Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Clear Choice

This morning I'd planned to mow the lawn instead of going to the gym, but when I woke up the grass was wet, and the forecast called for clouds and a chance of rain. Instead of being disappointed, I took advantage of the gloomy weather to wash the windows, a job that was long past due.

We have a LOT of windows in the house...31 to be exact. There are six in the kitchen, five in the family room, and two each in the living and dining room. Upstairs, there are five in the master bedroom, two in the master bath, two in each of the bigger bedrooms, and one in the fourth. Then there's the decorative window on the second story that looks into the foyer, two in the finished part of the basement and two typical basement windows in the office. There's also some glass that isn't in windows. Several of the doors have glass inserts, and the front entrance has sidelight windows on either side. Oh, and there's the skylight in the kitchen ceiling.

Our house is a typical two story, but since it has a walkout basement, the back windows are in effect on the third floor. Some of the windows are easy to get to--you can stand on the deck and wash the kitchen windows or walk out to the front porch to do the living room and dining room ones. A few of the windows take a bit more work--if you climb out a front bedroom window you can stand on the porch roof and clean. (The roof has a slight slope, but as long as you pay attention to what you're doing it's ok.) The rest of the windows? It takes a ladder bigger than anything we have, or the ability to sit on the windowsill with your legs inside and your body outside. Not a job for wimps!

I cleaned the main level windows back in the fall, but the others hadn't been touched in more than a year. The first step was to assemble my tools: a bucket of water with glass cleaner, a rag to wash with, a stack of old newspaper for drying, a trash can to hold the used newspaper, and a step stool. I find the best glass cleaner has a splash of ammonia in it, so I probably lost a bit of "green" cred, but following the recipe on the ammonia bottle my mixture also included alcohol and a squirt of dish soap.

When I wash windows, I usually complete both sides in one room before I move on. However, with the chance of rain today I decided to change things up and do all the outsides first. I removed the screens and stacked them to one side, then washed the windows and dried them with newspaper. Yesterday I skinned the knuckle of my left thumb, and I wasn't looking forward to dunking it in glass cleaner all morning. I solved the problem by cleaning with the wet rag in my right hand, and using a sheet of newspaper in my left hand to dry. My hands soon looked like this:

It took me about 90 minutes to do the exterior of all the windows. After a lunch break it was time to start on the inside panes. All of our windows have faux plastic muntins to make them look like they have several panes. They're a pain to get off and on, but the easiest way to wash the windows is to remove the muntins. It didn't take long before stacks of plastic muntins stood next to the screens.

The window interiors only took an hour. The only gymnastics involved in this part are at the windows over the sink in the kitchen, where you have to be careful not to step in the sink or hit your head on the light that's hanging overhead. While I was cleaning the insides of the windows, I got a chance to look out. I noticed that my neighbor across the street has a beautiful swath of yellow day lilies in her back yard, and the cicadas were really flying around the tops of our trees.

Soon every one of the windows (and the glass in all the doors) was shiny clean. I even climbed out the master bathroom window and dumped some soapy water on the kitchen skylight. But I couldn't put dirty muntins on the clean windows! I filled up the bathtub with soapy water, dumped the muntins in and swished them around, then carried the dripping pieces to the shower and rinsed them off. After they dried a bit, I moved them to stacks in the master bedroom according to their size.

You know how one cleaning project leads to another...everything else was pristine, so I decided the screens needed to be cleaned, too. I followed the same bathtub and shower procedure. The screens were bigger, though, and I ended up splashing water all over myself. By the time the job was finished I was damp from top to bottom, but everything was done.

I reassembled everything, then looked at the clock and realized my gym-substitute project had taken almost seven hours. My legs were tired, my back was sore, and I needed a shower. I think tomorrow I'll find a nice sedentary project to do.


  1. That's a lot of windows and a ton of work plus a better workout than you would have had at the gym. The bonus is shiny clean windows and all the other work you did. I bet it feels awesome to be done, now it's time to put your feet up and relax for the night... well unless you want to write a short paper for me! lol Have a fantastic evening!

  2. Sorry about your legs and back...but I bet your windows look great. Know just how you feel. Today I started painting the deck. Not finished yet and tomorrow we're back up to the 90 degree mark.Sometimes I think home maintenance sucks.
    Hope you're feeling better.

  3. You don't realize how dirty your windows are until you're looking out the fresh, clean ones! We did this last fall and I couldn't believe the difference! We have vinyl siding on our house and it is filthy. We need to get out the power washer sometime soon and spend a day spraying the house!

  4. Wow. So did you sit on the upstairs windowsills to wash the outsides of windows you couldn't reach from the ground?

    We have the same problem--2 story house with a walkout basement, making the upstairs back windows 3 stories off the ground. The bottom panes of each window tilts in to make them easy to clean, but top glass of all our windows is fixed.

    I never would have thought to sit in an open window, just to stand in the grass and spray with the hose (which doesn't work all that well). And I think I've washed ours about 3 or 4 times in the 11 years we've lived here, not twice a year :)

    If I ever take the opportunity to replace windows (or build from scratch), next time I'm putting in the double-hung tilt-in windows so they can be cleaned with feet firmly on the floor inside the house.

  5. sounds like quite a job Kathy, happy for you with your sparkling windows!

  6. That is one of the interesting side effects of living in Portland- it's grey and rainy so much that you have NO idea how dirty your windows are when the sun comes out!

    I am wildly impressed at your efforts. No way could I do that but I do enjoy the feeling of a job well done