What to use and not use:
Why is it that when I have the window cleaners wash my windows, that they seem to last so much longer than when I do it myself?There is no perfect solution out there, but if you understand a few principles it will make your work easier and your windows will look cleaner longer.
- Less is Better. If you can get away with cleaning with pure water--do it! The less residue left behind, the less likely dust and dirt will cling to the glass. So when choosing a solution bear this in mind.
- Most Name Brand window cleaners have one thing in mind when selling you their product: To get you to buy more of it. So, understand that most products have Paraffin (wax) or Petroleum (oil) in it, which collects dust, which means you have to clean more often. That being the case, they sell you more of their product. It's called marketing and just because it is popular doesn't mean its best. If it smears when you use it, you have to ask what's in.
- Test it in the store if you can. Spray a little on your fingers and let it dry, if your fingers feel sticky or slippery, then don't buy it.
- What do we use? Most window cleaners use the old formula of a little dishwashing liquid and ammonia (providing there is no solar film on the windows). BUT, they also use squeegees which will pull the residual away. Also, this solution has to be made each time you use it. It will breakdown if left under a sink. Lately we have been recommending people to use generic windshield washer fluid that you use for your car. You can get it at any supermarket in the automotive section. You can get it for much cheaper than any name brand window cleaner.
- To add Ammonia or not. Reminder, Less is better. But sometimes less is not enough. Food, kids hand prints, animal slobber from watching the neighborhood, sometimes you need a little muscle to help break through it. A couple cap fulls added to your solution in a quart spray bottle should do the trick. But there are places that you should never use ammonia. Plexiglas, Lexan (anything that has plastic in it), Solar Film (window tinting), Mirrors (or I should say, the backside of them, ammonia will break down the silver coating) and any place you have any doubt about, do not use ammonia.
- What about vinegar or rubbing alcohol or or or.....? There are many ways to get to the same result. It really doesn't matter what you use if you keep in mind everything we have talked about previously. It is worth mentioning the old vinegar and newspaper method that our parents or grandparents taught us. It works, remember how our hand used to get black from the print rubbing off on our hands. But, ohh how those windows gleamed. The reason for that was that you were transferring the ink from the paper to the glass and that's what was causing it to shine so much. (which is why I was told never to use the inserts, only the black and white pages) Now, if you remember also, the downside to it was that you usually had paper lint in the corners and within 3 months the swirls would start showing up and it was time to do it all over. So, different methods and solutions can achieve the same result. We are sharing here what we use and know to work and give the best results with the least amount of effort, low cost and longevity based on our experience.
- Use 3 Towels. lint free cotton towels, surgical huck towels, microfiber towels or paper towels (Scott's has little lint).
- 1st towel or sponge is to scrub the glass. Try not to use too much or you will have more to clean up with the second step.
- 2nd towel is to get all the excess off, to the point where you can see it drying on it's own
- 3rd towel(most overlooked step) this one is bone dry and is used to polish and get rid of the streaks and smears. Once this one starts getting wet and leaving streaks, use it as your 2nd towel and get another dry one.
Remember, Less is Better. A lot of times a sponge from the sink will suffice to spot clean. Just rinse almost all the soap out before using. Usually the window cleaner's work lasts longer than what is used at home. So, it is recommended when cleaning, to only spot clean as needed.
We hope this information was helpful and look forward to adding more helpful tips and tricks as time allows.
One thing we consistently come across is paint left on the windows after the painters have finished their job and have been paid and are long gone. While we are more than glad to do construction cleanup (i.e. Scraping), this is not a service that window cleaners offer as part of the washing price. Most people are not aware that due to the labor intensity of scraping, it could double or even triple the cost of service. In the case of silicone cleanup it could be even more.
Now we don't say this to scare you, but to help prepare you when hiring a painter. After all, it is their mess, why should you have to pay to clean up behind them. So, with that in mind, we have come up with some tips to help you before you find yourself with an extra charge later that you will end up having to eat because the painter has finished and been paid.
The easiest way is to have your painters use a Liquid Window Mask. It is a liquid that is sprayed over the glass and allowed to dry. Then the painters do their job and it doesn't matter if they get a little or cover the entire glass with paint, because after they are done, all they do is take a razor blade and cut around the edge of the glass and peel the mask off. No fuss, no muss. If they put a good solid coat of masking on, it cant get any easier. It is what sets the average painters apart from the pros.
Now if they don't or won't offer that option, then we still have a few tips for you:
- Ask the painter if they plan on scraping the windows after they are done (including anything that might be left from the last time, because inevitably after the job is done it is always from the last painter)
- Get It In Writing!
