With many coastal areas now mandating the use of impact windows in new construction, hundreds of homeowners a year must learn to adapt to maintaining these specialty windows or risk wasting their investment. While all windows take some amount of work to keep clean, impact windows are particularly sensitive to cleaning and must be handled with care. Discover why they're so prone to damage, why even superficial scratches matter, and how to prevent damage while cleaning.
Plain glass is particularly brittle, especially against impacts caused by debris flying around in a high wind of a hurricane or other storm. Impact windows can handle much stronger impacts because the glass is laminated with one or more layers of tough, flexible plastic that absorbs and spreads out shocks instead of allowing them to put a crack in the glass. The advanced laminated glass today is made with layers of plastic so thin that they're basically coatings, and this means that impact resistant glass is far more sensitive to surface damage. Even a bit of sharp and hard dust stuck in the surface of a cleaning rag could leave the surface visibly scratched.
When you're dealing with the glass used in everyday residential windows, scratches are a matter of visual disturbance rather than a safety problem. You're free to buff out the scratch if it bothers you or leave it without any particular consequences. With impact glass, any interruption in the solid surface of the window can weaken its strength against those impacts. It may look like just a scratch, but it could be the weakness that compromises the entire window in a serious emergency. It's impossible to tell if a scratch is serious enough to compromise the window on your own, so you'll need to have it inspected if you notice a scratch or mark to verify it's still strong enough to protect you and your home.
There are many ways for an impact window to become scratched. Even something as simple as leaving a safe glass cleaning spray on the surface instead of wiping it off is enough to cause a permanent mark. However, there are a few mistakes that most commonly cause this kind of damage to impact windows. First, many homeowners grab a razor blade or utility knife blade to remove specks of paint or other stubborn debris. It's not the sharp edge that damages the glass but rather the interaction between debris left on the glass and the metal of the blade. Secondly, even wiping the surface with a soft cloth can cause scratches when grit is already present on the surface. Finally, using any kind of squeegee on the surface also causes the scraping effect with tiny dirt particles.
Despite all the ways there are to accidentally scratch and weaken the glass, you can clean your impact windows without compromising them. Start by rinsing the glass with plenty of water to remove any unseen debris and dirt on the surface. Spray on any cleaning products you're using and let them sit for just a few minutes to loosen the bonds of stubborn dirt without damaging the glass. Scrub and wipe with a lint-free microfiber cloth, preferably a disposable one to reduce the chances of hidden particles in the weave. Finish up with another rinse and then a thorough drying. It's fine to use a soft and flexible squeegee as long as you thoroughly rinsed the surface in the beginning, then get the remaining moisture with a clean towel or another microfiber cloth. Take extra care to make sure there's no water sitting around the edges to compromise the gaskets and seals.
If you need new windows, contact a company like Bradenton Window & Allied Products.