Window washers and window cleaners are essentially the same thing; it is the exterior cleaning of glass architectural panes, or the windows on a building or house. The window or glass can be washed manually or the use of technology can be employed in the washing of windows.
Certain tools such as a chamois cloth are best used for window washing to scrub the dirt and grime away, followed by the use of cheesecloth for buffing and shining the glass. Other tools needed to clean the glass are water and a squeegee—the squeegee is a cloth covered tool with a handle that can be used to scrub difficult parts of the glass. Certain chemicals can be added to the window washing solution, such as dish soap and glass cleaner to Trisodium Phosphate and etching salt. When the weather gets to sub-freezing temperatures, there needs to be another chemical that is added to prevent the liquid from freezing on the glass before it can be wiped off.
When cleaning windows that are several feet above ground, to avoid using a ladder, the use of a “water-fed” pole can be used to spray water jets and cleaner on the glass and then spray clean water on to rinse the chemicals away. These poles can be fed from water tanks that are on a truck; or they can be sourced from the local water outlet.
If easy access to cleaning glass is not available, then there are several other methods that can be used to gain access to and clean the window or glass such as:
- Scaffolding that is a supported platform
- Suspended platform or aerial cradle
There are also aerial platforms for cleaning glass such as:
- Boatswain Chair- (bosun’s chair)—a seat that is created for one person to sit on as they descend from a rope, this is also called a rope descent system (RDS), these can be temporary or permanent points for anchoring a window cleaner to the structure in order to clean the glass or windows.
- Suspended platform- this is a larger platform that can hold one or more window washers as they clean the windows/glass on the side of a skyscraper of other tall building.
Being a window cleaner has some very critical risks associated to the job; these risks can be something as simple as slipping on soapy water or as deadly as falling from a high rise building. During the year 1932, in New York City, there was an average of one out of every two hundred window washers were killed. Another window washing tragedy happened on May 29, 1962 when a scaffold fell on the Equitable Life Building, killing four window washers. In 1993, the local 32BJ New York City’s Window Cleaner’s Union began the formation of an apprentice association in which they would train window washers on the necessity of their safety on the job.
In the United States, England, or Wales, there are no licensing requirements to becoming a window washer, anyone can and does claim to do this job. Scotland does have governmental licensing requirements for being a window washer.