Many people have remarked to me this week about how much they have noticed it is getting a bit lighter outside, more each day and at both ends of the day. The British love to talk about the weather and talking about the return of the light in this way is a favourite topic as well. We are a country that is situated North enough on the globe that the way the light levels change through the year is very noticeable and has a profound effect on how we feel.
I sit on the sofa each morning, having flung some seeds and mealworms out for the birds, read the paper on my tablet and watch the morning come to life through the patio doors. I see the sun come up-further Northeast each day, I see the birds going mad over the food, I see the light, I see…the dirt on the windows. Yes, nothing like the returning light to shine a literal spotlight on the winter’s worth of neglect of the glass in the windows.
We have been longing for the light so much through the winter that, at last, it is nearly Spring enough to think of cleaning the windows to let some of that light into the house- so we can see to clean all the things in the house that need cleaning now as well!
What you see in the picture here is something called a Window Scrim Cloth. It is made of 100% linen and I want to describe why I think they are really useful things.
I spent many years buying this, that and the other, new and improved formula, we promise you no more streaks, your life will now be complete, plastic spray bottles of window cleaning liquid that were all, without exception, pretty hopeless. All those plastic bottles!!! And how many trees worth of paper towels that seemed to go with it all. The resulting “clean” windows were better than before but always streaked (even though not washed with the sun shining on them, as everyone says should be the way) and I found it both frustrating and exhausting.
My first encounter with one of these cloths for cleaning windows was on a website for a company called Labour & Wait. If you have not encountered them, go here:
Timeless, Functional Products for Daily Life from LABOUR AND WAIT
Just looking at their products was a tonic for the plastic weary soul but, “MY GIDDY AUNT” the prices! It’s a London company selling things to London affluent customers seeking to live a more sustainable lifestyle but some of these things can be sourced at a better price point, imho. On the plus side though, a lot of these products are so well made and made of materials that last a long time so the “cost per use” price is probably reasonable. I know my linen scrim has been just that.
Bought about ten years ago, washed SO many times and I have to report that it is still in great condition. Linen is a fabric that has literally stood the test of time, see under Egyptian Mummy wrappings and that sort of thing. A totally natural plant fibre, it will biodegrade when it’s life reaches the end- unlike the dreaded microfibre cloth. I know, I know…I thought they were great when I first got one as well. They promised so much and delivered so well on the cleaning front but then we learned that they shed in the wash. Billions of tiny microplastic fibres are literally washed out to sea from these things each year and are a major problem in the ecosystems of the world and all the creatures who live in those seas. Another thing that we thought was better until we didn’t anymore.
So, how does the linen cloth compare? Here’s what I do
- the cloth needs boiling in a pan with just water for about 10-15 minutes when you first get it to wash out the sizing they use when making it. Then just air dry it. I guess you could tumble dry but it will probably shrink. I don’t own a tumble dryer, so I don’t know. Tumble drying and linen are not a great mix. It will dry very quickly anyway without a tumble dryer. You can iron it if you’ve a mind to but I don’t think it affects the performance one way of the other.
- Think of this as a polishing cloth rather than a cleaning cloth. I use only hot water in a bucket. I use another cloth or sponge as my cleaning cloth to wash down the window. That one stays wet and goes in and out of the bucket. My second cloth (old cotton tea towel for preference) is used to get most of the water off the glass and then the linen scrim is wadded up or folded into a polishing pad to finish drying and polishing the window. It took a lot longer to type all of that than it takes to do this process on the window pane.
- The linen will get a little damp from polishing off the last bits of water but it doesn’t affect how well it works.
Let’s talk about cost. You can buy a really good version of one of these on Amazon just now for £10.95. How much!? For one cloth?? Wait, let’s look at it. As I said, I have had mine for 10 years and my guess is that it will see me out. Paper towels are at least a £1.00 a roll and I will let you do the math for how many of those you would get through in 10 years for however many windows you wash. Then there’s the magic wizzo spray stuff to go with them. Even vinegar, which some swear by, has a cost. To me, it’s a no-brainer.
Deany Fabrics Professional Window Cleaners Cloth 36″ x 36″ (90 centimetre x 90 centimetre) Grade A : Amazon.co.uk: Home & Kitchen
That is it. What is so special about this type of cloth? It’s in the weave. I include another photo at the end of this article for you to see just how open the weave is. That’s not a hole, just the sun shining through the cloth. Happy cleaning!
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I’ve ordered one! Strangely noticed my dirty windows today as the light was streaming through. Are you really saying just use water? Even with London dirt?
Morning Liz! Isn’t the light wonderful? Yes, I use just water, even on the filth chucked up by the lorries out the front of the house here. Use up whatever you were using if you have it rather than pour it away but then- the freedom of not needing to buy that stuff again! We also have a scrim next to the shower door upstairs and have both been (uncharacteristically) disciplined about wiping down the new shower door every time we use the shower since we got the replacement back in the summer sometime. It takes seconds to do and no horrid limescale.
I wonder if I could just recycle an old linen pant suit that no longer fits to do this.
Hi. The problem with the linen most often used for clothing is that it is usually a lot more closely woven and that doesn’t seem to get the water away from the pane of glass in the same efficient way that a scrim does. I tried using the sort of old tea towels that were calendars we had when we were growing up but even they didn’t work as well. I suspect it might still work better than paper towels. And I have also experimented with linen mix fabric- not so good.
Thank you for the info. I figured you had tried something like that.
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