- Halfway through remind them so it is fresh in their head.
- At the end ask them if they scraped. Typically the window will look dirty even after they scrape, so it will make it hard to tell if they did a good job or not. It will take 5-10 days for the paint to cure (depending on the season) before the windows can be professionally washed. And flakes of paint left on the glass can adhere again to it, especially in the heat of the summer.
- So, as much as we would love the business, we would rather you be happy and use us in the future. With that being said, give you painter an option. You should have an idea of what your window cleaning will cost, if not call and we can walk you through it. Typically the cost of scraping is the same price as the window cleaning price "inside and out" PER SIDE that needs to be scraped. (Example: if your pane window costs $8.00 to clean in and out, the cost would be and additional $8.00 to scrape the outside and an additional 8.00 to scrape the inside, if it was painted as well.) So, if you had the inside and the outside painted, what would normally cost $8.00 could cost as much as $24.00 (possibly more if there is silicone cleanup) Tell the painter you are holding back a portion of their final pay until the windows have been cleaned (typically the cost of the window cleaning, twice that if the inside was painted OR if there is silicone on the glass). You shouldn't expect them to pay for the window washing. You will pay for that, but, you don't plan on paying to clean up after them and any cost of scraping will be taken from that amount. If they complain, give them the option to clean your windows themselves. The point is, that you should have clean clear windows to go with your fresh paint job.
Paint can be hard to detect, especially if they use a spray gun. A stray brush stoke is easy to see, but, most of the time you cant see overspray from the inside unless it is really heavy. But it will cause your windows to collect dust and dirt a lot quicker, which means having to have your windows cleaned more often. If it is thick enough, it can prevent the window cleaners from having a streak-free clean (think of your windshield wipers swiping across stuff stuck to your window. More importantly, with thermal pane windows, it can potentially cause them to fail (Fog up) over time. (Read the article about thermal paned windows for more info) So, if you can, open the window and reach out, run your hand (or flip your hand over and slide your finger nails) over the surface of the glass. Inspect the windows before they put the screens back on, screens will hide a multitude of sins. Where in some cases that is a good thing, this is not one of them. Painters know this as well and use it to their advantage. We know this was a bit lengthy and do apologize for it, but it is better to be informed than to pay for it later.
One last thing before wrapping this up, it takes practice to scrape a window properly and there are methods to do it right.
(Disclaimer: this is for informational use only, a couple tips, not a how-to article)
Even when done right, there is no guarantee that the glass will not get scratched in the process. But, there are a couple things to know to help reduce them:
- Never Dry Scrape. Use a little dish soap in a quart spray bottle of water. By lubricating the glass while you scrape you can reduce the chance of scratches from most likely, 100% on every piece of glass to less than 1% on the whole house.
- When possible, have the painters use a 6-inch window cleaner's scraper; they are specifically made for scraping glass. They are much sharper than a heavy-duty scraper you can find at the hardware store. The size also allows you to distribute the weight across a wider surface, which will reduce chances of scratching and gouging the glass. You can do a Google search for "window cleaning scraper", a few brand names are Ettore, Triumph, Unger for example if you need to purchase a couple.
Remember this is not a How-To or Do It Yourself (DIY) article, (I cant emphasize this enough) there are different methods to use and different situations in which you shouldn't use scrapers, which cannot be gone into here. Assuming your painter knows how to properly scrape, these couple tips will greatly help them reduce the chance of scratches.
Painters know how much time it takes to scrape behind their jobs, hence why we run into it enough where they don't and why we felt it important enough to inform our customers. Don't get us wrong; there are many good painters out there. Keep in mind, you typically get what you pay for and this is usually one of those corners that are cut to reduce expenses and how they can under-cut another's bid.
Hopefully this article will reduce potential headaches and undue costs for you or someone you know. As always, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Why you might not want screens on your windows.Builders love screens. Did you know that screens hide a multitude of sins? Paint overspray, scratches, gouges, oxidation, concrete splatter, failed thermal paned windows and more. Did you know also, that screens in general are more likely a detriment to your home? Living in the south, we have scorching summers and our springs usually prevent us from opening the windows due to pollen. In the fall, we have maybe 2 weeks to enjoy opening the windows before it gets too cold.
We generally ask if people open their windows more than a couple times a year. Most people don't.
Did you know that there are benefits to not having your screens on the windows?
- Not having screens on gives your house a much cleaner, crisper curbside appeal. Drive down the street and I'm sure you will find at least a couple homes that don't have them on, look at them compared to someone who has them.
- You get at least 15% more light and visibility by not having screens on.
