Cleaning up meshes: what to know about screen door, window care

For many of us, spring cleaning includes washing winter dirt and debris off windows and window screens. Paying extra attention to screens now can end up saving homeowners money, as well as ensuring better views and keeping out bugs.
AMY LORENTZEN Published: March 26, 2012
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For many of us, spring cleaning includes washing winter dirt and debris off windows and window screens. Paying extra attention to screens now can end up saving homeowners money, as well as ensuring better views and keeping out bugs.

Here's the lowdown on screens and screen care:

Cleaning is key

The average home has 12 to 15 window screens, usually made of aluminum or fiberglass with a vinyl coating. Experts recommend washing them twice a year, but at least once in the spring to rid them of winter grime.

“We've had the rain and the snow all winter and the dirt builds up on them,” says Scott Walker, president and owner of Screenmobile, a mobile window and door screening company with close to 100 locations throughout the country. “If you think of them as a filter, you wouldn't want to breathe all the dust and the dirt that builds up.”

The easiest way to start is by marking screens so you'll remember which window they fit, says Colleen Maiura, a spokeswoman with Lowe's Home Improvement stores. You can use a marker or a small piece of tape that's strong enough not to be washed away by the garden hose. She suggests a cleaning solution of 1 cup ammonia, 3 cups of water and a squirt of dish detergent.

Lay the screens on a flat surface, thoroughly wet them with a hose and use a squirt bottle to apply the cleaning mix. Leave it on for about 10 minutes, use a soft-bristled brush to remove stubborn grime, then rinse. Don't scrub aluminum screens too hard; you could dent them.

Maiura suggests shaking screens to remove excess water. If you've got fiberglass ones, you can gently snap them with a towel to send water drops flying and prevent hard water stains.

If you pay someone to wash your windows, it's a good idea to inspect the screens beforehand. That way you won't blame washers for tears already there, and you can ask them to pay for any damages that occur during their work.

Repairs for a reason

The point of having window screens is to let you open up your home to fresh air while keeping bugs and debris out. Rips and tears in the mesh, or bent screen frames, defeat that purpose.

Walker says you can do some minor repairs on your own. Inexpensive patch kits available at home improvement stores include small pieces of mesh that grab around holes and close them up. Pieces of household tape can cover up tiny tears. Neither option is attractive, Walker adds, but they can serve as quick fixes in otherwise good screens.