Let’s Make It Clear: Tips for Washing Windows

10 June 2009 By Ofer Shelter
Photo by Mark O'Connell

One of the most time-consuming projects for deckhands is window cleaning. The mate who taught me cleaning techniques years ago once said that when you go to a restaurant, take a look at the toilet and by that, you know the cleanliness of the place. The same thing applies to yachts and their windows.

Judging by the recent Deckhands’ Forum on Windows, which started off with the plea, “I need a hand with window products,” there are other deckies who share my daily struggle keeping it clear. Here are some tips on products to use and to avoid.

  • Water Repellent: When water evaporates on a window, it leaves mineral deposits that etch their way into the surface of the glass. Seawater has this effect, but so does fresh water. In order to protect your windows, you need a good water repellent that can withstand harsh conditions and repel water even after a washdown. The Top Deck column in Dockwalk’s October 2007 issue compares four different products that I tested for a week without rinsing. The products used were Rain-X, Klear-To-See, No Streak and AquaPel, and the best of the four was AquaPel. It was developed for the automotive market, but is very efficient for marine use as well.

    Daily Cleaners: The treatments discussed above are done only once or twice a year. You also need a good product for your daily maintenance routine. Paul, manager of Blue Sky Window Cleaning in San Diego, said it’s quite simple when it comes to finding the right product. For untinted windows, use any cleaner you like, as long as it won’t harm the glass and if used correctly, will not leave a residue. But for tinted windows, which are very popular on yachts, he doesn’t recommend using any product that contains ammonia or alcohol. Over time, the use of ammonia can react with the tint and cause blotching. It also dries the Sikaflex around the window and could cause cracking, which leads to leaks. Alcohol can damage the film and cause delamination. Be sure to check the contents lable before buying a new product.

    Vinegar – in Proportion: At sea we deal with salt, and lots of it and vinegar is the best way to combat it. The vinegar we buy at the store is five percent acetic acid and 95 percent water. When you mix a batch of rinse water, you put a capful of vinegar into a spray bottle and fill the rest up with water. So after calculating the amount of acetic acid that you are actually spraying on your windows, it’s very low and won’t harm the tint. The vinegar added is just enough to help dissolve any salts left on the surface. And as Paul from Blue Sky said, “Vinegar doesn’t harm your windows. The use of alcohol is much worse for the surface.”

    At the end of the day, when cleaning your yacht’s windows, there is nothing like a simple water-and-soap solution. If you care to use store-bought products on tinted glass, make sure to read what’s on the label first.

    What’s your favorite window-washing product?