Cleaning windows after a major home renovation job, or any type of new construction, is not like cleaning windows throughout the year, as you’ll often need to remove construction dust, adhesive, paint, and other debris from windows that have just been installed in a new home.
Never use standard cleaning tools and methods when you’re cleaning windows after construction, as you can actually damage the window glass as well as the window frames when you use the wrong cleaning equipment on these windows!
Using abrasive tools, or trying to simply wipe away construction dust and other debris with paper towels can mean actually rubbing this debris into the glass, so that it then gets scratched and nicked. You may also simply waste time and cleaning supplies trying to remove thick construction dust and other debris from window glass with everyday tools and materials, if you don’t understand the correct way of getting those windows sparkling clean!
To better understand how to clean windows after construction, let’s first note a bit of information on post construction cleaning overall, and why this is different than standard household cleaning, or even cleaning after a simple remodeling job. Here, we’ll explain about the debris that is often left behind on your home’s windows after this work is finished, as this will help you better understand the best way to clean windows after construction, and how to keep your new windows clean throughout the year.
What is post-construction cleaning?
One thing that is very different about post-construction cleaning versus standard cleaning is that construction work leaves behind a tremendous amount of thick and heavy dust. This dust is created when workers cut and sand the wood framework for a new home, as well as from the sanding of drywall in preparation for paint.
Because this dust is composed of drywall and wood remnants, it’s much thicker and more abrasive than standard household dust. This is important to remember during any type of post-construction cleaning, as rubbing this dust with a cloth to remove it can easily scratch new drywall, aluminum blinds, and window glass. Drywall dust can also dissolve if you were to use a wet rag to clean it, leaving behind an unsightly white streak!
It’s also not unusual for construction work to leave behind paint droplets that splatter anywhere and everywhere, including across window glass! You might also note splotches of caulk, grout, and other such adhesives that need to be cleaned or trimmed from window glass; as with drywall, trying to clean these materials with a wet rag can mean leaving behind streaks and stains, and making your post-construction cleanup even more difficult and time-consuming.
Because of all this debris this is commonly left on your windows post-construction, and which you don’t normally need to address during standard household cleaning, consider having these items on hand to clean windows after construction:
- A heavy-duty, wet-dry shop vac. Don’t rely on your household vacuum to remove construction debris, as all that sharp dust may tear up the filter, belts, and hoses of your standard sweeper, and may even damage the canister or rip right through the vacuum’s bag.
- Shop rags. Find these at a home improvement store; these rags are thick but made of a soft material that won’t scratch glass and other surfaces.
- A glass cleaning squeegee, with a soft rag on one side and a rubber lip or edge on the other side. Be sure this is a heavy-duty, high-quality squeegee, so that it doesn’t get damaged by all that heavy construction debris.
- A glass scraper. This tool looks similar to a box cutter, with a sharp, straight blade attached to a handle.
- A quality squirt bottle, for holding plain water.
- Standard glass cleaner.
- Black-and-white newspaper pages.
Window cleaning construction cleanup
Now that you know a bit about what you’ll be tackling after new construction, and know what supplies to have on hand, note a few tips on how to start your window cleaning post-construction cleanup.
- Start by using your shop vac to gently remove all the dust and debris that might be settled onto the windows. Don’t hold the hose of the vacuum right on the glass, or even use a brush attachment that you run over the glass, as this can scratch the windows. Instead, hold the hose an inch or so away from the glass and slowly run it over the window surface, removing as much construction dust as possible.
- Use the shop vac over any caulk or other adhesive residue and pieces, rather than trying to brush these away or using a rag on them. Again, this is to ensure you don’t scratch the glass surface while cleaning, and to make quick work of removing all the large pieces of adhesive you can with the vacuum.
- It’s also good to ensure you’ve removed all dust and other debris above and around the windows; use your shop vac or even a broom to brush away dust that may be clinging to the walls and crevices above the window frame, so this debris doesn’t settle on your freshly cleaned windows!
Once this dusting is done, if there is any paint, caulk, or other such sticky debris on the glass surface, use your glass cleaner to gently scrape this away. Be sure you hold the blade at an angle to scrape across the surface of the glass, sliding the blade under the sticky materials. You can also use this blade around the outside edges of the glass, just inside the frame, where there may be caulk or adhesive that needs trimming.
Because windows are bound to be covered in some dust you can’t remove with a shop vac, as well as with paint droplets and remnants of caulk and other adhesives you can’t scrape away, you’ll now want to get the glass as wet as possible, to remove the rest of this debris.
