Window Cleaning
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Window Cleaning Season. Planning for Issues and Solutions

As spring has finally arrived, so has window-cleaning season at ServiceMaster Clean Residential Vancouver. With it inevitably comes complaints. Here’s a common example.

Screen No Screen

This is a window where the screen was not removed. Its pretty evident when the left side seems completely clean, while the right has speckling from weathering. How can we avoid it and how to handle it, is the focus of this article.

So we first off try to avoid as many problems as possible. One of the most important things we do is send out a building notice a week or two before informing residents of the work that will take place and anything they must do. This can include having their windows closed for a specific time, special access requirements and/or removing screens. These notices must be posted in a visible place, and should not be changed in any way.

Once the work is completed, we have a straightforward process for handling concerns over a seven-day review period.


  1. Make sure the window you are concerned about was included.
  2. Please Clean the Inside Surface of The Window (Now with more light from the outside you can see the inside))
  3. If your screens were not removed and windows closed your windows would not have been cleaned and we are not able to return.
  4. Still not happy, it happens, that’s okay email us with your unit number and the window you are concerned also please include a photo of the window.

NEXT STEPS (If the above steps don’t address the concerns.)

  1. We will set up a return visit.
  2. The window will need to be identified from the interior with a piece of paper
  3. If your building is a high rise we may need access to the affected suite.

What are some other common issues? Watermarks and streaks, which is caused when the window dries too quickly after being washed. Experienced technicians can minimize the possibility of them developing (often by using the minimum amount of water), but even they run afoul of this issue.

Tucker Pole Dried Funny

Watermarks are easily resolved: a quick rewash will remove them as the following photo illustrates.

re cleaned window

The watermarks are immediately gone, and the window will likely dry streak-free. We do re-services for this sort of issue.

Another common issue is un-cleaned window interiors. Often, a technician will do a pass through a location, and a resident will complain that they see no difference. In many cases, there is an internal buildup, which is the issue. We typically ask that residents try to clean their windows as a first step before calling in for a re-service. More than once we have arrived at a site only to find the window has been cleaned, but the interior is the issue.

In order to best serve you, following the steps outlined above can make all the difference.Ideally we would like to deal with all of the issues in one return visit. We do ask that that clients collect all of the defects into a single communication, so we can deal with them in one go. Having pictures of the issue and marking it by a sticky note when our crews arrive also helps us fix the issue.

All in all, we hope that this may have been informative and helpful this spring season. If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to call us at 604 435-1135, or email us at









Water Restrictions – The Facts

So this week has seen a return to the hot summer weather in the Lower Mainland. While we are in better shape than last year, its still likely that we’re going to see water restrictions later in the summer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 8.59.16 AMLast year there was immense confusion on what the water restrictions actually meant for the different types of exterior cleaning: window washing, pressure washing and building facade cleaning. Two of the three require significant amounts of water, which means we are subject to the water restrictions (sort of, more on that later.) With this in mind, a number of our clients cancelled work that was legally permissible to occur. Certainly they should be applauded for their proactive approach to water conservation, but it was done without understanding the regulations that govern this area, or the safeguards we have put into place to redress any problems we may encounter.

As you are probably aware, water restrictions are based on a four-stage system. As of last month, we are at the Stage 1 restrictions: the most tangible aspect for most people is watering lawns only on specific days. However, as the summer moves along, it is likely that we will see Stage II and perhaps even III restrictions. This gets a little more complicated. At Stage II, there are actually no restrictions on commercial cleaning of residential windows, driveways, patios or other features.

This changes once upgraded to Stage III, where there can be no pressure washing, however window washing of all types is permitted to occur. That however does not mean we can’t clean buildings: we just cannot use water from the public system. Last year we invested in large portable water tanks that we can bring on site to store water for our cleaning tasks. Since they are filled with water from private sources (including potable recycled water sources), they are not covered by the restrictions. A number of buildings were cleaned this way last year without any problems whatsoever. Moreover using public water for building façade and pressure washing is permitted if it is in preparation of applying a treatment or painting. For example, we completed some water proofing and caulking last August.

So as we enter into the hot months of the year and you are concerned that your building’s exterior won’t get cleaned, don’t be. We’re already on top of it, ensuring that you get the work done when you needed and with a minimum of fuss. That’s the ServiceMaster Clean difference.

Window Cleaning – High Level Overview

High Window washerWindow cleaning can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of a building, both on the outside and the inside. From the inside, a proper cleaning of the external glass allows more light into individual units. From the outside, clean glass will certainly make the building look much more attractive.


Another issue is window calcium staining. This frequently happens when water with heavier mineral content evaporates on the window, leaving behind a calcified residue that can damage a window (specifically the rubber seals) leading to a premature replacement.


