What is water Fed Pole?
Water fed pole is a term used to describe a pole that has water running through it to the brush head. You have probably seen one for sale used for vehicle cleaning. There are other terms used such as 'reach and wash' and 'pure water cleaning'. It all means the same thing.
Water fed pole is quickly becoming the standard for many professional window cleaners. It allows for cleaning at height from the ground making it much safer for the operator.
On average over 4000 falls from height occur nationwide every year, the vast majority of which are from ladders. The working at height regulations do allow for the use of ladders and provides much guidance in how they can still be appropriately used.
I hear traditional methods are better?
Yes traditional methods are very good, and so is water fed pole, both have pro's and cons.
Traditional window cleaning allows for close up inspection of the glass and the use of many various methods to remove stubborn marks, it is much more suited for 'builders clean' on a newly built house. Traditional methods use a detergent to help lift the dirt and allow the squeegee to glide over the glass, it does not require much water. When we use traditional methods, we always clean the frames, however many window cleaners will only clean the glass, as this is much easier. Most of the dirt is on the frames and are washed down the glass when it rains. So if you don't clean the frames you get crystal clear glass on completion, and streaks or spotting as soon as it rains.
Water fed pole uses purified water. Particles, bacteria and ions are removed from water to lower the tds (total dissolved solids) to 0ppm. Water filtration is the key ingredient, without which it is impossible to use the water fed pole method.
This water purity means the water dries clear, which is why you will see the windows are left wet to dry naturally. The purified water is pumped up the pole to a specifically designed brush head. There are various different types of brush head, all of which are designed to clean the window glass and frames without causing scratches or other damage. Some window cleaners will adapt cheaper commercially available brushes, this is not recommended and can cause damage.
Water fed pole method is much more suited to regular cleaning. The pure water is like a dirt magnet and will pull ingrained dirt and detergents out from the sills and sealants, this may cause smears and run's down the glass after the first clean, this is naturally occurring and after a few cleans there will be no dirt left for the pure water to draw out. The only way to stop this is to use lots of water to rinse the glass, however this can be in-practicable.
If you have experienced problems by other window cleaning service providers, In most cases marks and smears are caused by operator error, this could be a lack of experience, incorrect technique, not checking the tds level of the water used, or rushing to finish a job, fatigue (it's hard on the upper arms, lower back and neck muscles) etc. There is also a level of knowledge, skill and experience needed just as there is with traditional methods.
Glass usually falls into two categories:
Hydrophobic. This is when water will run across the surface of the glass in river patterns. This type of glass requires a better rinsing technique.
Hydrophilic is when water will sheet down the glass. This is much more suited to cleaning with pure water and allows for quicker rinsing.
Sometimes glass can have both properties on sections of the glass, it is mostly dependent on the manufacturing process but glass can start with one of the properties and change over time to the other.
It is this understanding, knowledge, skill and experience that is required of the operator to ensure the water fed pole method works. Just as traditional methods require the correct type of squeegee rubber (hard or soft dependent on soft or hard water and ambient temps), the right amount of cleaning agent, the right technique, applying an even pressure, the right pressure, the correct angle of the blade..........straight pull, fan....... the list goes on.
It Waste's a lot of water!
Yes water fed pole method uses water to clean and the best way to ensure a good finish is to thoroughly rinse the windows. The water will not do any harm to your garden or the building as there are no chemicals, it is much the same as when it rains. One way to combat this is to use rain water. Rain water has a lower total dissolved solids level then tap water and so is much more suited for use in cleaning. It is however more likely to be contaminated with debris, algae and bacteria.
Due to rain water having a low tds level, we are able to carry on cleaning with pure water even if it is raining as the overall tds level is likely to be affected very little.
What about cowboy traders?
Traditional tools are very cheap and so this little outlay is a very easy way for people to earn extra money 'on the side'. Be aware and check who you are allowing in and around your property. Such persons are unlikely to have appropriate, if any insurance. If anything was to happen how would you be compensated? I am proud to be Exeter's first independent Devon Trading Standards Approved window cleaner and would very much recommend seeing if an approved member could provide a service for you. Every member adheres to a strict code of conduct, such as no door to door sales, and stringent checks.
Water fed pole is a lot more expensive (a lot more), however with the multitude of online sellers, it is easy to buy basic set ups. This allows the majority of those start ups who have little to no knowledge and results in poor quality work.
I prefer to invest in the latest equipment, then to risk a trip to A & E! I have seen properties with damage caused to the walls around the windows by ladders. If your property suffers from this, change your window cleaner! Most good traditional window cleaners will protect the top of their ladder, it's not difficult to tape an old rag to the end!
I believe both methods are useful and can be used to provide you with the best possible, safe window cleaning.
It's also worth being aware that many insurance companies will now not insure those who work only from ladders due to the safety benefits from being able to clean the windows to a high standard from the ground.