To begin, I asked how often windows should be cleaned. “It’s really up to consumers themselves,” one expert said. “Some people like to clean their windows every week on their own, and others are OK with having a professional come in and clean their windows inside and out, from top to bottom, twice a year. It’s one of those things that can fall into spring and fall cleaning.”
Another expert says most of his customers opt for cleaning two or three times each year. “Definitely in the spring after the long winter, and then in summer or late fall before the holidays,” he says.
Dirty trick: Avoid cleaning windows on a hot, sunny day. “Everything dries so much faster, and it’s going to streak,” one expert claimed. “I recommend doing it on a cloudy day.”
First Things First
To get started, one professional says, it’s important to clear the window area of tchotchkes, knickknacks and any furniture that may get in the way of cleaning.
“One of the big things about cleaning windows is really protecting your floors and the inside of your walls,” they say. “You want to make sure you lay down a sheet or drop cloth to protect your carpet or flooring from getting wet and causing damage.”
Once the area is prepped, our team advises ditching prepackaged bottled cleansers and mixing up a solution of warm water with a small squirt of dish soap. “Usually just a drop or two per gallon will do it,” they say. “Then grab a sponge and scrub down the windows, making sure to get into the corners and the creases and crevices of the window.” Next, clear away the solution with a squeegee and wipe dry with a clean towel.
There are strong opinions about how to achieve streak-free windows. Warm water vs. cold? Vinegar vs. dish soap? Newspaper vs. paper towels?
“The answer, of course, is obvious,” one expert proclaims. “There is no ‘right way’ unless you don’t clean at all. For exceptionally grimy windows, add some vinegar or ammonia to the solution. If you’ve really got buildup, vinegar will cut through grease and grime.”
Remember to wash the edges of the window glass first, rinse and then give the whole window a go.
Next, squeegee away the excess, wiping down the squeegee with a soft cloth or clean rag every couple of strokes. For a large window, wipe down the squeegee after a single large stroke; with smaller window panes (using a much smaller squeegee), wipe it dry after every couple of strokes.
For uniquely shaped windows, finding or creating a custom-sized squeegee may come in handy.
“One thing you should know, however,” one professional says, “is that not all newspapers are created equal.” Since newspaper ink is not a standard solution, some ink may be darker or contribute to streaking, while others may not. “You’ll need to play around with that and figure it out as you go,” she says.
To clean dirty window tracks, our experts say that using a vacuum attachment is one way, but they recommend getting out an old toothbrush for most jobs. “That really allows you to get down into those crevices a bit better.”
The task of window cleaning may call for professional help, depending on the number and style of windows you have, whether there are also storm windows and screens to deal with, how much free time you have and if you need ladders or special equipment to reach up two or three stories.
“Honestly, if there are windows you can’t reach, that require tall ladders from the outside, we would recommend not doing them and hiring a professional who is insured,” one expert says. “That’s one of the reasons people call us. By the time they look at the cost of buying the ladders and squeegees, the towels and cleansers, they decide to just hire professionals.”
If you’re hiring a window-cleaning crew, make sure they are insured and bonded and have good reviews. We recommend checking to see how long the service has been in business. “I would go with a legitimate outfit and not just somebody working out of the back of their truck.”
“These people are going to be in your home,” one expert says. “You want someone you can feel comfortable with, and someone you can ask questions of, like, ‘What should I expect?’ Your cleaning service should be able to walk you through that process.”
Remember it is also important to find out how many people they will be sending over for the job. “If It’s just a team of one or two, it’s going to take a lot longer than a team of four. So consider those kinds of things. How long do you want those folks to be in your home?”