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Scrapers: at the sharp end of facade maintenance

14 April 2014

Scrapers are an essential part of a window cleaner's tool kit and have long been the standard and most practical method of removing certain debris from windows and the outside of buildings. Matt Hodgkins, sales and marketing director for Unger UK, reveals how they can be used safely and effectively to ensure building façades stay looking good for longer.

Scrapers are most frequently called into action when construction or decorating work has been completed. Materials used during the construction period, such as cement, grout and paint, can splatter onto glass, and scrapers are the most effective tool to help remove them.

Throwing eggs at buildings can seem like a good practical joke to some – and anti-social behaviour to others – but either way, egg can be a stubborn substance to remove once dried on. Scrapers can help in these circumstances, as they can with another big problem when it comes to building maintenance – bird excrement. Bird mess not only has the potential to spread disease and bacteria, its corrosive nature can also cause damage to brickwork and building facades if left for too long. As well as a good quality scraper, a cleaning operative will need to wear the appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) in this situation. Scrapers can also be useful when dealing with fly-posting or other materials such as adhesive tape, vinyl stickers or decals.

Tempered glass, also known as safety glass, is extremely common for both business and domestic use. It is manufactured by a process of extreme heating and rapid cooling, which makes it about 4-5 times stronger than standard glass. However, if the glass does shatter, it breaks into small ‘chunks’ instead of splintering into dangerous, jagged shards. Extra care needs to be taken when cleaning this type of glass as issues have arisen surrounding ‘fabricating debris’. This takes the form of tiny rough imperfections, sometimes referred to as ‘glass fines’ that are created in the hardening process. 

Scrapers should not scratch normal, uncoated glass when used properly, but it is always advisable to check if the glass is scratch resistant before work starts, to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and to perform a test on a hidden area. Checking the glass for damage before cleaning begins, and notifying site/facility managers of any potential problems, is also a good idea. 

Scraper use and care

Scrapers need to be used with care, the golden rule being never to use one on dry glass. Always wet your window with the correct cleaning solution for the material you are about to remove as this helps to lubricate the blade.

It’s also important to scrape in one direction only, lift the scraper from the surface, and then reapply it. Scraping the blade back and forth across a window increases the chances of dirt being trapped under the blade and causing scratches. Clean your blade regularly in water and always apply an even pressure, holding the blade flat against the glass. 

Old, worn-out or damaged blades must be changed regularly to ensure optimum results, and safety is also highly important. When not in use, caps should be placed over blades, or retracted, to minimise the risk of cuts.

When buying a scraper

The most effective and up-to-date models feature ergonomically designed handles which provide a more comfortable fit in the hand, minimising stresses and strains on hands, arms and shoulders. The latest innovation to hit the scraper market is the ability to change the angle of the scraper head from straight to 30 degrees at the touch of a button. This ensures a smooth and swift transition between manual and pole work.

Dual-sided window cleaning blades made from corrosion resistant 440A grade stainless steel provide excellent edge retention, which means that the blades stay sharp for a long time. Blades that are easy to change, using a slider mechanism, are also preferable. It’s also worth investing in a holster that allows you to store your scraper when not in use, but makes it easily accessible when needed. Choose one that has the ability to fit onto a range of tool belts, and has a solid back to protect your leg/body from cuts.

Scrapers have been used by the window cleaning, glass and building industries for years, and they are still the tools to go to when faced with certain types of dirt and debris. As design and technology know-how helps to improve the results they achieve, they can only retain their usefulness for many years to come.