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Published on February 16, 2024 12:32 PM
Sash windows are a classic feature found in many homes, renowned for their traditional charm and the unique way they open by sliding vertically. To keep them looking their best and operating smoothly, regular cleaning is essential.

Despite their distinct design, cleaning sash windows doesn’t have to be complicated. By understanding the structure of these windows and preparing appropriately, you can ensure they remain a pristine and functional part of your home.

At Colin’s Sash Windows most of our sash windows have an easy clean tilt in function. Look at the video here. They can be cleaned inside and out really quickly- much faster than timber sash windows. Follow these 4 easy steps to gleaming uPVC sliding sash windows:

1. Remove any built-up dirt with a brush or vacuum, e.g. hinges, handles, etc.
2. Thoroughly clean the inside with a glass cleaner and a micro-fibre cloth
3. Tilt the sashes inwards and clean the exterior glass with a soft cloth/sponge and a mild solution of soapy water
4. Gently wipe over the window frames and hardware with soapy water and a damp cloth, paying close attention to areas of the window that are susceptible to dirt build-up.

Key Takeaways

• Regular cleaning maintains both the appearance and function of sash windows.
• Safe and non-abrasive cleaning materials are essential for protecting the window surfaces.
• Understanding your window’s specific mechanisms can inform the best cleaning practices.

How to clean sash windows

Understanding Sash Windows

Sash windows are a traditional and stylish type of window, characterised by their unique opening mechanism and historical significance. Their design offers both aesthetic and practical benefits, fitting various architectural styles.

Types and Styles

Double-Hung Sash Windows: These are perhaps the most familiar style, featuring two movable panels known as sashes. Both the upper and lower sashes slide vertically in separate grooves and can be opened for ventilation.

Single-Hung Sash Windows: With only one movable lower sash, the upper panel remains fixed in these windows, providing a slightly different appearance and functionality compared to double-hung sashes.

UPVC Sash Windows: UPVC (unplasticised polyvinyl chloride) sash windows are a modern interpretation, combining the classic look with the durability and low maintenance of UPVC materials. They are resistant to weathering and offer excellent insulation.

Timber Sash Windows: For a more traditional look, timber sash windows are crafted from wood. They require more maintenance but can be more aesthetically pleasing, fitting perfectly with period properties.

Traditional Sliding Sash Windows: These retain the style of original sash windows used in historical buildings. Their design is often found in Georgian and Victorian homes, showcasing the craftsmanship of the past.

It’s essential to consider the style of your sash windows as it greatly influences your home’s overall appearance and historical authenticity.

Mechanism of Operation

Your sash window’s operation is facilitated by a balance mechanism, which counteracts the weight of the sash, allowing it to stay open at desired heights. Traditional sash windows utilised weights and cords hidden within the window frame, while modern versions often employ spring balances for this purpose.

To operate a double-hung sash window, you may open either sash by sliding it vertically, offering versatility in ventilation. For opening, you usually lift the lower sash or pull down the upper one. Some contemporary models also allow tilting inward for easy cleaning.

In contrast, single-hung sash windows restrict you to operating the lower panel only, while the upper part serves as a fixed, glazed pane.

UPVC and timber sash windows operate on the same principle but may differ in maintenance requirements; timber may demand regular painting or staining, while UPVC typically needs only a periodic wipe down with a damp cloth.

Understanding the mechanism of your sash windows is crucial for maintenance and smooth operation. Regular checks of the cords or balancing system will ensure longevity and ease of use.

Preparation for Cleaning

Before you start cleaning your sash windows, it’s important to take necessary safety precautions and have all the required equipment on hand to ensure an efficient and effective cleaning process.

Safety Precautions

Your safety comes first. Always work in a stable and secure environment. If you’re cleaning windows on an upper floor, ensure that your ladder is sturdy and positioned on solid ground. Use non-slip shoes to avoid accidents, especially if you’ll be working from a height. When handling cleaning solutions, wear protective gloves to protect your skin and safety goggles if you’re using any spray cleaners to prevent the risk of eye irritation.

Gathering Necessary Equipment

A successful cleaning session begins with assembling the right tools and materials. Here is a concise list of items you’ll need:
• Bucket of warm water
• Glass cleaner: Choose one that’s designed for window cleaning and doesn’t leave streaks.
• Dish soap: A mild detergent helps to break down grime.
• Squeegee: An essential tool for a streak-free finish.
• Microfibre cloths or chamois: Ideal for wiping windows without leaving lint.
• Newspaper or paper towels: Handy for polishing the glass once cleaned.
• Masking tape: Useful for protecting window frames while cleaning.
• Soft-bristled brush: To gently remove loose dirt and dust from the frame.
• Vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment (optional): For initial removal of dirt from the sashes and frame.

