If your windows always streak after washing:
istock/matspersson0Steal this tip from the pros: Use a window-washing squeegee with a smooth, soft rubber edge (or crumpled-up black-and-white newspaper—avoid the color sections). Dry a 1-inch strip at the top or side of each window and always start your squeegee there. Starting on dry glass is one key to avoiding streaks. Don’t wash windows in direct sunlight, because quickly dried glass is more susceptible to streaking. Evenings or cloudy days are the best times for window washing.
If your blinds are always dusty:
istock/NORRIE3699Use an antiseptic spray. The best way to keep dust from piling up quickly is by applying that spray, such as Static Guard, on the window blinds right after you clean them. If dust is a problem in other parts of your home, other cleaning strategies may be more effective.
If there’s mildew on your window frames:
istock/MarinaCHWash with a bleach-detergent solution. Black or gray mildew spots on wooden frames can be cleaned for good with a solution of 2 ounces of household bleach and 1 ounce of laundry detergent in a quart of water. Wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands, sponge the solution on the spots, let it sit for ten minutes, and then rinse thoroughly with clean water.
If you can't keep the outside windowsills clean:
istock/jinjo0222988Apply a coat of floor wax. Because your exterior windows are, well, exterior, they are subject to collecting a lot of dirt. Wax is the simplest (and most effective) way to protect your sills. A coat of WD-40 can also protect your windows from the elements, particularly snow.
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If your shades are the problem:
istock/Dima11286Dust or wash them. Dust shades regularly with a soft cloth, a duster such as the Swiffer, or the dusting brush on your vacuum. (Be sure to dust both sides of the shades.) If they’re stained or spotted, it’s time for a real cleaning. Though you can wash them in place (with a drop cloth over the floor and furniture), it’s best to remove the shades. Place one shade at a time across a worktable covered with a plastic sheet or shower curtain. Wash vinyl shades using a sponge and a solution of 1⁄4 cup white vinegar in 1 quart of warm water. Washing them in the bathtub is even easier. Run some warm water in the tub, add a squirt of dishwashing liquid, and wipe each side with a large sponge. To rise, dunk them in clean water or hold them under the shower. Then wipe with a clean, soft cloth. Many fabric shades can also be washed, but take a close look at the care instructions before washing them. It’s best not to leave them in the water for more than a minute.
If your windows get dirty unusually fast:
istock/SerenethosChange the filter in your heating and cooling system. Modern airtight homes trap more dust, pollen, dander, and other particles inside than ever before. While furnace and air conditioner filters extend the life of your appliances, they also help trap that dirt. Filters should be changed every month or two, or anytime you can’t see through the filter when you hold it up to a light. Cleaning your air conditioning filter regularly is also an inexpensive way to keep your house cooler.
If your windows are exposed to secondhand smoke:
istock/fuzznailsWash them with ammonia solution. It's the only thing that can remove nicotine film or other grime. Mix 1 cup of lemon-scented ammonia in 21⁄2 gallons of water and scrub the windows. The ammonia will cut through the grime, and the lemon scent will leave your house habitable. If you don't have scented ammonia, place a homemade air freshener in the room.
If your screens are worse than your windows:
istock/Carol_AnneRemove and wash them outside. Using a broad, soft-bristled brush, scrub both sides of the screens with warm or hot water and lemon-scented dishwashing detergent. Pick up the screen by its edges, hold it at an angle so most of the screen surface is facing the ground, and rap one edge lightly against a firm surface. This will shake loose any dirt. Rinse with a hose and air-dry thoroughly before reinstalling. For grime buildup in other parts of your home, you need different (but equally effective) fast cleaning fixes.
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