Through The Looking Glass

By Sharon Naylor

January 30, 2014 5 min read

It takes very little time for window screens to collect a tremendous amount of dirt, grime, pollen and dust. Even scarier, the windows in your kitchen might also be caked with a layer of grease, trapping in all of those particles and leading to an unpleasant appearance.

Luckily, it's not difficult to give all of your window screens a good cleaning. Not only does this lead to better-looking screens and a clearer view of the scenery outside, but also can improve the air quality in your home. Lessening the effects of allergy symptoms, coughing and sneezing, could mean a better night's sleep for all.

When beginning to clean your window screen, keep safety in mind. Kathy Krafka Harkema, spokeswoman for the Pella window company says, "Cleaning windows from inside the home is safer than standing on a ladder outside." From a secure, and perhaps warmer, inside location, you can easily remove each of your window screens to carry them outside for cleaning. Bringing the screens outdoors will allow all of the amassed dirt, dust, grime and pollen to scatter harmlessly during cleaning, rather than floating throughout the house. (If you regularly use ammonia as part of your cleaning solution, be sure to do so outdoors with plenty of ventilation to prevent harmful fumes from affecting you and your family.)

Another safety factor: Be sure that children, pets and any at-risk family members are kept from rooms where window screens have been removed. It might be best to undertake your window-cleaning project when kids, pets and loved ones are out of the house for the day.

As you remove each screen, clearly label their location on a piece of masking tape, such as master bedroom, first window on left. This will make it faster and easier for you to reposition each window screen once cleaning is complete.

Next, know the suggested cleaning instructions listed on the manufacturer's website. Your particular brand of fiberglass screens might be best cleaned by hand with soap and water, while a different type of window screen might be sturdy enough to take a hose wash. Depending on age and construction, different screens are more fragile than others. You don't want your good intentions of having clean screens to lead to rips, tears and expensive replacements.

Here are some simple steps for cleaning your window screens from Krafka Harkema:

"To remove dust and dirt from screens, simply vacuum them with an upholstery brush attachment." Be sure to check your vacuum collection bucket after each screens to see if you need to empty it for more efficient cleaning.

"For grease spots -- typically found in kitchen screens -- use a sponge, hot water and a mild detergent." Wipe gently, and avoiding stretching or pressuring your screens.

BrightNest.com, a home care blog run by the Angie's List corporation, suggests rating your screens' dirtiness factor on a scale of one (mildly dirty) to four (extremely dirty) and tailoring your cleaning method. Level one might call for a simple lint brush or Swiffer brush dusting, and level two might call for a vacuum cleaning with a soft brush attachment.

"If you have dirt and caked-on grime all over your screens, they will need a little scrubbing to really get clean," says BrightNest. For these level three screens, "Mix a solution of one tablespoon dish soap (you can substitute white vinegar for dish soap) with 1/2 gallon of lukewarm water. ... Wet your screens first with a garden hose. Then, dip a soft cloth in the solution and scrub both sides of the screens until the dirt and grime are removed. If your screens are fragile or thin, don't push too hard! Rinse the soap away and let them dry completely before putting them back in the window."

For dirtier screens, BrightNest's experts say, "You'll need an old toothbrush to dislodge all of the grime." Then follow the steps for level three.

At the end of each screen's cleaning session, carefully wipe down the surfaces and use a toothbrush or soft grill-cleaning brush to remove gunk from inside the window tracks. BrightNest recommends using a few dabs of clear nail polish on widened screen holes to prevent insect entry. If holes seem larger than they were last year, or screens are bowed or frayed, it may be time to buy new screens.

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