Tuesday, February 27, 2024

How Do Professional Window Cleaners Make it Look So Easy?

 Why Can't I Get My Windows to Look That Good??

Are you running out of tips and 'cutting-edge' products to get your windows looking awesome? Maybe you are one like many who has asked me for the 'secret'; one who cleaned a window and felt it looked good only to be dismayed when the morning sun showed all the smears. There are so many favorite cleaning solutions and handheld rags that people have endorsed over decades, I'm sure over centuries, that have been used to clean windows. Their proponents swear by them, while others say they just don't work. The golden items may include vinegar, dish soap, Windex, Jet Dry, corn starch, ammonia, rubbing alcohol, sponge, newspaper, chamois, scrim cloth, used t-shirt, and so on. I'm not going to discuss or critique each and every item here, but I will try to shift the focus to principles that could make just about anything work to a greater or lesser degree. 

The Ongoing Battle to Figure Out the Secret of Beautiful Windows

You may have noticed that there are more than a few advertisements and infomercials that will assure you that all your nagging problems in life are 'not your fault'. Will I say here that disappointing results with your windows are not your fault? No and yes! I think the word fault in the context of not-perfect looking windows is a bit harsh and unnecessary. It really comes down to the amount of patience and tenacity you are willing to expend, as well as a few sensible principles to apply. As with just about every solution to a problem, the big 'answer' isn't going to pop up on your TV or computer screen out of nowhere. This also applies to the secret of making your windows look fantastic, no matter what time of day it is! Two factors that often contribute to this battle are that many different things can accumulate on glass; anything from grease to soap scum, and that the surface of glass can get quite hot or cold. Add to this that humidity can also affect your efforts in getting your windows to look spectacular. 

How Do They Make My Windows Look So Good, and Can I Do It?

As I earlier alluded to, it mostly comes down to patience, practice, and a sensible game plan. Here are a handful of things to remember and how to deal with it.

Many substances can be on glass- Grease can settle on windows. This would usually be on the inside, due to cooking, high humidity, finger and handprints, among other things. Grease from barbeque grills that are near outside glass can pose a real challenge to cleaning windows as well. Smoke from different sources inside the home can leave residue as well. Getting these forms of grime off glass is possible, but it requires some patience. Water alone applied with a paper towel, shop rag, or even microfiber rag will likely not help too much - even with elbow grease! It will probably just smear the glass, essentially redistributing the residue to more concentrated areas of the glass. You can more effectively approach this problem a few different ways.

Use a rag with a generous amount of water and a degreaser such as your favorite dishwashing liquid (doesn't have to be dripping wet) and give the frames and all the glass a real good wiping. This first step does not need to be with precision. You are working on getting the grease, smoke, dust or whatever loosened so you can eventually buff it off. You can go ahead and use another wiping rag or towel to dry the glass. This should ensure that the vast majority of grime is off the glass. You can finish the process by spraying the glass with a glass cleaner or make your own mix. The mix could be a small amount of rubbing alcohol added to water. Optionally, an even smaller amount of dishwashing liquid can be added as well. Not much, though. At this stage you shouldn't need to flood the window again, but just a few spritzes. Take a lint-free towel or rag and lightly work the spray around the glass and also lightly buff it off. Don't forget to get into all the corners. Also, giving the frame around the glass a good wipe will enhance the overall results. 

Another approach is to use an applicator such as a window scrubber or sponge that holds a solution of water and dishwashing liquid, following up with a window squeegee. You could even use a microfiber rag soaked in solution if you don't have a scrubber or large, thick sponge. With all these options, you need to work the solution in thoroughly. Be patient as one quick pass or rotary motion might not be enough effort. You might even be able to 'feel' the resistance that grease and other residues creates go away as you 'unstick' it from the glass and get it into a suspended state. When ready, go ahead and squeegee the solution off the window. Have another rag ready to wipe up the dirty water that will be on the bottom frame and window sill. You can squeegee from right to left or left to right and you can squeegee from top to bottom. It doesn't matter. Detailing after this does matter. You will likely have left a bit of solution around the edges and perhaps some lines from the edge of the squeegee as you made your passes. If you wipe it quickly and with some finesse you should attain very good results. If you think you must have left some streaks, but can't see them, breathe on the glass. The condensation that temporarily forms should reveal lines or smears that you can't see without strong sunlight on it. 

Heat, cold, and humidity can add to the challenge- professional window cleaners often encounter less than ideal conditions while on the job. Direct sunlight or very low humidity can dry up liquid on the outside of glass very quickly, making it an enormous challenge to clean it properly and make it look better and not worse. Direct sunlight can also heat up the glass inside the house, so much that liquid will quickly dry here as well. Doing the removal part, whether hand wiping or using a squeegee, must be done quickly and accurately to have even a chance of good result. Some good sense would dictate either cooling off the glass first with cold or room tepid water to lower the surface temperature, or just waiting until sunlight is not a factor any longer. When the glass is cold or there is high relative humidity, liquid will not dry as quickly, and when you are using a rag to either fully wipe the glass or detail after using a squeegee you may get frustrated with the water just not going away. When conditions are drier, smears or dirty water streaks may become evident. Patience and a dry wiping device will be your friends here. 

Some things on glass are a bit tougher to get off- soap scum, adhesive from tape or stickers and other things can be even more challenging to get off glass. Soapy water, hot water, even a few other additives may just not cut it. Window cleaners may use a nylon or walnut scrubbing pad, #0000 steel wool, or a scraper with a steel or carbon blade to take care of these more difficult tasks of making windows looks spectacular. Without going deep into an explanation, the handheld pads are quite safe and harmless to try on glass, provided they don't have dirt stuck in them and the glass does not have applied tint on it. Using steel wool or a scraper properly can be very effective but calls for more caution and knowledge. 

