Tips for working in wintry weather
As the winter months close in, Darren wanted to share some of his experiences when it comes to working in cold weather. Although it is nowhere near as cold as it used to be when he first started window cleaning over 25 years ago, there are still a few days when the cold weather can cause issues.
The first thing to get right is clothing.
Ensuring you stay warm throughout the day is important to start off on a positive note and helps me to work for as long as possible.
I prefer not to wear a coat as it is too bulky and restricts movement.
Instead, my cold-weather clothing consists of a Merino wool base layer, which was an absolute game changer for me. Previously, I thought they were just for extreme sports, but the difference it makes is incredible.
I pair this with a t-shirt, fleece jumper, snood and benny hat, standard work trousers and a pair of thick socks. People ask me all day long, “aren’t you cold, where is your coat?” but I am super toasty.
The only downside to this is when you are asked to clean the insides and the customer has the heating on; it is like cleaning windows in a sauna!
Whenever we are out shopping and go to any outdoor clothing shops I head straight to the gloves.
I have lost count of the number of gloves I have tried over the years, including marigolds under wool gloves, - which totally did not work by the way.
The best gloves I have found to stay warm are Skytec Argon Xtra Fleece-Lined Thermal Work Gloves.
A top tip with wearing thermal gloves is that sometimes the fleece lining comes out with your hand, so simply hold the tops of the fingers when you take off the gloves to keep the lining in place.
While driving to the next job, I put the gloves on the dashboard over the heater, whack it on full blast to get them nice and warm for the next stop.
Some of the commercial jobs I clean must be done quite early while it is still dark so for these, I use a head torch. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – a cheap one will suffice – just as long as it does the job.
Water freezing is a frequent problem
Most window cleaners are obsessed with the weather, and I am no exception.
If it looks like it is going to be a frosty night, much to the dismay of Mrs A, I always bring the majority of my equipment (including backpacks/reel, poles and transfer pump) into the house and leave them in the hallway overnight.
I find when equipment becomes frozen it is very time-consuming and frustrating trying to defrost them. By bringing my equipment inside, I am ready to go from 6am.
Another option is to start a little bit later in the morning once the temperature has risen a bit. I know some window cleaners put Isopropyl Alcohol in the water or clad the tank with insulation.
When you are at work you can usually tell if the customer has not had the heating on as there is condensation on the outside of the window – we may get a few more of those this year and the water is likely to freeze on those windows.
I also tend to find this is the case with conservatories that are not used during winter, so occasionally we have to leave those and just explain the above reasons to the customer.
Some window cleaners sprinkle salt on the walkways after they have cleaned front doors with the water fed pole to prevent them from icing over and freezing, which is a safety hazard. However, I prefer not to clean the front doors with the pole, so we do not really need to do this.
The lowest temperature I have worked in is approx. -3 to -5 degrees Celsius. Anything colder than that and everything freezes no matter what precautions you take.
I think the last time I experienced those conditions was during the notorious “Beast from the East” back in 2018! On top of the already cold temperatures, the wind chill was just wild.
Obviously, this does not apply to those lucky enough to have invested in a hot water system.
At this time of year, we start to receive more calls regarding controllers not working.
We tend to find the root cause is that the pump is frozen, and therefore the controller is doing its job by shutting everything down, protecting both the pump and controller.
In extreme cases you may even see lumps of ice coming out of the hose reel. Again, depending on your set up, it can be quite a palaver to protect the pump from frost, so just be mindful of this when working in cold conditions.
Another precaution I have taken is for my filtration system, which is housed in an outbuilding. I have insulated all the pipes to help protect them from frost.
What are your top tips for cleaning windows in cold weather?