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Challenges of Window Cleaning

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Windows are cleaned all around the world. Yet each country has its own particularities, each market has its individual challenges and demands. An overview of window cleaning around the world from equipment specialist Unger, based in Germany.


National challenges – Window glass is not just window glass: In Germany, there are many different types of glass with different features and cleaning behaviour. For instance, single pane safety glass has different requirements in terms of care than laminated safety glass. “German professionals have to have precise knowledge of all technical properties and adapt their cleaning method and tools accordingly”, says Manfred Mihatsch of Unger Germany.

Generally, many things have to be considered in Germany in terms of window cleaning. Regulations, standards and laws greatly affect the work of professionals. For instance, if the building in question is a listed building, the cleaning method has to be clarified with the insurance provider beforehand.

When using work platforms, the deployment of barrier systems has to be applied for at the city council. And industrial clients often commission individual cleaning tasks separately. These bureaucratic processes complicate the work of Germany’s glass cleaning professionals and require good time management.

Cleaning methods – Cleaning with pure water continues to be on the rise in Germany. For us, demonstration and training on this topic comprises more than half of the work in sales. Work with pure water is booming.

This is also reflected in the large variety of applications. Pure water systems here in Germany are not only used for window cleaning, but also for façade cleaning. Use on photovoltaic systems is also established, as professionally cleaned systems produced considerably more electricity.

Rules and regulations – In Germany a glass and building cleaning specialist is a state-recognised profession. The apprenticeship lasts three years and alternates between school and practical work phases. After successful completion of the journeyman’s examination, there are plenty of further professional paths and career options to choose from. “Journeymen can, for instance, go on to acquire their master craftsman diploma or can continue their educational training and acquire a further qualification as industrial climber,” explains Mihatsch.

Germany fundamentally also differs from other European countries in terms of building architecture. Developers and architects are obligated by corresponding regulations and laws to design their buildings so that cleaning work can be performed without posing any risks or hazards. If windows cannot be cleaned from the floor, from the inside of the building or from ground floor extensions, corresponding facilities must be put into place.

United Kingdom

National challenges – the UK is famous for its changing weather. This is a great challenge for British window cleaners, in particular in terms of the cleaning windows in residential buildings.

“Professionals always have to be able to quickly adapt to changing weather conditions in terms of sun, clouds, rain and fog,” explains Matt Hodgkins of Unger UK. “This requires exact planning, lots of experience and a high degree of flexibility.”

Window cleaning on commercial buildings also brings challenges. Many things have to be taken into consideration when organising schedules. This involves, for example, co-ordinating the viewing of a property, ensuring free access to the windows and safely securing the entire surroundings. “This is important. Because the health and safety of professional window cleaners as well as customers have the uppermost priority,” explains Hodgkins.

A further increasing challenge is also a result of the architecture of modern buildings, such as shopping centres. “The glass surfaces are often high are difficult to access”, explains Hodgkins. And older buildings, such as universities and schools have their own special characteristics when it comes to cleaning.

Cleaning methods – Among British window cleaning professionals the classic squeegee and scraper method as well as cleaning with pure water is very popular. The selection of the method depends on the corresponding location. In larger cities where there may be difficulties in terms of access, windows are cleaned with traditional tools. In more rural areas on the other hand, pure water using waterfed poles is the method of choice.

Rules and regulations – No special education is required in the UK to work as a window cleaner but training is essential and there are some great training courses. Scotland is an exception. A licence issued by the local council is required.

Unlike Germany and many other European countries, the UK does not have a height restriction for working with waterfed poles. On the other hand there are restrictions pertaining to the use of ladders. To reach heights of more than four metres ladders may only be used for the purpose of securing access to windows. Use as a work platform is prohibited. “This is why UK window cleaners often use waterfed poles. They are perfect for reaching areas that are difficult to access, up to a height of 20 metres – safely from the ground”, says Hodgkins.

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