 Besides these 'secrets' which really are common sense and best practices, there really isn't much more to say. Patience and practice may be the bigger thing if you want to make your windows look amazing. One special thing that many professional window cleaning companies, mine included, utilize is pure water technology on outside glass. For regular dirt, pollen, and light grime, a technician can perfectly clean low windows, high windows, hard-to-reach windows, you name it, from the safety of the ground. With proper training and technique, windows can be cleaned perfectly in high heat, direct sunlight, cold, and low or high humidity. 

The Takeaway?

If you really want to get your windows looking as good as they can be, give the suggestions in this post a try. Be patient as well. What I outlined is not only way, but I've found it to be an effective and easily-implemented way. Use common sense when it comes to prevailing weather conditions, time of day, and so on. Some glass has imperfections or wear from age that you can't fix with a cleaning. You will have to live with such things unless you go for replacement. 
The other very easy solution is to find a professional window cleaner in your area to take care of this for you. Residential window cleaning is a luxury service, but a very affordable one. It is purchased many millions of times each year in the United States and many other places around the world. The pros have 'done the time' and are focused on the know-how end of this noble task. 

If you have any questions or want to discuss this subject you can email me at dan@danwagnerwindowcleaning.com

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Saturday, February 17, 2024

How Long Should it Take For a Professional to Clean My Windows?

 Will I Have to Be Around All Day for the Window Cleaners?

With so much packed into the average person's schedule, it is helpful for a contractor to give a homeowner a rough idea of how long the service will take. Besides that, giving a reasonably accurate arrival time can be helpful. With experience, window cleaners will gain a strong grasp on what time will be needed to complete a project. And, not surprisingly, the smaller the project, the easier it will be to estimate the necessary time requirements. What factors are there that help determine how long a cleaning professional will be at your home? Before going into a detailed discussion of what makes window cleaning take as long as it may take, the general  answer is half a day or less. That may be all you need to know. But why not read on about the variables which affect the answer? 

Three Factors That Dictate How Long the Job Will Take

The most basic things that dictate the time required for a window cleaner to be at your house are

1. Project Size

2. Crew Size

3. Degree of Difficulty

1. The number of windows is a simple but effective basis to estimate how much time will be needed to get the job done. Along with window count, some other questions to consider are: will this include screens? Will both inside and outside of the glass be cleaned? Do my windows have removable grills that will add time and effort to the mix? Are the glass panes divided by muntin bars into smaller panes? Also, do any windows have additional storm windows added in? Another factor which often enters into project size is will there be other services done while there? This may include gutter cleaning, power washing, and roof cleaning in some combination. Back on the subject of cleaning inside in addition to outside, one may perhaps assume that outsides should take longer than insides. That is often not the case. There may actually be more moving of items and preparation involved in cleaning insides. Screens, ladder setups, furniture and personal items may all be factors which require time in addition to the actual cleaning of the window. Most outside windows, even 2nd or 3rd floor, can be accessed from the ground and cleaned very effectively with a good water purification system and high quality water fed pole. 

2. As would be expected, the larger the crew, the shorter the time required to complete the tasks at hand. Home service teams do their best to develop an efficient way to 'divide and conquer' when it comes to window cleaning and other similar items. Be mindful that having two technicians on site won't automatically cut the time required in half, and three won't necessarily make a 6-hour solo job a 2-hour job. Efficiency can be fine-tuned, but there will be limits. 

3. There are several factors in residential window cleaning that may seem trivial, but in actuality have a significant effect on the degree of difficulty. In turn, the degree of difficulty certainly has a bearing on the time required to properly and expertly clean your windows. Access issues stands out as a major variable. On the outside, there may be obstacles that need to be navigated safely and without causing damage to property. That can include trees, gardens, shrubs, and landscaping. Tree branches may be close enough to windows needing to be cleaned that a 'direct shot' with a ladder or pole is not possible. Of course, a professional will almost always figure out a way to get it done properly and safely, but extra time will be needed. The same general cautions and adapted approach may enter in when the other aforementioned obstacles exist. This type of situation is where using a water fed pole with a pure water cleaning system can be a game changer, since work can be done from the ground at a wide range of distances from the glass itself and even from an angle (not directly in front of the glass). Other access challenges can be skylights which can't be cleaned from the ground, getting to decks without ground access, and solariums or conservatory glass. These and others not mentioned here can add to the time needed to clean windows properly. 

How dirty are the windows? When several years go by, windows can become extremely dirty with a variety of contaminants that pile up. This may include pollen, dirt, smoke, insects, and other organic matter that settles on glass. There also may be spots of paint or wood stain on glass due to a homeowner or contractor not covering the glass while doing his thing. Dealing with such factors can sometimes double or triple the cleaning time. 

Inside access issues can affect the time needed to do a proper clean. This may include the need to move furniture, cover or move sensitive personal items, and set up ladders. One other often overlooked factor can be simply the size of the panels. The top height of even standing-level glass can be such that short technicians will need a stepladder or pole to get to the highest areas. Repeat this drawn-out process 10,  or even 100 times if the house is large and that can greatly affect the time necessary to get the job done. Even the width of panes can make it challenging for taller technicians to speed through the process. 

With the plethora of window manufacturers and their variety of models, some windows can be extra challenging while others can be a walk in the park. I won't get into my most and least favorite manufacturers in this post. I probably never will!

What is the Typical Time Needed to Clean All Windows in a Home?

The answer truly depends on the typical homes in a certain region. Some areas include many 'cookie cutter' homes of somewhat modest size, perhaps well under 2000 square feet of living space. A solo window cleaner may be able to spend 2 hours or less at such locations while a crew of 2 or more may be in and out in 30 minutes or less. Other areas tend to have midsize or larger homes with 2 or three floors. A crew of 2 or 3 may need a few hours to complete all window cleaning. If multiple services are being rendered, 2/3 of a day or potentially all day may be needed. 

