The ‘Cape Doctor’ not only signals the start of summer for Capetonians, but the start of window cleaning season. Strong, salty wind batters all sea-facing commercial and residential buildings. For those situated upcountry, residue dust and water marks from winter rainfall lingers, resulting in windows that look like they’ve seen better days.

Many property managers mistakenly think that cleaning the windows of commercial buildings higher than three stories entail the use of rope access – a precarious and time consuming process. Contrary to popular belief, there are a whole host of alternative window cleaning services available.

Alternatives to rope access include methods such as:

  • Fall Arrest

This method entails the use of a safety harness attached to a shock-absorbing cord (much like a bungee cord). This ‘prevents the fall’ should a worker slip.

  • Scaffolding

While this method allows cleaners easy access to the windows of skyscrapers, erecting scaffolding around an office block or commercial building is time-consuming, unsightly, and intrusive. This has to be erected by qualified personnel.

  • Ladders  

This is the most popular method used, as it allows cleaner’s access to buildings up to four stories high. Ladders involve minimal setup time and aren’t as intrusive as scaffolding. That said, the use of ladders poses significant risk to individuals – both cleaners and passers-by, which makes this method unsuitable for populated areas with high volumes of foot traffic. Can only be used by trained personnel.

  • Hydraulic Platforms

Also called a cherry picker (named for its original use) this mechanism works on hydraulics, and is either on a self-moving platform, or on a truck. A ‘bucket’ containing one or two window cleaners elevates them to their desired height. Cherry pickers are used for sky scrapers up to 10 stories, and are ideal for buildings with windows situated in hard-to-reach places.

  • Suspended Platforms

Sometimes called a gondola, this consists of a platform that holds either one or two individuals. The platform is secured by cables, and is maneuvered either mechanically or manually.

  • Water Fed Pole System

The most environmentally friendly method of window cleaning, water-fed pole systems, uses reverse osmosis to purify water from the building. The de-ionized water which is free from minerals is pumped through a pole with a brush head. Not only is this method free from chemicals, it doesn’t rely on electricity either, making this the safest window cleaning method for buildings of up to five stories. In addition, signage, awnings and skylights – all of which do not allow for rope access – can be cleaned with ease.

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Before you decide between rope access, scaffolding, ladders or another method, it’s advisable to conduct the following steps:

  1. Perform an assessment of the building

This is the most important step when deciding on which window cleaning method. If your building is less than five stories, a water-fed pole system may be preferable to rope access. If you’re entrusted with maintaining a skyscraper, rope access is risky, in which case a hydraulic platform should be used.

  1. Consider health and safety best practices

The height and location of your building – as well as the purpose it’s used for – will dictate the window cleaning services suitable. For example, the Carlton Centre building would never use ladders or rope access, as the height (50 stories), location (a densely populated city) and use (tourist destination) mean that there are several risk factors to consider.

  1. Take into account the longevity of the application

Cleaning the windows of buildings higher than one story is a laborious task – regardless of the methods used. As far as window cleaning services with the most longevity, the water fed pole systems wins hands down. Because this reverse osmosis method doesn’t use chemicals, the use of de-ionized water means that dirt is less likely to stick to the window than when soap or chemicals and tap water are used.

Before any work is done, we recommend following the steps above. The Specialists will do a free assessment, in order to determine the window cleaning services most suitable to your premises.

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Image Credit: Capetown.gov