Home Guru: The Practicality and Psychology of Having Clean Windows

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera – When is someone going to invent the self-cleaning window and take it to Shark Tank? After all, we have the self-cleaning oven, don’t we?
Of all the chores I’ve considered doing myself as a homeowner, window cleaning has never been among them, not in two New York City apartments (impossible to do a picture window anyway from the 14th floor), two homes in the country and now in a fifth-floor condo. I always thought that cleaning my own windows was too big a job for me, especially in my old, big colonial where there were 22 windows, all of which had storm windows, which I kept on all year long. So actually, that made both sides of 44 windows to be cleaned.
Some of the windows, dating back to the mid-1700s, had windows with small panes, making it extra difficult to get into all the extra corners. Colonials had small windows because the production of large glass panes was not yet figured out and, as a consequence, had less exposure to the cold. But today with energy efficient windows, the entire outside can be opened to the world, depending on how much of it you want to see. And you can see more of it through clean glass.
If you are more a do-it-yourselfer than I, the chore is made easier by the newer tilt-in windows that allow you to clean the outside glass from the inside.
Other than the practical side of cleaning windows, there should also be a psychological boost in being able to see more clearly. The rooms are brighter and you feel clean all over.
What causes windows to get dirty in the first place? It’s just natural weathering that will cause grime to build up.
For homeowners, clean windows make a property much more inviting, helping to create a positive first impression for house guests. Additionally, if you are about to venture into the realty market, clean windows are a must in demonstrating good upkeep.
Cleaning windows is also a maintenance issue, removing environmental contaminants like acid rain, hard water and oxidation – all corrosive contaminants – which extends the windows’ life span.
When cleaned properly, windows are made more efficient. Dirt and grime can build up to the point where it interferes with the sun’s natural warming action during the winter months. Oxidation and weathering around window frames can ruin window seals and cause air leaks, fogging and condensation that has negative implications for energy bills and mold issues. Also, dirt and dead bugs can collect on sills over time, preventing proper closing action.
Here are some useful techniques for cleaning windows:
• Wash one side of a window with horizontal strokes and the other side with vertical strokes so you can pinpoint which side of the window has streaks.
• Use a squeegee on a long handle or a sponge/squeegee combination to prevent streaks on large windows.
• Eliminate tiny scratches on glass by polishing the affected areas with toothpaste.
• Washing windows should be done on a cloudy day, because direct sunlight dries cleaning solutions before you can polish the glass properly.
• Use a soft toothbrush or cotton swab to clean corners.
• For extra shine to window glass, polish it with well-washed cotton T-shirts or old cloth diapers. Or rub a clean blackboard eraser over a freshly washed and dried window to give it a diamond-bright shine.
• Polish windows to a sparkling shine with crumpled newspaper. The paper also leaves a film that’s resistant to dirt.
• Wash windows from the top down to prevent drips.
• R¬ememb¬er that window cleaners pose a threat to woodwork. Don’t let them drip on the windowsill where they can harm the paint or varnish.
¬Don’t want to spend money on a glass cleaner? Home recipes work just as well as commercial products for washing windows. Try this recipe for a homemade glass cleaner:
• Use two tablespoons of ammonia, a half-cup of rubbing alcohol and a quarter teaspoon of dishwashing detergent.
• Add all ingredients to a small spray bottle, then fill the bottle with water and shake well. You can substitute three tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice for the ammonia.
• Use as you would any commercial window cleaner.
Whatever the view from any window, you’ll enjoy it better when it’s cleaner.
Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® affiliated with Coldwell Banker and a lifestyles journalist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. Visit his website at: and, if you would like to consult with him about buying or selling a home, contact him directly at 914-522-2076.


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