For as long as glass has been used in window systems it has been necessary to clean it. The first modern development in window cleaning was the squeegee. The very first squeegee was used by fisherman, it was a wooden bladed tool called a squilgee used to clean fish guts etc off their boat decks. This was probably the inspiration for the first window cleaners blade called the Chicago squeegee.
The Chicago squeegee was used in the early 1900s by cleaning professionals. It was a bulky tool with 12 screws which all required loosening to change the two pink blades. In the U.S.A, an Italian immigrant by the name of Ettore Steccone patented the modern squeegee in 1936. Initially he had to give these away to sell the concept. People quickly realised this tool was superior to the Chicago squeegee and the Ettore company was born. Ettore are still considered the leading manufacturer of window cleaning equipment today with an annual turnover of millions of dollars.
Up until the early 1990s window cleaners were still using the squeegee as their preferred choice, until the arrival of pure water fed pole cleaning systems. These systems use deionised, purified water fed through long poles which brush and rinse the dirt away, drying naturally to leave no streaks, smears or spots. The poles are usually made from glass fibre or carbon fibre, which can reach heights of 70 ft allowing operators to clean tall buildings from the safety of the ground. These systems are not only much safer they also keep the windows cleaner for longer and are now considered the superior choice for many different applications within the industry. Most commercial cleaning companies prefer to use this system particularly since the introduction of tighter health and safety laws governing ladders.
Some companies are currently developing robotic window cleaning systems but at present these are not widespread and I think it will be some time until we see these commonly used within the industry. Self cleaning glass has been developed by Pilkington and other glass manufacturers. A thin layer of titanium oxide is applied to the surface of the glass which has a photocatalytic reaction with the suns UV rays causing the breakdown of dirt. This reaction also makes the glass hydrophilic, which means rain does not form water droplets on the glass, it creates a curtain effect instead helping to remove the broken down dirt particles more effectively. This technology certainly ensures the windows stay much cleaner but it is no substitute for a proper window cleaning service which will leave the glass crystal clear and gleaming.