5 tips for maintaining sliding windows

Sliding windows are popular and easy to use, but here are five tips to keep them running smoothly and looking great.

5 tips for maintaining sliding windows

1. Cleaning sliding window tracks

  • The bottom track of a sliding window tends to be a natural landing point for the kind of grime that can gunk up the window's mechanisms.
  • Cleaning it is easy: Simply vacuum the tracks whenever you are cleaning the room and occasionally scrub them with a mild dishwashing solution.
  • To banish hardened dirt, use detergent and an abrasive sponge or fine steel wool. After wiping them dry, lubricate both the lower and upper tracks with silicone spray.

2. Cleaning the frame

  • Window frames face constant exposure to the elements, and oxidation can leave older, uncoated aluminum frames looking dull and blotchy.
  • To return their sparkling, sleek finish, first clean them with detergent and fine steel wool or a mildly abrasive cleanser.
  • Dry them completely, and then apply a light coat of automotive paste wax to seal out future oxidation.

3. Cleaning the glass

  • The cheapest way to clean window glass is by using plain water and newspaper. To avoid dripping onto clean glass, start at the top of the window and work your way downward. Apply water with a sponge or a window wand (available at hardware stores). Pick up just enough water to wet the glass without drenching it; then rub with wadded-up newspaper until it's dry.
  • For extra cleaning punch, add 250 millilitres (one cup) of white vinegar and a squirt of dishwashing liquid to each four litres (one gallon) of water.

4. Removing sliding window sashes

  • You may need to remove sliding window sashes to clean them better. Just slide the sash to the centre of the frame. Grab the sash on both sides and push it up into the top track, then swing the bottom edge out toward you.
  • If the window doesn't budge after you push it into the upper track, try tightening the screws in the upper track. This will effectively push the track up and away from the sash and expand the opening.
  • If you need to remove the fixed sash in a sliding window, unscrew the brackets that secure it to the frame at the top and bottom corners. Then unscrew the bumper in the lower track in the centre that keeps it from moving. Slide the sash to the centre, lift it up, and tilt it outward.
  • Sometimes, the outside edges of this sash are sealed with caulk and paint, which may have to be cut and scraped away before you can remove the sash.

5. Limiting the movement of a sliding window

  • Much like their double-hung siblings, sliding windows can be an easy mark for intruders.
  • To keep sashes from sliding at the wrong moment or being lifted out completely, try this approach: Drive a screw or two going vertically into the top of the upper track of the window frame. This will prevent the sash from being lifted up and removed.
  • You can limit how far a sliding window sash slides by putting in a screw that goes horizontally through both sides of the upper track to block the sash's movements. Caution: Don't do this on any window that also serves as an emergency exit. Instead, use a track stop.
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