- Your windows will stay cleaner longer, since dust and dirt just blows away instead of getting trapped between the screens, which act as a one-way check valve. Walk through your home and look at your sills. Those without screens are generally much cleaner than those without.
- Sill Rot can be prevented as well. Because dust and dirt settles, it usually gets caught in the crack along the bottom of the screen. Over time it builds up and when it rains that build up is like a muddy sponge that can soften the paint and wood then cause damage to the window frame itself.
- Paint job lasts longer. If the dust and dirt can blow away instead of getting caught in between the screens, it is less likely that the sun will bake that dirt into the paint, making the windows look fresher longer. This is particularly noticeable on the sill where the screen meets. If it looks cleaner longer then it means less frequency of having to paint trim, which means more to spend on things that are more enjoyable than a paint job.
If you open a couple windows a lot, by all means keep them on, but if you are like most that only open them in the spring (maybe) or the fall then consider taking them off and storing them.
BUT... There is an alternative,
Adjustable Window Screens!
Open your window and slide them to fit your window. When not in use, just stick them in a closet or behind a sofa. And the best part is you don't have to have a screen for every window. Figure out how many you might have open at once and buy that many. (Typically 0-4 on each level). We don't sell them or recommend where to buy them. Our only purpose is to advise. The best place to look is online. Do a Google search for "adjustable window screen" and you will find a wide range of them. From aluminum with wood slats to plastic or aluminum in just about any color you want. The price can vary from company to company as well. They range from 6.00-30.00. Unless you have a specific need there is no reason you should have to pay above 10.00 apiece for them. Which is still cheaper than replacing just one of your custom full-size screens.
Think on it, If you find you don't open your windows or open them that much, consider taking them off and storing them and for the few times you might open them, consider an adjustable window screen as an alternative.
If you only want the quicker version, skip down to the BOLD sentence below
Since the mid 80's, 99% of all homes built have insulated glass (thermal panes, double paned, IGU) windows in them. What this consists of is 2 pieces of glass separated by a spacer to provide a thermal (insulated) barrier. A desiccant is imbedded in the spacer to absorb humidity when the unit expands and contracts from morning to night. The quality of materials, the amount of space between the 2 pieces of glass and the amount of desiccant used, determines the life expectancy of the IGU before it fails, when condensation and fogging will occur. South (or equator) facing windows usually will fail sooner.
Most window companies offer a 3, 5, or 7-year warranty against IGU failure. Some of the newer and higher end companies have 10yr (Pella's Premier line offers 25yrs)
Be cautious of companies that offer lifetime warranties. Generally the window units are made of lower quality materials to make up for their eventual replacement cost. Some companies charge Packing, Handling and Shipping fees that usually cover their cost of the replacement window. Another thing to be aware of is that typically it only covers the window unit itself, not removal, installation and painting of the new unit. Truly, you do get what you pay for when it comes to IGU windows.
IGU Windows are energy efficient and do provide greater insulation than single pane windows, But, they may have to be replaced as often as every 3-10 yrs. So with all the money you save in energy, will it out weigh the cost of having to replace the windows? That is up to you to decide. A good set of single pane windows with a set of storms can last for decades if properly maintained and provide potentially similar insulating benefits.
When customers ask if they should replace their single pane windows for the newer IGU windows. My general recommendation is that if the only reason your doing it is to save money, you wont. Typically it takes 25-30yrs to recoup the cost of replacing them and that is providing none of the units fail in that period of time and have to be replaced, which the likelihood of that happening is very slim. If you're replacing because of drafty windows, rotted windows or ascetics, then it is a personal decision. Basically, the industry has taken a one-time product (if maintained properly) and turned it into a commodity, something they are sure to have to replace in the future.
So, why tell you all this?
Maintenance is crucial if you own thermal paned windows!
Getting the longest lifespan out of your existing thermal paned windows is our goal in helping you. As stated above, desiccants are used in (or imbedded in) the spacer bar between the 2 pieces of glass to absorb humidity as the window breathes each day.
A lot of manufacture warranties have 3 common items that will void this warranty:
- Glass that has solar film applied to it
- Glass that has construction debris on them (typically paint overspray)
- Lack of maintenance to the windows. (Dirty or Rotted Windows)
The one thing all these have in common is that they hold heat from the sun more than is expected and cause the desiccants to dry rot and become non functional much quicker than anticipated, which means that if they are not absorbing the humidity, condensation and fogging will soon occur. At this point the only real solution is replacement of the glass. Generally the whole window doesn't have to be replaced, just the glass if it can be removed. Check with a glass company or a handyman if the windows are out of warranty. Not a window company, as their goal is to sell you windows, not glass.
