photo by Austin Grubbs
What do window washers use on tall buildings?
The window cleaning industry is rich in variety. This is because there are so many different methods to clean windows, and people worldwide have developed their own styles and techniques to streamline and optimize the craft. The most popular forms of cleaning tall buildings are through high-rise or water fed.
Throughout history, high-rise window cleaning has been infamous for being a somewhat risky, albeit rewarding, enterprise. The bravest of the brave have been fastening themselves to rooftops of skyscrapers for decades, climbing down the building frames for office workers to gawk at, all while scaling the skyline, squeegee proudly in hand. However, although traditional, noble, and exciting, high-rise window cleaning has met its match over the years with the popularization of water fed window cleaning. Allowing you to clean effectively up to 90 feet in the air, all with feet firmly planted on the ground, many window cleaners have switched over to this safer, more secure method of cleaning, achieving the same shimmering-clean results.
But, for adrenaline lovers, high-rise window cleaning still goes strong and is a super effective form of getting the job done. Whether you prefer to be up in the air or planted on the earth, you’ll need the tools of the trade, which vary from high to low!
So, in this week’s Window Cleaner University article, we’ll discuss what window cleaners use on tall buildings, whether they’re flying high or scrubbing down.
Scaling to Success
High-rise window cleaning is one of the most invigorating career paths in the service industry and became essential in the late 19th century when skyscrapers began sprouting up in New York City. It seems almost like you need superpowers to be able to do it, not to mention a lot of luck. Well, window cleaners, there is some of that required. But, the industry has developed OSHA-compliant tools that have exceeded the weight a window cleaner would carry and are incredibly safe to utilize. Highrise window cleaners trust simple rope, carabiners, bosun chairs, and more daily. As well as these particular items, in-depth training must be done to ensure the psyche of the window cleaner is prepared to handle the equipment and the mind-boggling heights.
#1 Anchors / Roof Rigs
Featuring the capacity to hold weight and withstand pressure, high-rise sliding and I-beam anchors are essential to make sure you’re secured to the rooftop of a skyscraper. These are an aspect of the fall-protection system designed to stop window cleaners from hitting the ground if they fall from the window frame. These anchors are temporary or moveable and designed to connect to a building using beam sliders, clamps, or other devices.
Rigs, modernly rolling roof rigs, are safe, durable, and welded for maximum strength to hold up window cleaners and their equipment from rooftops. They are often constructed with aluminum and stainless steel beams as well as stainless steel quick-connect pins for fast assembly. These rigs are known for their easy and quick assembly plus ease of moving to the location. To help work around obstacles on the roof, the lower stabilization beams can easily detach and reattach in seconds. In addition, all joints are trussed and welded for the greatest stability, maintaining the window cleaner’s peace of mind.
Other anchors, lanyards, and descenders are essential for this thrilling yet extremely cautious job.
A bosun’s chair, otherwise known as a boatswain’s chair, is a flat apparatus used to suspend a window cleaner from rope access to perform their duties. Many feature waist harnesses, steel snaps, tool holders, and belts. Some even have padded cushions for added support and comfort. Furthermore, parapet gliders, steel spring snaps, and even back pads can be included for extra stability. It is all up to the window cleaner’s preference what kind of chair to use, as Sky Genie and MIO are both OSHA compliant.
#3 Safety Harnesses
Full-body harnesses are also vital to this exhilarating profession. Being strapped in for safety and hooked up to your chair and rig is essential and is what safety harnesses cover. They also help distribute forces generated during a fall over the thighs, pelvis, chest, and shoulders to save you from injury. Think of these as a seatbelt but for your whole body. Generally, these are lightweight and crafted to resist tangles and snags with durable material. All straps are adjustable, allowing you to find your perfect fit while feeling the wind on your body. Some harnesses even feature pouches for towels and tools. They usually feature buckles or D-rings and often come in various sizes.
#4 Descenders / Rope Grabs
Descent Devices and Rope Grabs need each other to work effectively for high-rise window cleaning. Constructed from the most durable materials on the market, they are ICWA I-14 compliant and available in various shapes and sizes. The user can accelerate or stop the descent and remain suspended by applying pressure. In addition, some have safety mechanisms that halt the descender when a fall occurs.
Rope grabs come in either cable or lanyard style. Most often, rope grabs feature shock absorbers and hooks and must meet ANSI and OSHA requirements. These provide fall protection to workers ascending or descending various vertical structures, keeping them safe and secure.
