In Traditional window cleaning the windows were washed using a chamois leather followed by
a scrim cloth to polish up the glass.
The iconic picture of the window cleaner with ladder on his shoulder and bucket in hand.
Window cleaner's shammy leathers.
They need to be soaked overnight in a bucket of water and then rinsed to remove all the leather
dust and small pieces of leather and then squeezed to remove excess water, then they are ready for
- How to clean very dirty windows?
- You will need to use a very wet shammy
to clean the dirt off and then they will require a lot of polishing to dry off.
- This may seem odd to those of us today who have become used to seeing window cleaners
quickly removing the dirty water with squeeges, but the modern squeege was only invented in
1936 by Ettore Steccone. It took quite some time for the squeege to replace the traditional window cleaning
- Use very wet on quick drying days and you will have to work quickly to polish off before
any dirty water dries on the glass.You might need to clean large windows in sections to achieve
- The main type of shammy we used was called a rag-tail mop, and was pieces of leather on a
piece of string, that formed a complete ring of leather. We would remove excess water by
spinning these mops into the air and the centrifugal force would spin away the excess
- After use they needed to be washed out and again squeezed of excess water so they could be
stored until the next day's use.
- If you are not going to use them every day, then they need to be kept damp, as when they
dry out they go as stiff as cardboard, and don't seem to work as well afterwards.
- I find that the shammy's available today do not last as long as the old style
These were favoured by the old window cleaners, and used to be Irish scrim cloth, which
does not seem to be available today. The traditional window cleaning method of using this scrim
cloth, when properely broken in,was for it to be used slightly damp to clean windows on it's
Nowadays, you will need to wash the windows with a shammy or a wet scrim and then polish
off with a slightly damp scrim.
- You can buy pre-washed scrim cloth, but if that is not available, we used to boil the
cloths with washing powder, for about an hour. This would open up the fibres and make the
cloths more absorbent.
- A window cleaning tip an old window cleaner gave me was that he used to give the
scrims to his wife to clean the floors with for a couple of days, to rough the scrim up and
make it more absorbent. I used to use them as wet cloths, for a while, until they had roughed
up sufficiently. If the scrim is not prepared in this kind of way, then it would slip over the
glass without soaking up much of the water.It would take a long time to polish up the windows
- The best tip on how to clean windows on hot sunny days with scrim cloths is that the scrim
will need washing out, wringing out and then flapping to get it to the
right level of dampness to be effective. Too wet and it will leave streaks, too dry and it will
leave dust marks.
Nowadays, many window cleaners use the micro-fibre cloths that are available,instead of the
traditional window cleaning scrim cloth.
They are good, but I used to find that they irrated my hands and dried them out.
So I would suggest wearing gloves if you intend to use micro-fibre cloths to clean your
Cleaning snail trails from windows
I don't know whether the snail population has exploded over the last few years, because I
can't remember having problems with snail trails when I first started window cleaning.
But nowadays, windows that have plants close to them can be covered by the slimy silvery
These snail trails can be quite difficult to remove completely from the windows, but I found
that using a wet micro-fibre cloth was the quickest and most effective way of cleaning these trails
from the windows.
The traditional window cleaning shammy is also excellent for removing these snail or slug
When the windows are wet, there are some of the trails that don't appear to have been
completely removed, yet when the windows dry there is no obvious sign of the previous snail
These trails probably need a solvent cleaner to remove every trace, so that when the
windows are wet you will not see any trace.