Window Cleaning Tips
Are you an independent window cleaner? Or are you a homeowner planning to clean your windows? Well, unless you own a big business, it’s likely that you won’t be able to afford expensive access equipment – so you’ll be using a good old-fashioned ladder But wait…don’t just jump on your ladder and start cleaning – There’s a whole host of ladder safety rules to consider.
Did you know that there are several falls from ladder related deaths every year as well as being a major cause of serious injuries? Don’t worry – our friends at Browns Ladders are here with some easy-to-follow rules to keep you safe while window cleaning using ladders.
Starting your own window cleaning business and becoming your own boss is an attractive and exciting prospect. However, getting a window cleaning businesses off the ground is not as easy as many think; there is a lot more involved than buying a bucket and chamois leather and knocking on a few doors.
The following guide outlines what it takes to build up your business from scratch and develop the reputation you need to succeed:
- Starting out
Starting the sales process is the hardest thing, you have no reputation, no contacts and no customers. The easiest way to win new customers immediately is by asking friends and families. This will allow you to build up a selection of jobs and get you out there, cleaning windows.
Begin by turning your van into an advertising medium by promoting your name, company and contact details; this gives you an identity even when you’re not on the job.
You will then need to start canvassing for new jobs; this is the most crucial part of the trade. Canvassing should be subtle and detailed, you want to work out if an area is currently covered by another cleaner and see if there are houses in the area not covered yet.
Start on a road, knock on a few doors and ask a few pertinent questions. If another cleaner has the entire road, move on to the next, you will soon find gaps emerging.
There will be a lot of competition out there. Undercutting the competition will create more enemies than customers, so please avoid doing this.
Dropping leaflets through doors will not win your business on its own; you need to go out there and talk to customers, wining sales through face-to-face contact.
Window cleaning is a something everyone needs without realising it. Explain the service; be friendly and charming. If somebody is not home or needs to think about it, drop in a leaflet and pop back.
- The Deal
Once you win a customer round, sealing the deal with a price is very important.
Judge the amount of time the job will take by looking around the property; don’t just accept the customer’s opinion.
First cleans will be more time consuming so you can potentially charge more, unless, of course, you are really keen for their business!
You will then need to discuss how frequently you will clean the property – suggest once a month and then negotiate from there. Be honest and find the right solution for the customer.
Get their name and contact number and then call them back to confirm the time and date you have arranged.
Most important to building a reputation is the quality of the job you provide. Too many jobs and not enough hours and you won’t do the job properly.
Word of mouth is key, so you need happy customers and good recommendations.
Plan your time effectively: estimate how long it will take to carry out each job and don’t take on more work than you can service.
In time you will become more efficient and take less time to do the same number of jobs well.
Equipment is also vital: do your research and find the right products. Unger window cleaning products sell a range of affordable, high quality equipment which will get the job done. For other equipment information visit cleaning supplies from Click Cleaning.
- Building your customer base
Soon you will generate business without having to do anything; customers will approach you or recommend you to friends and family.
This is now a good time to advertise; put an advert in the local paper or on Google ads and set up a website that gives you more exposure.
Social media is now also a popular method of advertising and is easy to set up and maintain at no extra cost. Create a Facebook profile, share it with your friends, post some attention grabbing news items and you will soon have a recognised local name.
With more work coming in you will need to manage your growth with new staff and more equipment; always plan ahead and keep an eye out for employees who will help you develop your trade.
Work hard, take pride in your work and your reputation will grow in no time!
“Never clean windows in the sun!”
– That’s the advice given in many housekeeping magazines. But is it true?
For the general householder it is good advice, but a professional window cleaner cannot afford to be always dictated to by the weather.
Especially when using traditional methods, cleaning in the hot sun can cause problems so here are some tips to avoid the smears and shadows.
Shadows left on the window are caused by the solution drying before the squeegee blade can carry it away.
On overcast days you may soap up a few windows at a time and two or three minutes may pass before you squeegee them all clean. However, when the weather is warmer it is important to blade the window as soon as possible after it has been mopped to avoid leaving shadows and streaks. Here are a few tips for getting good results even when window cleaning in the sun;
1. Only wet as many windows as you blade before the water dries.
It is best just to soap up one or two windows at a time so that the solution does not have chance to dry. The two handed technique of mopping and blading simultaneously is good in this situation because the solution is carried away almost immediately and doesn’t get chance to dry.
2. Use combination tools
When using a tradtional pole combination tools such as the Unger Vice Versa, Ettore Back Flip or Wagtail Flipper will save time switching tools.