Windows typically should be cleaned once a year. This keeps them looking their best, and avoids any potential for damage. For high-rise locations near the water, an additional cleaning may be required to prevent staining.

Low Rise Window (less than four stories).


Window cleaning is generally separated into two groups: hand cleaning and pole clean (commonly known as tucker pole). Each has their advantages and disadvantages, which apply to specific situations.


Pole Cleaning

This approach to window cleaning involves the use of a long pole with a water brush at the top. Commonly know by the brand name, Tucker pole, an individual can usually reach a window four stories high. This is the most cost effective method of cleaning: very little set up is required for each window. However, it is less effective when there is more resistant accumulation on the glass (such as construction residue), or where access directly below a window is limited (such as due to prominent architectural features or ground brush). For the vast majority of situations, a pole-cleaned window will be indistinguishable from any other method.


Hand cleaning

This usually involves an individual coming within an arms’ length of a window and cleaning it with a squeegee and/or other instrument. All ground floor windows are cleaned this way. However, for second story and above, this is accomplished by a ladder, boom lift or by standing on the buildings features with proper fall arrest gear. This is a much more time consuming process, requiring significant effort to get to each window. However, it is a more thorough clean, and may be appropriate in specific circumstances.



High Rise


Rachel HartHigh Rise window cleaning is almost exclusively undertaken through hand cleaning, utilizing one of two access methods: rope access and bosun chair. There are significant differences between the two. Chairs (bosun) are less regulated than rope access, and are significantly less safe. This is because they do not have two constant points of restraint (only one) and lack a self-rescue capability. Moreover they are descent-only systems, meaning the user is very limited in the direction they can move. If they discover an error above or to the side, they often are unable to deal with it and will leave the deficiency.


Rope Access is becoming the standard cleaning and maintenance method for high rise buildings. Individuals applying this method must have passed one of two industry regulatory programs; IRATA or SPRATT.

irata logo



They can move up or down, and even laterally when additional ropes exist. This flexibility enables technicians to be significantly more effective at cleaning, as they are able to adapt to changing circumstances.



If your high rise is considering a window cleaning, take some time to look at the options and consider which approach really suits you.[1]

[1] For more information on best practices on Window Cleaning Please Visit


What is a Clean Window?

A truly clean window starts with a scrub agitation to loosen dirt, then rinsing clean or cleaning away with a squeegee.

Many believe squeegee cleaning to be the professional window cleaning method with the best results; myself included. I started cleaning windows in 2003 when I moved to Vancouver, and was taught some simple things about cleaning windows that hold true today, including: what is necessary for the customer to have a truly clean window, and what is the accepted ‘industry standard’ for clean glass.

A truly clean window involves 2 things:

1) Professionally clean the outside of the glass.
scrub with the applicator all the exterior glazing, top to bottom to loosen the dirt
clean away with the squeegee
check edges for drips
2) The INSIDE SURFACE must also be cleaned. Looking at the photos, you can see that the outside is cleaned, but there are still drippy marks down the surface of the glass. Checking the inside, it is noted that this is on the inside surface, and can be wiped away easily with a cloth. This is a reminder that no matter how well the outside surface is cleaned, the window will still look dirty if the inside has not been cleaned as well.

Accepted Industry Standard for Clean Windows

The way it was explained to me by a respected leader in our industry, was that all the glazing should be cleaned, with no more than a pinky finger width of drip or run down each side of the glazing.

This is because when the water is squeegeed away, some water may remain on the rubber gasket and rundown along the edge of the glass.

Since people look through their windows rather than AT the glass, unless something blocks their view and draws attention to the glass itself, then all glass in the middle must be completely clean and clear, but if a small amount runs down each side (less than a pinky finger nail width), then this should still be acceptable. Often times, that water doesn’t appear until after the worker has moved on. Waiting in front of each pane long enough to check would considerably slow down the process and add to the cost charged to the customer.

12 Stories High

What Windows Are Included In My Service?

12 Stories HighWe find there is often confusion regarding which windows are included in a window cleaning service. This can lead to frustration by tenants who do not know that some of their windows were not included in the scope.

To start, let’s clarify windows are considered commonly considered accessible and which are considered inaccessible.

Accessible Windows

Accessible windows are windows that the tenant or homeowner can safely reach without the use of any specialized equipment or ladders.

Inaccessible Windows

Inaccessible windows are windows that require the use of a ladder, pole, or rope access in order to reach – in whole or in part.

