Winter Window Cleaning
Regular window cleaning for both businesses and homes requires operatives to carry out work throughout the year. Adverse weather, particularly in the winter means that sometimes window cleaning needs to be carried out when the weather is harsh. Whether it is cold, raining or windy, here are some tips that should help.
Regardless of whether you are a professional window cleaner, someone who oversees window cleaning at your business premises or you clean your own windows at home we provide tips on clothing, reducing the risk of slipping and help with water when it freezes.
We will consider both traditional window cleaning using a bucket of water and a squeegee, and water fed poles, but first some general points about staying warm and motivated even in the most severe winter weather.
Clothing for cleaning windows in the cold
Keeping warm and dry should be your first priority. Working under harsh weather conditions is always a challenge, but doing so when you are cold and wet isn’t only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. Some problems could be:
Mild hypothermia which is both physically and mentally damaging
Loss of concentration putting you in dangerous situations
Loss of motivation leading to reduced customer satisfaction
Increased susceptibility to colds and flu due to increased stain on your immune system
It is important to wear the right clothes that will keep the rain out and the warmth in, but you should also choose working clothes that let your body breathe, otherwise you will begin to feel hot, sweaty and generally uncomfortable.
Good footwear is also vital, so make sure that your boots are waterproof. They should also have an excellent gripping tread in case you have to deal with ice and snow.
Wear a hat – you lose much of our body heat through you head, so make sure that you wear a hat which should be waterproof while allowing your head to breath.
Don’t forget the gloves – good, warm, waterproof gloves are a must; never even consider working without them.
Avoid excess water
Regardless of whether window cleaning is carried out using traditional methods or water fed poles, when the temperature drops to zero, you should try to minimise the amount of water that you use to avoid any build up of ice. The use of ladders can be particularly treacherous and even slipping over on the ground can result in a broken limb.
Additionally, it’s important that you don’t create a hazard for passers-by.
Stay safe and let your customers know why you won’t be cleaning their windows today
If you provide a window cleaning service consider using safety signage to make people aware there is a risk of slipping and if you do cause a build-up of ice, you could use some salt and sand to help melt it.
If the weather is too bad, you should adopt a realistic approach. Staying safe should be your top priority even if it means delaying work for a better day. Always keep your customers in the loop. Let them know why you won’t be cleaning their windows and reschedule an alternative date.
Traditional window cleaning in the cold
Water freezes at around zero degrees so when the temperature falls below freezing cleaning windows can be particularly challenging.
In really cold weather water can freeze on the window before it is removed using a squeegee, therefore, leaving you with a streak of ice to contend with.
Using warm water or cold water depends on the type of glass and the temperature
Glass is a non-porous material that expands with heat and contracts in the cold. Glass cannot handle too much stress so if it is old and thin and hot water is used it could crack.
With temperatures just above freezing (0 to 5 degrees Celsius) windows with thin glass should be cleaned with cold water. Modern windows with thicker glass can be cleaned using warm water. It will be effective as long as you squeegee the water off the glass quickly and as the water cools it is replaced. That could mean refilling your bucket with warm water every 5 to 10 minutes.
With temperatures below freezing (< 0 degrees Celsius), consider adding something to the water.
Add windshield washer fluid to your water
Windscreen washer fluid such as some of these contains methanol, effective antifreeze that will reduce the freezing point of your water significantly. Adding it to your water will allow you to continue to work even when the temperature is low. The amount you need will vary, but don’t add excess. Just add it when you need it and make sure that you work within the MSDS guidelines as methanol is potentially toxic. A better approach when you want to keep your water free uncontaminated is to add windscreen washer fluid directly to your strip washer from a bottle.
Use salty water
Salt is also an effective way of reducing the freezing point. Just add a quarter of a cup of salt to your bucket and stir until dissolved. Just 30 grams of salt will reduce the freezing point of one litre of water by nearly 2 C.
Vinegar and water is an effective traditional window cleaning solution used frequently for internal window cleaning. It also has a lower freezing point and can be an effective and safer solution than windscreen washer fluid when the temperature is only just on or slightly below freezing point. Use only pure distilled white vinegar.
Water-fed poles window cleaning in the cold
With water fed poles you don’t have the option of using chemicals to lower the freezing point, so you need to avoid water freezing on the glass. Ideally, where possible, you should avoid cleaning windows when the building isn’t internally heated, but with modern triple glazing, the outer pane could be sub-zero even when inside the building is warm.
The main danger is water freezing in your water-fed pole equipment. Prevention is always better than cure so when the weather forecast predicts freezing temperatures; bring your equipment indoors to prevent it from freezing. Your RO unit is particularly at risk as the delicate membrane is susceptible to damage from the cold.
If you keep your equipment in a van, then investing in a heating system is recommended. There are several options and the best solution will depend on your particular circumstances.
Cleaning windows in the rain
There is no reason why you should avoid cleaning the windows in the rain. In the days before the clean air act when the air was contaminated with pollutants that might have been the case but today, except in exceptional circumstances, rain in the UK has fewer contaminants than ordinary tap water.
When it’s raining so hard that working becomes dangerous, then you just need to be philosophical about it and wait until it stops raining.
Cleaning windows in the wind
The wind is particularly hazardous for traditional window cleaning using ladders. They shouldn’t be used in strong or gusting wind conditions, so don’t be tempted.
Water fed poles are difficult to handle and potentially dangerous in windy conditions. It is generally recommended that they shouldn’t be used in wind speeds greater than 25 mph.
When working on a windy day a general tip is to work in the same direction as the wind so that you avoid spraying windows you have already cleaned.