3. Use more water
The most obvious tip is to use more water. Wetting the window more will give you more time to blade it before the solution dries. If you are using a water fed pole then you should rarely encounter problems unless the windows are really hot. – In which case the answer is to just use more water
4. Use less soap
Another practical tip is to use less soap if you use washing up liquid. The solution tends to evapourate quicker if you use too much soap and you will be more likely to leave streaks.
5- Minimize detailing and use of cloths
Using a cloth on the window in the sun is a bad idea. The less you use a cloth on the window for detailing the better. Sometimes you can do more harm than good when detailing causing smears with a cloth that are more noticeable than the original mistake. Take care when using the squeegee to not miss bits in the middle of the window and practice your technique to minimize the amount of detailing necessary.
These tips should help you achieve good results when cleaning windows in the sun however, if non of the above work for you then use a water fed pole system with pure water!
When is a scraper blade needed?
The following situations would likely require the use of a scraper blade.
- After construction or decorating work has been carried out.
- Stubborn dirt or stains such as egg, bird excrement or splashes caused by pressure washing.
- When adhesive tape, vinyl lettering or stickers need removing.
- The first time windows are cleaned after many months or years.
Checks to carry out before using a scraper blade
Scraping glass with a scraper blade can damage the glass. Certain kinds of glass are more susceptible to scratches than others.
- Check if glass is scratch resistant and suitable for scraper use. (It is not recommended to use a scraper on Plexiglass, crown glass, solar glass, safety glass (ESG) etc.
- Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions.
- Perform a scrape test in advance on a hidden section.
- Before starting work, check the glass for damage and report it if necessary.
How to use a scraper blade correctly
- Never use a glass scraper on dry glass.
- Always use the blade on a wet surface.
- It is best to use with a soapy cleaning agent. This lubricates the blade and makes it easier to see where you have passed the blade (think of it a bit like shaving a beard!)
- Always scrape in one direction! Never pull the scraper back. (Dirt accumulated on the blade can be trapped under the blade and pulled over the surface of the window causing scratches.)
- Apply even pressure holding the blade flat against the glass. The corners of the blade can cause scratches.
- Change or reverse the blade if it becomes blunt, rusty or chipped.
- Clean the blade regularly by swishing it about in a bucket of water.
- Do not keep an open blade in your work pouches. Always replace the cap or retract the blade for your protection.
It is a good idea to ask the customer to sign a Scratch Waiver Form. (This is basically a simple form which states that you do not accept responsibility for any scratches that occur and that the customer understands that the task does carry an element of risk.)
Use the appropriate kind of scraper for the job at hand.
It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s wet and you have to go to work.
The last thing you need after dragging yourself out of bed is to find that your efforts were in vain because your equipment is frozen and unusable!
Yes, winter is here and we know what that means. Cold hands and water freezing on the windows.
Thankfully, it’s not every day that temperatures fall below zero so it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast each evening so you know what to expect in the morning. Most winter related problems can be avoided with good preparation.
Here are some winter window cleaning tips so as to be prepared and keep your business running as smooth as possible over the winter months.
- · Look after your equipment
When water turns to ice it expands and that is why anything full of water is at risk of cracking or breaking when temperatures plummet.
If the forecast is anywhere near zero degrees or below then prepare the evening before.
Prevention is the best cure so bring any wet gear into the warmth of your house or some other place that is protected from the cold. If you have a trolley system or backpack in a van left outside then bring those in too.
At particular risk is the RO unit. RO units have fragile membranes which can easily be damaged in freezing conditions. Some window cleaners have these units mounted directly in the van or even worse have a static system placed outdoors. If this is the case then you need to take measures to protect the unit from the cold to minimize the possibility of damage.
- · Install a heating system
Many window cleaners install a heating system in the van. There are various kinds of heaters available. Oil filled radiators are a popular choice as they often have a thermostat and can be left on a low setting overnight. Some are electric and you therefore would need to run a power cable to an electricity source. (The van doesn’t need to be heated to 20 degrees as long as it remains above zero your system won’t freeze.)
Unlike kerosene or other oil heaters, the oil inside of an electric oil radiator warms but never burns, so there is no need to refill it. This reduces risk of fire, eliminates the smell that can permeate the entire house when a fuel burning heater is present, and saves money that would be spent endlessly on heating oil purchases.
Paraffin heaters and electric fans are another option but these each have their draw backs. If you don’t have a way of keeping the van warm then you should insulate your system as best you can and drain it of any excess water.
