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 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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