Cleaning the Glass

Properly cleaning the glass of your sash windows not only enhances clarity but also prevents potential damage to the glass and timber surfaces. Appropriate techniques and materials are crucial for effective glass cleaning and maintaining the integrity of your windows.

Applying Glass Cleaner

To start, select a high-quality glass cleaner or prepare a solution of warm water with a small amount of vinegar. Ensure that the cleaner is safe for use on glass surfaces. Spray a light coating of the cleaner onto the glass, avoiding any excess that might seep into the timber sections and cause damage. For a more eco-friendly approach, opt for diluted vinegar, which effectively cuts through grease and reduces condensation build-up.

• Glass Cleaner Solution: Mix warm water with vinegar (a 1:1 ratio is often effective)
• Method: Spray or apply it gently to the glass surface

Buffing for a Polished Finish

After applying the cleaner, utilise a squeegee to remove the majority of the product and moisture from the glass surface. Begin at the top corner and drag down in a vertical stroke, overlapping each subsequent stroke for thorough coverage. Dry any remaining dampness with a lint-free microfibre cloth or paper towels to avoid streaks. This buffing process not only dries but also polishes the glass, leaving it streak-free and clear.

• Tools for Buffing:
    o Squeegee: Removes cleaner and water efficiently
    o Microfibre Cloth or Paper Towels: Dries and buffs the glass

Using the right tools and techniques, you can ensure a streak-free and polished finish on your sash windows, enhancing both their appearance and longevity.

Cleaning the Frames

Proper maintenance of your sash window frames is essential for their longevity and performance. Regular cleaning not only enhances their appearance but also prevents damage that could necessitate costly repairs.

Timber Frames Maintenance

To maintain timber sash windows, you should begin by brushing off any loose dirt from the surface. Use soapy water, preferring a mild detergent mixed with warm water, to clean the frames thoroughly. Take care to:
• Wipe down the timber surfaces with a soft cloth to avoid scratching the wood.
• Pay attention to corners and crevices where dirt tends to accumulate.
• After cleaning, dry the frames with a separate cloth to prevent any moisture-related issues, such as rotting timber.

Regular maintenance also involves checking for signs of wear like fraying cords or any need for repairing timber sash windows. Addressing these early on can extend the lifespan of your windows.

UPVC Frames Care

For UPVC sash windows, the approach is slightly different:
• Clean the UPVC frames using a soft cloth or sponge soaked in soapy water (mild detergent in warm water is suitable).
• Rinse the soapy solution off the frames and dry them quickly to avoid streaks.

It is important not to use abrasive cleaning agents that can damage the UPVC surface. Regular cleaning helps preserve the integrity and appearance of UPVC, negating the need for frequent repairs and ensuring the frames retain their functionality and aesthetic appeal for years to come.

Finishing Touches

Once you’ve cleaned the glass and frame of your sash windows, the final steps are crucial for maintaining their condition and ensuring smooth operation.

Cleaning the Hardware

Your sash window’s hardware includes latches, pulleys, and locks, which can accumulate dust and develop rust over time. To clean the hardware:
• Use a wet soapy cloth to gently remove any dust or grime from the hardware.
• If you encounter any rust, apply a small amount of rust remover and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Dry the hardware thoroughly to prevent water spots and future rust.
• Apply a lubricant to moving parts to ensure your window functions smoothly without sticking.

Inspecting for Repairs

After cleaning, inspect your window closely for signs of wear or damage:
• Examine the inner sash for smooth operation and condition of the timber.
• Look over the outer glass and the window frame for cracks or breaks.
• If you identify issues with the cords or the timber shows signs of rot, consider consulting a professional for repair.
• Regular inspections can prevent small problems from becoming larger, more costly ones.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Consistent care maximises light penetration and keeps draughts at bay. Your sash windows deserve a routine that preserves their charm and function without compromising safety, especially when dealing with high windows.

Creating a Cleaning Routine

Weekly Tasks:
• Dust Frames: Gently brush away dust from the window frame using a soft-bristled brush.
• Clean Glass: Wipe the glass with a microfibre cloth or chamois to avoid streaks.
• Inspect for Draughts: Check for any gaps that could cause draughts and address them promptly.

