Jaime Clean A Screen With Soap & Water

How Often Should I Replace My Window Screens?

Many home owners regularly clean their windows but pay little attention to their window screens.

Screens Are My Business – But I Don’t Like Them  

One big reason my wife Cynthia and I got into the window cleaning business is because everyone loves clean windows.

One big reason we almost didn’t get into this business is because of window screens.

Screens are Not John's Favorite Subject

Screens are Not John's Favorite Subject

Working with residential window screens is a basic, necessary part of our jobs as window cleaners.   We work with them every day and have become quite adept at dealing with them.  We even smile and maintain a professional demeanor while cleaning and handling them.

But we don’t have to like window screens.

Window screens are often neglected and replaced infrequently and become brittle over time.  Once the neglected screen is touched and/or removed to clean the window, many fall apart right in your hands.

And whose hand is touching the screen?

The window cleaner’s.

Welcome to my world.

When Was the Last Time You Noticed Your Screens? 

Do Your Screens Look Like This?

Do Your Screens Look Like This?

One of my first blog posts was “How Often Should I Clean My Windows? (Dec 2011)” because it is my customers’ most frequently asked question.

I followed it with “How Often Should I Clean My Awnings? (Jan 2012)” because it’s the #2 question I hear most.

The #3 most frequently asked question, and today’s topic, is about one of my least favorite subjects, window screens.

When we clean residential windows we always remove, clean and replace the screens.  It’s an important element of professional window cleaning and just part of the package.

It’s easy to notice homeowners that pay attention to their windows and screens because every window works and the screens are all in pretty good shape.

Old, Torn and Corroded Screens

Or Do they Look Like This?

Do we wish all customers were like this?  Yes.

Is this what we see in the real world?  No.

Quite often, the only time homeowners even notice their screens is when they finally get around to cleaning their windows.

Infrequent window cleaning is one thing, dealing with neglected and corroded screens is rarely done before they break.

Herein lies my issue with screens.

How Often Should I Replace My Window Screens? 

Different Screens Types and Elements

Each screen is exposed to different elements, and therefore lasts longer or shorter

As with most things in life… it depends.

There are a number of structural and environmental factors that determine how often you should replace your window screens.

Here are some factors that will affect your screen’s longevity:

  • Structure – Is it well-built or kind of flimsy?
  • Screen mesh type – Steel, aluminum, fiberglass, other
  • Frame type – Steel or aluminum
  • Corner type – Plastic or mitered
  • Usage – How often is the screen moved or handled?
  • Water damage – Sprinklers and/or continually damp area
  • Little Ones – Dog and Cats and Children can punish screens
  • Environment – Sun Exposure, severe weather, proximity to the ocean
New and Maintained Screens Make Us All Happy

Add 5 -10 years by maintaining your screens regularly!

So, no one answer will fit every screen.  It depends.

OK, so how long should a screen last?

A normal screen that is primarily in shade, remains relatively dry, gets cleaned semi-regularly and is not subject to lots of handling (except at window cleaning time) should last you 10 to 15 years before it begins to break down and need replacement.

With regular maintenance and care, you can add 5 to 10 additional years to your screen’s life.

Maintain Screens And They Will Last Longer 

Here are 8 screen maintenance tips to increase the life of your screens:

  1. Drew Performs Maintenance on a Window Screen

    Drew Performs Maintenance on a Window Screen

    Wipe the frames regularly (every 3-6 months) and check for corrosion

  2. Keep the window track free of water and dirt
  3. Check plastic corners.  If they look faded, the plastic is getting ready to break.  Replace.
  4. Inspect the screen mesh for holes and replace if you find some
  5. If the screen mesh looks shiny, this means it’s getting old and needs to be re-screened
  6. Inspect the spline to see if it’s coming out of the frame, use a spline tool to press it back in.
  7. If the spline continually slips from the frame, it may be dry and needs to be replaced
  8. Make sure the screen mesh is taut within the frame, re-screen if necessary

In most cases, maintenance costs are less than replacement costs.  You can do most of these tasks yourself and save money while keeping your screens in working order.

One note: When we surveyed our customers, we found that cost is not generally the reason for infrequent maintenance.  It’s the time and hassle.

If you are not a Do-It-Yourself type of person, your local hardware store can inspect and maintain your screens for you. You just have to bring the screens into their store.

Also, there are also many excellent on-site screen companies that will come to your home and maintain them on the spot.  These companies tend to be a little more expensive, but they really reduce the time and hassle factors for you.

Whatever method you choose, regular maintenance increases the life of your screens.

