Nestled closely to the northern shores of the largest freshwater lake in the world is a sleepy little city called Thunder Bay and Clearview Window Cleaning. While some smaller communities are even further north, I’ve always considered Thunder Bay the edge of the civilized world. Isolated from the nearest city by hundreds of kilometers of dense Boreal Forest, this area is often called an outdoorsman’s paradise. World-class hunting and fishing attract visitors from around the globe to the many lakes and resorts that dot the area. And it’s cold. Like really cold. For almost half the year, we stay covered in a  thick blanket of snow; lakes and rivers are frozen enough to drive a truck on, and temperatures regularly reach –30* Celsius and beyond. I’ve met folks from the Southern United States who assume we live in igloos here, but we don’t. We live in regular buildings with glass, just like y’all. But cleaning a window when it’s -35* presents some challenges.  

It takes a certain type of worker to go out in the blistering cold and swing a squeegee around.  Not everyone can do it. In fact, hardly anyone can do it. For one thing, you can’t detail with gloves or mitts on; it just doesn’t work. The gloves inevitably get wet and smear everything around into an icy mess that now requires scraping to remove. Pages of arguments can be read on window cleaning forums and Facebook pages alike on the best chemistry to use in winter, from automotive window washer fluid to pure methyl-hydrate to proprietary products. None mention anything nice for your hands like good old fashion Dawn. Fortunately, it’s only winter in Canada about half the time, and for the rest of the season, we can enjoy regular window cleaning just like everyone else.  We do a half dozen tall buildings in town with a bosun chair, enough commercial Water Fed Pole work to keep a crew busy all season, some lift jobs, and an ever-growing list of residential clients that all want it done tomorrow.  

Bosun chair jobs in Thunder Bay are fabulous. We have a great natural feature called The Sleeping Giant. Named for its appearance of a giant lying on his back, the unique geological feature is the protagonist of many aboriginal legends. And it’s beautiful. Many peaceful zen moments have been had hanging 150 feet in the air at 9 am, gazing across the bay as the sun rises from behind it.

Further contributing to the feeling of peace in a chair is the fact that Ontario, Canada, has some of the strictest health and safety regulations on Earth. Chairs must be made with steel cable, dual descent lines are mandatory, and equipment is subject to frequent inspections and calendar forced replacement.  Sometimes I see videos of other window cleaners, and I envy their cool descent devices and comfortable ergonomic chairs when I’m sitting on a piece of plywood using a figure 8. Other times, I read about workers plummeting to their death, and I’m glad my ropes are fresh, anchors inspected, and figure 8s never fail. I’m a big fan of health & safety. I think we’re getting into a new age of window cleaning where safety is more important than production numbers, and that’s a good thing.  

Working in an isolated place like Thunder Bay, Canada, we do things the way we do them. We don’t get  a lot of influx from other places, especially before the internet. But we get it done, and we get it done safely. It’s a great place to work for the fresh air, good views, and above-standard health and safety.  Sure, you have to get used to the cold, but if you live here, chances are you’re already winter hardened.  We come from a long line of lumberjack culture, and if my forefathers could swing an axe in this weather, I can surely swing a squeegee.

Written by: Christopher Dettbarn