Understanding Scratched Glass

We know that one of the most common problems facing window cleaners is scratched glass and it is one of the most common reasons why our window cleaning clients come to us for their insurance cover, as all Polished policies include cover for scratched glass.

If you are a window cleaner, your mission is to remove particles from glass, whether they are airborne sand or soil particles. So how does scratched glass happen, and how can it be prevented?

Scratched glass from fabricating debris

First, we need to look at the manufacturing process. If loose debris remains on the glass during manufacturing, it is likely to be baked onto the glass. This can cause small bumps or ‘pimples’ on the surface of the glass. You may not be able to see these small imperfections, but research has shown that they are the main cause of scratched glass. These tiny particles can detach during the normal, everyday, window cleaning process and can cause major scratching, often over the entire glass surface.

This doesn’t just apply to smaller window cleaning jobs. During the construction clean-up of windows, where you are looking to remove paint, splashed concrete, tape or stickers, there is a likelihood that fused fabricating debris could become dislodged and dragged across the glass surface.

This is known as scratched glass from fabricating debris and these scratches are typically finer and more numerous than common scratches.

Scratched glass during the construction of a building

Scratched glass can be caused by subcontractors during the construction of the building, with likely causes including:

  • Workers placing ladders or equipment against the windows
  • Painters using the dry razor blading technique to remove paint
  • Sanding the perimeters of wooden doors
  • Tile contractors wiping tile grout from the glass

Scratched glass caused by using the scraping and razor blades method

For many years, window cleaners have been using scrapers and razor blades to remove construction related debris from glass. However, general contractors often claim that it is this use of scrapers and razor blades that causes scratched glass. Consequently, many contractors request window cleaners not to use scrapers and razor blades at all.

However, research has shown that scrapers and razor blades, when used properly, won’t scratch uncoated glass, and are extremely effective at removing construction debris.  Conversely, plastic scrapers are not recommended. This is because fabricating debris can become embedded into the plastic during the scraping process. The plastic scraper would then scratch every window, from that point on.

How to identify poor-quality glass?

Before you can look at prevention, you need to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge to recognise defected glass. Some people believe that thorough testing is needed to identify defected glass. This involves scraping the glass, as would occur during the normal cleaning process, and using bright lights to locate scratches. Magnifiers can also be used to confirm that these ‘test’ scratches are fabricating debris scratches.

Another way to detect poor-quality glass is to look for scratches, and, or “pimples” across the glass surface. Remember though, that if one window pane has defects, it is likely that others will too if it comes from the same batch.

If your work is on a construction job, ensuring defect-free glass should continue after installation, as construction clean-up is the worst time to try to detect fabricating debris or to deal with a glass scratching problem.

Ultimately it is down to you, the window cleaning contractor, to determine prior to the start of a project, if cleaning can be done safely, without risk of damage to the windows.

It is recommended that standard operating procedures are put in place to check the windows thoroughly and that these procedures continue to be implemented before, during and after a window cleaning service.

Polished Insurance provides cover for scratched glass damage, across all of our insurance schemes for window cleaners, and if you are a member of the Window Cleaners Federation you receive a 10% discount on all policies!

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