Some regions of the United States may be known for Victorian Style homes. These often have a load of glass that is difficult to clean quickly. And older sections of towns may have large houses with old glass and/or storm windows which can require much longer cleaning times. 

For my business which operates in northeastern PA and part of upstate NY, we commonly schedule 2 to 6 houses in one day when running full-steam with a crew or two. So, the general answer to how long you should expect it to take for my company to finish cleaning your windows is 1.5 to 2.5 hours. This is certainly not a rule, but an average. Averages don't tell the whole story, but give us an idea of what is common. There are only a handful of houses we service in any given year that require a full day. They do exist, though. 

What Can a Homeowner Do To Help the Window Cleaner?

One simple step a homeowner can take to avoid the need for excess time spent by the window cleaning crew is to provide clear access to interior windows. Many companies will ask or require you to move personal items away from your windows. Whether this is asked for or not, this is definitely a practical and helpful measure to expedite the process. A responsible window cleaning outfit will not carelessly or flippantly endanger a homeowner's furniture, flooring, and sensitive personal items in the name of speed. How much more pleasant it is, though, when there is just a minimal amount of prep time needed to clean windows around homeowner's belongings! 

Another consideration is making a reasonable effort to allow the window cleaners free access to each room so as to avoid causing delays or interruptions in the game plan. This may not always be completely possible, depending on what the daily home routine is, but it can be very helpful to cut down on visit time. 

My suggestion is to be on the same page with the service company which will be visiting your house- namely, be as accommodating as you can be and the professionals will be respectful and efficient as they can be. Everyone should be happy in that case!

If you'd like to discuss this or have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me at dan@danwagnerwindowcleaning.com

Dan Wagner Window Cleaning has been serving home and business owners since 1986. Areas covered include Honesdale, Hawley, Narrowsburg, Beach Lake, Damascus, Pleasant Mount, Equinunk, Forest City, Carbondale, Scranton, Dunmore, Lake Ariel, Mount Pocono, Tannersville, Stroudsburg, and others. 

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Thursday, February 8, 2024

Do Window Cleaners Need to Have Insurance?

Is General Liability Insurance Really That Important?

I would venture to say that few individuals or companies get excited when the subject of insurance is brought up. Probably 99% of the exceptions are those who work in the insurance industry. How many things in this world do you love having when it helps you and hate paying for because it may never be called upon to help you? Add to this strange mix the fact that insurance, by and large, gets more and more expensive here in the US. And that ever-so-small, yet present fear, that you won't be covered when you expect to be covered. It can be at least a small nagging concern.

For window cleaning companies, is general liability insurance necessary by law or on a case-by-case basis? Is it even necessary at all? 

What is General Liability Insurance Designed to Do?

In short, general liability insurance as it would apply to window cleaning, covers bodily injury and property damage. There are other details that apply to most any business that are of a less physical nature, such as things spoken by owners or employees. A caveat will be discussed later in the article that can make it a bit more 'exciting', shall we say.

With just those subjects listed, it sure seems that any business that is serious about being successful over the long haul and is not simply taking everything a day at a time, would recognize the importance of paying a premium to be protected if an accident to property or person occurs. At the very least, it may well help a business owner who is insured this way to sleep better at night. For contractors who are adequately insured for most any occurrence a COI (certificate of insurance) may be viewed as a "badge of honor", at least early on. This forward step for a new company may be looked at as bragging rights, fodder for marketing and such. By the same token, an inquisitive customer will likely feel much more at ease knowing a window cleaning outfit that will be on the premises will make good on any accidents by virtue of  its coverage. You might say that carrying GL insurance is often a right to proceed, when it comes to landing jobs. Sometimes homeowners will verbally require proof of insurance, and even more often commercial establishments will only conduct business with a contractor who is insured for property and personal damage, among other things. 

When a contractor hires a subcontractor, new possibilities come into play. While it is not set in concrete that a subcontractor must carry liability insurance, the hiring contractor faces the danger of being responsible for property or personal damage caused by the subcontractor. Additionally, if an employee of the sub files a worker's compensation claim and the sub is not carrying that type of insurance, the hiring contractor will be responsible by law to pay for that as well. Those scenarios are not pleasant ones to contemplate. 

Is it a Logical Choice For Window Cleaners to Carry Liability Insurance?

From the preceding paragraphs, there is strong evidence that it is indeed logical to be insured for potential damage. No, it's not generally a MUST in a legal sense, anywhere in the US, but where licenses are required to conduct business in a specific trade it may well be a legal requirement. Be that as it may, I feel that when a contractor carries liability insurance and commercial auto insurance, it is a sign that he is genuinely interested in doing things safely and correctly for the long haul. 

Here is the caveat I alluded to earlier. Do not assume that general liability will protect you from EVERY type of damage you cause while carrying on your work. I got slapped in the face with this fact many years ago. There is a term in the insurance world called 'care, custody, and control'. This comes into play when you as a worker damage something you are handling or overseeing. Here is how Insureon describes this exclusion of coverage

Next are a couple anecdotes relating to how I got burned by my lack of due diligence. If you want to skip over these, scroll down to the subheading "What Insurance is the Most Useful For Window Cleaning Companies?"