What do I mean by in whole or in part?  Windows that are ‘half on and half off’ a balcony, so that half of the windows is situated past the balcony railing and a tenant would have to reach unsafely way over and down to attempt to clean half of it are considered inaccessible.  This is because they cannot safely clean the entire window themselves.

Scope of Work

The scope of work submitted on a quote, once agreed to, defines which windows will then be cleaned.  It may be inaccessible windows only, all windows including accessible, or a mix of both.  Whatever will be done can be found in the description of the scope.  For example:

“One hand cleaning by squeegee of all non-balcony, non-patio inaccessible tenant windows including the ground floor windows.  Includes exterior surface of railing glass where present, top surface of skylights and glass canopies.”

What does this mean exactly?

It means that all tenant windows will be cleaned with the exception of those on balconies and patios that tenants can clean themselves.  Ground floor windows that are NOT on a patio will be included.  The glass skylights, canopies around the strata will be cleaned on the top surface only – this is where dust and dirt accumulates.  The undersides of canopies and skylights need to be cleaned only rarely.  The outside surface of balcony railing glass will be included as well.

When asked “we want all of our windows cleaned, every single one, can you do this?” the answer is course we can.  It is a larger scope of work which will take more time and therefore be a higher cost.  If the strata wants to spend money having windows cleaned that the owners can easily clean themselves, which is a decision for strata to make, not us.  We can do it.  But it will be much more expensive.  Here is why.

Consider this; on a high rise tower, an owner can step out onto their balcony and clean any windows on that balcony and their sliding glass patio doors in about 5-10 minutes.  For us to reach that same area without accessing their suite, a rope access worker has to set up his ropes near the balcony, access the balcony area, disconnect his harness attachments in order to walk around on the balcony and clean the windows, re-attach himself to the ropes, and exit the balcony area.  He has to do this carefully so as not to disturb any personal belongings, cannot leave footprints or anything on the balcony which will lead to a complaint, etc.  So for each accessible window we clean, the price has to go up.  To clean accessible windows on a balcony we can reach by ladder, WCB regulations state that the ladder must be safely tied off before accessing that area.  That is a slow process, also impacting the total cost.

So why then do we clean the accessible ground floor windows that are not on a patio?

Well, those windows usually have windows above them.  Unless it is a one story building, the architecture is usually such that the windows are in a row vertically.  If we clean the windows in that row above the first floor, the chances that we are going to drip dirty water onto that window are high.  So, rather than leave it and get complaints that we have dripped on that window and should come back to clean it up, we clean them while we’re there anyway. It increases the odds of customer satisfaction with the work overall.

Happy customers are paramount in any service industry, and the best way to ensure people are satisfied at the end of the service is to ensure clear communication in order to set expectations occurs.

Knowing what is included and what is not by those receiving the service is a key component to ensure things go smoothly and everyone is happy with the results.

What is Construction Residue?

How is a ‘Construction Clean’ different than a ‘Maintenance Clean’ in regards to your window cleaning service?

This article is being written in response to customer e-mails we receive like the one below.

“What do you mean, construction residue?  I’m on the opposite side of the building, facing away from the construction (across the street from this strata), so it must be something else on my windows.”

The person in this example thinks we’re telling them that the construction site across the street is putting residue up into the air, which is then dirtying their windows more so than usual.  

To correct this impression, let me state what we mean when we say we have found construction debris on the glazing.


When a strata building is being constructed, the builder installs the windows prior to completing the project.  In order to protect the surface of the glass from damage, in most cases, a blue plastic sheet is glued onto the outside surface.  This reduces the amount of scratches and construction material that ends up on the glass.

As the photo above demonstrates, by the time it is to be removed, the blue plastic doesn’t usually cover completely any more.  And, when it is peeled off and the windows cleaned, there is often more finishing work to be done in the building process; painting, caulking, sealing of concrete, etc.

At this point, the initial cleaning of the glass must be done before the developer turns the building over to the strata.   This first clean is critical, as it must remove the glue that was used to adhere the blue plastic to the glass, as well as concrete spatter from glazing and frames, paint spatter, silicone, caulking, dirt and other gunk so that the strata will accept the building as it is turned over to them. This then releases the developer from its responsibilities.

Problem: this usually is done as the building is near completion, but usually not as the very final step.   There are still trades working around the building finishing it up while this cleaning is going on.  So even if the initial construction clean of the windows is done perfectly, more paint, silicone, caulking, glue, concrete and other such materials can get on the now unprotected glass in the weeks or even months before it is inspected and turned over.

But you would think that this would be noticed during the walk through inspection, right?

Not if several months have passed, and now the glass is covered in a layer of dirt.  This hides the construction debris still on the glass.  

