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The History and Future of Window Cleaning

A brief article on past and future window cleaning from a window cleaner’s perspective.

For as long as glass has been used in window systems it has been necessary to clean it. The first modern development in window cleaning was the squeegee. The very first squeegee was used by fisherman, it was a wooden bladed tool called a squilgee used to clean fish guts etc off their boat decks. This was probably the inspiration for the first window cleaners blade called the Chicago squeegee.

The Chicago squeegee was used in the early 1900s by window cleaning professionals. It had 12 screws and 2 pink blades and was a bulky tool. All 12 screws had to be loosened in order to change the blades making it time consuming. Ettore Steccone an Italian immigrant who came to the U.S.A, saw a way to improve upon this and patented the modern squeegee in 1936. Initially the only way he could generate interest in this squeegee was by giving it away .Window Cleaners  quickly realised this tool was superior to the Chicago squeegee and the Ettore company was born. Ettore are still considered the leading manufacturer of window cleaning equipment today  with an annual turnover of millions of dollars.

Window cleaners continued using the squeegee as their preferred method of choice until the introduction of the pure water fed pole window cleaning system in the early 1990s. These systems use deionised, purified water fed through long poles with a brush on the end. The windows are brushed and then rinsed to remove all dirt. The major advantage of this system is that the window requires no polishing or detailing work and can be left to dry naturally leaving no spots, smears or streaks. Windows also stay cleaner for longer using the pure water system. Heights of 70 ft can be reached using this system making high access window cleaning safer and more cost effective. All reputable, well established commercial window cleaning companies now prefer to use this system particularly since the introduction of tighter health and safety laws governing ladders around 2005.

Some companies are currently developing robotic window cleaning systems but at present these are not widespread and  I think it will be some time until we see these commonly used within the industry. Self cleaning glass has been developed by Pilkington and other glass manufacturers. A thin layer of titanium oxide is applied to the surface of the glass which causes a photocatalytic  reaction with the suns UV rays causing dirt to break down at a particular level. This reaction also makes the glass hydrophilic, which means rain does not form water droplets on the glass, it creates a curtain effect instead helping to remove the broken down dirt particles more effectively. This technology certainly ensures the windows stay much cleaner but it is no substitute for a proper window cleaning service which will leave the glass crystal clear and gleaming.  Premier Cleaning Window Cleaners have customers who have self cleaning glass and they tell me they would not be without  a window cleaning service. Window frames and sills will always need to be cleaned, no matter how effective self cleaning glass becomes in the future.

Whatever future technology holds, one thing is certain, windows will always need cleaning and just as it has evolved over the last 100 years, so it will continue to do so. Who knows, in 50 years time, our grandchildren might just get to see robotic window cleaners in action. But we are not there yet. 

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