See-Thru Window Cleaners
4936 Yonge St. #521, North York, Ontario, M2N 6S3
(416) 225-6378

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How to clean windows

First you need the right tools

squeegee -

Squeegees are available in many sizes and types. For most home applications I recommend using a 12" squeegee (a squeegee with a 12" channel). Except of course if your home has panes smaller than 12" in which case you should buy one that fits in those panes (or buy the smallest one you can and cut the channel about 1/2" smaller than needed to fit (if you don't leave this 1/2" you will probably regret it later)).

The squeegee is the most important part (otherwise you would be using Windex wouldn't you?). So bear in mind that the selection of a squeegee is important. If you're not going to use a proper professional style squeegee then just go get your windex and paper towel now. Sorry, but if you bought it at Canadian Tire, it's NOT a professional style squeegee (or at least I've never seen one there). You can buy them at Home Depot (and perhaps some other similar stores). I buy mine at Canada Cleaning Supplies - my preferred brand is Ettore.

A squeegee has 5 parts
1 handle - can be brass, stainless steel or plastic
1 channel - brass, stainless steel or aluminum (if it's plastic it's probably garbage)
1 rubber - this is soft pliable rubber strip which inserts easily into the channel
2 end clips - little metal clips designed to hold the rubber securely in the channel (some clipless models are available but I don't usually recommend them)

Yes you can buy a complete squeegee fully assembled (and you should). If you opt to buy parts, please buy good ones.
The important thing to keep in mind when putting your squeegee together is to allow the rubber to hang out over the ends of the channel about 1/16" (this helps stop the metal of the squeegee from scratching your paint). Put the clip on one end of the rubber (leaving the 1/16" overhang) then slide the other end of the rubber into the channel until the clip catches the channel and can go no further without the clip disappearing into the channel. Very lightly pull the other end of the rubber and release it (just to make sure the rubber is not binding up). Cut the end of the rubber if it extends beyond the channel by more than 1/16". Pull the rubber out just far enough to put the second metal clip on and push the clip and rubber into the channel.
If your handle is not attached to the channel already attach them and secure them (usually using 2 small screws or a clip device depending on model). Now your squeegee is ready to go.

sponge -
The selection of a sponge is always a matter of personal taste. Some prefer natural sponges, some like old furniture cushion, some (like me) prefer grout sponges. Generally I recommend you use a sponge which can be easily held in one hand and one which once lightly wrung out does not allow the water to drip. The sponge should also NOT be abrasive (unless it specifically says it is safe for use on glass). Also note that some sponges do not slide well on glass and you should avoid using sponges of that type (your wet sponge should slide freely on a glass surface for best results).

bucket -
Generally any bucket capable of holding water, your sponge and your squeegee will do. It should be one you can carry around easily and big enough to clean as many windows as you need to clean.
Fill the bucket with water. Once filled, you should be able to submerge both hands clenched into fists at least up to the wrist without the water spilling over the top. The temperature of the water is up to you ( I prefer warm, but more for my comfort than for any cleaning value).
If you will be working indoors, it's also a good idea to set the bucket on a towel or some other drop cloth to catch minor spills or drops from the sponge.

Chamois -
I think it's only fair to tell you that many window cleaners use many different kinds of cloths for this purpose. If you opt for a cloth other than a real chamois it is important that it be lint free and very absorbent. If you choose to use a real chamois (and I highly recommend it), then you'll want to use either an old one or a washed and dried new one (note that you should wash a new chamois alone as the oils it contains may be absorbed by other fabrics in the wash). It is noteworthy that for any other purpose a chamois is not to be washed (preserving the oils is a good thing) but for cleaning windows what we're aiming for in the wash is to remove all of the oils, so wash it in HOT water and use a little bleach. Let the chamois dry before using it (do not put it in a clothes dryer).
There are also many opinions on how the chamois is to be prepared or used. Lets stick with my way for now, which is to use the chamois dry (or if it has been wet, then completely wrung out so you can sqeeeze no further water from it). And needless to say it should be clean.

Rag -
Any absorbent clean rag will do. This will be used to dry the squeegee and wipe the window sills etc.

