Description of Job
• Clean windows for business and residential clients.
• Power-wash ground floor and hard-to-reach upper-floor windows.
• Squeegee and hand-finish windows.
• Remove screens, wash them, and replace them.
Windows get dirty.
Retail businesses and offices need to present a clean and neat appearance to
customers, but window washing is probably not in the CEO’s job description.
Homeowners also want their houses to appear attractive from the outside and
to be able to see the world without having to peer through a glass darkly. They
may not have ladders, or the inclination to climb one, and otherwise lack the
equipment to do a good job, especially on second-story windows.
It can be difficult to gain access to some windows; challenges include narrow
alleys, uneven ground, and landscaping. One solution is to use power washers
and rotary brushes on lightweight aluminum or plastic poles.
In many situations it will be necessary to enter a house to remove screens
from the inside; some homeowners prefer to do that part of the job themselves.
You’ll have to guard against causing damage to windows, siding, gutters, and
shingles on the house. You’ll also have to protect against harming landscaping,
pets, and people below. Don’t accept a job where the windows or the structure of
the house itself are obviously damaged, and skip any job you don’t feel you can
Watch out for unpleasant surprises, including hornet nests, unfriendly birds,
and uneven ground beneath your ladder.
Your insurance carrier—an important component of your business plan—
may not want to cover you for any work performed more than 10 feet off the
ground. State and federal occupational safety agencies may also have rules and
regulations. We recommend you begin your business by limiting your services to
ground-floor and second-story windows; once you are off and flying (metaphorically speaking) you can consider expansion to upper levels.
One way to avoid the complications of tall ladders and insurance concerns is
to perform second-story cleaning from the ground using a rotary brush on an
Know the Territory
You’ll need a ladder, a power washer, squeegees, sponges—and no fear of heights.
Although some homeowners may want to arrange for exterior window cleaning just once a year as part of their spring cleaning, you may be able to build up
a clientele of residential and business customers who want to schedule regular
sessions throughout the year.
Power washers range from simple rotating brushes turned by water pressure
to systems that use compressors and pumps to boost pressure.
You’ll use detergents and sometimes special chemicals to remove bug and
bird residue. Once the windows have been washed with detergent, you’ll apply
an ammonia-based glass cleaner or something similar to finish the job without
How to Get Started
Ask satisfied customers to recommend your services to friends, acquaintances,
and businesses; offer them a bonus or a discount for any jobs they refer to you.
A typical window-washing tool kit would include window brushes of several
widths and firmness, an aluminum or plastic telescoping water pipe and handle, and a set of squeegees. You’ll also need buckets for mixing chemicals and detergents, along with sponges, rags, and chamois. A simple straight-edge razor
scraper will help remove labels and crud from glass. For ground-floor jobs,
you’ll need a sturdy stepladder; for second floors, you can use the extendible
pole system from the ground or climb a 12-foot straight ladder or sturdy extension ladder.
Spend the time to learn the safe ways to use a ladder. For example, don’t try
to use a stepladder as a straight ladder; don’t attempt to increase the height of a
ladder by standing it on boxes, blocks, or other objects. Place the base of a
straight ladder about one foot away from the sidewall of the house for every four
feet of its vertical height.
You’ll also need a vehicle large enough to carry your equipment. You may be
able to lash the ladders and poles to a rooftop carrier on a full-size car or station
wagon; once your business has grown, a small van would work better.
How Much to Charge
You can charge by the hour for your services, or give a flat rate per window or for
an entire house based on your estimate of the time required to complete the job.
Include in your rate your cost for detergents and other chemicals and a portion of
the cost of the equipment you must purchase.