Has it already been a year since you washed your windows? Or longer even? Understandable. This is not one of life's most looked-forward to chores. If you've shown this is the season you're tackling the windows, here's the best way to get them sparkling clean inside and out.
Obviously, the easiest way to wash your windows is to hire someone else do it. If that's not possible, this is the method I've found that's fastest, most cost-effective, and leaves them virtually streak free.
First, get the proper tools. You'll need a bucket, a squeegee, several sponges, several microfiber cloths, a chalkboard eraser (seriously), a fluffy, mop-type applicator, and window cleaner. It's also nice to have a steam cleaner and a hose-type vacuum cleaner, but they're not absolutely necessary. You'll note I did not include glass cleaner or paper towels on this list.
When you go to the hardware store, there will be lots and lots of squeegees to choose from. Get one that's about 12-15 inches wide, preferably with a metal handle. If you have windows that are high you may want to invest in a pole that will fit onto the end of the squeegee and extend your reach from the ground level. A word of caution, do not use a bathroom shower squeegee. They're not made to do this job.
You'll need something to mop the sudsy water onto your window surfaces. That's where the "fluffy, mop-type applicator" comes in. I was actually lucky to find a two-sided squeegee that has the rubber squeegee on one side and a moppish applicator on the other side. Saves so much time to have a two-in-one tool! If you can not find that, any kind of soft applicator will work. Look in the car wash aisles, there are sudsing applicators there as well.
This is not a commercial, but the best window cleaner I've found is a concentrated liquid soap made by Ettore. This stuff is so good that I've washed all the windows in two houses and only used about half of the 16-ounce bottle. Oooh-la-la … that's the kind of bargain product I like. (By the way, I've also used this same cleaner on my granite counter tops. It left them mirror-shiny). If you want to make your own window cleaner here's a good formula: Mix together two quarts of warm water, c cup of ammonia, one pint of rubbing alcohol, or vinegar, and a tablespoon of liquid dish detergent.
I use a steam cleaner to steam down the window, the frame and screen first. It loosens up the dirt and grime so I do not spend so much time scrubbing. It's always best to take your screens off and hose them down separately, but steaming them clean is a close second. Next I go over everything with my trusty vacuum cleaner hose. It's not so yucky picking up the dead bugs that somehow find their final resting place between the screen and the inside of the window when you use a vacuum. If you do not have a hose-type vacuum cleaner you can use a wet rag or damp paper towel.I'm going to assume you all are lucky enough to have double hung windows that tilt out for easy cleaning. I know not everyone does, in which case you'll have to clean first on the inside, then take your materials to the outside of the house and repeat the process. Sorry, it's the only way to do it.
For double hung windows I always do the outside of the top window first, then the inside of the top window, then the outside of the bottom window followed by the inside of the bottom window. It's good to have a system, so you do not lose track of where you are.
Step one is to soap down the window surface you're working on with your cleaning solution. Move in a figure 8 motion and make sure the whole surface is covered. Now, take your squeegee and starting in the top left corner make a steady and firm swipe horizontally across the window. Now take one of your many microfiber cloths and wipe down your squeegee blade. Position your squeegee in the top right corner and make a vertical downwards) swipe to the bottom of your window. Again, wipe down your squeegee. Slightly overlap that swipe and make parallel swipes (cleaning your squeegee after each swipe), until you've gone over the whole window. Now completely dry your squeegee with a microfiber cloth and make a couple of figure 8 motions across the surface. Finally take a new and dry microfiber cloth and wipe up any drips. Repeat that process until your windows are clean and dry. Now, as a finishing touch, polish the inside of your windows with a clean and dry chalkboard eraser. This step helps remove any lingering streaks. Believe me, it works!
Refresh your cleaning liquid every couple of windows. You can not get clean windows using dirty solution no matter how hard you scrub. Also, it's important to use near dry microfiber cloths. I've found we go through about 10 to 15 of these miracle workers when we're doing windows in a typical home.
Voila! That's it! Now you can sit back for at least another six months, relax and enjoy the view.