Every house is different, so frequency of cleaning will depend on variables like you're in the woods, in a wind tunnel, near a heavy traveled road, if construction and dust and dirt are common. Typically when asked how often to clean your windows, a good rule of thumb is "inside and out" once a year and if needed, the "outside only" in six months (you can tell, if they look dusty, it's time). Be careful of screens, it is harder to tell the condition of the glass when they on and they tend to trap dust and dirt more than windows without them. (see the "tips" about screens)
The other thing worth mentioning is that chipping paint or, mold, mildew and moss which holds moisture and can compromise the seal between the frame of the window and the glass. If this happens, then rain and water can seep into the inside track holding the glass unit and cause the desiccants to absorb more moisture than they can handle, hence a fail thermal seal.
So with all the years of cleaning windows we tend to be a bit biased but:
- The Good- They are insulated, which means less drafts, more energy efficient and will save on heating and cooling costs.
- The Bad- They require mandatory maintenance, cleaning and upkeep to keep the IGU from failing. The IGU has a shelf life, unlike single pane windows and will eventually fail and have to be replaced. If you can replace just the glass, the cost of replacement can be from 3-10xs the cost of a single pane of glass and requires a professional to install them.
- The Ugly- These windows WILL fail at some point, it's not a matter of "if" but "when". If not replaced, their insulating factor drops to zero and you will have foggy windows. Most likely you will end up spending more money than you ever save in energy efficiency over the long haul.
If you have single pane windows and they are in good condition - Keep Them. If you want to save money, reduce energy costs and/or get rid of drafts, consider buying a good set of storm windows. They also make a great sound barrier from outside noise. Yeah, you may have to pay twice as much to clean them every so often, but I guarantee you it is cheaper to clean them when they get foggy in-between than having to replace them every 3-10 years or when they go bad.
Remove leaf stains on a concrete walk or driveway?
Isn't it frustrating to have your driveway and walkways professionally cleaned and then have leafs fall on them? With either dew or rain, the leaves stain your walkway or driveway surface and ruin that clean look.
Well the solution is very easy and simple. All you need is to mix ¼ to ½ bleach to water in a garden pump sprayer ($8-12). Set the nozzle to a finer spray and lightly mist the stains and--Voilà! If not instantly, within a few minutes, those leaf stains are gone. No rinsing is necessary.
Use a light mist for your stains or you run the risk of having bleach spots, which doesn't hurt anything, except ascetics, The longer it has been since you had the surface cleaned professionally, the more likely you might have the bleach spots. If that happens you can always set the sprayer to a stronger spray and do the entire thing to brighten it back up between cleanings
As always, try not to spray on vegetation. If you think you will, then wet that area first with a garden hose and rinse well afterward to, hopefully, prevent damage.
How do we clean chandeliers and light fixtures?
We get asked this enough that although it is not really a tip or trick, it warrants some information shared here.
Chandeliers, light fixtures, sconces, globes, etc., can be tricky to clean. If done wrong, cleaning incorrectly can damage/etch your glass permanently. The reason for this is that all of these have one thing in common: HEAT. Light bulbs get very hot and if any residual from a cleaning product is left on the glass then it will bake right into it.
It is not uncommon to clean a birdcage chandelier and have streaks afterward. Then ask the customer how it was cleaned last time and have them say, "Oh the housekeeper (or their spouse) just used a name brand window cleaner on it." The issue, as we have mentioned in the window cleaning- Cleaning Solution's section of tips and tricks, is that most name brand solutions leave a residual behind which will bake into the surface when heat is applied. (Side note: this is also why it is not recommended to put your crystal in the dishwasher: HEAT.)
There are spray chandelier cleaners used for crystal (bauble) chandeliers out there. You are supposed to spray it on, let it drip, and you're done. We've used it personally and were unimpressed, if not downright disappointed, in the results. Most of our customers are of the same opinion as well. So what do we use? We use clear/Non-sudsy ammonia and water. A couple of full caps to a quart spray bottle, a few soft cloths, and LOTS of patience. On crystal chandeliers, we use a little heavier concentrate and will then rinse it with distilled water. The cups and pendants get wiped, but the chains can drip dry.
Disclaimer: This is Not a How-To article, as there are many different variables and risks involved. If not knowledgeable beforehand there is the very real potential for personal injury or damage to the light fixture. The least, is that we are using water in close proximity to electricity. Another, if not done right is that we have heard of housekeepers and homeowners not realizing it, but unscrewing the chandelier because they kept turning it in the same direction while cleaning and having it fall. One of the first things we do is check to see if the chain is securely attached to the top of the chandelier.