An Ounce Of Prevention = A Pound of Cure 

This is what a screen graveyard looks like

Screen Graveyard

Over the last couple of years, we’ve unfortunately had dozens of situations where a 20+ year old screen falls apart in my cleaner’s hands and the customer, rightly so, asks what we are going to do about it.

Yep.  We touched it without noting it first, and we now own it.

And, as a professional service provider, we replace it for the customer free of charge.

Here’s a helpful tip to prevent customer/service provider issues before they happen.

Quick Tip: The next time you have your windows cleaned, talk with your window cleaner before they start, and ask them to inspect the screens and indicate those they recommend maintaining or replacing.  You both can then determine how to handle any repairs and/or replacement.

This up-front communication saves a lot of headaches and reduces the possibility of “after-the-fact” situations.

Be safe and have a great weekend!


About the Author

John Gran & Cynthia Julian

John Gran & Cynthia Julian

John Gran (@FishSouthBay) is an entrepreneur and former marketing and product development executive who has grown his successful Fish Window Cleaning franchise in the Los Angeles – South Bay area to become a leading professional in window cleaning services for business owners and home owners.

With his popular blog A Clear View Through Clean Windows, John shares his window cleaning expertise by addressing topics and answering questions that customers continually ask him during his day.  He also uses window cleaning pictures, inspirations and stories about his business to demonstrate the fundamentals for building a strong, healthy, thriving business.

John lives & works with his wife Cynthia in Redondo Beach, CA (she runs the business too!)

If you have a question or would like window cleaning services click Here or Call 310-973-3474 for a Free, on-site written estimate.

Sonya Removes Paint Large Job

How to Remove Paint From Window Glass (Without Scratching)

Stores paint their windows to celebrate holidays and advertise sales.  Ever wonder how they get that paint off?  Here’s how.

Window Paint Is Serious Business 


Valentine's Day Paint

I look at windows all day (it’s my job) and my favorites are the stores that paint hearts for Valentine’s day, Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, Basketballs for March Madness and Firecrackers for the 4th of July.

These seasonal graphics put me in a fun mood to celebrate and often reminds me that I haven’t bought flowers for my wife yet!  (Thank you!)

Seasonal topics can be fun.  For stores, these painted windows are serious business.

Reminding me to get flowers puts me into a psychological “need mode“, and the advertised deal 20% off on a dozen roses entices me to enter the store and buy them (“action mode“).  We all do this every day – no big deal – but what if it’s mid-March and a store still has Valentine’s Day decorations?

Removing the Paint

Removing the Paint

Am I supposed to get flowers to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? No. Get flowers for my wife so I can watch college basketball?  It helps, but probably not necessary.

Now I’m confused.

And I begin to question if this store cares about me.  It’s sending the wrong message, and I might be less likely to visit their store because of it.

Serious Business.  Subtle, but serious.

Removing Paint is Messy 

In response to one of my blog postsFirst Impressions Matter…What Does Yours Say? (Nov, 2011), I received the following question:

Charles W. from Redondo Beach writes:  “My store’s image is very important and we paint our windows to keep up with each holiday and event.  We change our windows graphics about 10 – 12 times per year and when we remove the paint it sure is messy. Any tips on how to remove it properly and efficiently – my son Matt really wants to know.  Thanks! “

Ready for St. Patrick's Day

45 minutes later: Ready For St. Patrick's Day

Well Charles, the least messy way to remove paint is to have someone else do it!  If you are (or most likely Matt is) going to remove the paint, here are some pointers to remove paint from your windows without scratching the glass and without a big messy clean up job.

The following techniques address commercial storefront windows with standard metal frames.

In future articles I’ll provide information on removing paint, stickers, over spray, etc.  from residential  windows.

The removal techniques for commercial and residential windows are generally the same.  The differences reflect the size and scale of the jobs, plus residential windows requires a lot more detail work since you live with those windows every day.

A Quick Word About Razors

MIni Glass Scraper

Mini Glass Scraper

For small paint removal jobs like drips, small lettering and over spray, start by using #0000 fine-grade steel wool.

Fine steel wool is safe, works great and it gets the job done fast.

You can also use a Mini Glass Scraper.  They are safe and handy for small clean up jobs and you can get them just about anywhere.

For large jobs, you are going to need a professional grade window scraper / razor or you’ll be there all day and your arm is really going to hurt from overuse.

Using a Razor to Remove Paint From Windows

Warning!  Using razors can be dangerous.  Do not use a razor without reading the instructions and receiving proper training.

As with any project, it’s important to always start with the right equipment.

