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Lofty goals: Top trends in window cleaning

September 19, 2010
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Throughout the years, the window cleaning industry has progressed to provide safer cleaning conditions for its professionals and cleaner results for its customers.

Due partially to product innovation and advances in technique, industry professionals can now better trust the quality of window cleaning tools available and the safety they provide.

From better buckets to more effective cleaning materials, window cleaning professionals are now well equipped to handle large projects or daily touch-ups.

Whatever the job, window cleaners should keep in mind these tips to extract the most value from the wide variety of equipment available.

Tools of the trade

Window cleaning professionals should possess a large selection of professional equipment that saves time, cleans thoroughly, and is easy to use and carry.

To reduce the strain involved in this type of work, products should be made of lightweight, durable materials such as steel, aluminum or plastic.

For example, some new buckets are made of sturdy polypropylene and feature larger footprints and ergonomic handles for greater carrying stability.

Accessories such as casters are also often available for transporting equipment without lifting.

The right approach is everything

Taking a systematic approach to window cleaning can also enhance productivity and maximize cleanliness.

Window cleaners should have a comprehensive cleaning system ready for use. This system can include:

  • Buckets
  • Squeegees
  • Washers
  • Scrapers
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Cleaning solution
Get more out of cleaning with microfiber

Remaining knowledgeable about the latest developments in window cleaning products is important — look for the newest products and educate customers on the added benefits of performance enhancing items, such as microfiber.

Gaining popularity, microfiber is a reliable material that cleans and finishes glass efficiently with less solution, chemicals and effort.

Many cleaning cloths and washer sleeves today are made of the microfibers that are one-one hundredth the size of typical cloth fibers.

Microfiber is unique because, as a single synthetic fiber, it is extruded during the manufacturing process resulting in extremely fine filaments that exceed the strength of conventional fibers.

Each fiber is split 16 times into a v-shaped construction that is less than a micron in size and then knitted into a soft, reusable cleaning tool that is three times softer than cotton.

The fibers'' miniscule size allows them to reach deep into surface irregularities to capture dirt and germs.

Studies show that microfiber reduces bacteria by 69 percent.

It is also known to absorb more than seven times its weight in water.

Ergonomics and worker safety

In 2002, the JanSan industry incurred, on average, more than 15,000 work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), according to the Department of Labor''s most recent report on occupational injuries and illnesses.

The majority of these injuries result in muscular aches and pains and discomfort of the lower back, neck, knees, right shoulder, wrist and hand.

These injuries are exaggerated by awkward cleaning postures including:

  • Reaching and stooping to clean hard-to-reach areas
  • Wringing and repetitive actions
  • Static motions and equipment weight

These tasks can cause unnecessary stress and force to joints and muscles.

To improve worker safety, window cleaning professionals should use cleaning tools that reduce strain on the body.

Ergonomically-designed tools that are comfortable to use, lessen fatigue, and reduce stress on the body are now widely available.

Rather than forcing the worker''s body to adhere to the tool, ergonomic products are made to suit the needs of the cleaning professional.

When used properly, these tools can ease physical stress and labor which can enhance cleaning productivity and profitability.

Ergonomics is also important in hand-held cleaning equipment, like the handles of hand-held scrapers, squeegees and washers.

Improved handling enhances the tools'' cleaning performance on windows and flat surfaces while reducing stress on hands and wrists.

Frequently, work-related injury can be caused by inefficient tool organization.

Professionals place additional stress on the body by reaching for items placed in inconvenient locations.

To reduce this strain, window cleaning tool belts are available and provide a convenient and comfortable way for window cleaners to wear and organize tools at their side, offering instant access to cleaning products from any location.

The belt itself can be made of heavy duty waterproof nylon and designed to keep added weight strain off the back.

From scraper holders to can coolers and personal pouches, some belts can accommodate any number of accessories.

Cleaning professionals can further promote good safety habits by using window cleaning tools that comply with government safety standards.

Also, given the nature of the job, extreme temperatures and the elements put workers at risk.

Cleaners should consider using tools, clothing, gloves and equipment that offer protection from harsh conditions.

High access

Until recently, the most common way of cleaning high or out-of-reach areas including windows was to use a ladder and reach with a handheld tool.

Not only is this cleaning process unsafe, it is inefficient and time consuming as the ladder must be set up and moved repeatedly until the entire area has been cleaned.

Falls from ladders are one of the greatest safety hazards facing professional window cleaners.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 65,000 ladder accidents requiring emergency room treatment occur per year.

One way to improve ergonomics and avoid the use of heavy, cumbersome ladders is to convert to lightweight, telescopic poles.

Telescopic pole systems include adjustable poles with multiple attachments, each designed for a specific cleaning or maintenance task.

Telescopic pole systems keep everything within arm''s reach and dramatically decrease the likelihood of injury by eliminating the need for cleaning professionals to climb ladders or hang from belts or platforms.

Additionally, these systems provide 20 to 30 percent time savings by enabling workers to move freely at ground level while cleaning much larger areas of space.

Many telescopic poles offer a variety of lengths and can extend from four to 30 feet.

Ergonomic grips should also be considered, as they make the poles more comfortable for cleaning staff to use.

When using a pole system, cleaning professionals should use the appropriate pole for the task; the base of the pole should not extend beyond shoulder height when cleaning.

Good judgment and common sense are also important.

Getting the most out of industry resources

To improve their skills in running an efficient and profitable business, window cleaning professionals should take advantage of industry resources and events.

Professional window cleaning associations such as the International Window Cleaners Association (IWCA) and International Window Cleaner Certification Institute (IWCCI) are valuable groups that offer resources for networking, safety standards, and other important industry updates.

There are also many resources to those cleaners seeking safety education.

Maintenance staff should regularly attend safety seminars and training sessions, and work with industry associations and manufacturers to ensure a safe working environment.

Vicki Haslob is research coordinator, Unger Enterprises Inc., Bridgeport, CT. Visit www.ungerglobal.com or send e-mail inquiries to unger@ungerglobal.com.

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