My slaps in the face came from believing I was covered for anything that happened while my team was on the job, not including gross negligence. It was my fault for not investigating. I was just excited during the years I had no occurrences when I could say confidently that I have insurance. 
On one occasion, one of my employees moved a bench away from a plate glass window. Unfortunately there was a gap between the tile floor and the glass itself, one wide enough for a foot of the bench to get caught in. The large piece of glass shattered when the corner of the bench banged into it. I figured I would be paying my deductible and that's it. I was informed by the man from this particular carrier that this would not be covered due to the fact that 'we were intending to clean that window'. Not a pleasant revelation. Needless to say, I brought my concerns to the agency I was using at the time for liability insurance and asked if they could find coverage that would protect me if something similar happened in the future. The agent said "you should be covered". In this context, she meant "I'm pretty sure you are covered", not "I feel it's only right you are covered".
Well, that didn't pan out. Later in that year of having that particular policy I was tilting in a window so I could clean the outside from the inside. For whatever reason, I put too much stress on the sash and this caused the glass to form a large crack. Again, I found out that since I was handling the window, literally, this damage would not be covered by my policy. 
Thankfully, I finally learned the valuable lesson that I need to find an agency that specializes in insuring contractors in fields such as the one I am engaged in. The agency I used had great personnel, but they just didn't have the specific direction I needed. 
I found an amazing agency whom I used for around 10 years until recently. They changed direction and I just recently found one that can serve my current needs. There were a few incidents along the lines of the ones I described, 2 of them frivolous, and my policy still had me covered. The additional coverage is what is called Inland Marine Insurance. It protects the insured when there is property damage to non-structural items that are under their care, custody, and control. 

What Insurance is the Most Useful for Window Cleaning Companies?

As I wrote early on in this article, there is a certain peace of mind that contractors have when properly insured as it pertains to their services. And peace of mind is passed on to paying customers as well. That is arguably even more important. The types of insurance, then, that window cleaning, pressure washing, gutter cleaning companies and similar ones are wise to carry are as follows:

General Liability- covers bodily and property injury while a contractor's team is on the jobsite

Marine Inland or similar- covers damage to items that are under the care, custody, and control of the contractor. It could include broken windows or scratched floors resulting from moving furniture. 

Commercial Auto- covers the contractor and his employees as regards financial responsibility if they are to blame for an accident while in a vehicle under the coverage. 

Worker's Compensation- covers payment for employee's medical expenses and wage loss benefits if a work-related injury or sickness occurs, until the employee is able to return to work.  
Something slightly different than actual insurance is a Surety Bond- This is more directly for the sake of protecting the customer. It's a guarantee that the party who is receiving a service or product gets compensated no matter what. here is an article I feel explains this well.

The conclusion?

There is a certain measure of professionality when a window cleaning company carries the necessary insurance to pay for damage or injury that does not involve gross negligence. I can recall back in the late 1980's and into the mid-1990's when I went back and forth about paying for insurance. Yes, I was short-sighted and viewing it more as a liability to me than a worthwhile protection. I couldn't land or maintain some accounts due to lack of insurance. The term that window cleaners often use, admittedly in a disparaging way, but also to indicate the low level of seriousness, is 'Bucket Bob'. It is similar to what general contractors call 'Chuck in a Truck'. Besides the fact that a new company would be smart in the planning stages to plan on having insurance right away, some just need a bit of helpful advice. 
If you are searching for a company to perform cleaning services on your property, you are well within your rights, and honestly making a good decision to ensure your interests will be protected in the case of damage or injury. No, it is not a state law in Pennsylvania. It is, though, a better option than being uninsured. In my time running a window cleaning company, any customers who have asked me to provide proof of insurance have been nothing but tactful and professional about it. 
On occasion, I subcontract out some work. All subcontractors who are in my circle furnish proof of general liability insurance. This works out very well for all parties involved. 

If you are a homeowner or commercial property manager, please consider these points.
Happy 'shopping'!

If you'd like to discuss this or have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me at dan@danwagnerwindowcleaning.com

Dan Wagner Window Cleaning has been serving home and business owners since 1986. Areas covered include Honesdale, Hawley, Narrowsburg, Beach Lake, Damascus, Pleasant Mount, Equinunk, Forest City, Carbondale, Scranton, Dunmore, Lake Ariel, Mount Pocono, Tannersville, Stroudsburg, and others. 

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Thursday, February 1, 2024

Do I Need to be Home When My Windows Will Be Cleaned?

 Can I Trust a Contractor to Be in My Home Alone?

In this day and age when the whole family is 'busy busy' there may well be days during the week when no one is home until evening time, it may be a source of stress to have to schedule some service by a contractor inside your home when nobody is there. Among the services that often require a contractor to be in your house is window cleaning. The potential reasons for uncertainly and trepidation are several. Will they snoop around? Will they lock up? Will they steal anything? Will they take their shoes off or wear shoe covers? No doubt other concerns exist as well. What if there is a genuine accident and injury results? Will you be held liable?

This chap probably shouldn't have been allowed to work in your home without supervision. It's definitely presumptuous for a contractor to make himself 'at home' in a customer's home without prior permission. 

Practical Advice for Deciding

It seems clear to me, based on dealing with customers and having a house myself that isn't maintenance-free, that sometimes an urgent need arises to have something fixed, installed, or upgraded. Emergencies, by definition, are not scheduled events. Even needed services you know are inevitable or upcoming plans to host something special on your property can become a challenge to orchestrate as time goes by and the need isn't being filled. They say the best contractors are the busiest. There is a good measure of truth to that statement. When that is so, they may be hard to get into the schedule that you are confined to. Residential window cleaning, a subject I know inside and out, is largely seasonal in northeastern Pennsylvania. If you call a well-established company on May 20 and want them at your house on May 22, you may be disappointed. 
With all that said, what factors are there to consider when deciding if you have to make sure someone you trust can rearrange his or her schedule to be home subject to a contractor's schedule? 
Proven, or strongly perceived (on your end) trustworthiness, may be a point in favor of allowing access to your house. Sure, so many homeowners now have remote controls for unlocking doors, disarming security systems, and viewing legally-allowed areas inside their homes. But, dealing with unethical or just bad conduct on the part of a contractor, can still be a hassle, even if there is proof something was done and security or police can be notified. Is it worth the hassle? Therefore, your certainty that Joe Contractor will behave properly or your level of tolerance for stuff that you're not happy about will dictate what you decide when your serviceperson has a proven track record of trustworthiness. 

