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.