Window Washing Advice from a Window Washing Expert

Boss Tweed/FlickrWashing windows, especially the exterior of upper-story windows, is a perennial household challenge. That's why we talked to a professional window cleaner, Vlad Agapov, of Quality Cleaning and Remodeling in Greenfield, MA. Here are the tips we picked up on methods and products to help your window-washing project go more smoothly. 

Tools to assemble

Agapov suggests starting by assembling the following tools:

  • 1 or 2 buckets
  • soft sponge
  • razor scraper
  • stepladder
  • cleaning solution of your choice
  • squeegee
  • optional extension poles for sponges and squeegees
  • drying materials, such as paper towels, lint-free cloth or crumpled newspaper.

Recommended products for washing windows

Rather than ammonia, Agapov prefers to use Unger products, which can be purchased at big box stores and online. These products are "environmentally preferable", come in a variety of solutions and are gentler on your skin than ammonia.  If you want to use a green DIY product, mix ¼ cup white vinegar with 1 gallon water to wash your windows.

When it comes to drying materials, Agapov reveals that he uses the cheapest paper towels, because “the inexpensive paper towels are as lint-free as any other.” Crumpled newspaper also works well, and it's a great way to repurpose a material that might otherwise get thrown away.

Getting the window washing process down pat

Depending on how dirty the windows are, you may want to start by putting a drop cloth down to avoid damaging your floors. Then wipe down the window frame and sill. Once you have wiped down the window frame and sill, you should use a razor scraper to take off sap, bird droppings or paint. According to Agapov, many people wash their windows once a room has been painted, and the razor scraper is the best tool for removing paint from glass. “You don’t ever want to use steel wool (for this type of clean-up).” 

Next, he recommends that you scrub the glass pane with your soft sponge dipped in cleaning solution, then squeegee and/or dry with drying materials. When using a squeegee, it is best to overlap your strokes starting partially on a dry area. Wipe your blade often and clean up any drips.

Agapov advises cleaning your windows from inside the house and outside the house – even if you have tilt-in windows. “Some windows are very easy to clean by tilting in. Others, you need two people to tilt them and you can damage the window. I would never clean my own windows by tilting them in.” 

Safety while washing windows from the outside

Agapov cautions that even though the use of extension poles doesn’t always leave your windows as clean as they could be, it’s a much safer way to wash your upper-story windows from the outside than sitting on the windowsill. “It won’t be as good, but they will do the job.”  

Hard water stains and the effects of acid rain

Depending on where you live, you may experience the effects of acid rain or hard water deposits -- for example, from garden sprinkler spray that hits the windows. Hard water deposits, which often appear as a white powdery substance, are a challenge to clean. There are cleaning products designed to address mineral/hard water deposits or you can just use more elbow grease.

Acid rain can be damaging to windowpanes and sometimes creates “etching” where dirt can get trapped. If it’s an older window, Agapov recommends taking extra care when there is heavy etching, as the glass may break more easily.

Cleaning screens

Agapov points out that screens should be cleaned more often than windows as they “collect fine dust, mold and pollen ... Take the screens outside and wash them well with water and a soft scrub brush.” 

When to hire a professional to wash your windows

If you simply want to save time and effort or your windows haven’t been cleaned for a very long time, Agapov suggests those are good reasons to hire a professional. “Other reasons would be if they have a lot of old storm windows or there is a lot of climbing involved.” 

Cris Carl writes for 

Updated May 30, 2018.

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