Remember – this is a newly constructed building.  There is dust being swept off balconies, landscapers putting down sod around the base, and all the other dust from drilling and sanding and finishing being washed down the sides of the building by the rain.  The windows get dirty again fast.  This dirt covers up whatever glue residue, calking, and silicone may remain on the windows.

If the building is accepted without a fresh window cleaning service being done just prior to the hand off, this will go unnoticed.

So, construction debris is materials left on the glass from the original construction of the building, that cannot be washed off with soap and water.  This issue can remain hidden until the first regular maintenance window cleaning service is performed.  Once the layer of regular old dirt is washed off, the stuff that remains behind is revealed.

You may wonder why this is an issue for the next window cleaners to remove.  Here’s why:

Time.  The quote for a maintenance clean was for labour time to clean all windows using soap and water or a tucker pole.  The additional time it will take to remove construction materials is great; it may involve razoring, using chemicals, and going over each pane of glass several times to ensure this stuff is gone, rather than just once.  It can increase the time needed to clean a single pane of glassfrom 45 seconds to up to ten minutes, or in bad cases, much more.

Tools.  The specialized chemicals or equipment to address construction materials isn’t carried around by window cleaners when doing a maintenance clean.   Using the chemicals required to do so (depending on what is actually on the glass) can require full rain gear and protective gear to ensure skin doesn’t get burned. (Muriatic acid to remove concrete spatter).

Access.  In some instances, the reason why the construction material wasn’t properly cleaned off in the first place, is that the windows it is on are located in a difficult area to get to on the building.

There is one strata where we have discovered a lot of construction residue left on the top floor – an area where getting a person up to it using a lift is impossible due to the landscaping and building structure, and most glass needs to be cleaned by tucker pole.  That means it was probably skipped during the initial clean, and the problem was left for the next person to come and clean the windows to try and deal with.

Understanding these issues is the first step in getting to a positive resolution between all parties. Otherwise, strata can be confused as to what is meant by construction residue and why this takes more time and is therefore more expensive to remove than regular environmental soiling removed during a regular maintenance clean.  Tenants do not understand what is on the glass and why; all they see is a dirty ‘splotch’ that they expected would not be there after the window cleaning service.  Hopefully this will help further understanding so that strata members know what is to be addressed, rather than just becoming frustrated when seeing that something remains on their glass.  Extra time and attention may be needed and the cost for that, if caught in time, may be able to be charged back to the developer under warranty.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Window Cleaning Methods

High Rise worker 1Spring cleaning of strata’s windows will be happening soon.  It is that time of year when property managers gather quote requests for window cleaning at their properties.  They take them to strata meetings and present them for consideration.  Price is examined, and what the various companies are offering to do in terms of cleaning methods.  That can sometimes lead to debate, confusion, or questioning of beliefs because there are many methods to clean windows, and no one method is best in all situations. Just as every building is different, every building may have window cleaning needs that are best addressed by a particular method of having the glazing cleaned.  That doesn’t necessarily fit in with popularly held beliefs however. An example of a popularly held belief which should be challenged is: the hand cleaning squeegee method is the best method for cleaning the windows no matter what. False.

While it is true that hand cleaning by squeegee can in many or even most cases provide superior results, there are situations where trying to clean by squeegee can be disastrous.  In those circumstances, another approach would be much more effective.

The following is a breakdown of each method of window cleaning, its’ advantages, disadvantages, and when each should be used.

The Methods
  • Squeegee (Hand cleaning)
  • Squeegee on a Pole (using a squeegee from a distance)
  • Tucker Pole water fed pole
  • Brush and Hose Rinse
  • Pressure Washing


Advantages: Scrubbing dirt and squeegeeing away very effective to remove all surface dirt.  Workers can use soap or chemicals in their buckets as required.  Easy to inspect and repeat the process as necessary to ensure glass is clean.  Razors or pads easily used to support this cleaning method.  Window frames can be wiped.  Edges can be cleaned with chamois or cloths to remove soapy water left behind on edges.

Disadvantages: This method can leave lines along top and sides that need to be wiped away, or ‘blips’ which are only seen easily in direct sunlight.  Squeegee rubber that is damaged or worn out can become less effective.  Requires skill to be employed effectively and quickly.  Water in buckets used to clean requires frequent changing. Soapy water used to clean glass can dry out quickly in sunlight.

On a high rise or low rise building, cleaning windows by squeegee provides excellent results, especially provided the windows are large sections of glass and the cleaner can get right in front of them.

Let’s consider the first variable that affects this method’s use; how large the windows are.

Variable 1.  Breaking up the panes of glass with window frames.

