How to Clean Old Wood Windows to Increase Lifespan

Plus we're sharing how to spot wood damage that you can fix before it becomes an irrepairable problem.

Wooden window frames are a high-quality and aesthetically-pleasing addition to a household. However, both wooden window frames and sills require routine maintenance to keep them in their best condition. Here are all the steps you can take to clean old wood windows to increase their lifespan.

Wood Window Cleaning

Regular window cleaning helps protect your windows and increase their longevity. However, harsh cleaning methods can also be damaging, so you want to keep your cleaning routine as simple and chemical-free as possible. The most important cleaning tip to keep in mind is to adjust your methods based on the finish of your wooden window frames.

The items you’ll need to clean traditional wood windows are basic. Don’t feel the need to buy numerous special products. You can often use what you already have.

Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Lintfree cloths
  • Toothbrush
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Scouring pad 
  • Sponge 
  • Vacuum 
  • Warm water
  • Mild dish soap
  • Vinegar 
  • Bleach (optional) 

Painted Windows

Steps

  1. If the paint is in poor condition, use a soft-bristled brush to remove any flakes before cleaning.
  2. Next, use a soft-bristled brush or scouring pad dipped in your cleaning solution to scrub the window frame.
  3. Rinse your window frames with warm water and dry them with a soft cloth to remove any excess water or product remaining.

Stained Windows

Steps

  1. Use a soft-bristled brush to remove excess dirt from any area. Spray the soapy solution of choice onto the windows and wipe with a soft cloth to remove any marks or dirty areas. 
  2. In some cases, this process will not lift stubborn stains or watermarks. If this is the case, consider using fine sandpaper to remove the top layer of varnish. Allow the window to dry completely before reapplying the varnish. If the window is not completely dry, the varnish could “bubble,” and the wood could “root.”  
  3. For waxed or oiled windows, you’ll need to regularly reapply wax or oil for the best maintenance. This will help prevent damage from household detergents and rainwater (both of which are slightly acidic) and ward off weather damage. 

Moldy Windows 

Yuck! Did you encounter some nasty mold when you checked your windows for their annual cleaning? For white windows, consider using a diluted bleach solution (to help remove any stained or moldy patches on your window). It is not recommended to use bleach on stained windows because it can cause discoloration and dried wood.

Here is a bleach-free cleaning method suitable for all window types for windows that can’t handle bleach. Test a small section first.

Steps

  1. Mix 4 parts water and one part vinegar in a bowl.
  2. Take the mixture and soak the spots where the mold has formed for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Clean up with an unused, slightly damp cloth.
  4. Repeat if necessary.

If you’re repeatedly noticing mold and mildew, consider checking your household humidity levels and investing in a dehumidifier. This can help prevent mold from forming in the first place. 

Damage, Repair, and Maintenance Tips

Keep in mind that wood windows will naturally discolor as they age. You can restain them every 2 to 3 years. This will also help to protect them from water damage. During your bi-annual window cleaning, you should also check for damage. If your windows need repair, you can take this time to perform the maintenance necessary to increase their lifespan. Ignoring the problem never made anything better!

Here’s what you should be on the lookout for:

  • Wood rot. Wood rot is a form of decay triggered by the combination of moisture and fungi. If you don’t see any rot initially, run your finger along the frames of your windows and press gently. See if you feel any difference in its give. Wooden frames should always be hard and sturdy. 
  • Joint gaps. Check the miter joints in the corner of your internal casing. Compare the top and bottom joints and see if there is a gap. If there is damage and you leave it unfixed, it can lead to both drywall damage and electrical issues. 
  • Scratches and holes. Pets are notorious for scratching window frames. Make sure your pet hasn’t created any scuffs, cavities, or other damages. 

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