A good window cleaning can instantly up your home’s curb appeal, and achieving that just-washed polish is as much an art as it is a science.
Did you know that avoiding streaks when cleaning your windows has to do with the position of the sun, or that newspapers with soy-based ink make for an excellent cleaning material? The perfect window cleaning is all in the (sometimes unexpected) details, so we consulted Lyle Kvarnlov, product services manager at Marvin and Integrity Windows and Doors for tips and tricks that only years in the industry can provide. Lyle speaks with thousands of customers a year on how to properly maintain and clean their windows and doors for both look and longevity, and here he reveals his advice for cleaning windows like a pro.
Plan around the sun – It’s important not to clean windows, specifically the glass, when exposed to direct sunlight. The sun will warm the glass, causing the soap solution to streak. For best results, clean when windows are in the shade, and work from top to bottom if you live in a multi-story home. In regards to starting inside or outside first, it really comes down to personal preference. I recommend starting outside first because it allows you to catch and cleanup any water that may have snuck inside.
Soak then scrub – To cut down on scrubbing, soak the glass surface with a mixture of clean water and mild soap to break down any dirt or debris. Next, apply a mild cleaning product with a non-abrasive applicator, such as terry cloth, to clean the windows. As windows have many components, it’s important to avoid any cleaning product that has a strong chemical base or a high alcohol content, as there could be chemical reactions that could deteriorate components. A diluted version of dish soap works well for cleaning both the frame and glass. Another option rising in popularity is citrus-based products on the window interior because it won’t stain hardwood flooring if it spills. I always recommend using a bucket for the exterior and a spray bottle for the interior to avoid splashing water onto floors.
For stubborn stains, use a rubber scrapper with a blunt end to remove without scratching the window. A toothbrush also works well to reach cracks and crevasses to remove any buildup that has occurred. After washing, use a squeegee on the exterior only to remove any remaining cleaning solution. I’m also frequently asked about newspaper as a surprising cleaning tool. Newspaper is a great towel-alternative because its dense fiber won’t leave behind the tiny strands that towels do. If you do use a newspaper, ensure it’s soy-based ink – the kind that doesn’t leave black residue on your fingers.
Dry to avoid deterioration – Do not let those lingering water droplets dry themselves, as mildew can start to form. Window and door gaskets, sealants and frames are susceptible to deterioration if cleaning solutions are not immediately dried after cleaning, so take the time to ensure the entire window is dry before moving on to the next one.
Be gentle with screens – To avoid causing damage to screens, carefully remove each one and lay on a flat, clean area. Remove any dust by spraying the screen with water from a hose. Instead of using a cloth, let the screen air dry completely before reinstalling. Another option is to vacuum the screen with a soft brush extension, which is also ideal for cleaning window rails. For doors, always work from the exterior when removing and replacing screens.
Know your windows – Some windows have an energy panel, which is often confused with a storm window. An energy panel is a removable, exterior glass panel and can be cleaned in the same way as the rest of the window. To save time and confusion, it’s important to learn what type of windows are in your home to better understand how to clean them. For example, Marvin Windows and Doors products are etched with a serial number in the corner of the glass. This number can be referenced to confirm the details of the window installed in your home.
Final tips – Your geographic location plays a role in how often you should clean and maintain your windows and doors. For example, a coastal home may need cleaning four or five times a year because of the harsh elements. However, if you live in the midwest, once or twice annually may be sufficient.
It’s important to look beyond the window when you are cleaning. Most windows are sealed into the opening with caulking that can shrink over time, resulting in a sneaky entry point for water. When you are washing, keep an eye on these areas to see if there are any proactive efforts needed to preserve the integrity of the window and door.
Finally, assess your window hardware, as it also needs maintaining. If finishes have dulled, apply a coat of beeswax to preserve and restore the finish. While you’re at it, take the time to put dry lubricant on the gears of your windows to keep all components functioning smoothly.
Taking the time to clean and maintain your windows and doors will help to ensure they look beautiful and perform well for many years to come.