Safety concerns could move you to make sure you or someone you trust is home with a contractor. This could be just as much or more for the safety of your serviceperson. Perhaps some difficult areas to access need attention or someone climbing up and down ladders worries you. Warranted concern or not, you would probably feel more at ease if the contractor is not isolated. 

Potential complication, ones that you are aware of, may move you to try explaining the situation to the one who will be working in your house. If you feel he comprehends your concern and can navigate such an issue, you can feel a bit more at ease that things will be okay. You might be the type personality that worries about the "what-ifs" more than the average homeowner, though. Honest dialogue with your visitor can bring your concern and his self-confidence into a mutually amenable space. 

A laid back or trusting personality might help you decide that you're just not worried that a non-resident in your home who knows certain behavior and decorum is expected is going to make you regret your decision. Or you may reason 'there is nothing here that I care that much about'. That take may be on the rare side, but some are of that thinking. Hopefully, this easygoing approach will serve you well and not come back to bite you! Granted, how this scenario plays out is almost exclusively dependent on the uprightness of the company you have hired. 

Being too rushed or pressured to have much of a choice might push you to just go ahead and let a contractor into your home when he can get there and just hope for the best. That certainly is not an ideal state of mind to have to be in. Often, better planning could help one avoid this stress. But sometimes there truly is not a better option.

My Thoughts and Experiences as a Residential Window Cleaner

I'd like to assure all who read this that I'm speaking solely based on my opinions and personal experiences, and I am not trying to lay down rules.
I personally know I am not going to pull any fast ones on a customer if my crew is trusted to be in a house without supervision. In my employee handbook, it is made clear that any legitimate charge of theft will result in immediate termination. However, I don't feel it is right to expect that every homeowner should trust me unquestioningly, since I know I am honest. It's all perspective. I will say that there have been many times when, after a brief conversation with someone I've never met or done business with before, the owner will for whatever reason, trust me enough to tell me how to get in the house. No doubt many other window cleaners can say the same in their case. For sure, it's a sobering thing to know you are able to instill trust by mere words and tone of conversation. Of course, word of mouth and good reviews don't hurt. On the other hand, I have some customers who after a decade or more would not even consider allowing me to be in their house without someone else around. This is not a fault or personality deficiency- it's simply their way of thinking or perhaps a reaction based on a bad experience with someone else they trusted in the past or how they have been brought up. This is not a matter of me feeling "if they can't trust me, I don't trust them". This is their home, a huge investment!
Being in someone's home without supervision is something to not be taken lightly. There's a certain responsibility to be completely respectful of what is not yours and mature enough to not use appliances and personal items without prior permission. Trust me, this is not self-evident to everyone without having it laid out for them! Years ago, a customer who trusted my crew to be in his house unattended, said "I don't care if you party like a rockstar when you're there". As you might guess, we still simply did all the work scheduled, locked up and left. No partying!  Even permission to make yourself at home needs to be tempered with propriety. 

Something else I learned many years ago is to not settle for help from people whom you can't fully trust when it comes to doing work at a residence. One day I had one employee working with me for the day and we were very behind on our schedule. Out of the blue, a former employee who had started his own business asked if I had any work he and his 'crew' could help out with. Out of desperation, I jumped at the opportunity. My team and his met at a large house that day and I basically gave them one half of the house and we took the other half. I got a call a day or so later from the homeowner. She was wondering if we had seen some jewelry that was missing. Big surprise, it was in a room that the other crew had taken care of. None of that crew ever fessed up. Fortunately, the homeowner trusted me and I promised I would never go out on a limb like that again, and she continued to have me there for many years to follow. A year earlier, someone for whom I cleaned windows four times a year was robbed shortly after I had been there, and it was on the local news. The police investigated it. I was surprised yet pleased that I was never interviewed. Apparently, I was trusted in this case as well. Those two 'near-misses' on my reputation made me more resolute to always be on good behavior and never assume people you don't know well will act above board because it's in a work setting. Dot your 'i's and cross your 't's when subbing out work and hiring employees. 

"Do You Need to Get Inside My House?"

This is a common question I am asked by a new customer when we're in the process of scheduling a window cleaning appointment. The answer is, that depends! As a rule, if we are going to be cleaning the inside windows at a home, we will need to be inside the house. There are certain windows, mainly casements, that can be opened by the homeowner from the inside and allow outside access the the inside of the glass. This is usually not an optimal choice for the window cleaner for several reasons. Many companies, including mine, include cleaning screens in the pricing for interior and exterior windows. This can't be done if the screens are still in place and there is no access to the inside of the house. Additionally, it may be very difficult based on terrain or height to safely set up to reach the inside from the outside. Stray water or cleaning solution could get through the adjacent screens an onto floors or other valuable items nearby inside the house. 
Another time that getting inside the house is necessary is when screens need to be taken out from the inside to allow cleaning of the glass on the outside. This applies even if only the outsides are being cleaned. 
It certainly would be great no doubt for the homeowner if we never needed to be inside the house. Unfortunately, that is rarely possible. 
Many customers, though, only want us to clean outside windows, when there are no screens and no impossible or dangerous climbs required to get to upper decks, we would not need to get inside. That is, provided that a water source is available.