Facing a big sheet of glass undivided by framing, a window cleaner can use his tools with large, easy motions to scrub and squeegee the glass clean.  However, with each window frame introduced that divides the window into smaller sections, the more skill is required to clean each piece of glass, the more time is taken to do so, and the more challenging it becomes to ensure no ‘blips’, drips, or dirt is left behind.  It also increases the number of edges to check and ensure are cleaned or are wiped clean with a chamois or cloth if required.

The more the glass is divided into smaller sections, the less effective squeegee cleaning becomes, and another method of cleaning should be chosen.  (More on which methods below).  Insisting on cleaning many small windows sections by squeegee will slow down your workers, cost the strata more, and provide inferior results.  In these cases, it is recommended to keep an open mind and consider one of the other methods.

Now the second variable: how close the cleaner can get to the glass.

Variable 2.  Distance.

When right up next to a window, cleaning by squeegee provides excellent results when employed by a skilled window cleaner.  (For the sake of this article, we’re assuming the window cleaner is skilled in all techniques.  Lack of skill is in an issue no matter what method of cleaning is used.)  A window cleaner can scrub and squeegee off the dirt, check the corners of the glass carefully to ensure no ‘blips’ are left behind, scrub off bird droppings with a razor or non-scratching pad, wipe up drips with a chamois or clean cloth, and even wipe the window ledge clean.  It is fast, effective, and usually provides the best results.

However, if a window cleaner needs to stretch to reach a window, the odds of providing a good result diminish.  The greater the distance, the greater the odds of leaving drips or marks behind.  This is because the more a window cleaner has to leave his comfort zone in which he applies this method of cleaning, the harder it is to do so effectively.  So, on high rise building that means overhangs that keep the ropes away from the glass, meaning the cleaner has to swing in and grab the glass with suction cups to clean.  On low rises, that variable comes into play when someone has very difficult ladder positioning and has to stretch way out from the ladder to get to the glass.  Which leads nicely to our second method: squeegee on a pole.

Squeegee On A Pole

In skilled hands, cleaning windows that are out of reach using a squeegee on a pole can provide good results.  It is difficult for this method to provide great results, unless you’re dealing with a window cleaning master.  Distance increases difficulty, and while the use of a pole helps address this, this method has many disadvantages.

Advantages: Getting those hard to reach windows addressed.

Disadvantages: Slow, equipment may fall off the pole, edges of the glass are difficult to clean without leaving drips or ‘blips’, including the top, bottom and sides, difficult to effectively identify and clean any stubborn residue, more difficult to use a razor or pad to remove stubborn residue, and much more difficult to clean edges with a cloth if required.

The greater the reach or longer the pole needed is, the more difficult it is to provide great results.  Sometimes, when used sparingly on a job, cleaning hard to reach windows with a squeegee on a pole can be acceptable as there are only few windows that need to be cleaned that way.  I wouldn’t recommend it for a large portion of the work.

Instead, perhaps the next method should be used:

Tucker Pole Water Fed Pole

A water fed pole is an extendable pole with a soft bristle brush on the end.  Water runs through a hose inside the pole and out through the brush.  Windows are cleaned using these poles by scrubbing the glass with the brush while the water is running, and rinsing the loosened dirt clean.

Advantages: Can work around challenging building architecture, landscaping, and other obstacles.  Water used for cleaning is always clean water going onto the glass, frames are rinsed clean during the process, edges cleaned, no risk of ‘blips’.

Disadvantages: Can’t use soap on the glass.  Very difficult to remove baked on bird droppings or stubborn residue.  Difficult to evaluate if there are any issues until the water has dried.  May leave drips if not rinsed 100% effectively.  Water running downward can wet areas below on patios, balconies, etc.

The use of a water fed pole can be great to clean glass where a squeegee cannot effectively be used.  Many may argue that a squeegee would do a better job.  However, a squeegee cannot always provide good results, and in those areas where it is at a disadvantage, the results yielded by tucker pole cleaning can be far superior than if windows were attempted to be effectively cleaned by squeegee anyway.  This method is faster than squeegee use, which also means cheaper for the strata.  It is a good option which should be considered based on the building’s requirements.

Soapy Brush and Hose Rinse

Advantages: use of soap helps clean glass compared to tucker pole use, scrubbing action loosens dirt, hose rinse is gentle on window gaskets and seals, addresses issues of distance and windows divided by many frames, cleans frames as well.  Cleans edges.  More effective than tucker pole at removing stubborn residue due to soapy scrubbing action.  Less skill required to be effective.

Disadvantages: workers must ‘juggle’ many tools, windows must be rinsed effectively to ensure no soapy residue left behind, range of hose rinsing not as great as tucker pole or pressure washer.

