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March 19 2013 (reprint circa 2008)
It's just my opinion
First a note. I originally wrote this in 2008 after visiting a number of window cleaning web sites. I found myself fundamentally disagreeing with a number of things found on those sites and wrote this as a reaction to what I had seen, but never made it available on the web page. In fairness to those individuals, they probably believe they are telling the world the correct thing (as rightly as I believe that they are not). I might accept the soap example (simply because I prefer not to use it when it's not needed doesn't mean it's wrong or has any ill effect), but using a pole anywhere that it's not necessary (on a residential site) or using a 14 or 18 inch long T-bar to clean a 6 inch wide pane of glass is simply not justifiable.
It sort of fits in with the BLAH-G concept, so here it is (for what it's worth).
T-bar or Sponge?
I've been doing a LOT of looking around on the web recently and have run into a lot of differing views about how a window should be cleaned. Yes, the industry has a lot of toys that can be used. Some are cheap and some are not. Now, just because the toys exist, doesn't mean we have to use them. For instance, there's at least one place where it shows a person using a T-bar (a commercial applicator or scrubber) to clean a window with muntins (that would be a window with lots of smaller panes, like a french door). The site goes on to explain how this is "good" because it doesn't put any pressure on the glass. You don't want to know my opinion about not putting any pressure on glass in an attempt to get it clean. The fact is, a T-bar is for large pieces of glass and should not be used on smaller panes. On small panes (and for that matter in most interior glass almost regardless of size) a sponge should be used. Using a sponge however takes time and requires the cleaner to actually look at the glass and to clean each pane individually.
Soap or No Soap?
And here's one that many window cleaners will disagree with me on. Soap. Is it necessary? I suppose that depends on what you think the soap does. Soap excels at removing grease and oil and when windows have a noticeable amount of either of those on them, I absolutely think soap should be used. But in the absence of those 2 problems, I don't feel it is needed. Anyone who's windows are cleaned on an annual or semi-annual basis should not require soap (or any chemical) to remove the dust and dirt. What is required is "elbow grease" (whoops, now we know why so many others like the soap). But there are legitimate reasons to use soap (lubrication is the best reason and likely the reason why many use it even though they may not know that is the reason). Another reason that so many cleaners use soap is to avoid having to"get" soap when it's needed for a spot clean of grease or oil (since fingerprints and nose prints are oils). Soap brings with it a leeching effect around the edges of windows which can detract from the uniform cleaning of a pane of glass (even though virtually all window cleaners will wipe the edges). Commercial window cleaners will typically need soap much more so than residential cleaners. But again, it's just an opinion.
Ladder vs pole.
Absolutely without exception, a window cleaner will do a better job if (s)he is close enough to see the glass surface in detail and reach it without any reaching tools. On a residential job, a ladder is ALWAYS the best way to go. In rare instances where a ladder cannot be used, a pole might be considered an adequate alternative. Poles are good for cleaning "clean" windows (storefront's and other frequently washed windows). Poles should not be used (if it can be avoided) on any window which is visibly dirty. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't do as good a job.
What is a "Professional"?
What makes a window cleaner a "professional"? Sadly, the same thing that makes anyone else a professional. (S)he gets paid to do it. Being a professional doesn't mean that (s)he is any better at it than anyone else (including you). And paying twice as much doesn't mean you're getting a better job. It just means you're getting someone who charges twice as much. A person with 20+ years experience who charges half as much as a person with one or two years experience is "probably" going to do a better job. On the other hand if (s)he was trained to do a sloppy job 20 years ago . . . well, you get the idea. So then, what really matters? All that really matters, is that you are happy with the job. Most window cleaners strive for that (some just try a little harder than others). Don't be fooled by people using the word "professional" (generally professionals won't have to tell you).
Big company or one person operation?Wouldn't I just love to tell you that you need a 1 person operation? Sadly, I can't. It depends entirely on what's important to you.
Some reasons to choose a 1 person operation are
- Consistency - a singular person is more likely to deliver the same results on each visit
- Familiarity - You can get to know this one person (this is very important to some people)
- No Mayhem - only 1 person in and around your home can be easier to deal with
And some compelling reasons to go with a company with teams of people
- Speed - They can often do your job sooner (less likely to be booked for a long period)
- Speed - They can often complete the job in less time when they do come (if you have to be home then it won't be as long)
- Flexibility - In addition to scheduling flexibility, having more than one person can allow easier/safer access to tricky windows.
For many people, a big company can deal with their main issues (speed and simplicity) more easily than an individual. While an individual can deliver more personal attention. You may even find that your needs require a little of both. It's really an individual choice.