San Diego restaurant with ocean views

The Effects of Sea Salt on Commercial Windows

Working near world-renowned beaches in San Diego has it’s perks.   On days off, life’s biggest stressor might be a tough choice between beach volleyball at Coronado, or surfing in La Jolla.   But living by the sea isn’t always easy…at least not for commercial windows. Why? There’s a lot of sea salt in the air, which can erode and discolor permeable surfaces, namely glass.  For the business community this can cause significant damage to the physical image of their business. Fogging and staining are the two primary negative effects of sea salt on commercial windows as we’ll explore in this post. 

Sunny day beach life in San Diego
Beautiful Southern California

Ahh…the freshness of sea air.  If you’re on a yoga retreat, you take it in and breathe deep, with purpose.  But if you’re running an oceanside restaurant or clothing boutique, you’re likely to take note of the opaque white fog that’s slowly been building up on your windows.  As the salt creep gets worse it can literally obstruct the views of those famous Pacific Ocean Sunsets.  For the retailer or restauranteur this can depreciate your customer’s experience (not good!) Worry not SOCAL friends, there are preventative measures you can take to slow the surface degradation caused by sea salt. 

Negative Effects of Salt on Windows

The Pacific Ocean never sleeps, and neither does the marine layer. If you want to maintain clear ocean views, this post is for you.  Our first piece of advice: don’t be too West-Coast and laid back about your window maintenance.  Salt water contains a host of organic compounds, along with sodium chloride, which can crystalize, creating a whitening effect on glass.  So heed this warning because as the old adage goes, maintenance is always cheaper than replacement.

Heavy water staining of sea salt deposits.
Unsightly salt deposits on window glass

The surface of window glass may seem smooth to the touch, but it’s actually porous. Rainfall at the coast contains quite a bit of saline salt.  Even if your business in not directly overlooking the ocean, your windows are still vulnerable.  In most cases the sprinklers, hoses and irrigation used in landscaping are often fed by hard water, which contains its own set of unique minerals, including calcium and magnesium.   As the rainfall and hard water evaporates, mineral deposits are left behind. This can leave your windows with unsightly spotting and fogging that only gets worse over time.

Preventing  Water Staining and Mineral Build up

Routine squeegee cleaning of windows to remove debris.
Routine cleaning to commercial windows.

Being proactive is always a solid choice.  If you’re windows are newer, consider taking the following actions to prevent the buildup of salt deposits:

  • Coat clean window glass with a clear, silicone-based water-repellent product such as Rain-X. This hydrophobic film repels water. Rain will bead upon contact.
  • Set your landscaping sprinklers on a timer to run during early morning hours.  Afternoon high temps will evaporate the water much faster, which is less efficient for watering your grass.  In addition, the high temps will bake hard-water minerals to the glass.  
  • Schedule routine window cleaning performed by a commercial cleaning company.   This service includes a thorough squeegee cleaning to remove contaminants- both organic and inorganic.  In addition, your window frames, sills, and tracks are also cleaned out.  
  • Leaching from rusting metal window sills can run… and stain your windows in the process. Protect metal window sills with anti-corrosion coatings. These corrosion inhibiting lubricants stop corrosion on contact.  They protect, penetrate and lubricate the metal to prevent any future damage. 
  • Periodic pressure washing of your siding and other exterior walls surfaces can keep areas adjacent to the windows clean and trouble-free.

Removing Water Stains

Effective water stain removal depends on a number of factors: the type of minerals, the type of glass, severity of the buildup, tinting, etc. We recommend getting your windows professionally evaluated in order to assess the degree of the problem. There are a number of techniques that commercial cleaning companies utilize to remove or reduce evidence of salt water staining.  In most cases the process involves machine sanding with various fine grit pads.  The windows are then buffed, and recleaned.  Lastly, the glass is recoated with a Rain-X product to prevent future penetration.   Remember that windows with heavy water staining are often in need of restoration rather than cleaning. In those cases a window restoration company would specialize in revitalizing neglected glass.

Quick Tips for the DIYer:

Traditional squeegee cleaning of glass is an art form unto itself. Manipulating a squeegee in just the right pattern to eliminate streaks and drips.  Water stain removal can be trial and error. But if you’re keen on trying to remove water spots yourself, trying using a solution of half distilled water and half white vinegar.  Pick a cooler time of day to fill up a spray bottle and give them a good misting.  The acid in the vinegar will break down the mineral deposits.  This technique can also be utilized to remove hard water staining on automobile glass. Remember to start small, and test clean a small area first.

  • Don’t: aggressively scrape or scrub the glass with anything abrasive.  You can permanently scratch the surface.  Also, small rocks and grains of sand can get caught in the path of your razor blade and mar the glass even deeper.
  •  Do: Let the water and vinegar mixture dwell a bit before rinsing and wiping.  The mineral buildup needs to be dissolved first, and then it can be wiped away with a soft cloth such as chamois or a clean microfiber rag.  
  • Avoid: power sanding the glass.  More often than not you’ll only make matters worse. Yes, thicker salt deposits may require some elbow grease. In that case trying test cleaning with a plastic bristle brush. However, be careful not to use excessive pressure.

Our final takeaways: there’s a reason why the Beach Boys sang about good vibrations! Don’t let the negative effects of salt on your windows kill those good vibes. If you have a beachfront business or property near the Southern California coast you’re likely paying a premium…for the views! Taking the time to properly maintain your windows is a great investment. If you need advice with commercial window cleaning, the crew at BCS is happy to help. Until next time, “You stay classy San Diego!”