Rope or descent line often has a continuous filament polyester core braided over a unidirectional nylon core for optimal strength and sturdiness. In this industry, rope is usually abrasion, chemical, and UV-resistant, keeping the user safe from rips or tears. This type of rope is not only tough but soft and flexible, too, so it can withstand threading through the descenders often. In addition, this rope can handle a ton of weight, some with the strength to carry up to 5,000 lbs. So window cleaners, make sure to eat a hearty breakfast before descending to your work; the rope can handle it!
Carabiners have the strength to hold you up while attaching loops on your rope as you ascend and descend to shine up and beautify skyscrapers. Many of them have 50 kilonewtons or can hold 11,000 lbs of weight. In addition, these carabiners are equipped with a keylock system to prevent snags and burnishing. ANSI-approved, these carabiners have been constructed to keep you safe.
#7 Suction Cups, Helmets, Belts, and More
Extra accessories such as suction cups, helmets, and tool belts can help you tackle the enticing enterprise while keeping even more safety in mind.
Cleaning from the Ground-Up with Water Fed
Water fed window cleaning is a perfect example of a young industry with rapidly growing innovations and technologies. This window cleaning method is safer and just as effective as high-rise, with the products improving constantly. Water-fed window cleaning benefits are bountiful, and it’s an easy way to gain a spot-free, streak-free clean. Water fed is versatile, too, as you can clean windows, awnings, solar panels, and more.
#1 Water Fed Poles
Water fed poles have come a long way. Throughout time they’ve been constructed with aluminum or low-grade plastics. Nowadays, the highest-quality carbon fiber, Ultra High Modulus Carbon Fiber, and other grades of this excellent, sturdy material, are used to make the poles long-lasting, super stiff, and durable to withstand any damage. In addition, these unique poles can be extended or collapsed for convenience while working and while transporting them. The current leader in the water fed pole industry, XERO, has a carbon fiber pole type, length, and thickness level for all kinds of water fed jobs. They even have a pole that goes up to 90 feet in the air, the XERO Destroyer. Attach your water fed brush, feed the hose through the pole from your purification system, and scrub away. Soap isn’t even required for water fed window cleaning, which also adds to its convenience!
#2 Water Fed Pole Brushes
Water fed pole brushes for window cleaning come in a variety of types. Some feature pencil jets, some fan jets, and some both! Many also feature silky smooth nylon bristles for gently removing soil from the glass. In addition, thick and abrasive boar’s hair is used on these brushes. You can either purchase a boar’s hair brush on its own or a hybrid version that has both boar’s hair and nylon bristles to get the most even clean possible. Furthermore, some of these brushes come with or can have a rinse bar added to them along with a swiveling gooseneck, so you can rinse away the dirt with ease, all while attacking different edges and angles of the window.
#3 Pure Water Systems
Pure water systems are self-explanatory: they purify water through either single or multi-stage filtration systems. Single-stage systems feature DI filtration, while multi-stage systems feature DI and RO filtration. DI Resin, RO Membranes, Carbon/Sediment filters, housings, and many more components are involved in purifying water for zeroing out the TDS, or the total dissolved solids, that cause the water to be murky. These systems have been streamlined to be easy to transport, many featuring wheels, handles, or simply by being lightweight. The kind of system you’ll need depends on the hardness of the water in your area. The higher the TDS reading, the more filtration you’ll need. These systems can end up paying themselves off from the amount and variety of work you’ll be able to get with them.
If the water pressure in your area isn’t enough to get your water from the system to the top of your pole to effectively clean, water fed pumps can help you gain the extra power you need to reach for the window cleaning stars.
#5 Hose and Hose Reels
In water-fed window cleaning, you'll need two kinds of hose: a nice and long standard garden hose with a sturdy reel to pair with it and a 5/16” polyurethane hose to thread through your pole up to your brush head. You'll also need quick connections and hose connections that make piecing this equipment together easy and efficient.
#6 Goosenecks, Pole Tips, and other Accessories
Goosenecks, pole tips, and other accessories can help you adjust your angles, use different kinds of brushes, or easily switch between two or more cleaning devices at once when cleaning by water fed. Euro or acme threaded tips allow for other brands of brushes with alternative bristles to be used. However, to make things even easier, the XERO Fast Lock system lets you use just one kind of tip if convenience and ease of use is what you're looking for. When screwed onto all of your brushes, this tool's brush attachment makes it simple to swap out brushes with a push of a button rather than screwing and unscrewing. It can help the cleaning time fly by, and save you from the frustration of swapping pole tips, too.
Whether you have a risk-taking spirit or prefer to wield a powerful pole and purification system, cleaning windows on tall buildings is a fruitful and rewarding career path to pursue. There are so many styles and techniques that you can put your own spin on and a plethora of equipment out there to ensure you’re safe and secure while working. No matter which route you decide to take, always remember that WCR has got your back and has you covered.
Still Have Questions?
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