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Top 3 DIY Window Cleaning Methods

Updated: Jun 24, 2023

Introduction

Clean and sparkling windows can enhance the aesthetic appeal of any building, whether it's a home, office, or commercial establishment. Regular window cleaning is essential to maintain the clarity and transparency of the glass, the condition of your window seals and the finish of your frames. However, with numerous window cleaning methods available, it can be challenging to determine which approach is the most effective. We will explore the top three window cleaning methods that are widely used and recommended by professionals in a way that you can DIY!


Table of Contents

Overview & Recommendations

Trad Method

Trad Deep Clean

Water Fed (DIY)

Starting Cost

$20+

$25+

$50+

Streak-Free

Yes

Yes

Maybe

2-Story Safe

If ground is level

If ground is level

Best

-

If you have good balance on ladder

If you have good balance on ladder

N/A

Interior and Exterior

Yes

Yes

Exterior Only

Tint Safe

Yes

No

Yes

Most Effective For:

Light Soiling

Stubborn Debris

Light-to-Heavy Soiling, but not Stubborn Debris

Best Results Overall

2nd Place

1st Place

3rd Place

2 -Story Work

2nd Place

3rd Place

1st Place

Time Commitment

2nd Place

3rd Place

1st Place

Learning Ease

2nd Place

3rd Place

1st Place

Comprehensiveness

2nd Place

1st Place

3rd Place


Traditional Window Cleaning Method


The traditional window cleaning method is the go-to for most professionals. There are many different variations of "Trad" methods, but distilled to its essence the basic tenants are threefold: Scrub, Squeegee, Detail.


Depending on the size of the job, you may want to purchase some entry-level window cleaning equipment. Your total cost - depending on what you choose - can be as little as $20 at your local Lowes or Menards.


What you'll need:
  1. Squeegee (the size will depend on your windows, the basic rule of thumb is larger is harder to use, but more efficient. I would recommend the "Ettore ProGrip Rubber Window Squeegee" at Lowes. As a beginner you will need more than one squeegee rubber to get your house done and the cheaper options are a single-use squeegee)

  2. Replacement Squeegee Rubber (at least 1, larger sizes can be cut down with a razor)

  3. Window Mop (Optional) (If you're fine with more elbow-grease; a new non-scratch kitchen sponge will work just fine)

  4. Window Mop Bucket (Optional) (If you buy a window mop, you will need a rectangular bucket to accommodate the width of the mop)

  5. A couple old bath towel (any size works)

  6. Dish Soap (any brand works)

  7. Ladder for elevated windows (one with adjustable feet is best for the rolling hills of the Midwest)


Here's a step-by-step guide to this classic approach:

  1. Prepare a bucket of soapy water using approx. 1 tablespoon of dish soap concentrate-to-water (the ratio will fluctuate depending on hardness of you water and the detergent used, feel free to experiment)

  2. Dip the solution applicator - whether mop or sponge - into the soapy water and then remove excess solution - especially when inside your home. If the solution is dripping down your window, you probably have too much solution on your applicator.

  3. Scrub the window surface. Depending on the frequency of your cleaning, you may have to scrub quite a bit, the first cleaning is always the worst. (Never resort to an abrasive, if you're not able to get the stubborn debris off of your windows the next method is for you)

  4. Use the squeegee to wipe the window from top to bottom in a sweeping motion, perform a few pre-sweeps at the top to reduce the amount of detailing later. (When cleaning inside, place one of your towels along the base of the window to catch the solution as it gets squeegeed off).

  5. After you have inspected the window and are satisfied with your cleaning take your towel in you index finger (like if you were applying shoe polish) and wipe around the top of your window, then the sides from top-to-bottom, and then finally the bottom. If there is solution on the frame, wipe it off as well. That's it!



"Trad" Method for Deep Cleaning


Just like the traditional window cleaning method is the go-to for most professionals, deep cleaning is usually an add-on. There are many different ways of deep cleaning with "Trad" methods, but just like normal Trad, the steps are Scrub, Squeegee, Detail, but with an additional Scrub step. !!!Note that if your windows have tint, this will scratch your windows!!!


What you'll need:
  1. Squeegee (the size will depend on your windows, the basic rule of thumb is larger is harder to use, but more efficient. I would recommend the "Ettore ProGrip Rubber Window Squeegee" at Lowes. As a beginner you will need more than one squeegee rubber to get your house done and the cheaper options are a single-use squeegee)

  2. Replacement Squeegee Rubber (at least 2, larger sizes can be cut down with a razor)

  3. Window Mop (Optional) (If you're fine with more elbow-grease; a new non-scratch kitchen sponge will work just fine)

  4. Window Mop Bucket (Optional) (If you buy a window mop, you will need a rectangular bucket to accommodate the width of the mop)

  5. A couple old bath towel (any size works)

  6. Dish Soap (any brand works)

  7. Ladder for elevated windows (one with adjustable feet is best for the rolling hills of the Midwest)

  8. 0000 Grade Steel Wool !!!only use 0000 grade steel wool, any other grade WILL scratch your windows!!! Do NOT use any steel wool that has any sign of rust, this will also scratch glass!!! Do NOT use any other material than '0000 Steel Wool' or '0000 Bronze Wool'!!!


