In my previous column, I described one of the few domestic situations that throws me into a funk: a heap of clutter at the side of the bed when I wake up. Used to be, lots of housekeeping situations threw me into a funk, but I am proud to announce I have lowered my standards significantly.

Especially now. If the daylight hours still stretch into evening and I have tea to drink on the deck and birds to listen to, I have nothing to complain about.

The bird watching, by the way, puts us totally on trend right now. Did you know birdseed sales have skyrocketed? In some parts of the country, there have even been shortages. That’s good for the birds, good for Merlin Bird ID downloads from Cornell Ornithology Lab and also most therapeutic for our souls. It’s OK if you forgot to load the playlist for your walk; there’s something else to listen to out there after all. (Now if people would just keep their cats inside.)

But once again, I’m veering off track. My point is, I’m doing especially well if I’m outside. And inside too, if I just don’t look at the floors or any of the dust-coated surfaces. If things start to get to me, I just look back outside through a window.

Therein lurks one more of my few remaining funk-generators. I can’t really see outside because the windows are so dirty. It’s like the bedside only worse, because it’s in every room. Sunlight might be pouring in through the windows, but visibility is only 90-95 percent, depending on room and time of day.

Now I’ve realized for a long time that, every year or so, when I finally get it together to clean a few windows, it’s better than a therapy session, pedicure and dark chocolate combined.

The thing that keeps me from cleaning the windows, besides general slothfulness and too many diversions, is getting all the gear together. I know I can do a very satisfactory job both inside and out, but my system is — or was until last weekend — still just too complex. It took me 45 minutes just to gather the stuff to get started. But that won’t happen again. So here is Jeanne’s New, Improved & Simplified Window Washing Tutorial.

Disclaimer: I’m washing only those windows I can reach from the ground or a step stool. The ladder ones (luckily not the worst offenders) can wait. Another proud compulsivity deterrent.

Gear list

— Three buckets (one divided bucket plus a third is ideal); ammonia (nonsuds); white vinegar; dish detergent (Dawn is my favorite); an optional can of foaming glass cleaner, such as Sprayway.

— Squeegee. The only splurge here. It has to be good quality. I got mine from the local cleaning supply place. I don’t use an extension handle, just the metal handle that holds the blade.

— Three clean, absorbent washcloth-sized rags, preferably in different colors; a few extra rags or bar towels; a razor tool glass scraper; soft whisk broom; apron with pocket; optional rubber gloves; and optional sponge.

— Old newspapers. If you don’t have old newspapers around, then subscribe to your local paper, so that you will.

— Box or paper sack to toss used newspaper wads into.


Take one page of newspaper, fold it in half, and then half again (doesn’t matter which direction.) Do this with a couple dozen sheets, and put the bundle into your apron pocket, along with the razor tool and whiskbroom.

Start with 1 to 1 1/2 gallon water in each side of the divided bucket. Add a couple squirts of dish detergent to the first. This is your secret weapon, the prewash. In the second, add 1/2 to 2/3 cup each ammonia and vinegar. Yes, ammonia fumes are obnoxious, but if you’re outside you won’t be able to breathe in enough to overdose.

In the third bucket put a couple gallons of really hot water, for rinsing.

Put a different colored washcloth into each of the three buckets. Don’t forget which goes where.Now go pick the easiest outside window to start with, to get the system down.


1. Go around the window with the whiskbroom and brush off the glass, frame, sill, spider webs, etc.

2. Take the cloth in the sudsy pre-wash bucket and thoroughly wipe down the window and frame, more or less top to bottom. Scrub any extra dirty areas. If something’s stuck on the glass, use the razor tool, always keeping that area wet.

3. Next, take the cloth from the hot rinse bucket and rinse off any suds.

4. Then take the cloth (or sponge) from the ammonia/vinegar solution and wipe everything down.

5. Now, starting at the top, take the squeegee and carefully draw it straight across, one side to the opposite. Lift the blade and wipe it dry. Always start from the same side, overlap the passes slightly, and wipe the blade after every pass. Proceed down the window. Some people like to squeegee top to bottom instead. Try both, to see which you prefer. Across or down, the pressure should be steady and consistent.

6. Finally, take a piece of newsprint, crumple it, and use to wipe off any drips around the edges of the glass. That’s it. It’s done.

Repeat, window by window, as both the grime and your spirits will continue to lift.

Note: Try to avoid washing windows in full sun. But no worries if you can’t. It’s better to get the job done than wait and stall out.

Inside window washing method

1. Do a pre-wash; same as the outside, but squeeze out the cloth more carefully, to avoid slop. Usually the inside windows aren’t quite as bad anyway.

2. Next, you have two choices. The first is to spray some of that glass cleaner from the blue can, then use wadded up newspaper to wipe the glass clean. I love the mint smell, but I recognize the metal can is not the most eco-conscious. Plus, there’s usually some overspray. The other option is use the vinegar ammonia solution if you have some left, then follow steps 5 and 6 above, using the squeegee. For me, the results are equal, and the choice depends on window size and my mood.

Now for my newly discovered, best advice of all: If you, like me, find clean windows more therapeutic than dark chocolate or a pedicure, take one of those buckets and fit it out with an apron, squeegee, razor tool, whiskbroom, folded newspaper sheets, a bottle each of ammonia and vinegar, some clean rags, and if you like, a spray can of glass cleaner.

Then, move some less frequently used item off a closet shelf and dedicate one small footprint of storage space to your window cleaning kit. I guarantee it’ll save at least 45 minutes each time. And you can do it more often.

Jeanne Leffingwell lives in Moscow. You can reach her at

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