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. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Can I Clean My Windows When It's Cold Outside?

 It Is A Challenge to Keep Windows Clean in Cold Weather

This subject of window cleaning becoming more difficult in winter primarily affects individuals in climates where the temperatures make being outside uncomfortable or downright difficult. It's certainly not as pleasant to be using tools with your hands in the 40's or lower as compared to the 70's and 80's. Personal taste enters in for sure. For me, living in northeastern Pennsylvania, I feel the most pleasant working temperature range is from 60-75 F, provided it is not too humid. I am not thoroughly familiar with other countries, but know that in quite a large portion of the United States, there can and will be air temperatures below 32 F overnight from October to April, and from November through March there may be several days where it never breaks the freezing mark. Also, there are some states or parts of states that consistently get even colder than that. 
Window cleaning in colder conditions can become an act of bravery and grit if one is hard set on having a clear view. Having to wear more layers and gloves puts freeness of movement and hand dexterity at a potential disadvantage. And when air temperatures get down into the low 30's, freezing liquid becomes a real concern. Many of my own customers or passerby on streets where we may be cleaning windows assume our company does not work when it gets this cold or simply wonder what we do to keep working. All very good questions!

What Solution Works on Windows Below 32 degrees Fahrenheit?

Window Cleaners hear the stock phrase "you missed a spot" pretty often! When it's cold outside they may hear something such as "you must be cleaning them really fast!", perhaps because it is assumed that the solution will freeze within seconds if not cleaned off. For companies whose livelihood depends on being able to work no matter how cold it is, there is obviously a way to manage this that is simple cost-effective enough. 
For you homeowner who may just want to clean a handful of really high-profile windows, here are some helpful pointers for doing so in subfreezing conditions. 
Generally speaking, any solution that can actually clean well and stay in liquid form below 32 F will be the starting point. You may be able to cheat the air temp a bit if the sun has heated the outside glass where you would like to clean, or if the room temperature inside is warm enough to radiate some heat. Conversely, wind will tend to negate any heat advantage you have as well. 
Anyway, what mix of liquids will get you where you need to be? I've never tried mixing white vinegar with water to work in cold conditions, but several sources give this as one method. Your typical household concentration will not freeze, even diluted with water and a drop or two of dishwashing liquid down to the upper 20's. So, you would have maybe 5 degrees extra to play with. I am very familiar with the effectiveness of rubbing alcohol. It is based on isopropyl alcohol, but diluted somewhat for safe consumer usage. This alcohol, in undiluted form, remains a liquid down to -100F or lower. Common store concentrations are 70% and 91%, so for smaller amounts of cleaning, you'll get a very good bang for your buck with isopropyl-based mixtures. Obviously, the colder the air is, the less water you can mix in and still keep it liquid. The alcohol on its own, is not an outstanding window cleaning agent, but mixed with water and a very small amount of dishwashing liquid, for instance, you'll be able to do what you need to do- with limitations, of course. 
Windshield washer fluid rated for -20F obviously is another option for use on glass, since that's what your typical motorist will use to clean his windshield in winter. This is usually methyl alcohol- based. It is often sold with a blue dye included which gives it its recognizable appearance. As with vinegar and rubbing alcohol, it is sold to the masses in a diluted state. 

 Simple Directions to Successfully Clean Glass in Subfreezing Temperatures

Depending on your tolerance level for cold air, dress as you need to when outside. If you are working in the sun, that will be an advantage. Also, if the air is mostly calm, all the better. If you need a hat, wear a hat. A few thin layers and a medium to thick outer layer will afford you comfort and  the range of motion to use your arms and hands. Unless you are sure to keep your hands from getting wet, gloves or mittens made out of cotton or wool would not be the best. Something waterproof or water-resistant at the very least would be preferrable, as long as your digits have enough dexterity to 'feel' what you're doing. 
Here is a comprehensive list of materials, depending on your chosen method that, you'll need and the tips to effectively clean           
spray bottle with half water and half 70% rubbing alcohol and 3 drops of dishwashing liquid or a bucket with the same ratio of water to alcohol, and 10 drops of dishwashing liquid

a cotton or microfiber applicator on a t-bar to work your solution around on the glass

a squeegee (size doesn't completely matter, but one in the 12-18" range is easy to work with)

microfiber rags, paper towels, scrim, or surgical towels

Ladder or pole for the applicator and squeegee that will allow you to safely reach the highest points of the window safely. 
Spray solution in bottle to thoroughly cover glass. Work the solution around the glass very well with an applicator, or wad up a microfiber towel and work it through that way. If you use a microfiber rag by hand, respray the glass again.
If using a squeegee, you can work across the glass from right to left or left to right, or down from the top right or top left. Overlap the squeegee channel onto the dry part of the glass by 1/2-1 inch. It is not necessary to wipe the rubber blade off each time you make your pass. If you can use paper towels, scrim, or surgical towel to detail the edges and possibly streaks left in the middle, that will probably be better than a microfiber rag for detailing. If you have to use a microfiber to detail, run it along the residual solution as lightly as you can while still getting it off. Despite what many claim, all but super high quality microfiber rags tend to leave a lot of lint on glass, especially when dry or in the sun. 
Since you will be working in cold conditions, even water mixed with rubbing alcohol will freeze on the glass if you let it sit too long. Wind will accelerate that as well. Also, the dirtier the suspended solution on the glass is, the less time it will remain workable before freezing. If any part of your work does freeze on you, try buffing it with one of your towels to create friction and melt it away. If it is beyond that, you can wet your rag with straight alcohol and try melting the ice. Or you can patiently wait until the liquid evaporates and do the whole process again, either more quickly or with a stronger initial mix.
Keep in mind that while a moderate amount of this solution in a ventilated area is pretty safe, weak lungs might be affected if not careful. Also, excessive handling of rubbing alcohol at consumer levels without wearing gloves will dry out skin. In a stronger state it can enter your bloodstream through your skin and cause a toxic reaction. So, give it the respect it is due.