Consider the Big Picture

In conclusion, humans tend to want reasons to trust others. Living becomes far more expensive and stressful when people are dishonest or irresponsible. Think insurance. Think the private security industry. The need and price of these services continues to rise. Theoretically, if everyone trusted one another, these markets would be significantly smaller. We know the world is not heading back to an earlier day in that regard, but yet, a huge number of individuals still go about their day-to-day affairs with a lot of trust. It may be for some that the odds are low that a contractor will steal or destroy tangible assets. For others it is the belief that nobody in his right mind would knowingly endanger his reputation and business by one or two bad acts. 
Whatever the case, window cleaners, plumbers, electricians, and others who spend time in private homes are wise to have it together when it comes to being responsible, ethical, and straight-up professional. Respect property, be honest about the work being done and any issues that arise, and be punctual. On the subject of punctuality, why cause even more stress and exasperation on a homeowner who had to shuffle around his or her schedule by not coming through on arrival for service? The saying is "time is money". What a disappointment when a homeowner ends up making all the sacrifices and still doesn't get the product or service that was expected. For a certainty, things come up. Good communication when this is the case will almost surely soften the blow of such disappointment. Thankfully, we have mobile phones that allow good communication!

Hopefully, the observations and insights will be helpful to window cleaners and other contractors as well as homeowners.

If you'd like to discuss this or have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me at dan@danwagnerwindowcleaning.com

Dan Wagner Window Cleaning has been serving home and business owners since 1986. Areas covered include Honesdale, Hawley, Narrowsburg, Beach Lake, Damascus, Pleasant Mount, Equinunk, Forest City, Carbondale, Scranton, Dunmore, Lake Ariel, Mount Pocono, Tannersville, Stroudsburg, and others. 

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Monday, January 22, 2024

Reconciling Window Cleaning With Rain in the Forecast

There's A Chance of Rain in the Forecast!

Rain, or snow, is the legendary and perceived enemy of a window cleaning schedule! From what I've read in various industry groups on Facebook and forums, the alarms go off in the heads of customers at varying levels of probability for precipitation. Some in southern California say that clients will postpone their window cleaning appointments if there is a 5% chance of precipitation. I can't personally confirm or deny that. I don't know that official forecasts go lower than 20% even in arid regions of the US, but the point seems to be that in areas where homeowners are accustomed to clear days as a rule, even the slightest mention of rain may be a dealbreaker. 

I've also gathered from window cleaning and pressure washing companies in the Pacific Northwest that if they allowed the precipitation forecast to strictly guide their schedule, they wouldn't have a business. On average, in Seattle, Washington it rains somewhere around 150 days per year, but it seems to be more frequent than heavy. It clearly depends on local tolerance for precipitation. Here in northeastern Pennsylvania, a chance of precipitation is pretty common, but not necessarily a daily concern. I checked with my local National Weather Service office and they said the lowest probability of precipitation they will mention on their website's forecast is 20%. They mentioned that on social media posts they may say as low as 10%. Either way, rain is a potential factor. 

 So, Does Rain Make Windows Dirty?

In my years of interacting with residential customers and even passersby when cleaning storefront windows, countless people will say something such as "it's going to rain later this week and ruin all your work", "it's going to rain tomorrow. At least I'll get one day of clean windows!", or "you know it'll rain tomorrow since you're cleaning the windows!" Thus, the question of whether rain truly makes clean windows dirty and how to address it looms large in the minds of many window cleaners. Such an assertion has become about as common as 'if I go skiing or snowboarding, I'll break my leg'. Here is something to think about. Rain itself is pretty clean and pure in its falling state. That does not mean there are no minerals or any other solid matter in it. Technically, pure water (comprising nothing but H₂O) does not exist in nature. It can only be manufactured by distilling or other methods. But it does mean that there are no chemicals or contaminants in typical rainwater- chlorine and so on. There still must be a reason why the fear that rain that falls within days after a window gets cleaned is going to ruin the whole proposition. No question, in certain cases, windows can look pretty awful after being cleaned and then subject to a rainstorm. How do we reconcile the belief with the reality?

What Makes Windows Dirty After It Rains?

As roughly explained above, by and large, rainwater itself is extremely clean and does not mess up clean windows without other factors entering in. A popular saying with professional window cleaners is "Rain doesn't make windows dirty. Dirt makes windows dirty."  If stated the wrong way, this may come across as patronizing. However, it pretty much is the deal. Granted, in some areas such as heavily industrialized locales, there may be a high level of contaminants in the atmosphere which raindrops will pick up and deposit on glass. This would be a potential issue. Other added factors that can make windows look dirtier after a good rain are as follows:

filthy frames or siding above the glass - this is a solid reason to also have a good program to maintain the cleanliness of the building itself. When cleaning companies offer power washing and window cleaning, the power washing always is done first. Any legitimate window cleaning company, in my opinion, will clean the frames and openings that are part of the window at the very least. In this way, it will eliminate or greatly minimize the potential for dirty water from above to mess up clean glass.

very windy conditions after a cleaning - in fairness, if there is a significant chance of high winds kicking dirt around following a window cleaning, rescheduling might be the best option. A growing number of companies -mine included- use purified water to clean outside windows. The pure water is applied through some type of jets that use gentle pressure along with a brush or pad to scrub the glass thoroughly. Then, the loose dirt and debris is rinsed off the glass with the same pure water, leaving no dirt on the glass. The fact is that the pure water will take a little time to disappear from the glass, by gravity and evaporation. If wind and dust are present, there may be an issue with the remaining water droplets picking up the blowing dust or dirt. This will be a judgment call that an honest company will have to make as to whether it's best to reschedule or use the more traditional method of drying the glass right away with a squeegee and detail rag. 

 dirty window screens - many windows such as double-hungs, single-hungs, and storm panels may be accompanied by screens that are outside of the glass, not inside the house. Screens, by design, keep insects out and collect some of the airborne particulates. When it rains, though, screens that have not been properly cleaned as part of the window cleaning service, will give up some of the junk on them and the junk will be deposited on the glass behind them. So, either leaving your screens out or making sure they are thoroughly cleaned, is the key to keeping the glass clean as long as possible. 

splashing water near ground level window panes - sometimes the lower areas of ground level windows are in close proximity to a considerable amount of loose dirt. Perhaps landscaping is not completed or simply not present near some glass, and so persistent water falling onto dirt nearby can splash mud, in essence, onto the glass.                             

clogged gutters or downspouts causing water spills - it often does not take much of an obstruction somewhere in a run of gutter or at the downspout to cause water to back up. If the rate of backup exceeds the rate of proper flow through the gutter system, enough rainfall will cause water to spill over and out of the gutter at any point before the obstruction. The spilling water will either work its way down the siding of simply free fall somewhere beyond the siding. Strong wind or further physical objects below the gutters may divert some dirty water onto glass. Really, then, just as important as regular maintenance of the siding, is the regular monitoring of how the gutters are working. 