Cleaning -

The first thing to realize is that the squeegee does NOT clean the window (you do).
Submerge the sponge in the water. when you bring it up, wring out the sponge lightly so that it has enough water to scrub the window, but not so much that it flies off the sponge or drips while your doing it (you'll have to figure out exactly how much water you want with practice).
Scrub the window using very little pressure on the glass (about has much pressure as you would use with windex and a paper towel). Scrubbing in a circular motion generally works best but many people find that working left to right or up and down is easier.
Once you feel the window is sufficiently clean put the sponge back in the bucket and get the squeegee (it's a good idea to keep the squeegee outside of the water).
Wipe the squeegee dry with a rag (just wipe the edge of the rubber, don't try to actually get it dry).
Using the corner of the rubber (at the end of the squeegee), cut the water away from the right edge of the window that you just scrubbed (aiming to dry a very thin line along the edge of the glass - perhaps 1 to 2 cm [about 1/2 inch]).
Now wipe the right edge of the glass with the chamois to remove the small amount of water not moved by the squeegee (being careful to touch the glass with only as much of the chamois as is required to absorb the water).
Place the squeegee at the top of the window along the right edge (dry part). and draw the squeegee across the window to your left. Use as little pressure against the glass as you can while still removing the water (in other words you don't have to work at it).
As you pull, you want to drag the bottom of the squeegee behind the top (like this \). This will cause the water to be forced toward the bottom of the squeegee. If you draw it across straight (like this |) or dragging the top (like this /) the water will tend to go toward the top of the squeegee, which will cause streaks and/or excessive dripping from the top edge.
In cases where there is enough water on the window that running the squeegee across it causes dripping, it is a good idea to hold the sponge below the squeegee channel as you draw it across the glass (to catch the dripping water).
Once your have drawn it across to the left side allow the squeegee to straighten out again (like this |) against the window frame.
Remove the squeegee by lifting the top part of the rubber off the glass first followed by the lower part (this encourages water still on the rubber to move to the lower part instead of dripping off of the frame later).
Dry the squeegee again (with the rag) and repeat.
On subsequent strokes with the squeegee, start the squeegee with about the top 20% of the rubber in the dry area cleared by the previous stroke (as you become more proficient you can decrease the amount of overlap in the dry area since this is done simply to avoid streaking at the top edge of the rubber).
Once you have completed your last stroke, look for streaks. If you find streaks rewet the window from the streak down to the bottom and repeat until you have a streak free window.
Wring out your sponge and wipe any dropped water from the bottom of the window and sill.
Now take the chamois and wrap it over your index finger. Run your index finger (with chamois) along the top edge of the window to absorb the water not removed by the squeegee. When doing so, try to have as little of the chamois touching the glass as possible while still touching the water left along the edges (your objective is to pick up the water - not to wipe the glass).
Unwrap the chamois from your index finger and rewrap with a dry spot on your index finger and wipe the side. Repeat the adjusting of the chamois and wiping until all 4 edges are done.
Take your rag and wipe the window frame and sill immediately below the bottom edge of the glass to absorb the water which has been dripped from the cleaning process.

This practice remains the same for almost all windows. Note that sometimes it will be easier to start from the left and pull to the right due to the shape or position of the windows or the amount by which the frames or surrounding objects interferes with your stroke. Many people recommend working sideways on the outside of the window and working from top to bottom on the inside (or vice versa) in order to easily tell which side streaks are on. This does work, but until you are proficient with the squeegee, working from side to side is always best. And remember to always PULL the squeegee. There is nothing wrong with pushing the squeegee (if you know how) but controlling the squeegee is always easier if you're pulling it toward the center of your body (as opposed to pulling it away from the center of your body or pushing it)

