Add cleaning window screens to part of your winter checklist

Window screens are meant to invite fresh air into your home while keeping bugs and the occasional bird out. Just like everything, they get dirty, which affects their appearance and function. So we asked window experts about the best way to clean screens and whether they’re needed at all during winter.

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 Texas Construction Company, original photo on Houzz

Leave Screens In or Out?

Winterizing your home takes many forms, and Todd Krafty, owner of the Minneapolis-area Window Geeks, believes that cleaning and storing window screens should be on the list in many parts of the country. “Typically, I recommend it because of the natural light,” he says. “Depending on the screen material, you get 30 to 40 percent more light coming in without them on the windows.”

Katherine Sushko, public relations coordinator for Thompson Creek Window Company in Lanham, Maryland, agrees. “One of the most important reasons to remove window screens in the winter is improved solar heat gain,” she adds. “Solar heat gain is the amount of solar energy that penetrates a window. For windows that face the sun … solar heat gain helps to heat up a room simply from the energy from the sun. If a window screen is left on a window, it reduces the amount of solar energy that reaches the glass.”

This approach can lower energy costs from mechanical heating. Also, more sunshine reduces the need for artificial light — another potential money saver.

Related: Stop Drafts With Heavy Duty Curtains

Storm Watch

Severe winter weather is another reason to consider removing your screens during the season. “During a storm, wind can blow snow that can get trapped between the screen and the window,” Sushko says. “That trapped snow can cause damage to your window frames and sills, as well as potentially damaging the screen mesh from the weight of the snow.”

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Union Studio, Architecture & Community Design, original photo on Houzz

When to Clean

As for when to tackle the chore, Krafty suggests late fall when nighttime temperatures begin dropping into the 30s and 40s. “If you’re worried about bugs, wait until after the first freeze,” he says. “It’s a good time to take screens off and clean them because they’ve been collecting dust all spring and summer long.”

In Southern California, Alex Greer-Coronado, owner of The Clean Fairies in Long Beach, says that although his customers may prefer to leave their window screens on over winter, the change in seasons is still a great time to clean and care for them. Dirt, dust and salty sea air make for soiled mesh and a less-than-optimal view. “I recommend the window screens being cleaned twice a year, once right before the holidays and once during spring cleaning,” he says.

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Vacuum screens using a soft brush attachment on the handheld nozzle.

2. Use a soft brush or sponge to gently scrub them with a solution of Dawn dish soap and water. “Use a few drops of the blue-colored Dawn in a bucket of water,” Greer-Coronado says. “I have found the other colors don’t work as well. The blue-colored Dawn is the miracle worker.”

3. Rinse the screens with a hose, then wipe them down on both sides with wet mopping pads, such as those sold by Swiffer. Set the screens in the sun to dry.

Related: Update Your Windows This Winter for a Fresh Look for Spring

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Bickford Construction Corporation, original photo on Houzz

Inspection Time

Taking the screens off is also the perfect opportunity to inspect the condition of the windows, sills, casings and, of course, the screens themselves. “Inspect them for any holes, tears or other damage and repair as necessary,” Sushko says.

What Not to Do

When cleaning the screens, proceed with caution. “If you use anything harsher than a soft sponge or light bristle brush, you’re going to ruin them,” Greer-Coronado says. “If you push too hard against the screen, you’re going to damage it.”

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Rethink Design Studio, original photo on Houzz

Storing Screens

After the screens have been cleaned and dried, use masking tape and a permanent marker to label each one with its corresponding window. This will save time and frustration come spring, when you’re ready to reinstall them.

Once the screens are labeled, store them in a dry, out-of-the-way spot like a utility room or basement. “Somewhere they are not going to get damaged,” Krafty says.

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