This method is one of the most often overlooked and underused for difficult to clean buildings.  It is very effective, especially when used on windows that are dividing into many small sections by frames, hard to reach due to building structure like overhangs, and the building is very dirty.  I highly encourage property managers to consider it over squeegee cleaning on difficult to clean buildings.  It will provide excellent results and be much faster than a squeegee clean.

Pressure Washing

Personally, I have never used a pressure washer to clean windows.  Our technicans at ServiceMaster do not use this method when cleaning glass on a strata either.  I’m only including it in this article as I’ve seen others do it, most notably ground floor commercial businesses in my neighbourhood.

Advantages: Fast, cleans frames, no possibility of drips, can clean glass from a distance.

Disadvantages: Use of pressure – May cause water ingress behind the building envelope.  May damage window seals.

Due to the listed disadvantages, we never use a pressure washer to clean windows.  There is too much risk of doing damage to the seals or causing water ingress.  I would advise against ever using this method of cleaning at a strata.

We All Want The Same Thing In The End

So as we’ve gone over, there are many ways to clean a window.  They will all do the job, and should be considered – or rejected – depending on building structure, the type of windows on the building, and the desired cost range as well as results.

With that in mind, hopefully you will consider what your service providers suggest when offering a cleaning method that may not be what you expected.  After all, insisting on the use of a squeegee in situations where this method is actually at a disadvantage will be very slow, and therefore very costly; and it may not yield great results anyway.   Also, consider asking for pricing using different methods of cleaning on your stratas where this could be to your advantage.  Don’t forget to look at the methods being quoted when you receive your spring window cleaning pricing from various service providers as well, to ensure you are comparing the same or similar methods.

The Process For Addressing Window Cleaning Complaints

Window cleaning. All buildings require it, it happens at least once per year, and the service gets done with everyone hoping for one thing: no complaints.

However, no matter who you hire or how they clean the windows, there are bound to be people who just aren’t happy with something. So it is in everyone’s best interest to work together to see what the issue is, solve it quickly, and leave everyone feeling good about the service.

Unfortunately, the biggest impediment is often getting the three parties involved to co-operate in the process to solve these problems smoothly and efficiently.

1) Clear communication about the problem between the resident, property manager, contractor.

2) Identifying the problem. The contractor must figure out where the issue is and what precisely is causing the complaint.
This involves either
A) See from inside the suite, or
B) identify through markers on the glass (Stickie notes, etc).
Ideally both A & B are involved.

3) Re-Clean the glazing, or report necessary fixes required to property manager to resolve the issue.

Part 1) Communication about the problem.

“Strata is not happy with the service.”

This is great to communicate that a problem exists, but not what the issue is. Why is the strata unhappy? Most times, I then receive more specific information. For example:

“Unit 709’s bedroom window is still dirty. It must have been missed.”

This is a large assumption.

Consider for a moment; what is this actually telling me? There is a resident who is unhappy with the clarity of their vision when looking through their bedroom window — and they live in unit 709.
This is enough to prompt the contractor to take action to resolve the issue, but leads us to our next and often biggest challenge – where is it?

Part 2) Find the problem.

Using the picture below as a reference, perhaps you can engage in an exercise we are often asked to undertake. In this example, where is unit 709, and where is their bedroom window?
What if their bedroom has several windows?
tower window sample with text

Better yet, what if we were asked to find a problem with unit 1503’s living room window? If we were told to count up from the ground, is there a 13th floor with the way the floors are numbered. Is the 1st floor on the ground floor, or the second? Each living room in this example seems to have several windows, and which pane or panes of glass have an issue?

Further to communicating that there is a problem, we now have to find the glazing with the reported issue from outside the building. There are no unit numbers outside, so unless there is some identifier we are dealing with a ‘best guess’ scenario. For this reason, we ask for 2 things: to meet with the resident to both identify the problem (more on that below), but also to figure out where on the building the issue is and what it looks like.

If someone cannot meet us to show us from inside their suite where this is, we ask that a stickie note or piece of paper be put up on the inside surface of the glass so we have a visual clue as to what to look for from outside.

sstickie note on glass

A visual marker gives the contractor something to look for, allowing the worker to set up ropes or access to exactly the right spot, and address the pane of glass with the reported issue.

Now’s we’ve found the area with the issue.

Step 3) Re-clean the glazing, or report fixes necessary to the property manager.

If we have gotten to this step, we can clean the exterior surface of the glass again.

But what if the cause of the complaint isn’t actually related to window cleaning? What if this problem can’t be solved by cleaning the outside of the glass with soap and water?