We Don't Live in a Perfect World

Ultimately, clean windows will eventually get dirty. Even the highly-touted 'self-cleaning' windows don't promise to never need attention again. Go figure! Many window cleaning companies, including mine, for this reason offer some type of 'rain guarantee'. This guarantee promises that if rainfall after cleaning makes some of your windows dirty up to xx days after service, we will return and reclean such windows at no charge. This should help put a homeowner's fears at ease and also keep the cleaning company's schedule as intact as reasonably possible. When you think about it, if the chance of rain is the sole factor in deciding when ones windows should be cleaned, there are few regions in the world where it would be considered feasible to even bother. I myself have offered a 5-day rain guarantee for probably 20 years and have only been called to return once or twice that I can recall. That's fair and expected, since we don't live in a perfect world! 

What Reasons Are There Not to Cancel an Appointment if There is a Slight Chance of Rain?

As previously reasoned out, a window cleaning company that is completely at the mercy of possible rain in the forecast within lets say the next week, would be in pretty rough shape in most parts of the world. The hard truth is that unless you live in an extremely arid region, it will rain and probably rain will touch your windows within a week or two. I have found that most homeowners will eventually accept this if they don't already. It has also been established that under typical circumstances, rainwater itself does not leave clean windows dirty. If the mitigating circumstances listed above are not present, there should be no issue with cleaning windows before rain is coming or even during a very light rain or drizzle. Another reason, tough as it may be to consider, is that it is not always easy to reschedule an appointment the next day or exactly when a homeowner requests. This all depends on some factors such as how much wiggle room the contractor has, where the company will be in the next few days. Where there is a hard deadline, such as a graduation party, wedding reception, big family gathering, or something else, it may become a very difficult dilemma to solve. 

If you'd like to discuss this or have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me at dan@danwagnerwindowcleaning.com

Dan Wagner Window Cleaning has been serving home and business owners since 1986. Areas covered include Honesdale, Hawley, Narrowsburg, Beach Lake, Damascus, Pleasant Mount, Equinunk, Forest City, Carbondale, Scranton, Dunmore, Lake Ariel, Mount Pocono, Tannersville, Stroudsburg, and others. 

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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Five Marketing Phrases That Don't Mean Much in Window Cleaning

Whom Are We Trying to Kid?

"We're the best window cleaners in the area because.........." Insert the terms for carpet cleaning, landscaping, child care, builders- you name it- and this same thinking will apply. Most any service company who is at least making an effort to market for new customers will devise a reason or reasons why they are the clear choice. I like to look at what other companies are saying, especially in my field of expertise, which is window cleaning. There are several common reasons put forth that have, in my opinion, become catchphrases. I will review five of them and why those words might be just words. First, please take a look at this window cleaning pro.

Would it be obvious to you as a customer that this is the gentleman you should hire to clean your windows? 

Here are some of the things he may have on his website, or social media page:

1. We only use state of the art equipment

Now don't get me wrong- state of the art equipment is great and often a game-changer for efficiency and safety. But does it really guarantee that better and/or newer equipment  will yield better results? The x-factor will always be the operator or technician. Does he or she know how to properly use the amazing equipment? Does he have the patience and integrity to take the time to be thorough and careful? What happens when a problem arises and a different approach may be needed for some of the project? Ultimately, the professionality of the human behind the equipment will get you the win. 
If you are a homeowner, do you ever miss your old window cleaner? Hopefully not! But if you do for some reason, is it because he used the best ladders or squeegees you've ever seen in your life? Or is it because you knew that whatever challenge may have arisen, he would make sure everything was right in the end?
So, yes, state of the art or SOTA is wonderful. But is it a deal-winner? Probably not on its own.

2. We give attention to detail

C'mon! Isn't it simply expected that any service company, window cleaning or otherwise, will give attention to detail? I'm quite certain this catchphrase is not meant to imply that all other competitors don't care about detail. It is true that some technicians will agonize over the minutest detail while others will go 99% of the way. The point is that any professional will give due diligence to detail. A 'splasher and dasher' will not. 

3. We are a family-owned business

Again, I have no qualms about family-owned businesses. I'm part of one, happy to be so, and wish there were more of them. But does family-owned itself automatically mean you will be better served? Not automatically. Some families, sadly, don't operate above reproach in business. Some families may feel they have such a strong reputation in the community that they can cruise on that alone and relax in the customer service category. At the same time, a nationally-known company may vet their subcontractors so carefully that you'll actually do better with them. This is not to say that these scenarios are typical or expected, but the catchphrase 'family-owned', as with the others, needs to have teeth. I feel as I mentioned earlier, that it is great to support family-owned businesses, especially when they are your neighbors, if it is a good fit. You expect that a local family business knows that in rural America word spreads fast. They can bolster their reputation in the community or ruin it by how they deliver during and after the transaction. 

4. We use a proprietary solution

Somewhat similar to the 'state of the art' saying, this one is assumedly used to imply that it is better than the solution that the other companies are using. Or perhaps the company touting this has the secret sauce that nobody else knows about. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of chemical suppliers who sell proprietary solutions for cleaning. Most are very good to excellent. Some are run of the mill or largely ineffective. Proprietary in this context simply means specifically designed for a certain application. And, of course, the x-factor, like with state of the art equipment, is the operator. The proprietary cleaner needs to be applied and used properly. That said, it is better to use proprietary cleaners than all-purpose as a rule on windows, siding, and roof shingles. 