Triumph 6in Tilted Scraper

Triumph 6in Angled Scraper

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bucket of Soapy Water – Dish washing soap works great. Use about as much soap as you would use when doing the dishes in a sink.
  • Professional Grade Window Scraper – Your local hardware store carries many brands, we like the 6-inch Triumph Angled Scraper.
  • Painters Tarp & A Broom – This tarp catches the paint “sheets” and shavings.  The broom, well it’s a broom.  What do you think it’s for?
  • Window Cleaning Equipment – We recommend using a squeegee, mop and some clean dry towels.  Have some #0000 fine steel wool handy too.

Got everything?  Ok, let’s get started.

Step #1:  Spread the Tarp & Apply Lot’s of Soapy Water 

Lot's of Paint to Remove

Lot's of Paint to Remove

Start by laying down the tarp along the glass.  Next, drench the paint and glass with soapy water.  Wait about 2-4 minutes and then re-apply more soapy water before proceeding.

Always make sure the window’s surface is slippery or you can scratch the glass.  Using lots of soapy water causes the paint to stick together as you scrape instead of flaking off in small pieces.

Step #2: Scrape in a Small, Inconspicuous Area First

Remove a little paint with your scraper to make sure the glass isn’t scratching. If you hear a coarse, gritty sound stop immediately and check your blade – it may be dull or broken.  If so, replace it with a new one.

Also, if you see scratches, there may be imperfections in the glass and you should either stop the job or apply even more soapy water and proceed with extreme caution.

Important Note: As you stroke, always push your blade forward and lift it from the glass as you finish and reload for the next one.  Scratching may occur if you drag the blade across glass during an unnecessary back stroke.

Step #3: Scrape Around the Window’s Perimeter

Halfway there - 2.5 hours

Halfway There - 2.5 Hours

Angle your razor 30° – 45° away from window’s frame and remove the paint along the frames.  The angle prevents the blade from catching and scratching the frame and caulking.

If the window has been drenched, you’ll notice the paint comes off in big pieces, or “sheets”, as you move across the glass.

Try to keep the “sheet” intact as you finish your stroke and gently put it on the tarp.  It’s efficient and much cleaner.

Step #4: Scrape the Rest of the Window

Once the frames are clear, keep your razor’s 30° – 45° angle and use overlapping horizontal or vertical strokes to remove the remaining paint.   If the glass/paint is getting dry, use more soapy water – you want big sections of paint to come off as described above.

Some newbies use their blade at a 90° or “right” angle to the paint as they try to “chip” the paint off.  Do this and you’ll create flakes and probably break your blades frequently.  Using a 30° – 45° angle efficiently “slices” the paint off the glass and reduces flaking.

Tip: If the paint is flaking, apply more soapy water and make sure you are keep the razor’s proper angle as you stroke.

Step #5: Clean the Glass and Clean Your Work Area

Job Complete - Clean Up Phase

Looking Good Sonya! Total Job: 4.5 hours

You’ve removed most of the paint off but small pieces remain.  Re-apply soapy water and use a combination of the Razor and the #0000 fine steel wool to remove what’s left.

Once complete, remove & fold your tarp with the paint “sheets” and flakes, you should have caught about 80% – 90%. Discard the paint appropriately.

Use your mop and squeegee to clean the windows and remove any remaining flakes from the glass.

The remaining 10% – 20% of the paint flakes need to dry on the ground.  Attempting to sweep them while wet only rubs them into the ground. It should dry in about 30 minutes.

Do you remember the broom?  Good, let’s use it!

Follow these 5 efficient steps and you’ll have paint-free windows with less hassles!

Now Let’s Get Ready for the Memorial Day Sales!

Razor Safety Tips 

Always Be Safe!

Razor Safety - Always Use Caution!

As noted above, razors can be dangerous if not used correctly.

Because we use razors during our normal business day, we constantly train our cleaners on how to use a razor properly.

Here are some razor safety rules: 

  • All razors are to be inspected prior to each use and at the end of each day.
  • All scrapers are to be carried in a safe manner or put in a safe place.
  • All protective covers must be in place at all times when the razor is not in use.
  • Two cleaners should never work side by side when scraping glass. A safe distance (approximately 5 feet) should be maintained.
  • Razors should be discarded appropriately so no one can come in direct contact with the blade.
  • If at any time a razor is broken it should be discarded in a safe manner immediately.
  • If the protective cover is broken a new properly functioning cover must be provided prior to continued use of the razor.
  • Razors should never be placed in buckets that have water in them or pockets without the protected cover.
  • Razors must be kept away from children at all times.
  • Always place the cover on the razor when not in use.
  • If at any point your razor falls let it drop. Never attempt to catch a falling razor.

Be safe everyone!