Glass is glass. We look through it, usually not at it. If our focus moves from the view looking through it to looking at the glass, then there is a problem. People consider their view through their windows right after a window cleaning service is performed. If they look through clear glass with no impediments, they usually are happy. If something impairs their view, the usual instant response is: something’s wrong. Therefore the windows must not have been cleaned correctly. Therefore I must complain and get this corrected, it is the window cleaners fault.

In many cases, this assumption is correct. Mistakes can be made, windows can be missed during a cleaning service, and sometimes a window cleaner going back to fix this oversight or mistake is the quick and easy answer. The problem is, in many other cases, there is more to it than that.

This is where it gets challenging, and why the process must exist.

What is actually the problem? This is the primary reason we ask to see the issue from inside the suite. It allows us to speak with the resident, and to see the issue from their point of view.

Problems Encountered – New Windows

-scratches in the glass hidden under the dirt, revealed when windows are cleaned. Often from construction process.

-construction materials hidden under the dirt, revealed when cleaned: silicone, paint spatter, concrete spatter, glue from protective blue plastic, etc.

-bits of blue plastic still stuck to corners of windows not having been removed properly during the construction clean

Problems Encountered – Old Windows

-glass ‘running’ (with certain types of very old glass, vision will be distorted as it will eventually begin to flow downward. Granted, that could take 30-40 years, but it isn’t something that can be corrected with cleaning)

-broken window seals between panes of glass leading to: condensation between glass panes, mold between glass panes, dirt, etc.

-mineral deposit staining (minerals from concrete and other building structure leached out by rainwater, deposited upon glass, leaving a milky film that grows steadily more visible – unable to be removed without chemicals and razors).

-cracks, holes, bubbles: these have been found in old glazing, and cannot be removed with soap and water.

Misc. Common Issues – Not Valid

-dirt on the inside (look through the glass and the view still looks dirty after the service, often times the inside surface of the glass needs to be cleaned, often difficult to tell especially if the window is difficult to reach)

-not included in the agreed-upon scope of work (window is accessible to resident, and strata didn’t agree to pay to have those windows included in the scope)

-spider web nests in the corner of the windows. (spider web is still there, so my window must have been cleaned. Strange logic; especially when the glazing is clean. Spiders can rebuild their webs within 24 hrs.)

-a bird defecated on the window again (is there a nest on the building above this unit? Is there a bird defecating on it every other day? The contactor is only obligated to clean it once, they can’t come back once a week to address a recurring soiling issue as part of the scope)

Misc. Common Issues – Valid

-‘blips’ or squeegee marks: these can be hard to see when doing the job

-dirty water running down over the glass after service is complete

-window missed, still dirty on the outside.

To read about a nightmare window cleaning issue which caused me to change my approach to dealing with window cleaning complaints or deficiencies, you can click here to read that. I hope this helps demonstrate some of the challenges present in dealing with these issues as they arise for the contractor. There often isn’t one simple answer, and just going back and cleaning the glass again can lead to frustration on all sides if that doesn’t address the problem. So everyone understanding and engaging in the process – to get great results – benefits everyone, and should be encouraged by all.

A True Story: Window Cleaning Complaint Nightmare

True Story: Several years ago, I received a request from a property manager to address a window cleaning complaint for a resident in a strata. She was quite upset that her windows were still dirty; complaining that the work was not done well, there were still streaks and marks from the squeegee.

Wanting to ensure we did a good job and had satisfied customers, I told the worker about the complaint, and informed him he would have to go back, set up his ropes, and re-clean this lady’s living room window.

Now this worker did excellent work. We rarely got complaints when he did a job, but it happens to everyone eventually, so I figured it was just his time. Being a great guy and willing to stand behind the quality of his work, he took a few hours out of his day, met the building manager to get access to the roof, dragged up his ropes and bosun chair, and re-cleaned the window.

The next day, I got another phone call from the tenant. She was furious. The window cleaning was still not done right! She insisted we do it again.

At this point, I politely requested I visit her suite to see the issue from the inside. I let her know this would help me determine what the issue was, we would know what to look for when going back again, and we could all learn something from the situation. She flatly denied me, stating she was too busy, her time was valuable, it was not her problem if my people were incompetent, and so why should she waste any time out of her day. We needed to do this again.



I phoned my worker, explained there was still an issue. He wanted to make sure that he had cleaned the right window. He explained that he took his time, made sure there were no drips or marks, the window should look fine. Knowing the quality of his work, I believed him.

This was where I made my mistake.

I sent him back again. I apologized, I sided with the customer, I pleaded customer service quality, and so on and so on.

So he went back. He re-cleaned the window again. This was the third time this window had been cleaned, and the second instance where he had to take a few hours out of his day – at his cost – to do this.

