Spring is here and along with it comes that dreaded ritual of “spring cleaning.” Oh there’s no denying that there are some perks, like finding that long-lost lip gloss you love hidden beneath the winter socks. (Don’t ask.) But for the most part, spring cleaning is just too much to bear. It’s not that we don’t adore a sparkling clean, great-smelling home; it’s just that the to-do list is overwhelming. What with the closets to go through, draperies to clean, carpets to shampoo… Oh and did we mention the windows?
Scared? Don’t be. In fact, consider starting with those windows, because once they’re done, you’ll feel so good that the rest of your spring cleaning will be a breeze. Really. Trust us. All you need are some quality tools and these handy how-tos.
Gather Your Tools
First, gather everything you need: a vacuum cleaner and attachments, toothbrush, rubber gloves, bucket, quality squeegee with a sharp rubber blade, natural sponge, warm water, dish soap, vinegar, and black and white newspaper or a non-lint towel. One hint on the squeegee—if you are purchasing one for the first time, a 10- to 12-inch squeegee is the easiest to maneuver.
Do the Right Prep Work
Start with the vacuum cleaner and toothbrush to remove all of the grit from the windowsill and tracks. First open the windows wide and loosen debris stuck in the tracks with a dry toothbrush. Use the vacuum hose to suction along the inside edges of the windowsill. If you have tilt-in windows, first slide them upward to clean the track. Then close the window and tilt it inward and vacuum along the edges. From the outside of the house, use a broom to sweep dirt from the corners and windowsill.
As you work, take time to search the windows for residue, cracks, scratches, stains or items such as stucco or silicone that can’t be easily removed. Do not use a knife or razor to remove stuck-on grit. Both tools scratch glass. Instead, opt for a window scraper and be gentle.
Once the windows are prepped, it’s time to mix a gallon of warm water with a teaspoon of dish detergent and a cup of vinegar. Professional window cleaners prefer grease-cutting dish soaps because they remove grease from windows just like they do from pans. By adding vinegar to the mixture, you ensure that the windows will shine clear and bright. If you prefer, you can use two separate solutions: a soapy solution to wash the window, followed by a vinegar-and-water solution to make the window shine.
Tricks of the Trade
Before you begin to wash, make sure that you’re approaching this task on a cloudy day; sun will create streaks. Always start with the dirtiest side of the window (usually the outside). Dip your sponge into the soap solution and squeeze it loosely to remove some of the water. Using the sponge, scrub the edges of the window and corners, working toward the center and rinsing the sponge as needed. As you work, be cautious of cracks and window damage. Do not apply too much pressure to the window as you scrub.
If the edges and corners are especially grimy, put your toothbrush back to work. Once you’ve removed all dirt from the window, it’s time to dry it. Place the squeegee at the top left corner of the window and drag it horizontally across the window from left to right. When you reach the window frame, remove the squeegee from the window and wipe the blade clean with a lint-free towel. Continue wiping the window in horizontal strokes, from left to right, making sure to slightly overlap each swipe.
Once you reach the bottom of the window pane, use the lint-free towel to carefully dry all the window’s edges. Then stand back and look for streaks. To remove streaks, rub wadded-up newsprint or lint-free towels in circular motions over the streak.
When you move to the other side of the window, make sure you pull the squeegee down the windows in vertical strokes. By using different strokes on each side, you will be able to identify which side has streaks, if they should appear.
Now, let the sun shine in.
• No lint-free towels? Try a coffee filter.
• Something stuck? An old pair of tweezers can pry hard-to-remove dirt free and even help repair window screens.
• Still have streaks? Colored newsprint can leave streaks on glass. Only use black-and-white newspaper.
• Hinges and locks still dirty? Try using a cotton swab.