to expose clean areas as you work, and have extra cloths on hand if you have many window blinds.
Cleaning the screens is just as easy, and if you do so regularly, you may even be able to leave them in place. Use the vacuum cleaner brush attachment to gently lift and remove loose dirt and debris. Next, mix one part white vinegar with one part lukewarm (not too hot) water. Dip a microfiber cloth into the mixture and apply it to the screen using a circular motion. Allow it to dry before closing the window.
For deep cleaning jobs, remove the screens and hose them down with very gentle pressure to wash away most of the dirt. Then use a soft bristle brush to apply mild soapy water, or use the 50–50 vinegar–water mixture. Rinse the screens thoroughly and allow them to dry.
A bright, sunny day might seem like the perfect time to clean the windows—but it isn’t! You actually want to wait for a cloudy day, because bright sunlight will dry the window cleaning solution before you can squeegee it off, leading to streaks.
Also, leave that expensive name-brand glass cleaner on the supermarket shelf; you can save big bucks and get better results with that handy, dandy 50–50 vinegar–water solution in a reusable spray bottle. For kitchen windows and others with a greasy or grimy build-up, add five to six drops—no more, or you’ll be dealing with a soapy film—of a grease-fighting dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn, to one gallon of your vinegar–water cleaner.
An intriguing alternative: Some do-it-yourselfers swear by black tea. Brew it strong and allow it to completely cool for about an hour. Fill a spray bottle, then mist it on your windows and let the tannins in the tea lift tough build-up. It works on bathroom mirrors, too.
No matter which method you use, you’ll want to rinse down the windows with clean water before squeegeeing them dry.
For High Places
High windows will require an extension pole; up to 18 feet is common. Purchase one with a detachable squeegee and handy strip washer attachment—a flat, fuzzy, woven fabric, designed to hold large amounts of water, that is mounted onto a convenient T-bar with water wells.
Don’t be tempted to lean out the window when cleaning or drying, or to use a ladder; this can be highly dangerous, particularly on uneven ground.
Wash the windows first using the strip washer and your cleaning solution, hose the windows clean, and squeegee dry. Note that you don’t want to use the black tea solution with this method, as it’s difficult to wash out and will more than likely stain the strip washer material.
Perfecting the Art of the Squeegee
Place the squeegee against the top left corner of the window—or the opposite corner if you’re left-handed—and pull down smoothly from top to bottom. Apply moderate pressure, just enough to remove the water. Wipe the rubber or silicone squeegee blade off with a microfiber cloth between each stroke—this is very important.
For each stroke after the first, overlap the edge of the now-dry squeegee over a portion of the just dried area to reduce streaks. Your final stroke will be left to right along the bottom of the window.
Lastly, wipe any water beads from the window edges, and use a clean chalkboard eraser to remove any stray, missed streaks.
You don’t want anything to ruin your beautiful view, least of all a scratch, old sticker, or fresh dust on newly cleaned blinds. Here are some quick fixes.
Easy Scratch Remover
Don’t panic when your pristine cleaning job reveals scratches—or the wrong pull of a squeegee has caused a scuff. Grab a tube of non-gel toothpaste and scrub in a circular motion. Wipe clean with a damp cloth, repeating if needed.
Smart Sticker Removal
Before you wash around the old, gnarly window sticker yet again, spray it with WD-40, and let it sit for a while. Pick off a corner with a fingernail or a plastic scraper, and the rest should come right off.
To stretch out the time between window blind cleanings, wipe them down with dryer sheets. Just as it keeps static off your clothes, it reduces the dust-attracting static on your window blinds.