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Originally published Friday, August 2, 2013 at 8:06 PM

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HomeWork: Let the sun shine in — minus the streaks

If you have been frustrated trying to clean your windows in the past, these window-washing tips may help to brighten your outlook.

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Q: How can I get my windows clean and streak-free?

A: There’s nothing like a welcome stretch of bright sunny days to cast a spotlight on windows in need of a good cleaning.

But for many of us, window washing is a dreaded chore, because it can be so hard to end up with bright, clear and streak-free windows.

If you have been frustrated trying to clean your windows in the past, these window-washing tips may help to brighten your outlook.

Check the forecast. Even though it may sound counterintuitive, plan on cleaning your windows on a cloudy day or a time during the day when the sun is not shining directly on your windows. Sunlight is apt to shine unevenly on window surfaces, and the hot rays from the sun can cause cleaning solutions to dry, which is often the cause of those irritating streaks.

Create your own cleaning solution. There are myriad commercial products available, but many window-washing companies swear by a simple mixture of one part white vinegar to one part hot water. Vinegar contains no harmful chemicals, and you’ll save money.

Begin at the beginning. Your first step should be to clean the surface with a soft-bristle brush. Brush not only the windows but also the hinges, sills and tracks. This will clear away cobwebs and loose dirt from both the windows and frames. It’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands, particularly if the frames are made of wood and may have splinters.

Place an absorbent towel along the windowsill to catch any drips. Then, with a damp sponge, wet the windowpane with your vinegar-and-water solution, rubbing away the dirt. Next, wet the rubber blade of a squeegee. A dry blade is apt to skip, but a damp blade will glide smoothly.

Starting at an upper corner of the pane, draw the squeegee straight down the pane, wiping the blade with a sponge or lint-free cloth when you get to the bottom of the window. Repeat as you go across the width of the window, top to bottom, slightly overlapping. Once you have done the entire window, pull the squeegee across the bottom of the window and dry the sill.

To clean wooden window frames, use a damp cloth and a gentle household cleaner that does not contain ammonia, which can be drying to the wood. Dry the frames with another clean cloth. Make sure that the cloths you are using have not been washed or dried with fabric softeners, which can leave a residue that can streak glass.

Know your limits. For tall windows, make sure you have a reliable ladder and a squeegee with a long handle — but for outside windows on a second or third story, consider hiring a professional. Window-cleaning companies have special equipment designed to handle more challenging window-cleaning situations. As with any home-maintenance or remodeling project, you can find a list of qualified professionals at masterbuildersinfo.com. And before hiring a company, always ask for and check references.

HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to homework@mbaks.com.

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