Other more sophisticated ways of preventing the system from freezing include electric trace heating, also known as electric heat tracing. This system maintains the temperature of your system pipes. Basically, an electrical heating element in contact with the pipe runs along the length it and is covered with thermal insulation to retain heat losses. The heat generated by the element then maintains the temperature of the pipe thus protecting it from freezing.
- · Reduce water spillage
Apart from equipment issues, freezing cold weather also poses problems whilst cleaning. An obvious danger exists when using water fed poles in sub zero temperatures and that is that the water falling on the ground is likely to freeze and thus cause a potential hazard for those passing by so the less water spillage the better in freezing conditions.
There are two things that you can do to tackle this:
The first thing would be to reduce the amount of spilt water in the first place. If you generally use a water fed pole system evaluate whether it is possible to use traditional methods which require the use of less water. (Note: Using ladders is risky at the best of times and using them in the snow or ice is just plain foolish.
With the right tools and some practice a good window cleaner can use an extension pole on most windows that you can get to on a ladder. Practise makes perfect! Alternatively, you could always offer just to do downstairs at a reduced price.
You may decide to use a water fed pole for the upper windows but traditional methods on the lower levels. You can also reduce water spillage by turning down the water flow. The other thing you can do is to give a generous spread of salt on the areas of spillage. Give particular attention to areas that people are most likely to tread. (Bear in mind however that salt is corrosive and can cause lasting damage some surfaces such as concrete. )
In some cases like in the picture below you wouldn’t really need to worry about water spillage. It’s just a matter of common sense at the end of the day.
- · Avoid water freezing while you work
Often the biggest problem for window cleaners when temperatures drop below zero is the fact that water can often freeze on the glass or even in the pipes of the wfp system.
If a building is well heated on the inside then in most cases water is unlikely to freeze on the window. Avoid cleaning the windows of places which are unlikely to be well heated internally.
Various hot water systems are available on the market for window cleaners. Using a hot water system in the winter is obviously advantageous in that it stops the water from freezing in the system while you work.
When using water fed pole systems the water is left to dry on the window so there is more chance of the water freezing. In some cases it may be best to use traditional methods so that windows are left dry. You don’t want to have a lot of soap residue left on the window the next time you clean using pure water so don’t use too much soap and choose a product which leaves little residue such as Glass Gleam or Ecoverbiological washing up liquid.
If using traditional methods then you can use additives in the water to lower the freezing point of the water. Try mixing the water with screen wash (windshield washer fluid). Anti-freeze, or methylated spirits, may be added to a mixture to give the product a lower freezing temperature. But bear in mind that methanol vapor is harmful when breathed in, so more popular now is an ethanol (or isopropanol) and ethylene glycol. Take care too if you smoke as these liquids are often highly flammable.
Some use vinegar in the water but actually the kind of vinegar you typically find in the supermarket has a freezing point of -2° C so it is unlikely to have much effect on the freezing point of your solution.
- · Dress for success
Your choice of clothing will affect your morale as well as your pocket. If you are cold and wet then you are not likely to make it to the end of a working day before wanting to quit. If you do stay out all day cold and wet then you likely to be staying home with the flu as your reward. So investing in good quality clothing that will keep you dry and warm and that allows you to move freely makes good business sense as well as good common sense.
Use decent boots that don’t let the water in. Snow boots or Wellington boots might not qualify you for the front cover of a glossy magazine but your feet will thank you for it.
Most of your body heat escapes through your head so be sure to wear a hat. If you really want to get kitted out warm and snug then visit a shop that sells clothing for mountaineers, skiers and snow boarders. Usually this kind of gear is breathable, comfortable, warm and waterproof.
- · Be realistic
Realistically you are not likely to cover as much of your work as you usually would but something is better than nothing. Give priority to your best work. Do you have work to do which is under cover or inside cleans? If you keep an eye on the forecasts then you can plan ahead to schedule these kind of jobs for when it is likely to snow or be extremely cold.
Sometimes road conditions and parking issues caused by heavy snowfall are to take into consideration. If things are really bad then maybe you could catch up with some business administration, business accounts or the like or perhaps do some telecanvassing accompanied by a nice hot cuppa!
Or you could just take the day off….after all “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”
As with anything else, there is a learning curve to using a water fed pole system and getting consistently good results. This guide is based on my own findings and mistakes; I hope you will find it useful.
First and foremost, as long as the water you are using is totally pure, any spotting of the glass is going to be down to user error, so test your water at regular intervals – at least once a week. If the reading goes above a couple of parts per million, change the DI resin.
