I’m going to get right into it: If you ask fifty different window cleaners what tools they like most, you’ll likely get fifty different answers. Many of us are as loyal to our brands of tools as we are to our sports teams and will defend the former with just as much belligerent swearing as the latter. These tools are our money makers, the very things that allow us to be who we are and do what we do. It’s really no surprise that we become so steadfast in our equipment choices. For the record, I’m an Ettore guy through and through… um, except for my T-bar. That’s Unger. Oh, and my washer sleeves are Moerman… and my BOAB is a Xero Silencer… So, yeah, go team Ettore!
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve found something I like with all the most popular brands, and I think most long-time squeegee slingers would say the same. How did we end up deciding what we like the most? Mostly from weeding out all the things we don’t like first. There is a myriad of options out there for window cleaners. It can be a lot for a noob to take in. And even for us old-timers, technology has rapidly changed things and has led to radically different designs for tools; all meant to perform similar tasks. So, who’s to really say what’s best? Well, dear reader: You are. Just like most self-defense experts will tell you, the best defensive weapon is the one you train with. Finding the best tools for you will involve time and practice. Sorry, there’s no Harry Potter moment where you pick up the tool for the first time, angels start singing, and birds, now frightened of your new-found power, begin vigorously wiping their own poop from nearby glass.
I advise industry newcomers to pick up a few different hand tools from a few different companies. Skip the bells and whistles for now. Although it may not excel, you’ll find that the most basic stuff can be used in almost any situation, while some of the flashier gear only gets used periodically. Pick the most basic models you can see. The good thing is that the basic models are usually the cheapest. Do some work, get into a groove, and then see what annoys you the most. For me, I always end up changing or adjusting my channels in the handle so I found out quickly that I wanted a quick release mechanism on my handles. I started in February, so I found out that winter cleaning can kinda suck, but plastic handles or handles with rubber grips make it suck a little bit less.
Once you start upgrading, you may be tempted to try a few “specialty” tools, such as a Backflip or Wagtail. When you do, keep in mind that many of these tools will need some time to master. I remember being frustrated with swivel squeegees and strongly favoring my Ettore Backflip. But after giving it some time and practice, I never do pole work without a swivel anymore. Give yourself time to get proficient with a tool. Otherwise, you might think it sucks, but in reality, you just suck at using it.
And never get set in your ways. All of us who do this for a lifetime have a risk of this. Up to this point, I’ve only talked about traditional tools. But the one thing I personally learned is to give the new technology a proper try. I had the knowledge and access to pure water cleaning long before I started using a water-fed pole system consistently on job sites. I think of the time (and risk of injury) I shave off jobs now, and I kick myself for not going in on WFP cleaning long ago. Just because something is new doesn’t make it inherently evil. I will say my experience has taught me that quality matters much more in pure water tool selection than traditional. If you’re considering investing in some pure water equipment, skip the Pintos and go straight for the Cadillacs.
That’s all there is to it. You’ll likely have a nice little graveyard of all the tools you’ve tried and hated during your time in this industry. But through all that trial and error, there’s no doubt you’ll find the tools that were made for you. So go out there and get after it! And always keep this in mind: The one tool you will always need but can never replace is your body. So try not to screw it up.
~ Anthony Padlo