He wasn’t making money while he was going back to fix ‘mistakes’. We were concerned because we wanted to be sure the company looked good for the customers, and had an interest in repeat business with the strata. We wanted to ensure this went well.

But it didn’t. This lady’s next few phone calls were even more abrasive. She was furious, often shouting at me on the phone.

I tried my best to keep my cool.

We cleaned the window again. I insisted this would be the last unless we saw the issue from inside her suite. She still refused, and continued to send communications to the strata and property manager about what a horrible company we were.

My worker quit weeks later. He was very frustrated. I hadn’t stood up for him enough, which, I suppose, is true. But before he did, I managed to insist with this tenant that we would not be back for a 5th time unless she showed us this concern from the inside.

Why, she demanded?

I explained yet again, it could be a blown window seal causing problems, or mineral deposit staining, or dirt on the inside surface of the glass.

Well, she was really mad that I would insult her intelligence by thinking it might be dirt on the inside. She would know that! She has checked for that! She went on and on about how this was our fault and we were just sloppy workers and didn’t know how to do our job. But finally she agreed to let me see this from inside, because, as she insisted, she was not crazy.

So I went to her building, and took the worker who had performed the work with me. We said hello politely to her, standing there with her hands on her hips. Her irate husband stood, arms crossed, glaring threateningly at us as we entered the room.

“See!” She exclaimed. “Right there! And there!” She was pointing to some drips and dirty smudges on the glass on the upper right side of the window over her couch.

I took my chamois, walked up to the couch, stood on it, used the cloth and wiped away the dirt from the inside surface of the glass.

“Let’s go.” I told my worker.

We left.

I had sent a guy back to re-clean that window four times after the original service. I’d been screamed at, belittled, threatened with loss of future work, had the company name smeared, and on and on, all because this person would not check the inside surface of her glass for dirt.

That is why I insist on following the process. (Re-clean from outside no more than once unless we go inside to investigate).

She wasn’t crazy, she insisted! She would know if it was dirt on the inside!

Weeks and weeks of communication, frustration, everyone getting angry, everyone wasting time.

This incident is why I insist on the process of investigation for deficiencies being followed. I will only every ask a person to go back and re-clean a window once if we haven’t seen it from inside the suite. If there is still an issue, seeing from inside is mandatory.

In the years that have followed, I have found through investigating from inside the suite, several of the following issues:

-Dirty glass inside
-tape on the inside surface of glass (from someone putting up Christmas cards or decorations or something)
-Blown window seal allowing condensation between panes of glass
-Blown window seal with black mold spots between panes of glass
-paint specks on the inside of the glass from someone repainting their room
-legitimate complaints.

If we can’t check, we just don’t know what is really going on.

Windows – Mineral Deposit Staining

Hopefully, you haven’t seen this on your windows – milky drips or streaks that won’t come off. They’re translucent, most visible in direct sunlight, and most noticeable right after your windows have been cleaned.  You can complain and have the window cleaner come back – but watch him scrub the glass, and these marks still don’t disappear.    These are mineral deposits staining your window.

These marks are an assortment of minerals leached over time from mortar and concrete by the rain.  When the rain strikes the building then runs down the surface of the glass, it leaves these residues behind.  They adhere to the porous surface of the glass, building up in vertical streaks or running water patterns over time, and gradually adhering and becoming permanent.  They can also look like spatter marks if rainwater hits a concrete ledge below your window and bounces back up on to the glass.   The longer those minerals stay on the window, the more visible the build up becomes and the more difficult to remove.   The good news: mineral deposit stains are removable in most cases if you catch them in time.

There are solvents designed to combat these stains, and we have the know how to use them.  Combined with razors, glass scrubbing pads, and effort, mineral deposits can be greatly reduced and in most cases removed.  However, the degree that they stain and etch themselves into the glass worsens over time.  If they’ve been sitting on the glass for more than two years, they may not be able to be removed completely.  After several years, the appearance may only be improved by up to 80 – 90%.   In these cases, the best way to bring back crystal clarity to your view through the glass: install new glass.

So, in order to ensure these mineral deposits to not occur, take the following steps:

  • Wash the exterior surface of windows at least once per year
  • If any mineral deposits appear to be on the glass, get a professional to remove them – sooner rather than later
  • Install a drip cap above the window, or extend this awning like guard to prevent       water from dripping down the glass when it rains.
  • Lower window ledges that are concrete should be treated with a sealant or covered: paint them, put a planter over it, or just be aware to keep the lower half of your window clean.  (Clean it at least once or twice per year)

If you have mineral deposit staining on your glass, and need to get it out, contact ServiceMaster Clean Residential: We’ll take care of it.

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