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Self Cleaning Glass

A few years ago, it would have sounded like science fiction: windows that stay clear and bright year after year, without a chamois, a squeegee, or a bucket of suds in sight.

Are windows that don’t require washing a pipe dream, or is it really possible? And how does it work?


What is self cleaning glass?

Picture of person cleaning window

No need to use soap or a squeegee on Self Cleaning Glass

Self cleaning glass is a relatively new invention: the first commercially available version came on the market in 2001. This product looks exactly like ordinary glass, but it has been treated with an invisible coating that allows the surface to repel dirt and grime automatically.

This coating helps the glass maintain sparkling clarity without soap and water, detergents, or manual cleaning. The coating doesn’t affect its strength or lifespan in any way: self-cleaning glass can be safely used in window frames, conservatories, and greenhouses.


How does it work?

During manufacture, the glass is treated with a special, microscopic coating made up of titanium dioxide and silicon dioxide. Each of these thin layers lend it unique cleaning properties.

Dirt repulsion: The titanium dioxide layer produces a photocatalytic effect, which means that it uses sunlight to safely oxidise and break down particles of dirt and grime on the surface of the glass. These smaller particles are then easier for rainwater to wash away.

Because the coating is calibrated to work with minimal sunlight levels, the self cleaning action remains engaged on overcast days as well as sunny days. In addition, the glass is capable of storing enough energy to actively clean throughout the night.

Sheeting action: The silicon dioxide layer smoothes the surface of the glass, encouraging rainwater to flow across the surface in an unbroken sheet. This clears away debris more efficiently and prevents spotting, streaking and fogging, leaving the glass clear and bright.

Because the dual action coating keeps the glass clean using sunlight and rain alone, this is a much more environmentally friendly approach when compared to the use of solvents and detergents.


Does it really work—or is it too good to be true?

Product testing indicates that self cleaning glass does result in a cleaner-looking surface without requiring manual cleaning.

Before this product was made available to the public, it was put through a series of tests to verify its effectiveness. Pilkington, the first company to perfect the technology for the consumer market, installed and monitored the product under real-life conditions in a variety of locations and climates, including Arizona, Florida, and Ohio in the USA, Gelsenkirchen in Germany, and in the north west of England.

The treated glass was observed and compared to ordinary glass in each location over a period of six to 30 months, and the results indicated that in every case but one, the ordinary version had a dirtier appearance than the self cleaning version.


What is the cost of self cleaning glass compared to ordinary glass?

Cleaning windows with a cloth and spray bottle

Clean windows with no effort and no detergent!

Despite its high-tech appeal, the treated glass is surprisingly affordable. The additional costs associated with it are minimal, with most sources estimating a premium of 15 to 20 per cent over the installation of ordinary glass.

Overall installation costs can be reduced further if the homeowner purchases the glass only, and re-uses existing frames.

If you currently pay for regular window cleaning, your investment can return comparable savings in maintenance costs fairly quickly. If you wash your own windows, you may decide that the installation cost is worth it if it gives you more leisure time to enjoy your home.

And as with any home improvement, your investment can also add to the attractiveness and value of your home.


Is self cleaning glass generally used only in difficult-to-reach places?

Although this type of glazing is ideal for inaccessible spots such as conservatories, skylights and high or awkwardly placed windows, its use should by no means be limited to these situations.

Certainly, this type of low-maintenance window reduces the need for costly professional cleaning—or potentially dangerous DIY window cleaning—in out-of-the-way spots. But self cleaning windows offer aesthetic benefits that enhance the features that make your home beautiful.

For instance: replacing an ordinary pane in a picture window allows you to fully appreciate the view in all weather. Replacing patio doors lets you enjoy your garden more fully.

Self cleaning windows also offer particular benefits for people with reduced mobility, including the disabled and the elderly, allowing them reduce their reliance on costly cleaning services while enjoying a brighter, cleaner-looking home.

Because both direct sunlight and rainfall are required to activate the cleaning process, it is unsuited for any indoor use, such as installation in a shower stall.

Though still a relatively new technology, these windows offer a clear and proven advantage over regular ones — at a modest extra cost.

For homeowners who want to accentuate and preserve the beauty of their home’s glass features by protecting them from the effects of dirt, grime, and water staining, it’s an option worth looking into.

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