To keep your external bi-fold doors looking great and operating smoothly you should clean them as well as possible. Most people will wash the windows and clean the frame when they’re taking care of their doors, but that’s not the only thing that needs taken care of – to ensure that the door opens and closes with minimal effort, and stays secure, it’s a good idea to clean the tracks and maintain the lock too.
Cleaning the Glass
External doors can get very dirty being subjected to wind and rain. The glass is the most obvious part of the door, and if you can keep it clean and streak free that’s a good start. There are a lot of old wives tales about cleaning windows – and believe it or not, many of them are true – the idea of mixing water and vinegar to make a cleaning solution really does work – and it will leave your windows streak free! However, it could also leave behind a slightly vinegary smell – the smell will dissipate quickly, but it is still something that a lot of people don’t like.
If you don’t want to use vinegar, then soap and water is a viable alternative – but, counter-intuitively, you should try to not use too much soap because it can leave behind a bit of a streaky residue. Just a small amount of soap is all that you need to remove dirt.
Use a squeegee and a microfiber cloth, rather than kitchen towels or sponges, if you want a streak free finish. If you don’t have microfiber cloths on hand, then crunched up newspaper does a great job too. This is another one of those old wives talks that turns out to be true – and it’s a good way to get some extra mileage out of your newspapers before you put them in the recycling. Don’t let it be said that the older generation didn’t have its own ways of saving the planet!
Try to keep the cleaning solution on the windows only, not the frames. This is especially important with wooden frames or metal frames – you don’t want harsh household cleaners coming into contact with the frames.
Cleaning the Frames
All you need to do to clean the frames is a mild soapy solution and a non-abrasive cloth. If you spot any stubborn stains, try to lift them up using a standard ink rubber. You should see quite quickly whether you can get the stain to come up – if it doesn’t improve after a bit of gentle scrubbing then you’ll need to try to identify the cause of the stain and do some more extensive research – don’t default to harsh detergents or scrubbing with scourers unless you absolutely have to – because they could just replace one problem (a stain) with another (a damaged finish).
Wipe down any rubber seals with a damp cloth to remove dust and any debris that has collected on them. If there is mold or mildew on the inside of your door frame, this is a sign that you have a condensation problem. You can treat this with a mild spray of mold remover – but read the label to make sure that the solution you choose can be used on the frame safely, and follow any instructions regarding how to spray it and how long it should be left there for. Always perform a spot test before using any cleaning solution on the whole door, and be sure to wipe it off after the specified time.
Cleaning the Door’s Tracks
To keep the tracks operating smoothly, you must make sure that the tracks are clean and free from debris – it’s not just small stones that can cause problems, either – pet hairs, chewing gum and other little bits and bobs can get caught in the tracks and stop the door from operating smoothly. You will notice more quickly if a stone or something of similar size gets caught in the tracks, but even smaller bits of debris will impair the workings of the track.
You can usually clean the track with a thin vacuum cleaner nozzle – just run it along the length of the track to collect any debris. Once it’s clean, you may want to lubricate the track with a silicon spray. Consult your door’s instruction manual before you do this and make sure you are using the right kind of spray. While some people swear by using, say, WD-40 for every job, that’s not always a good idea – using an inappropriate type of spray could just make the tracks more susceptible to getting bunged up.
Caring For Your Locks
You should take good care of the locks as well. The same thing goes for the locks as for the tracks – use a little lubricating oil to keep the locking mechanism moving smoothly. Spray a bit into the lock, and a bit on the key, and then insert and remove the key a few times.
Choose the oil carefully – some people recommend graphite based lubricants for sticking locks – and they can be good for getting the locks ‘moving’ again in the short term, but in the long term they can be counter-productive, because the graphite builds up inside the lock, making it more likely to stick and clog in the long term.
Keeping the lock clean, lubricated and dust free is important for ensuring that it works well in the long term, and light lubricating oil is the best way to achieve this.
If you clean your doors on a regular basis you should find that they last you for many years. In general, bi-fold doors are low maintenance. You might need to re-stain hardwood doors or engineered hardwood doors every few years to keep them looking great, but other than that, cleaning the windows, tracks and locks is a good starting point. Clean the windows at the same time as you clean the other windows in your home, and clean the tracks when you clean your conservatory or your living room – it only takes a few minutes, and this is one time when “little and often” really will help. By the time you notice that the door is sticking or that the tracks feel a little uneven, the damage could already have been done.
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