Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Day 46: Cleaning Windows

If you knew my mother, it would come as no surprise that her best frugality tips are all to do with cleaning.  I have been picking her brains this past day or so, and the first tip that came to her mind was to do with the cleaning of windows.

Mother is a fanatical cleaner of windows.  Well, she is a fanatical cleaner all round, but the thing about windows is that they often get overlooked even when the rest of the house is sparkling.  I remember when I lived in a lovely little cottage in the south-west of Scotland.  Knowing that my parents were visiting the next day, I cleaned for all I was worth.  The house was sparkling.  The garden was neat and weed-free.  Even the edges of the lawn were trimmed.  Then, when my mother arrived, she fell into a kind of despondency, for there was nothing for her to do.  Fortunately for her sense of usefulness, she eventually established that I had not washed the windows, and proceeded to do so, and so the proper mother-daughter hierarchy was restored.  I learned from that occasion always to leave one task undone when she was visiting - usually the edges of the lawn!

In my previous house (not the quaint little cottage, but a modern bungalow with huge picture-windows), the window cleaner turned up monthly and charge £8 a time.  It occurs to me therefore, that cleaning the windows oneself would be a good saving.  They don't actually need done monthly in my opinion - the window cleaner was milking it a bit there - but maybe they should be tackled about once every three months. Forget fancy window-cleaning solutions: there is nothing wrong with a sponge, hot water, and good old-fashioned washing up liquid for the initial wipe over, especially for the outside.  If the windows are large, there is probably no alternative to investing in proper window-cleaning sponges- and wipers-on-a-pole, but these have to be cheaper than £8 a month.

Alternatively, I have heard it suggested that you can use windscreen wash as is usually designed for cars.  Seemingly, it is pretty much the same stuff as the kind you buy in spray bottles for glass and mirrors, but much much cheaper.  Dilute according to instructions, and apply as you would soap and water (but maybe wear rubber gloves for this).  I have never actually tried this on windows, but from what it does on cars, I imagine it should dry fairly streak-free, and you may not need to do much more by way of polishing.

However, if you stick to the cheaper water-and-soap method, you will definitely need to do some polishing. For this, my mother swears by a new discovery: the E-cloth, which I can confirm really does work.  But if the budget doesn't quite stretch to this, then there is a yet cheaper solution.  Dilute about 1 part distilled white vinegar in 6-8 parts water (this site has some useful instructions).  Spritz it on the glass with a spray bottle, or just wipe it over with a separate cloth.  Then grab a handful of crumpled newspaper, and dry the window with it.  This was an old trick from my waitressing days that we used to use on the glass doors in the restaurant, and it results it a lovely shiny finish. I was told then that the cleaning effect is due to the ink in the newspaper reacting with the vinegar in some way: I suspect this is nonsense, but it works anyway.  Although be warned: your windows will indeed be lovely and clean, but your hands will be filthy with ink.

Be not like this!
I watched the film, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and gleaned from that that Vermeer's sepia-toned interiors were owing to his unwashed windows.  That was wonderful for Vermeer, and for art in general, but these must must have been seriously filthy windows to get that effect.  As for me, although I never really notice when the windows are a bit grimy, oh my goodness how I notice the difference when they are clean, and the rooms are filled with light.


JohnO said...

Never mind your e-cloth. Poundland is your friend. A pack of 4 micro-fibre cloths for (surprise! surprise!) £1. Excellent for general cleaning and polishing.
In fact, Poundland is worth a visit for a lot of household products.

Jan said...

I was planning on mentioning newspaper and there it was, almost to the end. A splosh of methylated spirits in a bucket of warm water and polished with newspaper is good for very dirty windows too. It dries shiny with no streaks.

My problem is hopper windows which open outwards on a slant with hinge at top. Birds sit on the gutter which is on next floor up and you can guess the rest. I'm on the third floor above the ground so a ladder is not useful. Apartment rules say owners are responsible for all glass in their apartments so obviosly ther's no regular cleaner. I just can't get at them.

Fran said...

Great tip, John - thank you very much. I have only briefly checked out Poundland, and must examine it in more detail.

Jan, thank you too for the methylated spirits tip. Your windows do sound like a real problem, though. I too am on the third floor: the windows are the old-fashioned sash kind, and I can't get at them either. I am afraid I have no solution for you - just sympathy.