Understanding Routine and Non-Routine Cleaning Procedures

Written by Michael Draper

When contracting to clean glass a contractor must understand the type of cleaning that they will be performing in order to protect themselves from liability. The International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) and Glass Association of North America (GANA) have written a joint bulletin placing window cleaning in two different categories, that being Routine and Non-Routine and each have different criteria.

Let’s look at Routine first and the information here is taken from the Joint Bulletin Proper Procedures for Cleaning Architectural Glass Products (GANA 01-0116). This document states that routine cleaning is with water and a non-abrasive cleaning solution. The tools we are familiar with are also listed such as mop and squeegee and both are acceptable by the bulletin. Water Fed Technology is also listed as Routine and an approved method. A caution is given to make sure no metal comes in contact with the glass and to not allow any foreign particles to become trapped in mop or on water fed brush as they could cause scratching. Razors and Metal Scrapers are listed as tools not to be used in routine cleanings.

This is an interesting point and for added emphasis I will repeat razors are not considered routine cleaning. With proper understanding of this bulletin, it becomes very clear how to protect yourself as a window cleaner.

Before I go further into that point let’s consider what Non-Routine Cleaning consists of. According to the bulletin there are two primary areas of that we need to concern ourselves with that is Post Construction Cleaning and Restoration. What’s interesting about the bulletin is how we arrive at having to perform non-routine cleaning of glass in the first place. The Bulletin states that careful protection of glass is required during all phases of the construction process. It calls for protection of the glass during all phases of construction. The bulletin goes so far as to say that if glass isn’t properly protected during all phases of construction it could cause irreparable damage to the glass. Remember the window cleaner hasn’t started yet. Let me state again if the glass isn’t protected in all phases of the construction process it could cause irreparable damage. What items would cause that?

The bulletin goes on to say that lack of protection in the construction process could cause the glass to not be able to be cleaned using routine cleaning methods as stated above. Some things that would make routine obsolete? Paint, Stain, Varnish, Mortar, Concrete, Cement, Silicone Sealants are listed. The bulletin goes on further to say that removing these substances off glass could cause scratching due to these things becoming trapped under a blade while trying to be removed.

Yes, the bulletin mentions razor blades! While GANA mentions they never recommend scraping glass with a razor they do recognize that these non-routine procedures may have to use these aggressive techniques to try and remedy the situation they are faced with. The bulletin goes on to state how razors should be used to lessen the chance of scratching the surface.

Protecting yourself from Liability

Cleaning Procedure for different types of glass

With this bulletin in mind a window cleaner has some pretty strong backing to speak to builders about. There should be a full understanding that glass that hasn’t been protected is already considered ruined by GANA. This association is who the glass companies and glaziers belong to. This statement is backed heavily by another bulletin called Construction Site Protection and Maintenance of Architectural Glass or GANA TD 03-1003 which we will discuss in another article. The window cleaner should consider anytime they are asked to clean in a non-routine matter that a waiver be signed to release them from the liability of ruined glass. Make sure that the lawyer drafting your waiver has a copy of the bulletin so that you are protected. Below is a sample waiver written to this the bulletin mentioned here in this article. With any legal document have an attorney in your State review the document to make sure it's enforceable.

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“Surfaces that Scratch”
An Update on IWCA/Glass Committee Funded Research Conducted by Penn State University
Have you ever cleaned a window and then lightly ran a dry fingertip across the dry clean glass? If you make a practice of doing this in public you will definitely get attention. But you will also learn something. You will discover how the surface of even brand new glass can be quite different from one window to the next.