Avoid using a damp rag at this stage of cleaning; as said, this can leave behind streaks and other marks. Instead, use your water bottle to thoroughly soak the surface of the glass. Be sure you saturate any paint or dust you could not remove with your straight edge.
Next, use the rubber side of the squeegee to gently wipe away this water and the residue that comes with it. With each swipe across the glass, wipe down the rubber edge of the squeegee with your shop rag, to clean off the water and residue.
Continue to wet down the surface of the glass as needed, to create lots of moisture for the squeegee to wipe away. If there are any especially thick areas of dust that cannot be cleaned by the squeegee’s rubber side, use the rag side or your shop rag and apply very gentle pressure to clean off that residue.
Repeat this process as often as needed, getting the glass saturated and then wiping it with the squeegee, until the glass is clean. Don’t worry if it’s not sparkling clear, as your next step will help to finish the process!
Finish cleaning newly installed windows
If you’ve ever cleaned windows with standard glass cleaner and rags, only to be left with unsightly streaks and watermarks, consider a simple tip for proper window cleaning that won’t leave streaks behind. Use your glass cleaner on the window surface and then wipe down this cleaner with crumpled newspaper pages instead of rags!
The reason this works to clean glass without streaks is that newspaper pages won’t absorb cleaner the same way a cloth does, so that it won’t leave behind wet marks or streaks. Newspaper is also very soft, so it won’t scratch glass and cause any damage, while also thoroughly removing the glass cleaner and any remaining dust, dirt, fingerprints, and other such marks.
Cleaning sills and frames after construction
Cleaning the glass of windows may be the most challenging part of cleaning windows overall, but you may also need to clean the frames and sills around the windows. Consider a few quick tips on how to finish the job, so that the entire area of your new windows is clean and ready for use!
- Remember that construction paint is often very thin and easy to damage with a wet cloth or scrubby sponge. Use your shop vac instead, to remove dust around the frame and sill, and then wipe down these areas with a slightly damp, soft shop rag. This will avoid creating outright bald areas of paint or scratching the frame and windowsill.
- Use an oil soap on wood windows, to help nourish the wood and keep it from getting overly dry and then cracking or cupping and bowing.
- Vinyl is softer than many homeowners realize, so don’t use a wire brush or scrubby sponge on vinyl windows; stick to a shop rag instead, to avoid scratching the window frames and damaging this material.
How to clean the outside of windows after construction
Cleaning the inside of windows after construction can be challenging enough; cleaning the outside of those windows can be even more difficult! Renting a power washer can be the best choice for removing thick construction dust on the outside of new windows, and especially windows on second stories, as trying to clean up after construction while balancing yourself on a ladder can be very dangerous, if not downright deadly.
When cleaning the outside of windows after construction, be sure to start with the lowest pressure on your power washer, so that you don’t scratch or even outright shatter a window. Start by cleaning the roof eaves and areas above the windows, to remove dust and other debris that might otherwise settle onto the window glass.
As with inside windows, get the outside glass very wet with the power washer and continue to move the wand back and forth as you do, to wash away as much dust and remnants of paint and adhesive as possible. Once you’ve done that, you might add some glass cleaner to the water of your pressure washer, to finish the job and get the windows sparkling clean.
You might also use a telescoping handle on a window squeegee, which allows you to use that squeegee on upper story windows, to remove all traces of dust and dirt and to give the windows an extra polish. This also keeps you safe on the ground while you clean those windows!
Keeping windows clean, post construction
Once you get your new windows clean after your home is constructed, you want to keep them clean! Be sure you use these same tips and techniques when you clean those windows on a regular basis; avoid scrubby sponges or wire brushes, even if the windows have caked-on mud, cooking grease or oil, or other such residue clinging to the glass. Instead, saturate the glass and use a squeegee to wipe away that residue, and then use your glass cleaner and newspaper to finish the cleaning.
To keep the outside of your windows clean throughout the year, wash them down regularly with your power washer, and especially after a strong storm that may have allowed dust and other debris to settle on the glass. If you live in an area prone to regular storms, invest in shutters or roller shades for outside the windows, so you can keep the glass clean and protected!
Remember, too, that not all window glass is the same; some glass will be made with a higher concentration of plastic, to prevent shattering and breakage, and to help insulate against noise. Some glass will have more metallic elements added, to reflect sunlight and keep a home cooler.
Because all window glass is different, be sure to ask your window manufacturer or installer for specific instructions on how to keep that particular type of glass clean, and especially according to your local area. Your manufacturer or installer might recommend a certain glass cleaner, certain tools to use for your home’s window glass in particular, or other tips and pointers that will keep those new windows clean year-round.