Spotting is going to be down to one of a few of things, which I will list here, along with the solutions to overcome them.
This is one of the main causes of spotting. On first cleans ensure you wash the top frame well before attempting the glass. If possible do all the house frames first, then go back and wash the glass once they have either dried or stopped dripping. Once this has been done, subsequent cleans are easy. Dirt hides on the top frame and pure water will seek it out and leave runs on the glass while they are still dripping.
Soap residue in the window seals will cause spotting, the only way to avoid this is to rinse well, it may take a few cleans to completely remove the years of [detergent] from these seals.
Poor Quality Paintwork
Poor quality paintwork on the window frames will cause real problems. The best way to test the paint is to run your finger along the paintwork. If it leaves a white dusty mark on your finger you are going to have problems. [Wash the frames thoroughly first and then once they have dried go back to clean the glass, taking great care not to touch the top edge of the window frame.]
Very Dirty Glass
If you are doing a first initial clean and the glass hasn’t been cleaned in years, then firstly you should price accordingly. (Double for the first clean) Wash all windows and frames. Then go back to the beginning and do them again. However, just the glass this time, not the frames.
A Dirty Brush Head
Make sure that the brush heads are kept clean, where possible. Leave them soaking in pure water overnight or between jobs. It can help to add just a couple of spots (and I mean spots) of GlassGleam 3 to the water the brushes are left to soak in. Make sure you get rid of all GlassGleam soap residue when using on the first couple of windows, the glass will require a good rinse. Don’t leave brushes propped up against brick walls, it will pick up dust and transfer it to the glass. If you must leave it against a wall, make sure the head is turned away from the brickwork.
This can be a problem to remove, especially if it’s baked on the glass. My advice is to do these windows first, soaking the offending stuff well. If it doesn’t come off on the first clean you can come back to it once the water has softened it a bit. You can always tilt the brush head a bit and use the edge of the brush to rub it off or get an extension pole with a scraper attached to it to remove it. (Never scrape dry glass, always wet it first ).
These can cause problems as the water runs off the top sash onto the bottom window. I have found that the only sure way of preventing runs is to do all the top sashes, then when they are either dry or stopped dripping then do the bottom sashes.
These can cause problems, especially if they are the painted sort and the paint has oxidised. (again do the finger test). If there is oxidisation I would decline to do them with WFP as the water runs off them looking like milk. [If you do them using WFP, Wash the frames thoroughly first and then once they have dried go back to clean the glass, taking great care not to touch the top edge of the window frame.]
These vents are often situated directly above the glass and contain large amounts of dust and dirt. Avoid vents like the plague. If water gets inside these vents it will drip for ages leaving your nicely cleaned glass with dirty streaks. Well that’s the scarey bits over with.
There are two types of glass, hydrophilic and hydrophobic. Hydrophilic likes water the other doesn’t. Hydrophilic glass will allow the water to run off the glass as a sheet, the other just beads up and sits there! With hydrophilic glass, wash as normal along the top edge, down the sides and then all over. Finally take the brush to the top of the glass and lift it away by an inch or two, this allows the water jets to rinse pure water over the entire glass, rinsing away any remaining dirt. With Hydrophobic glass wash and be sure to rinse well. Some windows come out really well every time, others just never seem to dry without leaving spots.
You should aim for a flow rate of about a litre per minute from the brush head, this is enough to wash thoroughly and rinse well. An average 3 bedroom house should take about 20 litres of water (More on first cleans). Remember that pure water is what is making you your money, so don’t waste it by leaving brushes connected and spraying the precious stuff over the customers garden.
1. Beware of the wind blowing an unattended pole over.
2. Be aware of electric cables.
3. Be aware of your surroundings, its easy to step back into fish ponds or fall down steps whilst looking up.
4. Be aware of hoses trailing over footpaths etc, Joe Public will trip over anything – and then sue you. It’s a good idea to place a couple of high visibility cones [or matting] over you hoses.
5. Don’t use WFP on front doors. [If the customer opens the door whilst you are working, water will go all inside their hallway.]
They have a mind of their own, they will get wrapped around everything, caught under everything and mysteriously get tied up when reeling them in. Use good quality stop connectors on the end of your hose, that way when you disconnect your pole the water gets shut off without having to run back to the van to switch everything off.
I hope this helps. Once mastered the water fed pole will greatly speed up window cleaning and make you more money than traditional methods. The big plus though is safety, you can’t fall off the ground!
Safe and Happy Cleaning