« How to make a cedar strip door mat | Main | Gifts for Virgo »

August 25, 2007

How to wash windows the professional way

Glass Ho! 

Insider tips for sparkly windows - WATCH the TOOLGIRLVIDEO of this amazing technique!

Mag_small Did you know that there are world class window-cleaning conventions where people compete in speed trials to see who can squeegee a window fastest?  They're clocking under 30 seconds for a big store window.  Sweet.

If you're like most of us, you're using Window Washing Option A from the list below.  If you're a hot-dogger, you might  find yourself in the Option C category.

Option A

Some people use paper towels, ammonia-based cleaners and an old-fashioned lubricant called ‘elbow-grease’. However, rubbing a window with paper towels puts a static charge on the glass and then it’s dirty again as soon as you’re finished. Where does this register on the Handyperson’s Emotional Scale? Somewhere around “Just shoot me”.

 Option B

You can pay a professional window-washing company to make your glass sparkly. Attractive young men with rippling musculature will swarm over your home for several hours. It may be worth it, especially if you live with your mother-in-law and she needs entertaining. Encourage her to pass snacks to the young men and yell, “Nice glass!”

Option C

Refuse to give those window-washing fellows all of the arm-sculpting opportunities. Invest about $40 and set yourself up for a lifetime of fun and deltoids that are perfectly al dente.

Here are some tips to get a fast, flawless, professional sheen on your windows.   


Stuff You’ll Need


GOOD squeegee – cheap ones suck because they streak

'Strip scrubber' or natural sponge

Extension pole

Razor-blade scraper

0000 steel wool

Clean, lint-free rags

Dawn dishwashing detergent


Rubbing alcohol


TIP:  Buy a high-quality squeegee ($20 - the solid brass ones are great) and a wooly strip      applicator/scrubber ($20). If your house has multi-pane windows, buy one smaller squeegee (to fit either the horizontal or vertical dimension of the small panes).

  1. Pick a dull day; direct sunlight produces streaking. Streaking is not our friend unless it happens during a tennis match.
  2. Concoct the pro’s secret mixture: To a bucket of warm water add a generous squirt (1 teaspoon) of dishwashing detergent – Dawn is best – plus optional boosters; 1 cup of rubbing alcohol for greasy or cigarette-smoky windows; ¼ cup of ammonia for bird turd or pet saliva; 1 cup of vinegar for extra cutting power.
  3. Now, dip the wooly strip applicator into the bucket.
  4. Scrub the window thoroughly (it’s easier with an extension pole).
  5. Next, with one end of your squeegee, clear a narrow (approximately 2”) strip of glass, either across the top, or down one side. Wipe the blade with a clean, dry lint-free rag.
  6. Place your squeegee blade in the dry zone and drag it either horizontally or vertically to clear a swath of wet glass.  Wipe the blade again.
  7. Place your squeegee back in the 2-inch dry strip and make a second pass, overlapping the first pass by a few inches.
  8. When the whole window is clean, wipe away residual water at the sides and bottom of the window using a clean rag.
  9. Repeat on the inside.
  10. For sticky residue or stains, scrub with wetted superfine “0000” steel wool
  11. Lift sap and paint overspray with a razor blade scraper – always use scrapers on WET glass to prevent scratching.
  12. For stubborn mineral deposits (droplet-shaped white stains near the bottom of windows),      make a paste of water and Bar Keepers Friend (available at Williams-Sonoma for $4.50), which contains oxalic acid. Scrub the stains off. Rinse and squeegee TWICE to remove Bar Keepers Friend residue.
  13. Feel the amazement of how fast this is going. Note your rock-hard triceps.
  14. For second story windows, a telescoping extension pole will provide you with extra reach and Happy Gilmore’s self-esteem.


Elsa Obuchowski

Dear Mag, This sounds great until you realize that the "clean, lint-free rag" is no longer clean after the first swipe or two. Also, my windows have 12 panes each, not counting the double-hung storm windows that stay on all year. I figure it would take me about 1/2 hr to clean one window inside and out by your technique. If I clean one window a day, with weekends off, the project will take about a month. Oh, and then I have to skip sunny days, right? Maybe I should just hire the guys with the rippling muscles?


Just a question about the boosters that you suggested adding to the water. (I like that you are suggesting everyday substances, rather than heavy duty, more toxic, cleaners one could buy. Readily available, inexpensive AND less toxic!) Do you add them all, or just some of them, depending on the issue? For instance, if I have grease and bird turd issues? I know that mixing some substances can be toxic, so I'm wondering.


Hi there,
I use all of the boosters! The toxic household chemical combo that everyone will warn you about is bleach and ammonia. Never put those two together. But all of my boosters are safe in combination. Have fun.


Mag, thanks for the laughs and great advice on cleaning windows like a professional. LOL

Watching your video was a great way to end the day.

Michigan USA


Doesn’t using both the the ammonia and the vinegar boosters cancel each other out?
you can see the "real" international window cleaning competition at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuZyPLQ4RXc

Window cleaning services London

This post is very informative. I like pics shared by author in this blog. I am looking forward for your new updates.

Andy Wilson

Lina office cleaning

This is an excellent example of how window cleaning can be done effectively.

Thanks a lot for sharing!
This is definitely worth digging.

Double Glazing Pershore

The better method is to simply wet your squeegee before you start. Your first stroke should be horizontal at the very top of the window. Wipe off your squeegee, and pull down from the dry part. When you get to the bottom, use another horizontal stroke, and then you will only have to wipe one corner with a cloth.


Thanks for the tip Double Glazing Pershore. That's really helpful.


Still trying to improve my outdoor technique(still getting lots of streaks for some reason), but I have to wonder how in the world one can use this technique indoors without making a mess of your carpet or walls under the windows???

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • Get ToolGirl's Newsletter
  • Watch ToolGirl's videos


  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest

Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie