Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cleaning windows

I'm on holidays on Saltspring, but yup, those windows needed to be cleaned. Twice. Photo by John.

My first go-round with Windex left us looking through smeary glass. I tried again with vinegar and water. Photo by John. 

When we were children, one of the most dreaded slips of paper we could draw from mom’s Saturday job jar was “clean windows.” A laborious, skin-crawly task was ahead, involving making a paste from Bon Ami window-cleaning powder, smearing it on the glass, waiting for it to dry, then using cloths to rub off the swirls of flaky white stuff. The dried powder was the worst part; it sucked the moisture out of your skin, leaving your hands dry as desiccated coconut. My sister Diane even invented a word for the sensation: it was, she said, “gitchy.”

 Spray-on window cleaners had arrived by the time I had my own windows to clean – and how easy and pain-free they seemed by comparison. Stand back, spray and wipe, and move on!  I knew about water and vinegar, of course, but those purchasable bottles of spray-on ease seemed so much less trouble.

Until last week. The ocean-view side of our house on Saltspring is nearly all windows, so when they’re dirty, it’s noticeable.  I ignored the problem as long as I could, but finally I had to haul out the Windex. Partway through the spraying and wiping that followed, though, I had a hint that all was not well.

Instead of the usual clear fluid, easily wiped up, I was getting bubbles, as if soap had been added. The solution foamed and smeared and the glass took longer than usual to wipe dry. Maybe they’ve improved the formula, I thought – these companies are always innovating.

When I finally stood back to survey my afternoon’s work, I was horrified. The windows were streaked. Every movement of the cleaning cloth was visible on some, as if I’d lightly smeared them with oil. I thought I must be over-reacting – maybe it was a trick of the light; maybe it was always this way and I’d never noticed.

 I lived with my annoying "clean" windows for as long as I could, but one day, I started thinking about water and vinegar. What would happen if I applied that old-fashioned solution?  I experimented on one pane. The smears disappeared. A second afternoon of holiday window-washing followed.

According to the Internet, I’m not the only one complaining that our longtime trusty window-cleaning agent is suddenly leaving streaks instead of crystal clarity. I didn’t dig deep enough to ferret out the company’s response; I really don't care. From now on, I’ll be mixing up my own water-and-vinegar solution. A little more work than buying a ready-made bottle, but far easier than my childhood cleaning routine. It won't leave smears, and it won’t be gitchy.

When a house has this many windows, they'd better be clean.

Vinegar and water will keep the view clear from now on.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, we discovered that vinegar and water works best. We have our townhouse windows in Palm Springs done by this incredible guy who does the most amazing job. Our neighbours who do everything themselves get him to do the windows. I must take photos of his equipment. The most impressive thing he has is this big towel like thing. It picks up every last little streak. And he cleans the runnels on the sliding doors.