Washing Windows

We all have those things we know have to be done, but dread doing them nevertheless. Like having a root canal in a tooth. Shopping for groceries at the busiest time of the week. Dealing with the IRS. Or in this case, washing windows.

October is my favorite month — such a brisk, glorious time of the year. Bright skies, shimmering white harvest moon, combines chewing through harvest fields, colorful mums and pumpkins glowing orange all over the place to create a crisp, refreshing ambiance like no other time of the year.

What better way to celebrate my favorite month than getting done with one of the chores most disliked on an annual basis?

Rounding Up Window Washing Supplies

First of all, the necessary materials had to be rounded up. Step stool, sponges and a supply of recent, still clean newspapers from the stack atop the office filing cabinet was a good start. And shoes, sturdy sneakers with good, solid, gripping tread, are mandated over more comfortable bare feet or fuzzy socks.


In this old farmhouse, where nothing architectural is even or straight, or new, or relatively accessible, it’s challenging. Our storm windows are those triple-track types, designed to easily slide up, down and simply be removed, for easy cleaning. Sounds simple, except in this house where something blocks most windows.

I figured I might as well start with one of the more difficult ones — a window of our main floor bathroom. With warm, breezy weather, at least having windows shoved up and down wouldn’t totally chill the inside of the house.

Clearing Windowsills

But first, all the “stuff” on our wide windowsills needed to be moved, including an array of houseplants. Luckily, most plants hadn’t been moved inside yet, as temperatures had remained warm enough for them to linger out on the porches. But, the bathroom window held part of the succulent collection of granddaughter, Sarah, who had entrusted them to my care while she’s away at college. I carefully moved the plants, pushed up the inside window and went to work.

In only a few minutes, I was ready for the outside. One major hurdle is that this window is 10 feet off the ground, accessible only with a ladder ... or a front end loader. Not having the latter handy, I retrieved a ladder purposely kept nearby, propped it up to the window edge and gathered my gear.

Ladders, set on a stable surface and of reasonable height, don’t scare me. As a toddler, I terrified my parents the day my dad was high on a ladder painting the house, when he glanced around and found me right behind him. Numbed by that childhood, fear-quenching adventure, I shinnied up the ladder, sponged and polished the glass layers, and carefully shinnied back down. Please take note: aging joints don’t “shinny” quite as easily as they did during one’s younger years.

The Tricky Kitchen Window

Warmed up, I swung the ladder over to the roof of The Farmer’s adjacent woodworking shed. One of the kitchen windows can only be cleaned on the outside by standing on the sloped, shingled shed roof. Maneuvering from the ladder to the roof can be a bit tricky, hence the need for track-soled sneakers and care in moving.

If the outside of this window is tricky, the inside literally demands acrobatics. The kitchen range that sets in front of the window forces one to, very carefully, climb up the step stool, prop one’s knees on the edges of the range and stretch down behind the stove’s raised-back control panel to yank up the layers of window glass and screening behind it to get access.

But, again, that’s only after the “collectibles” on the decorative window shelf are moved ... and cleaned of their accumulation of kitchen-produced dusty grease. Or, maybe it’s greasy dust. Either way, it’s grubby.

After untangling my protesting limbs from this time-consuming maneuver, I tackled the similar acrobatics necessary to access the window behind the kitchen sink. With the window located behind the sink and its back splashboard, one ends up balancing astraddle the sink, while reaching behind and yanking up glass and screen panels.

A collection of metal cow bells displayed on that window shelf also sports its share of accumulated “gunk,” necessitating a break for cow-bell cleaning. And, need I even mention that all the windows are adorned with a liberal share of dead bugs and spider webs? (To think that people need to buy fake spider webs!)

In retrospect, polishing the windows clean of all the dirt, dust, splatters, webs, bug spots, etc., actually takes less time than that involved in climbing, balancing, shinnying, crawling up and down, cleaning collectibles, moving plants and falling over cats every time I step outside.

Still, the outlook through sparkling windows is a personal pat on the back. But within the hour, a couple of pieces of field equipment went rolling past the house, stirring up the usual dust. The bedtime drizzle that followed later promptly streaked the newly applied layer of farm dust. Sigh.

It was a short-lived cleaning victory. But now I can enjoy the rest of fall, knowing the windows were washed and clean, at least for a few hours.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.