The changing face of window cleaning – a potted history

Author: Ben Gowman

One of our most popular services is window cleaning but have you ever wondered how window cleaning has changed over the years? In this post we look at the history of the window cleaning industry.

The industry has developed alongside the growth of the glass industry, although glass was in use in other formats for thousands of years before windows came along. It was used in jewellery and pottery but became part of European architecture in 1861, thanks to Ernest Solvay – a Belgian who created a cost effective way to produce glass.

As a result, offices, train stations and other buildings suddenly gained large glass windows, which saw the start of the commercial cleaning industry. French window cleaner Marius Moussy, created the first French Cleaning Institute based in Berlin in 1878 and the industry grew out across Europe from there.

Initially, windows were cleaned with rags, water and elbow grease, however, the window cleaners themselves soon realised a specialist tool was required. The first dedicated window cleaning tool was known as a horse-sweat squeegee. These originated in stables for grooming horses, hence the name.

However, Italian-born Ettore Steccone, was the real developer of the specialist window cleaning squeegee which can still be bought today. Ettore was born in Italy in 1896 and travelled to America to find his fortune.

He set up a window cleaning business but worked with his wife to develop a t-shaped squeegee which helped him to clean windows with no streaks left behind. The company continues to provide the cleaning service with equipment to this very day.

During the wars the industry came to a halt but grew again afterwards as buildings were rebuilt, and as chemical processes developed at a pace in the 20th century, window cleaning tools and product choices developed further.

Soap was replaced with specialist detergent and rags replaced with microfibre sponges. The style and design of buildings also changed, with the advent of skyscrapers and glass-fronted tower blocks, meaning window cleaning had to be taken to a whole new level.

From cleaners travelling up the outside of buildings in specially made working at height systems, through to the modern jet and pole systems which allow window cleaners to clean high windows while remaining on the floor, the industry has advanced greatly when it comes to skill and technology.

Window cleaners can now use products which add a protective film to the glass as well as removing the daily grime and dirt left by a city or town. From being a task carried out with a bucket and rags, window cleaning has become a skilled profession with many safety challenges posed by working at height and dealing with chemicals.

Thanks to the innovative window cleaners of their day, such as Moussy and Ettore, the profession has gone from strength to strength, keeping up with all of the changes in modern building design as it happens. If you need a thoroughly modern window cleaning service for your business then give us a call at Eclipse Cleaning today on 023 8066 9933.

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If you would like to speak to one of our cleaning experts to find out how we can help with your cleaning requirements, please do get in touch with us today. Simply call us on 023 8066 9933 or click the ‘Get in touch’ button alongside.