GIMME SHELTER- Sparkle plenty: Clean windows = quick sale

Jim Harshaw
Albemarle Window Cleaning

Q: How important is it to have my windows clean when selling my house? Any tips if I decide to do it myself?

A: Of course, everything is important when you're trying to sell your home, from staging, to painting, to landscaping, to lining up your spice rack in alphabetical order. Every little detail counts. However, according to a real estate survey published in the June 2003 issue of Money Magazine, cleaning your windows was the number one pre-sale improvement that generated the best return on the investment. 

But before you grab the Windex and paper towels, here are a few things to consider. Number one, make sure you really want to do them yourself. Window cleaning, inside and out, is a lot more time consuming and difficult than you might imagine. In addition, a poor cleaning job with streaks and residue in the corners makes almost as bad an impression as dirty windows. Hiring a professional is always something you should think about before you get started. 

But if you do decide to go it alone, forget about commercial cleaning products. The dishwashing liquid under your sink is all you need. That's because it contains nonionic and anionic surfactants, which are essential in removing dirt particles and in keeping them suspended so they don't settle back onto the surface being cleaned. How many times have you cleaned your windows with commercial cleaner only to see them dirty again in a few days? Not surprisingly, some pros even put this detergent mix in unmarked containers so people don't learn the trade secret!

Interior cleaning can be somewhat simple, but exterior cleaning is more involved. For starters, you can damage windows and siding with ladders, not to mention damaging yourself! In short, it's dangerous and difficult to reach some exterior windows, especially upper-story windows, so use caution. 

Just one squirt of dish liquid per gallon of water is enough to make a window washing mixture. Next, pick up a pack of lint-free micro fiber cleaning towels, which you can find in the automotive section of most stores. In addition to pulling the water off the window and frame better than regular towels, paper towels, or newspaper, they will not leave a trail of lint. 

Finally, you'll need a squeegee.Get a cheap plastic one with a non-replaceable rubber blade for a one-time job. Simply wet and scrub the window with the soapy solution using your micro fiber towel. Be sure to overlap your pulls so you don't leave a streak. Finally, use a dry micro fiber towel to detail the window. Detailing involves removing any excess water left along the frames that can sweep along the glass.

Jim Harshaw