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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Professional Window Washers - Secrets of the Trade

by Peter Krence (writer), , August 06, 2019

Even if you are used to this thrill, it can still be hard to stomach at times.

One of the most common misconceptions about professional window washing is that it becomes a nonchalant ordeal. However, even the most hardened long-term window washers will admit that it can still be an intensive job at times. While we are well trained and take numerous safety measures to keep us and our colleagues safe, it is hard to avoid the fact that our jobs often involve dangling hundreds of feet in the air suspended only by a few thin cables.

The wind is often the single largest contributor to our discomfort. Most people simply look at the forecast if they want to know how window it will be on a certain day, but for window washers, it isn't that simple. The large buildings that window washers are hired to clean are often so massive that they create their own weather patterns. Thus, it can be very difficult to predict when a gust of wind will come rocketing up the side of the building, shaking our small gantries in the process.

Another factor is that buildings are simply getting larger. In the past decades, the height achieved by buildings has reached staggering limits. Not only are the tallest buildings getting taller, but the average building height is also increasing. Even if you are not hanging off the side of the Burj Khalifa, you are still likely to be staring down at a thousand-foot drop. Even if you are used to this thrill, it can still be hard to stomach at times.

There are more to cleaning products that you might think

Many people falsely believe that cleaning windows is a simple matter of grabbing a few rags and some ammonia-based cleaner. It is not that simple. Not only have buildings gotten taller in recent years, but the materials have gotten more exotic. Because of this, it is important to know the exact composition of coatings and finishes on each window. A single window for a large building can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Thus, it is paramount to not damage one in the process.

For traditional glass windows, simple soap and water is often the best tactic. Different washers have different application methods. Some prefer to spray the soapy water onto the window, while others prefer to dunk rags into the bucket and apply the cleaning solution that way. In either case, thorough scrubbing and a W-shaped squeegee pattern are the building blocks of "standard" window cleaning work.

More modern buildings can make matters more complicated. Many newer buildings have windows that feature plastic coatings and finishes. This is generally done for two different reasons. First, these finishes may be a simple matter of appearance. If the designer requested a certain coloration or tone of a window, plastic is often the only way to achieve that cost-effectively. These modern windows are often designed for efficiency. They reflect more light and thus reduce the energy load of the building. Soap and water, while gentle, can actually lead to damage to these modern windows. It is common for an alcohol-based cleaner to be employed in these instances, which are equally effective but more gentle to the finish. Generally, it is crucial to speak to the building manager before beginning any cleaning job. They will have records of all materials used in the building, and the cleaning best practices for them.

Another important factor is the environment of the building. When cleaning a window, you cannot simply consider the window itself, but what type of dirt is on the window. For simple grime and mud, the aforementioned soaps or alcohol cleaners are typically sufficient. However, if a building is in a city with high pollution rates, it is often necessary to use an acetone solution to dissolve the grime from pollution. Or, if those chemicals are not available or permissible, steam can sometimes suffice. There are numerous resources which we use for finding the information we need, such as diyroofs.com. Cleaning is not as simple as most think; the number of variables in the chemicals alone can be shocking.

The training is intense

Many might guess that becoming a window washer is as simple as being handed a bucket and pointed towards a building. In contrast, the training for professionals can be a very intensive multi-month process. To be a window washer, you must be part acrobat, part chemist, and part mountain climber.

Arguably the most critical aspect of the training is the "rigging" courses. This is where you learn how to properly fit a harness, how to hang the scaffolds, and how to follow proper safety protocol. Redundancy is the name of the game here. For every cable, winch, and pully there must be a backup. If the cables for the scaffold platform fail, there are secondary emergency cables which are fastened to an auto-belay device. If that fails, then each worker is connected to a harness that is clipped into an isolated cable system that is independently suspended from the building. Learning the order of operations and proper methods for ensuring that these systems are correctly employed is a complicated and demanding process.

As previously alluded to, becoming a window washer in Cincinnati requires a deep understanding of chemistry. A typical washer will deal with dozens of different chemicals in a typical day - some of which can be deadly if combined or improperly handled. Sometimes the training on this component alone can take several weeks.

All of these factors combine to make the training process not only long but potentially expensive. If one desires to independently become trained as a professional window washer, the course can often cost thousands of dollars, unlike the services offered by diyroofs.com.

You see more than you ever expected

Depending on which type of building you are hired to wash, you can be exposed to some extremely interesting sites. Admittedly, most of your day will be spent glancing into empty apartments or dry looking boardroom meetings. However, some more explicit activities are often seen too. Because of this, many jobs actually require that the washers sign a non-disclosure agreement to certify that what happens in the building stays in the building.

We love seeing your pets

One of the most enjoyable parts of a career in window washing is seeing the different pets in the various apartments. Typically, a building will need to have its windows washed about once a week, depending on weather and environment. Because of this, the washers get very familiar with the layout and contents of the buildings. One of the highlights is when your favorite pet eagerly greets us at the window.

It becomes more than a career

Window washing has its ups and downs. You are required to work in the cold, the rain, and the wind. The process is often scary, and the techniques are often complicated. However, the one thing that most window washers will agree on is that it becomes a passion far beyond being just a job. The thrill of the heights and the satisfaction of standing back to look at a building gleaming in the sun from your hard work is a feeling which is difficult to match.



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