Woman cleaning window

How to Whiten Yellowed uPVC Windows

Arguably the most popular material for modern windows is unplasticised Poly-Vinyl-Chloride, or uPVC. It’s robust, inexpensive, and lasts for years with minimal maintenance. To keep yours looking spotless, you only need give it the occasional wipe down with a damp cloth.

Over time, however, certain sorts of uPVC are prone to discolouration. Those brilliant white frames, if exposed to the elements for long enough, will turn an unsightly shade of yellow. In this article, we’ll take a look at the problem, why it happens, and see whether there’s anything to be done once your uPVC has gone yellow.

What Causes uPVC to Turn Yellow?

There are several things which can cause uPVC to turn yellow, but the likeliest culprit is exposure to UV light. You might notice that your windows aren’t so yellow in places where the sunlight is restricted (your south-facing windows, for example, might be most affected).

One of the major advantages of uPVC is that it’s recyclable, and therefore environmentally friendly. But it’s for this reason that not all uPVC windows are created equally. If your window has been made using extra plasticizing agents and pigments, then it might be more vulnerable to discolouration.

How Not to Whiten Yellowed uPVC Windows

Having identified the problem, we’re left with the question of how to make yellow uPVC white again. You might be tempted by several common cleaners, some of which are to be avoided at all costs. Two offenders in particular stand out:

Bleach might seem a sensible option for cleaning yellowed uPVC. It turns things white, doesn’t it? Why shouldn’t it do the same to your window frames?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple; bleach will react with the PVC and turn it a disastrous shade of brown. If you use it, even in diluted form, you can expect a total catastrophe that can only be fixed by replacing the entire window.

Sandpaper might also seem a sensible option. If the top layer is discoloured, then surely all we need to do is scrape it away to reveal the whiteness beneath. Again, this is a misunderstanding of how uPVC works – the topmost, glossy surface is created as the plastic is manufactured – the interior of the material is quite different. It’s dull, and won’t repel water or stains in the same way. If you sand your uPVC window, you will ruin it.

How Do You Clean Yellow uPVC Windows?

Depending on the nature of the staining, you might have some luck with more gentle cleaning solutions. Baby wipes have been known to lift away some stains, and make a good first point of call if you have access to them. Household cleaners like CiF should be regarded with some caution; be sure to check the bottle doesn’t contain any bleach.

You can also find some specially-formulated uPVC window cleaner on the market, which may restore new life to ailing windows. Even if you don’t experience stellar results, you can at least be sure that you aren’t going to do any harm!

Looking to replace your windows? Start your shop for our full range here.

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Boy cleaning window

How to Clean Sliding Windows

A sliding window is one that, rather than opening outward on a set of hinges like a casement window, is formed of glass panels which slide sideways (or up and down) atop one another.

How Do You Remove Sliding Windows for Cleaning?

Most sliding windows are built so that they can be lifted all of the way out of their tracks, for ease of cleaning. If you’re cleaning an upper-floor window, this is really useful.

In most cases, there will be one mobile panel and one fixed one. You’re going to be removing the mobile panel by sliding it along until it moves beyond the blocks (those little obstacles built into the track). Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to lift the window up, and then down and out.

Lay the window on the floor on top of a soft surface. Old towels are ideal for this. You’re going to be cleaning the glass with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Mix a couple of tablespoons in with around half a litre of water. Apply the solution with a spray bottle and then use a scrubbing brush to remove any obvious bits of dirt and grime. You can then polish the surface using scrunched-up newspaper. It’s caustic enough to achieve a smooth finish, but not so caustic that it’ll damage the glass.

How Do You Clean Sliding Windows without Removing Them?

In some cases, removing the entire window and cleaning it might be impractical. If it’s the middle of winter, for instance, you might not want to let that much cold air into your house. Thankfully, there are ways of cleaning the window that don’t involve disassembly.

Cleaning the outside of a window is probably best achieved with the help of an extendable mop and squeegee, preferably with a hose built-in. Remember to move from top to bottom to avoid unsightly drips. If you’re feeling brave, you might consider breaking out the stepladder – just be sure someone’s holding on to the bottom while you’re working.

If you’re looking for a short-term solution, you could always give the outside of your window a quick blast with a pressure-washer, or a pressurised garden hose – just be aware that this approach won’t achieve that sparkling finish.

How Do You Clean Sliding Window Tracks?

If you’ve removed the windows, you might as well take the opportunity to clear out the tracks. Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to loosen any trapped debris. Once you’re done, apply some wd40. You can work it into the track by simply moving the window back and forth. This will ensure that the sliding mechanisms remain clean and protected.

cleaning window

How to Clean Windows Like a Pro

Cleaning windows might seem a relatively straightforward task, but there’s a reason there’s a thriving industry for skilled window-cleaners – the difference between a professional and amateur approach will be apparent to anyone who’s ever taken a look at a streak-covered, botched attempt at cleaning a window.  So what is it, precisely, that separates the professionals from the rest of us?

As with so many things in life, success is a result of the right tools being combined with the right skills.

What will I need?

When it comes to washing windows, you won’t need too many items:

  • Warm, soapy water
  • A sponge
  • A squeegee
  • A dry rag

In order to make things a little easier, you might choose to use a specialist window-cleaning solution – or a tried-and tested combination of newspaper and vinegar, which we’ll get to later.  Be sure that whichever detergent or chemical additive you’re using isn’t going to damage the frame of the window.  The last thing you’ll want is discolouration on the wood or uPVC surrounding the glass – as this will ruin the look of the window, and therefore the building as a whole.

How Do I Clean My Windows?

window cleaning

Now you’ve assembled your materials, it’s time to actually clean the windows.

First, you’ll want to remove any obvious dust and cobwebs from around the window.  This will form an unsightly and sticky mess if you try to clean it off with water, so use a dry, soft brush, or a duster.  If there are any particularly stubborn marks, simply dab on your soapy water and scrub with a toothbrush or a cotton bud.  Once they’ve been eradicated, you’ll be able to move on to the window as a whole.

Using a soaked sponge, wash the panes of your window one by one.  You’ll want to move from top to bottom, in a zig-zag shape, in order to prevent drips.  As soon as you’re done washing a single panel, you’ll need to remove the suds, as allowing them to dry will cause those undesirable stains.

The tool we use to remove suds is a squeegee.  They work by forming a tight seal against the glass.

If you’ve seen a professional window cleaner at work, you’ll have noticed that they tend to move their squeegee in a long, snaking pattern down the length of the window.  This is on order to ensure that suds aren’t able to collect in any one area, but are instead scooped from the entirety of the glass in a single motion.

Clearly, this is a skill that requires a little bit of practice to master, but once you’ve achieved that mastery, you’ll be able to clean every window of your house in no time at all – and achieve a professional finish for a miniscule investment.

For more info on cleaning windows, read our articles on How to Clean uPVC Window Frames, How to Clean Wooden Window Frames, and How to Clean Aluminium Windows.