Giving windows a shot


WASHING windows the usual way, with ladders, rags and buckets, is not my idea of recreation. But squirting them with water from a hose is. You get to pretend you're a fireman, drilling your target with a stream of water.

Now thanks to a window- washing gizmo that you hook to your garden hose, you can spray your residence under the guise of performing a household chore.

The gizmo is called Windex Outdoor. It is a jug of cleaning solution that attaches to a garden hose.

We have some windows on the second floor of our house which, I suspect, haven't seen soap since some time after the Civil War, when the house was built. The windows probably opened back then. But over time they have become sealed, like most of the court proceedings in the Whitewater brouhaha. To clean the exterior of these windows, you needed an extension ladder and no fear of heights. I possess neither of the above.

However, with this new gizmo, it appeared likely that I could clean the windows without trying to imitate the Flying Wallendas' high-wire circus act. There were more important home- maintenance tasks that I should have been undertaking when I decided to wash windows, but the idea of gazing out of clean windows appealed to me.

I saw an ad on TV for the hose-assisted window- washing solution, but had to hunt to find the stuff in stores. After calls to several hardware stores, I hit pay dirt in the housewares section of Stebbins Anderson in Towson. Before you could say #i "squeegee" I was out there, shelling out $10 for a 32-ounce jug that came with the hose attachment, and another $6 for a refill jug of the solution.

On my way back home, I picked up my 13-year-old son, who had finished playing a baseball game at school. He, too, had seen the TV ad showing a guy spraying windows with this new contraption. He, too, thought it looked like fun. This stuff may or may not work, I told myself, but it sure can entice guys to wash windows.

We set up operations in the front of the house, about 30 feet below the second-floor windows. I was on the sidewalk and hooked up the hose to the jug and sprayer. "Let 'er rip," I hollered to my son, who was down in the basement with his hand on the water faucet.

That is how it works in many rowhouses. To get water to the front of your house, you push a hose out of an opening cut in the basement window frame.

At first, things did not go well. Instead of shooting out of the sprayer in a high-pressure stream, water gushed out of the end of hose. This old, puny hose had more leaks than the Whitewater special prosecutor's office.

I had to switch hoses. The leaky hose had to be pulled back into the basement and uncoupled from the tap. A "good hose" had to be fetched from the back yard, carried into the basement, hooked up to the tap and pushed through the hole in the basement window. During the hose-switching process, water gurgled out of the hoses, making the basement floor look like a deck on the Titanic.

My son and I had switched positions. He moved to the sidewalk with the sprayer. I was down in the basement, manning the tap. This time the water showed up where it was supposed to, streaming out of sprayer. I joined the kid on the sidewalk.

Following directions, first we put the sprayer on "rinse" and wet the windows with a stream of water. Then we shifted the sprayer setting to "clean," which transformed the stream into a sudsy solution that coated the window glass. We let the suds sit on the glass for 15 seconds, then gave the glass another blast of "rinse."

We rinsed, and soaped, and rinsed again. Passers-by stopped and watched; the wise ones kept their distance. The combination of a shifting wind and our unsteady hands on the hose meant anyone who ventured close to the proceedings stood a good chance of getting sprayed.

This window-washing routine seemed to work. Sheets of dirty water flowed from the second story of the house, down to the first story. This meant that we now had to wash the windows on the first floor as well.

In the evening light, the windows looked much cleaner than they had been before we washed them. The next morning, in the light of day, I took another look. This time I detected flaws. The Civil War grime was gone. But some of the windows had streaks running down them, sort of like a Jasper Johns painting. I tried to make the best of the situation, telling myself that if Johns, a respected artist, has streaks in his paintings, I could have a few streaks in my windows. But I couldn't convince myself.

I called up the toll-free telephone number on the label of the jug to ask the Windex window people about the streaks. The Windex people told me, in effect, that if I wanted to avoid streaks, I should watch where I was shooting the hose and watch what I was shooting with.

They told me to avoiding shooting at the overhangs or the eaves of house. Water drips down from the overhangs and eaves, they said, leaving streaks. I confessed that when I had the hose in my hand, I had fired away at any house part that was not moving. They also told me to try using another kind of washing solution. Apparently there are two formulas for Windex Outdoor, distinguished by a code that is printed on the front of the bottle, just above the label.

Jugs carrying a code beginning with the letter "N" are filled with a new, improved formula, the Windex people told me. Those with a code beginning with the letter "M" contain the original formula. When I told them about the streaking, the Windex people seemed to suspect that I had been using an "M" formula. I couldn't tell because, in addition to washing away the grime from my front windows, I had also washed away the code on my jug of Windex.

The Windex people promised to send me a coupon entitling me to a jug of the "N" stuff. When I get it, I will hook it up to the hose and fire away. I won't shoot at the overhang, I will aim only at the glass. Maybe next time, I will lose the Jasper Johns effect. I hope I don't lose the thrill of drilling my house with a high-powered spray.

Pub Date: 5/02/98

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