photo by @ctcwindows
Why do my windows look smeared after cleaning?
There’s nothing more beautiful to a window cleaner than basking in a freshly cleaned, crystal-clear, shimmering window in the sunlight. But sometimes, when the squeegee is being nestled back into its bucket for the next job up, a hideous smear can catch the eye of the window cleaner, forcing them to take out their gear and reapproach cleaning and detailing the same window again.
This window cleaner may be thinking:
“I’ve got all the right tools, soap, and knowledge, and have been at this forever! What gives?”
Well window cleaner, there is always something new to learn in the vast world of window cleaning. Which is why in this week’s Window Cleaner University article, we’ll talk all about why your windows look smeared after cleaning them, and what you can do to alleviate this “pane in the glass”!
Too Much Soap in the Solution
Have you ever heard the phrase “too much of a good thing”? Well, window cleaner, this can absolutely apply to your soap solution. Your windows could be looking murky because you're using way too much of the good stuff. When it comes to concentrate, a little goes a long way, even if you’re using regular dish soap. This is because soap contains oils that attract dirt and grime within its pores, making it stick to the window and cause visible markings when rubbed. This makes it so you can’t see this dirt unless smeared around during a cleaning session. Adding more water than you normally would to your cleaning solution can help reduce or completely remove the amount of smearing you’re getting when cleaning, bringing the joy back into the job at hand.
Although sticky silicone can sometimes go unnoticed, window cleaners everywhere definitely know the feeling of this tacky substance ruining their work. Silicone can be a top-offender in getting in the way of obtaining sparkling-clean windows. Now, where does this nuisance come from? Well, silicone can come from many places. The first area of suspicion for depositing silicone is from poorly laid silicone caulk. Silicone caulk could have been used inside or outside to seal out leaks and drafts, and is fairly common for homeowners to lay it down themselves. Running a bead of caulk requires a long, narrow strip of the substance all along the seam of the windows, and takes a degree of skill to lay down. Unfortunately, not all homeowners have a surgeon’s hand, and can get the caulk on the frame where it can then trickle onto the glass. To remedy this issue, taking a magic eraser to a silicone smear caused by any of these issues can help alleviate its unsightly marks, and make your customers’ windows shine like new again. Believe it or not, despite how soft the magic eraser feels, it has tiny abrasive particles all throughout it, making it a gentle yet effective scrubber for these kinds of marks. A silicone smear can also occur after a poorly done construction clean that didn’t get rid of all of the debris that came from it, and could require an aggressive scrubbing from steel wool, a walnut pad, a white pad, or another more aggressive type of abrasive scrubber.
Your Trusty Towel
Sometimes, the wrongdoer causing a smeared-looking window could actually be at the tips of your fingers. Your trusty huck towel can sometimes be the one causing these splotches on your customers’ windows. This can be due to many reasons. One is that the towels aren’t clean themselves. If you’re using the same huck towel you used on the last job, or even the last several windows, it may be time to switch it out for a clean one. These towels are super absorbent, as you know, and can keep absorbing liquids for a long time. With that being said, it’s not always wise to do this, because they can absorb all of the dirt-drawing soap scum that you’ve been wiping off the bottom of your squeegee and transfer it to the windows when you’re wiping those last details away. Keep a handful of towels in your truck, and a few of them in your toolbox. That way, you can even separate them for different tasks, using one for wiping your squeegee and the corners of the frames, and one for detailing glass only. Then, the glass will be clearer and the window cleaner much happier.
Another solution to this issue if the huck towel hasn’t been working for you is to get yourself a chamois or scrim. For the ultimate detailing, these towels are made with finer materials, making them better for wiping away smears when they occur. Chamois is the inner split of a sheep’s skin and has excellent water retention for all-day usage. On the other hand, scrim is made of Irish linen, and is also extremely absorbent. This, however, is more fibrous than the chamois, making it more abrasive, too, if you’re looking to detail away clingy filth on the glass. Both of these towels, plus, having a few huck or even terry cloth towels on hand, will make detailing smears off of the glass so much easier. Variety is the spice of life, and that saying does not stray away from window cleaning towels!
Sometimes, when all other variables have been eliminated, you must look carefully at your own technique. The squeegee is a unique tool that takes care to manipulate properly to get the most beautiful results you can for your customer, and practice makes perfect. If you find that your squeegee technique is causing smudges, perhaps you are using too much pressure. If your hand is either too close or too far from the glass, the different angle or changing your style of fanning can be the cause. Are you wiping your blade after performing your straight pulls or fanning? If you are not wiping off the excess soap solution from your squeegee blade, you may be causing smears, too. By wiping your blade regularly, you’ll be able to remove the excess soapy water that is left on it after detailing your frame. Otherwise, soap buildup can happen on the squeegee rubber. Once the soap buildup dries, it becomes tacky, leaving sticky smudges on the glass that, in turn, become smears when you attempt to wipe them away normally. These must be buffed out with something like a dampened natural sea sponge or an abrasive. Adding water to the smudged part and polishing it away with a chamois, scrim, sea sponge, cellulose sponge, or even a microfiber towel can remove it from the glass, leaving it beautiful again. But of course, taking preventative measures and practicing your technique by hand and pole on your off-time can help your work days flow much faster when you won’t have to clean up after yourself.
On the window cleaning market, there are many outstanding tools and chemicals that can help you prevent smears and smudges on the glass. For instance, the Winsol Windows APC-120 Soap and Wetting Agent is a professional window washing concentrate with a natural lemon fragrance that leaves a pleasant odor and helps your glide. This is designed to eliminate drag, stays wet longer, and increases dwell time during cleaning. You can add this product to your normal solution, and it should increase the slip-factor, making it easier to coast across. On the other hand, utilizing Cliche Chemicals Hi Slide can help increase your glidability. Despite this being popular for using on high-temperature days and in direct sunlight, this can also work if you’re experiencing a lot of drag when squeegeeing. Like the Winsol APC-120, it extends water evaporation time, in turn allowing more time to work. It also eliminates blade chatter and reduces wear on your blade, increasing its lifespan over time.
Are smudges and smears causing you tears? Well window cleaner, have no fear! There are so many variables that affect how our glass comes out, which when flipped to a positive, means there are so many ways to learn how to alleviate them. If something isn’t working for you, take the time to try something else. Once you attempt everything, you’ll realize what a master you have become, and can eventually pass this wisdom onto the next window cleaner experiencing the same growing pains.
Still Have Questions?
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