What you need to know about cleaning windows in high-rise buildings

As a building owner or manager, the correct information about cleaning windows of high-rise buildings will help you choose the best method. You are making an important decision because you are accountable for the results and balancing the maintenance budget. Then there’s safety to consider. You are also responsible for hiring a reputable cleaning team. So, how do you achieve the balance?

Having insights into the methods and equipment used in commercial window cleaning will help you make the right call. Armed with the information you need, you will ask the potential contractor questions to achieve the best result at the right price.  

High-rise building window cleaning methods

Each of the methods used to clean windows has merits. The height, materials, or usage of the particular building will be most appropriate. These are some options to get a perfect finish on windows in commercial buildings:

Water fed pole system

How it works: Purified water is applied to the surface. It is free of sediments and minerals that would lead to spotting and streaking on a surface when the water dries. The high-rise window cleaning teamwork from street level, so no ladders are needed. Telescopic poles have water pumped up to scrub and rinse the windows and the frames. 

Positive features of this technique include:

It’s a simple and affordable method. The force lifts dirt but doesn’t damage the infrastructure. It’s also an eco-friendly cleaning option, as it doesn’t use detergents. It is safer than other methods for the cleaners and doesn’t disrupt the building’s functioning. 

Best used for: Structures up to five stories. Glass roofs, atriums, skylights, cladding buildings, signage, and canopies.


How it works: A cradle is suspended over a building façade – typically secured by an existing integrated cradle system in the building. It can then descend over the façade giving the cleaning team access to the windows. A cradle is often referred to as a “building maintenance unit” (BMU).

Positive features: It is quicker than abseil access, as heavier buckets of water can be carried. It allows crews to reach vast heights safely. 

Best used for: This is the best option for skyscrapers, tower blocks, and sports grounds. 

Mounted platforms

How it works: The cleaning unit is mounted on a specialist vehicle.

Positive features: Truck-mounted platforms have excellent height reach potential.

Because the unit is mobile, it is a flexible window cleaning option. It can be adjusted to the building’s height or cleaning needs and saves time as these variables are set up quicker. 

Best used for: This method is preferred when a building doesn’t have an existing cradle system. The building’s design may mean that cleaners can access the building facades from a mounted platform. 

Abseiling/rope access window cleaning

How it works: The window cleaning team uses rope access to get across the building’s facade. The team then uses high-strength rope, pulleys, and braking equipment to lower themselves over the building’s edge in a harness. They descend using brake and pulley equipment. They use a suction cup on the glass to move across the pane with control. They move at the same pace down a building to clean the windows evenly. 

Positive features: No heavy or specialist equipment makes this an affordable option. They can also get much closer to windows to achieve a meticulous finish. 

Best for: Buildings with complex structures because the team can reach places that would be more challenging using other methods. Domed buildings can also be cleaned using abseilers. Abseil cleaning frees you up from purchasing a cradle or needing to have it serviced.

Choosing the best option for your building

You will need to consider the height and complexity of the building involved. You will also need to balance the needs of the tenants. Having the windows cleaned in a way that doesn’t affect their operation is preferable—the less interruption or inconvenience to them, the better. 

Most importantly, check that the contractor you work with has the necessary equipment, safety processes, insurances, and licenses. They also need to show that they have a thorough understanding of the materials on the building’s facade in question, so their method used to clean the windows doesn’t damage the material in any way. 

The frequency of cleaning also varies. If a building is in a quiet, clean area, its windows will need to be cleaned less frequently. Suppose it houses industrial work or medical facilities, has a high volume of foot traffic, is located on a busy street, is near water, an airport, or an area with many birds. In that case, it will need cleaning more often. The frequency may be a factor you should consider when choosing a method to clean the windows. 

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