Here's a step-by-step guide to deep clean approach:

  1. Prepare a bucket of soapy water using approx. 1 tablespoon of dish soap concentrate-to-water (the ratio will fluctuate depending on hardness of you water and the detergent used, feel free to experiment)

  2. Dip the solution applicator - whether mop or sponge - into the soapy water and then remove excess solution - especially when inside your home. If the solution is dripping down your window, you probably have too much solution on your applicator.

  3. Scrub the window surface. Depending on the frequency of your cleaning, you may have to scrub quite a bit, the first cleaning is always the worst.

  4. Grab your 0000 Grade Steel Wool polishing pad and go back over the entire window. Pay attention to areas that grab your pad, these may need special attention.

  5. Use the squeegee to wipe the window from top to bottom in a sweeping motion, perform a few pre-sweeps at the top to reduce the amount of detailing later. (If you start seeing streaks, agitate the squeegee in your bucket of solution to clean off any steel wool fragments and if this doesn't work replace your rubber. Deep cleans are rough on squeegee rubber. (When cleaning inside, place one of your towels along the base of the window to catch the solution as it gets squeegeed off).

  6. Inspect your window for more stubborn debris. You may need to repeat Steps 3 - 5. (If there is just a few specks, you can lightly polish the area with a dry steel wool pad.

  7. After you have inspected the window and are satisfied with your cleaning take your towel in you index finger (like if you were applying shoe polish) and wipe around the top of your window, then the sides from top-to-bottom, and then finally the bottom. If there is solution on the frame, wipe it off as well. That's it!



DIY "Water-Fed" Pole (WFP)


The water-fed pole system is a modern and efficient method commonly used for cleaning exterior windows in high-rise buildings or elevated residential windows. It involves using a telescopic pole with a brush and a high-flow water purification system (usually Reverse Osmosis and/or De-Ionizing water systems, the kicker is that the setup usually starts at around $2k). Real WFP is expensive to get into, but a DIY analog can be accomplished with as little as $50 and some household supplies.


What you'll need:
  1. Extension Pole (an Ettore 16' pole at Lowes is recommended, but anything that is threaded to attach to a broom will work, as long as you can reach all of your windows with it)

  2. CRAFTSMAN 10-in Poly Fiber Soft Deck Brush (or any brush that can attach to the end of a pole, preferably with soft bristles)

  3. Mop Bucket (anything that will accommodate the size of your brush head)

  4. A garden hose (you obviously need to be able to reach all of your windows with it)

  5. A garden hose attachment (optional, but nice to have)

  6. Dish Soap (any brand works)

Here's a step-by-step guide to DIY "WFP" approach:

  1. Prepare a bucket of soapy water using approx. 1 tablespoon of dish soap concentrate-to-water (the ratio will fluctuate depending on hardness of you water and the detergent used, feel free to experiment)

  2. Attach your brush to the extension pole.

  3. Dip the brush into the soapy water.

  4. Scrub the window surface. Depending on the frequency of your cleaning, you may have to scrub quite a bit, the first cleaning is always the worst.

  5. Use the garden hose to rinse the solution off of the window. Depending on your water quality, there will be varying levels of water stains left after the window dries, but it's far better than dirt and grime.


Conclusion


Regular window cleaning is vital for maintaining the clarity and visual appeal of windows. In this article, we explored the top three window cleaning methods: the traditional method, the Trad method for deep cleaning, and a water-fed pole DIY system. By following these methods and tips, you can achieve gleaming windows that enhance the overall appearance of your space on your own!


FAQs


How often should I clean my windows?
  • It is recommended to clean your windows at least twice a year, ideally in spring and fall, to maintain their clarity and cleanliness.

do professionals use this window cleaning solution?
  • Some use the solution provided, but most will use a mixture of dish detergent, dedicated window cleaning detergent, slip additives, etc.

Can I use an Extension pole with the "Trad" Method?
  • Yes, but a special 25-degree or adjustable-angle squeegee is required to clean with an extension pole. Professional like the 'Moerman Excelerator 2.0 or 3.0" handle for this application. Then it is usually good to practice for a while to get used to Trap Pole work.

Can I clean windows with just water?
  • While water can remove some dirt, using a window cleaning solution along with water will provide better results. But as discussed in the WFP section, water usually has minerals in it that cause water marks after it has dried.


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