Tips -

NEVER start a squeegee in the middle of a window - start at the edge or don't start at all
NEVER stop a squeegee mid stroke - If your squeegee stops (or skips) while drawing it across the glass, it will almost always leave a mark (or marks) which will later be very visible. Lightly rewet the area where the stop (or skip) ocurred and redo it.
Never use the chamois to touch up a window you just cleaned (it is for edges only) - redo the window (it doesn't take that long and the chamois will leave a mark even if you don't see it right now, it will show up later)
Is the squeegee sticking to the glass? Put a droplet (not even a whole drop) of dish detergent on your sponge before scrubbing the window to act as a lubricant.
When cleaning the inside of casement windows it is often easier if you open the window. This will often make it easier to complete your squeegee stroke without having to work around the fixed window frames (in some instances).
What about newspaper and vinegar? Vinegar is fine but it smells. And if you really want to smear printer's ink all over your windows to make them look shiny, then feel free. But be sure to look at your hands next time you handle a newspaper and ask yourself if that will really make your windows "clean".
Don't try to clean your windows using the figure 8 stroke that you see so many window cleaners using - yes it works but it takes lots of practice (and you would be amazed at how infrequently it's used on residential windows) - but if you're just doing it for the practice then . . . have fun!
Never use abrasives of any kind on glass - and since I know you're going to even though I've told you not to ... If you feel that you must use an abrasive try using a scrubbing pad designed for glass (if you can find one)- alternately use one designed for ceramic tile. NEVER use steel wool or pot scrubbers or any harsh abrasives. If you're really desperate try some scouring cleanser (like ajax or comet) but make sure you use a fair bit of water with it. But before you do any of this... have you tried using your finger nail?
Do you need to remove a grey film left on glass behind metal screens? This oxidization can be removed with oven cleaner (see the warnings on the product and handle it appropriately). I use a lye solution to remove this, but because of it's corrosive nature I don't recommend it for homeowners who don't already know how to handle it.
Need to remove egg? Do it while it's fresh and it will come off easily.
Need to remove dried egg? As a window cleaner I would use a brand new, flat edged razor blade. I recommend you try using a sponge with hot water and some scrubbing cleanser.
Using a razor blade on glass - first I recommend against it (I don't care what your painter told you).
Everything that rubs on glass will scratch it. Metal (such as a razor blade) is capable of making very deep scratches.
If you must use a blade, make sure it is a new one (not an almost new one).
Make sure the window is wet (not damp - and again I don't care what your painter told you).
Never use a blade without a proper holder (razor blades are sharp enough to remove your fingers when accompanied by the pressure used to remove foreign objects from glass - if you slip with a blade you may regret it).
Wash the window FIRST (to remove grit and other things which the blade may drag across the glass and cause scratching ). If the window has excessive grit and/or dirt, try to rinse it using a VERY wet (dripping) sponge to remove as much grit with cascading water as possible (if there's this much grit though, I BEG of you, don't try to scrape it - call a professional).
Wet the window where you will need to use the blade.
Place the edge of the blade against the WET glass flatly (ensure the cutting edge is completely flat against the glass).
Move the blade across the glass smoothly and ensure that the blade remains flush against the glass at all times. Try to keep the blade angled in such as way as to push the water upward (so it runs back on the place you just pushed it from) and try not to run the blade over the same spot more than once. Do not move the blade back and forth - push (or pull) it toward the cutting edge while resting against the glass and LIFT it off the glass when bringing it back to start a new stroke (almost all serious scratches will be caused by dragging some material along the glass - stroking only on wet glass in one direction may help to avoid that). CAREFULLY remove any grit from the blade before beginning each stroke (it is most often the grit which damages the glass).
Use short strokes and listen for the sound of the glass being scratched so that you can stop before you destroy the glass if you hear it.
1 short scratch is better than 100 and a small drop of paint is better than a scratch.
When disposing of razor blades please ensure that they are completely enclosed so they cannot cut anyone or anything during or after disposal.
Removing scratches from glass
First you need to know that this isn't a 5 minute task (think hours per scratch).
And it's only for very minor scratches. If it clicks when you scratch it with your fingernail it's probably too deep to remove this way.
Minor scratches can be "sanded" with cerium oxide and water using a piece of felt or cloth.
Make a paste with the cerium oxide and water and apply it to a small piece of felt (another smooth cloth may do) rub (don't scrub) the paste in and around the scratch in a circular motion keeping the paste wet and fresh (slightly watery with cerium oxide powder always obviously visible) until the edges of the scratch begin to fade.
Work on as small an area as possible since what you are actually doing is sanding the glass (much the same way as you would sand a piece of wood) so you want to affect as small an area as possible.
This can take a considerable amount of time and is rarely worth the effort.
Proper tools do exist for polishing glass and they can be used to polish out scratches, but it is rarely ever worth the time and effort.