About the Author

John Gran & Cynthia Julian

John Gran & Cynthia Julian

John Gran (@FishSouthBay) is an entrepreneur and former marketing and product development executive who has grown his successful Fish Window Cleaning franchise in the Los Angeles – South Bay area to become a leading professional in window cleaning services for business owners and home owners.

With his popular blog A Clear View Through Clean Windows, John shares his window cleaning expertise by addressing topics and answering questions that customers continually ask him during his day.  He also uses window cleaning pictures, inspirations and stories about his business to demonstrate the fundamentals for building a strong, healthy, thriving business.

John lives & works with his wife Cynthia in Redondo Beach, CA (she runs the business too!)

If you have a question or would like window cleaning services click Here or Call 310-973-3474 for a Free, on-site written estimate.

How Often Should I Clean My Awnings?

Most home owners and business owners pay regular attention to their windows but we find that awnings are sometimes forgotten.

Do Your Awnings Project a Positive, Healthy Image?

Residential Awnings

Residential Awnings

Well, your awnings are “front and center” for your house guests and/or customers to see.

And yes, they do notice.

In response to one of my blog posts “How Often Should I Clean My Windows? (Dec 2011)”, I received the following question:

Jennifer C. from Hermosa Beach writes:  “Thanks John for the advice on how often I should clean my windows, it’s very helpful to understand what the professionals recommend.  Question: I also have awnings for my home, how often should I clean them? “

Commercial Awnings

Commercial Awnings

Thanks Jennifer, great question!  Well-kept awnings are important for making a great first impression, but did you know that cleaning them regularly also helps them last longer?

The following recommendations apply to most types of commercial and residential awnings, back-lit awnings, canopies, gazebos, patio coverings, signs and shade structures – including canvas, vinyl, metal and other materials.

As always, contact your manufacturer and/or installer for detailed information on the care and maintenance for your particular awning.

So…How Often Should I Clean My Awnings?

Clean your Awnings Regularly

Clean Awnings Every 3 to 6 Months

Awnings can be expensive and regular cleanings and maintenance help protect your investment.

I recommend cleaning your awnings every 3 to 6 months to remove dirt and debris and prevent mold and pollutants from embedding in the material and causing premature deterioration.  The longer dirt remains, the more likely the stains will become permanent.

Also, the brighter the awning, the more dirt it shows.  If you have light-colored awnings (yellow, white, stripes, etc.) , you should consider cleaning your awning every 1 or 2 months.

Professional Cleaners use various techniques, including water-fed polesindustrial detergents and sometimes good old soap and water to remove dirt, mold, pollen, mildew, fungus, bird droppings, etc. that can, over time, deteriorate and break down your fabric, seams, and bindings thereby shortening the life of your awnings.

Ask your cleaner to check for tiny holes and rips, and also inspect the metal structure and wall fasteners too. If they find some issues, call your awning provider to make these minor, cost-effective repairs before they become large, costly ones.

You’ll prolong the life of your awning and save money in the long run too!

Remember: Cleaning is Not Restoring.

Set your expectations appropriately

Set your expectations appropriately

Regular maintenance keeps your awning clean and helps slow the deterioration process, but once your awning is “neglected,” cleanings only do so much.  If your awning has not been cleaned in years and it’s really faded, stained and dirty, even advanced techniques and solutions may not be able to restore your awning to it’s “New Look”.

Quick Rule: Set your expectations on how proactive you’ve been.

That’s why starting a regular cleaning & maintenance program for new and existing awnings is highly recommended.

Protect your investment by scheduling regular cleanings and inspections to keep your awnings safe, clean and looking great!

Top 10 Reasons to Clean Your Awnings!

Cleaning Awnings

Water-fed Pole Technique

  1. PROJECT a positive, healthy image.
  2. INCREASE awning life expectancy.
  3. REMOVE embedded soil, grime, mildew and pollution.
  4. REVITALIZE neglected awnings.
  5. REDUCE fading and color loss.
  6. RESTORE image effectiveness.
  7. REPLACE plasticizers and protectants.
  8. ENHANCE advertising value and professionalism.
  9. SAVE MONEY replacement costs are what?!?
  10. FEEL GOOD as you make a great first impression!


 Fish Window Cleaning is a National Franchise with 220+ franchisees located throughout the United States.  FWC corporate headquarters are located in St. Louis, MO.

John Gran and Cynthia Julian own and operate the franchise located in the Los Angeles – South Bay, providing residential and commercial window cleaning, gutter cleaning, chandelier cleaning, pressure washing, and more.

Click Here or Call 310-973-3474 for a Free, on-site written estimate.

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