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How To Keep Your Windows Spotless When The HOA Won't

As many as 20 percent of American homeowners live in a community managed by a homeowners association (HOA) -- and that number jumps to as many as 80 percent for homes built in the last 25 years or so [source: Meyer]. HOAs aren't just found in single-family home neighborhoods; townhouse communities and condominiums also may have to play by HOA rules.

While your favorite glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth are the perfect one-two punch for removing everyday spots from windows, when you want to go beyond touch-ups, you need a few more tools for the job, as well as a little free time (and a bit of elbow grease). It's not ideal to wash windows on a sunny day -- the heat of the sunlight can cause the windows to dry too quickly, leaving streaks.

Before beginning your window-cleaning efforts, it's not a bad idea to let your neighbors -- and your HOA know your plans, especially if you'll be standing on ladders or using telescoping or loud equipment.

The Ins and Outs of Window Cleaning: Inside

When cleaning inside windows, start with the windowsills and frames rather than with the glass -- this will keep any dirt, dead bugs or other debris that may be stuck in corners from adding more smears to the mix when you begin to clean the window glass. Just spray these areas with a general purpose cleaner, wipe them clean, and dry them with a clean cloth. Good ventilation and well-controlled humidity levels in your home will also help keep windows clean; the less condensation that builds up on panes means you're less likely to see small black mold spots on your sills.

With clean sills behind you, it's time to tackle the windows. Working one window at a time, apply soapy water to each window with a lint-free cloth to loosen up the dirt and debris. (Although some may prefer a store-bought window cleaning solution, just a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap mixed with warm water will get the job done just as well.) Remove the soapy solution from the glass with a squeegee, and buff windows to a streak-free dry with a clean, lint-free cloth. Dry any drips on sills or floors with a clean, dry towel.

The Ins and Outs of Window Cleaning: Outside

When it comes to cleaning outside windows, things depend on the type of window you have in your home. New homes, or homes with newly replaced windows, are likely to have tilt-in or easy-to-remove panes designed with simplified cleaning in mind. The rest of us are going to need a few things for the job: a garden hose, a ladder, a bucket of clean water, a bucket of cleaning solution (this could be a bucket of soapy water made with a few drops of dishwashing soap), a cloth-headed brush or natural sponge, a squeegee and dry, lint-free cloths (microfiber works well). Be careful when choosing the right tool for your outside window cleaning job: While a power washer may make quick work of window cleaning, rent or purchase a light-duty washer and always start on the lowest setting -- spraying windows with high-pressure water streams may cause the glass to break.

Begin by wetting the windows -- give each outdoor window a good spray with your garden hose before applying a soapy glass cleaning solution. If you have more than one story, begin with the highest window and work your way to ground level; and if you're working on a ladder, make sure you take safety precautions and have a spotter close-by if at all possible.

Take a moment to appreciate the fresh edge of a new rubber blade on a squeegee, and you'll understand why they're the best for any window cleaning job -- or so it would seem from general window cleaning instruction and research I read while writing this piece.

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