Cleaning Hard Surfaces

This article is based on 'Window Cleaning or a Short Treatise on the Noble Art of Cleaning Glass as Commonly Applied to Fenestration' by Richard of Hawkley, c.2014. Version 1.1.2

Although originally a response to a family debate about cleaning windows, the principles described below may probably be applied with success to the cleaning of most hard non-porous surfaces, and hence be a useful addition to this web site.

What makes translucent glass different is that much smaller imperfections become evident when this material is viewed against a light source, so a more thorough approach to cleaning it is required.

Glass may become obscured by deposits of various kinds which must be removed in order to restore it to pristine condition (ignoring any scratches). Some deposits adhere more strongly than others, so a range of different tools and techniques must be brought to bear on them.

EQUIPMENT

Make at least two cleaning cloths. They must be of generous size but no bigger than can be balled up in one hand so as to apply pressure to the glass without any material escaping from your control.

WORKING ON THE EXTERIOR THE BUILDING

1. Use the brush/es and if necessary, soap and water to remove any cobwebs and grime from the brickwork reveal, the window frame and, as an initial treatment, the glass itself.

You will now be able to distinguish deposits on the glass that are adhering more strongly, such as paint and other materials.

2. Use the chisel or razor blade by sliding its bevel along the glass so as to slice off hardened deposits.

3. Remove all easily dissolved foreign matter by rubbing with a wet cloth.

4. Rinse any soap off paintwork with clean water (concentrated soap may attack paint).

5. Use the squeegee and/or cloth to wipe away the bulk of the water from the glass.

Depending on the atmospheric humidity, the glass will dry off more or less rapidly to reveal a thin film of scum and other materials, but note that some moisture remaining on the glass is required for stage six. If these materials are allowed to harden they will be difficult to remove.

Dispense with the gloves for the remaining stages to gain greater sensitivity and control of the cloths.

6. Whilst there is still a visible film of moisture on the glass, all the remaining scum and other materials should be removed by rubbing with a slightly damp cloth.

If the glass is still too wet, the cloth will soon become soaked and just disperse the scum and any other material without removing it. You will then need to partially dry the cloth by wringing it out and airing it for a while before continuing, or replace it.

It may take some practice before you can recognise the optimum level of dampness for the cloth during this final stage of the cleaning. The cloth should offer some resistance to being dragged across the glass. If the cloth is too dry it will lack the required absorbency to pick up the last traces of scum and small fibres, but slide along easily, offering no useful cleaning effect. It may be re-dampened by enveloping it in a wrung-out wet cloth and squeezing and rolling them together. If the glass is drying out too quickly, make the cloth just wet enough to compensate.

If you encounter any persistent material adhering to the glass that you missed earlier, revert to the razor blade and/or the wet cloth to remove it.

WORKING ON THE INTERIOR THE BUILDING

Use a vacuum cleaner for the initial dusting and be more cautious about slopping water about, otherwise follow the guidelines given above.

NOTES

1. It can sometimes be confusing as to which side of the glass a small spot of dirt may be on. Cover the spot with a finger tip, then move your viewpoint to one side. If the spot reappears this shows that the spot must be on the other side of the glass.

2. Tiny scratches on the glass can be mistaken for foreign material adhering but can be distinguished if a finger nail or knife edge rubbed over the place is 'caught' in the scratch.

3. The squeegee blade should have rounded edges. A new, square-edged squeegee blade can be improved by sanding with silicon-carbide coated abrasive paper backed by a flat sanding block. Squeegees sold for cleaning shower enclosures normally have stiffer plastic blades with rounded edges.

4. Rubber gloves with generous cuffs (or gauntlets) help to direct the water down to the ground rather than allowing it to run down your sleeve.

5. Natural fibre cloths, e.g. linen, are more absorbent than synthetic fibres so are more suitable as cleaning cloths. The linen material used in cloths made for drying catering glassware is suitable. The cloths do not have to be particularly clean; they may be stained from previous use but still perfectly useable for this purpose. The level of dampness in the cloth is more critical to dirt and scum removal from hard surfaces than is the general condition of the cloth.

See also:
The Dressing Wax
Cleaning wooden furniture

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