Residential and Commercial Window Cleaning in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1986

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Pure Water Window Cleaning- Hype or Reality?

 Pure, Ultrapure, Distilled. What's the Difference?

How 'clean' does water need to be to clean windows?

Few people would disagree that water quality should be a serious consideration in most anything that affects them. Beermakers, bottled water brands and others often highlight the pureness of their water, perhaps because it comes from a high mountain, a glacier, or an extremely clean spring. 
When it comes to window cleaning, who of us would intentionally start a project with obviously dirty water? If you've had the privilege of being in stopped city traffic and had someone voluntarily clean your windshield, you may get really mad or be okay with it. Regardless, if you see the water is filthy and probably contains some of the junk from previous recipients' windshields, that may be the dealbreaker! Yes, we like clean water. 
Does it matter when it comes to residential or commercial window cleaning? It certainly does, to an extent. The application and the method have a bearing on how 'clean' or pure your water should be. 
The words clean and pure must be taken in context when it comes to water. No water existing in nature is by strict definition 'pure'. Rain droplets pick up solid matter as they fall. Water flowing over and through exceptionally clean areas of the earth pick up minerals. Thus, there is always some foreign matter in water that has not been processed for a special purpose. That isn't always a bad thing. Our bodies need certain minerals, of course, and water can provide some of that. 
For cleaning glass, water that is not filthy and is being properly removed in a short amount of time with proper tools, is sufficient. Many realize that just spraying water on glass, even with some force, is not going to yield great results on its own. That is one reason why my window cleaning company gets some requests to clean an owner's windows professionally. Those spots on your high windows or the white haze on low-lying glass that is getting hit by automatic sprinklers is probably from pretty decent quality water that, after draining or evaporating, leaves a residue of calcium, magnesium, or something else that is in the local water. Removing mineral deposits can be quite difficult. 

Do the terms 'pure', 'ultrapure' and 'distilled' mean anything in window cleaning?

As in any industry or service field, terms can be used soundly or casually. They may be relevant or simply be buzzwords or catchphrases. For a more technical explanation, here's a helpful article
In the arena of professional window cleaning, you will likely never see someone advertise that they use distilled water. However many, including Dan Wagner Window Cleaning, will happily announce that they use pure or ultrapure water, especially for outdoor applications. What is their relevance and how much does it matter? In a nutshell, distilled and pure water have been by different processes, had practically all impurities removed. Distilled is associated with boiling and condensation while pure is associated with filtration. Ultrapure water, by description, has had as much impurity removed from it  as humanly possible. So a layman might say 'ultrapure' is actually purer than 'pure'. When it comes to window cleaning, this distinction is not as vital as in high-end industrial or medical applications. 
So how and when is pure water a benefit for window cleaning? The benefit is by and large seen when using a water fed pole whereby the technician is first scrubbing off the dirt and grime and then rinsing said dirt and grime off the glass. With this method there is no need to follow up the wash with a squeegee or detailing rags. The pure or ultrapure water that is still on the glass after thorough rinsing will dry spot-free. Although there are many window cleaners that will maintain 'till their dying breath that hands-on or 'nose to glass' window cleaning is always superior and the truly professional way, probably just as many, hopefully more, realize that this is simply not true under all but the most difficult circumstances. A window cleaner who knows how to properly use pure water technology and the tools that go with it and understands there is equipment maintenance involved, and also that there are certain limitations that at times will dictate he opt for 'older school' methods' when necessary, will be in very good shape for successful execution. For companies like mine that also clean interior windows, we still need to do an amazing job in the inside with common methods, such as what cleaning solution we use and the tools and level of thoroughness and detail. You simply can't hide mistakes whether inside or out when the right light hits it!  That is one reason we often get called to provide service in the morning, when the sun is just coming up and homeowners look out their east-facing windows with sunken hearts. 
So in summation, pure, ultrapure, or distilled water has many benefits, especially for outside cleaning.

Is it really a good idea to drink distilled water?

This question continues to be debated and also used by opposing camps to argue their cause one way or the other. If this is a very important matter to you, there is an abundance of articles that present compelling arguments to support or oppose the use of distilled water for human consumption. And many articles explain that either choice is not life-altering. In a nutshell, our bodies need certain minerals and distilled water does not contain any. But many or most don't feel it is too difficult to compensate for what that type of water lacks. It is best to do your research, and that will be very easy if you have an internet browser!

At Dan Wagner Window Cleaning  we have been producing smiles and happiness in northeastern Pennsylvania since 1986 and we are not going away! I

Serving Honesdale, Hawley, Scranton, Lake Ariel, Stroudsburg, Tannersville, Mount Pocono and many other towns.