by Mark Strange, Beautiful View — The Window Cleaning Store
Window cleaners that work in the colder U.S. states and Canada are somewhat limited when it comes to working in the winter. Many window cleaning companies will try to secure a certain amount of regular commercial storefront work, which can keep them busy during the colder months. Residential window cleaning, however, has generally been a hard sell in the winter, although some window cleaners sell winter cleanings to residential customers on just the main rooms where they entertain during the winter season.
I personally have never cleaned when it was colder than about 5°F (-15°C). That said, I know several commercial/storefront window cleaners who regularly work in temperatures as low as -10°F.
The good thing about winter is that most cleaners are less busy and can often push the extremely cold work off until a nicer, warmer day. But sometimes an emergency job comes up where they’ve got to push themselves to “get-r-done” in very uncomfortable temps. For those situations, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Using Antifreeze: To adapt to the cold, most window cleaners will add winter washer fluid or methanol (the anti-freezing component in washer fluid) to prevent the water from freezing. Every year I get asked, “How much antifreeze should I use?” The answer: it depends. There are too many variables to answer that specifically. The short answer is “add until the water no longer freezes.” What will make the difference from day to day is whether it’s sunny out, wind conditions, the actual temperature of the glass (if it’s a well-heated building), etc. Window cleaners who start later in the day can also probably use less antifreeze in their solution.
Cleaning Methodology: When cleaning in cold temperatures, window cleaners usually have to change their cleaning method a bit. Working faster will help them clear the glass of water before it has a chance to frost over or freeze. Also, much larger windows – like those found at car dealerships – may need to be cleaned in multiple stages. If you wet the entire window, it’ll more than likely frost up by the time your squeegee gets to the bottom. It’s better to divide the window in half, mop/squeegee then do the lower half.
Using Waterfed Poles: Technically speaking, you can use waterfed poles in temperatures hovering just over the freezing mark. That said, there are other important things to consider. Will my pure water system run well at such cold temps? Will the water running off onto the ground freeze up later, resulting in a dangerous, slippery condition around my customer’s property? It’s probably best to look at the long-range forecast and plan your waterfed work in the middle of a warm spell.
Dressing Appropriately: Staying warm is important when cleaning in the winter, and it’s particularly important to keep your hands warm despite the water and the elements. Everyone has a preference between gloves and mitts. The benefit of mitts is that the fingers stay close to each other which helps them stay warmer. However, many need to remove their mitts when detailing with a towel. Gloves can give you better dexterity, but generally don’t keep your hands as warm. Most suppliers carry both and include waterproof and water-resistant varieties. For those seeking a warmer solution, you can also buy those hand warmer packs. The top brands of hand warmer inserts usually stay hot for about seven hours. In the end, keeping your hands dry will go a long way to staying warm. Better to always have a spare pair of mitts/gloves on hand that you can swap out during the day.
About the Author
Mark Strange, aka “Mark the Window Cleaner,” started cleaning windows in 2007. Over the years he has produced well over 100 window cleaning videos including the popular Tool Talk series on WCR and his own ‘how to’ window cleaning DVD. Since late 2013, he has been the owner/operator of Beautiful View The Window Cleaning Store in Toronto, Canada.