5. Organization membership or certification

Yet another horn toot that doesn't seem to mean much to a prospective window cleaning customer. It means a lot to the company marketing with it, for sure. In almost 38 years of speaking to customers, I don't think anyone has ever asked me if I belong to an org or have certifications. To be clear, I don't have any problem with window cleaning companies spending time and money to become further educated and trained in proper procedures and safety. In my experience, the fact that some test was passed or course hours were spent or money was paid or all three, does not automatically translate to a better choice for a customer. Who is going to enforce the standards that are to be upheld? If they are broken, how does the customer get compensation? The reality is, a window cleaner can become a professional without vaulting over even the lowest bar. Once he buys basic equipment and completes his first of many transactions, he is a professional. His inclination toward honesty and integrity is probably just as strong as the organization member and certification holder. How he handles the challenges and customer relations will be the key.  I'd venture to say that the average consumer trusts good standing in the Better Business Bureau more that membership in some organization that few have heard of and less know anything about. Thus, touting one's piece of paper or passing grade bespeaks effort, but is no guarantee of excellence. To be fair, neither is it an indication of less relevance.

Concluding Comments

It is understandable and expected that service companies will provide plenty of reasons they feel they should be your choice. The five I listed above and certainly some others are overused in my opinion and may not have the convincing power that is hoped for. I've actually found that good and believable reviews are mentioned to me as a convincing factor to give me a call or email. At least that's my experience.

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Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Top 4 Reasons You Can't Get Your Windows To Look Good

Why Can't I Get My Windows Clean Like I Want??

How frustrating it is when you've tried your best to clean your windows like you may have seen actors on TV or other advertisements do, and it just isn't working! You may use some new product or a time-tested method and are so proud of yourself- until the morning sun shines through! You may cringe with disgust at how they really look. What went wrong? Perhaps you'll keep on trying, perhaps you'll just live with it- as in, don't even look at them when the sun shines on them. Or, you may finally decide to call a local professional window cleaner to 'do it right'. This could be the key to figuring it all out and hopefully avoiding the dreaded smears and streaks in the future! Here is my personal list, based on over 35 years of professional window cleaning, of the top 4 reasons why you can't make those windows look clean.


Top 4 Reasons You Can't Get Your Windows Looking Right

These reasons are the ones I've compiled and not in any strict order.

1. Products not used properly
I will venture to say that just about every product on the market advertised to clean windows is adequate in its own right. Chances are that they will make your windows look better than they were, not necessarily perfect. Some of us don't care about or expect perfection, so properly-used retail window cleaning products may be the ticket. The problem often lies in either the inability of a homeowner to follow the directions or the short cuts he or she may decide to take. Oftentimes there are 2nd floor windows, even third floor, that are very difficult to access depending on the style and actual location they are in. There could be a tree or large hedge that restricts clear approach to some windows. If ideal conditions are not present when trying to clean such windows, the results may be disappointing. The fact is that no advertised window cleaning product is going to warn you that there is a good chance it won't work perfectly. The ease and effectiveness are what are featured, understandably so. But the reality will be in the 'small print'. Here is an example by Windex Outdoor 
In some circumstances, windows may be extremely dirty and need more than one treatment with the product of choice. 
Or it could be that not enough or too much of a product is being applied to a window. In the case of wiping rags, they may not be absorbent enough or large enough. In either case, one will likely not get the desired or promised results.

2. Poor technique
It may at times appear that a product is simply garbage. While that may be the case, it also may be that patience or careful deliberate technique is lacking enough to the point that poor results will ensue. Depending on the method of cleaning being used, it could be a matter of bad aim with a spraying device, rushing the spraying process, not a thorough enough scrub, too much pressure, too little pressure, not looking carefully at your work, improper squeegee technique, and so on. 

3. Bad prevailing conditions
Sometimes you simply have the odds stacked against you. It could be you are cleaning a window that is in the direct sun. Inside or out, the glass will heat up, sometimes to the point where the liquid you are using dries before you can clean it off. That can be a source of frustration sometimes even to a seasoned veteran . Strong wind or low humidity can have the same effect, and combined with sun, may make you want to rethink your life. There can also be contaminants on the glass that simply won't come off with the standard method of applying an effective cleaner and either rinsing, squeegeeing, or wiping it. This can include mineral deposits from hard water, shotgun or artillery fungus- those black dots that are on windows near certain types of mulch, grease spatter from a nearby grill, paint, wood stain, or mortar left behind by careless contractors, and residue left by someone using an inappropriate cleaner in the past. 
There are ways, of course, to combat these extra challenges. They may be beyond the ability or ambition of a homeowner. 

4. Marks or blemishes that nobody can fix
This last, but not least reason is not your fault! We get calls sometimes from frustrated property owners who have tried everything under the sun to get smears or haze off their glass. Quite often the explanation is that what is seen in certain lighting conditions is in between two panes of glass. It is very common for windows to be insulated glass units, in other words two separate panes of glass connected by spacers on all sides and sealed with a gas, such as argon, krypton, or xenon. There can be leaking over time, or infiltration of moisture into the sealed unit. This will cause a reaction on the inner sides of the two window panes. You obviously can't remove it, since you can touch it. It can appear as patches of haziness. There are even examples, too many in my experience, of manufacturer defect. Suction cup marks from the original handling of the glass can show up in between the panes. There can also be scratches or scrapes on glass from an accident or mishandling. Some scratches can be buffed out, others are such that replacement would be the only option to remedy the problem. 

This is not in any way an exhaustive list, but at least reasons 1-3 can be successfully dealt with. You may decide it is worth it to hire a professional window cleaner to make everything look awesome and save you the time and effort.