Monthly Tasks:
• Wash Frames: Clean the frames with a solution of warm water and a mild detergent.
• Safety Check: Ensure that all safety measures are in place before cleaning high windows.

Seasonal Tasks:
• Deep Clean: Thoroughly clean all parts of the window, including hard-to-reach corners.
• Lubrication: Apply suitable lubricants to the pulleys and sashes to ensure smooth operation.

Remember: Never use abrasive materials as they can damage the glass and frames.

Addressing Common Issues

• Check and replace weather stripping if you feel air leaking through your windows.

Hard Water Stains:
• Use a mixture of equal parts distilled water and white vinegar to treat stubborn spots.

Stuck Windows:
• Gently tap the frame with a rubber mallet and apply lubrication to loosen.

Always prioritise your safety when cleaning, especially with high windows. Use a secure ladder and enlist someone to spot you if necessary. Regular maintenance keeps your sash windows functioning well and looking their best.

Alternative Cleaning Solutions

When cleaning sash windows, your choice of cleaning solutions is crucial to achieving a streak-free finish without damaging the materials. Both natural and commercial products can be effective, depending on your preference and the window’s condition.

Natural Cleaning Agents

For an eco-friendly approach, natural cleaning agents are both safe and effective for most sash window materials. Create a homemade solution using:
• Vinegar: Mix equal parts of vinegar and water as a glass cleaner. It cuts through grime and doesn’t leave streaks.
• Dishwashing Liquid: Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to a bucket of warm water for a gentle cleanser, suitable for frames and sills.

Avoid using abrasive materials that could scratch the glass or damage wooden frames.

Commercial Cleaning Products

If you prefer ready-to-use options, commercial cleaning products designed specifically for windows are available. Look for:
• Window Cleaning Solution: Select a product labelled safe for all window types.
• Professional Window Cleaner: For tougher jobs, consider hiring a professional cleaner who will have access to high-grade, solvent-based chemicals; however, be cautious with these on delicate materials.

Always check the label and avoid hard cleaners that can harm your window’s glass or frames.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common questions about maintaining the functionality and clarity of your sash windows through proper cleaning techniques.

How to clean sash windows from inside?
To clean your sash windows from the inside, begin by removing loose dirt with a soft brush or vacuum cleaner. Slide the sashes down and upwards, sequentially cleaning each segment with a mixture of water and a mild detergent, before drying with a microfibre cloth or squeegee to prevent streaks.

Could you recommend a comprehensive cleaning kit for sash windows?
A comprehensive cleaning kit for sash windows should include a squeegee, microfibre cloths or a chamois, newspaper or paper towels for drying, a soft-bristled brush, and a high-quality glass cleaner that’s formulated to be safe on window materials.

Is there a recommended technique for using vinegar to clean sash windows?
To clean sash windows using white vinegar, mix one part vinegar with one part water. Apply the mixture using a spray bottle and wipe with a microfibre cloth. Vinegar helps to break down grime without leaving streaks, making it a natural cleaning solution for glass.

How can I clean sash window cords without causing damage?
When cleaning sash window cords, it’s important to be gentle to avoid fraying or damaging them. Use a slightly damp cloth with a mild cleaning solution to wipe the cords. Avoid excessive water, as it may weaken the fibres and cause the cords to deteriorate faster.

What is the best approach to cleaning double glazed sash windows without leaving marks?
For double glazed sash windows, use a lint-free microfibre cloth and a non-abrasive cleaner to avoid leaving marks. Ensure you clean the corners and edges where dirt accumulates and finish by polishing the glass with a dry cloth or paper towel for a clear, streak-free finish.

How does one release a stuck sash window efficiently?
To release a stuck sash window, first attempt to lubricate the tracks with a silicone-based lubricant, which can help to reduce friction without damaging the material. If the window remains stuck, carefully examine it for any obstructions or paint overspill and gently remove them with a suitable tool, ensuring not to damage the window frame or glass.

Colin Greenslade
Written by Colin Greenslade
I'm the founder of Colin's Sash Windows. I disrupted the sash windows market in the UK in 2014 by introducing fixed prices for uPVC sash windows in the UK. Before this they were generally only available at very high prices through window installers. Today our business is one of the market leaders in supply only windows, doors and roofs in the UK.

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