How long have you been cleaning windows? For me, it's been over 30 years. That's a long time for both windows and techniques to change.
The first home my husband and I owned was a cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Our single pane aluminum windows sweated all winter long as the wood stove heated the house, and the temps dropped each night. Come spring, I had to clean mildew from the pitted tracks and painted sills, and nothing short of X-14 worked. It was a fume filled job that I dreaded. I couldn't remove the screens myself, or reach the exteriors, so our view was often blurry.
Since then, our homes have been constructed with double-paned vinyl windows that stay much drier inside. Even so, cleaning up in a construction or remodel zone presents its challenges. Dust and sawdust collect on screens, and in every nook and cranny of a window.
The windows in fixer-uppers I've purchased in the past 5 years—particularly estate sales and bank owned homes that haven't been maintained well —sport an accumulation of dirt and debris in their tracks as well.
Spraying cleaner on the panes—whether you go the natural route with vinegar and newspaper, or use a commercial product—and rinsing the screens aren't nearly enough in situations like these.
Thankfully modern windows allow a level of disassembly that allows for deep cleaning--great news for those, who like me, are disgusted by the idea of all that dirt piled up inside the house!
Some tips and tricks:
–Screen pull tabs are meant to be mounted on the inside, allowing one to remove the screen inside the house. You can rinse them in the shower, especially if your shower head has a hose, and dry with a clean microfiber cloth; or wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth, or place them outside in a driveway or on a deck and spray with a hose and allow to air dry on warm day. Be sure the frame is dry before remounting.
–The opening window itself can be lifted in and out between the mounts on the top of the window. This allows you to clean both sides of the moving pane. For the fixed pane, try standing on a step stool or ladder to clean the exterior from the inside. If that doesn't work, use a ladder outside. Larger windows can be heavy, so recruit some help lifting the window in and out of place.
–The sliding track at the bottom of the window can often be removed with a pair of needle nosed pliers, or pried up with a kitchen knife--just look to see how the ridges are spaced before removal so you can push it (and push hard) back in facing the proper direction.
–Use a wet Q-tip to remove mud/dirt from the corners of tracks.
Clean microfiber towels do an amazing job leaving windows streak free. Try using brand new ones if you're preparing your windows for photos prior to listing your home for sale.
I know it's not natural, but Costco's SprayWay cleaner, simply can't be beat for leaving windows incredibly clear--something that matters a lot for real estate listing photos.
–Those tiny flecks of paint (called overspray) and dried up bugs that window cleaner won't remove? They'll pop right off with a straight edge razor blade. Be careful to slide the blade in a short straight stroke (don't rub back and forth) so you don't scratch the window.
Check out the slideshow below for visual explanations. Happy cleaning and enjoy your clear view.