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Squeegee, sponge, and chalk on a desk

A squeegee, squilgee or sometimes squimjim, is a tool with a flat, smooth rubber blade, used to remove or control the flow of liquid on a flat surface. It is used for cleaning and in printing.

Window cleaning[edit]

A squeegee

The best-known of these tools is probably the hand-held window squeegee, used to remove the cleaning fluid or water from a glass surface. A soapy solution acts as a lubricant and breaks up the dirt, then the squeegee is used to draw the now water-borne dirt off the glass leaving a clean surface. Some squeegees are backed with a sponge which can soak up soapy water from a bucket for application to a dirty window.

Squeegees were in use for cleaning windows by 1918 when an American book on navy jargon explained that a deck-cleaning tool called a squeegee was "used in civil life to clean windows".[1] This is the earliest written reference to a window cleaning squeegee given by the Oxford English Dictionary. (For earlier uses see "floor cleaning" section below.)

With the development of the skyscraper in the 20th century, a more efficient tool for the cleaning of window exteriors was needed. Professional window washers began using the Chicago squeegee, a bulky tool with two heavy pink rubber blades. Changing the blades required the loosening of twelve separate screws. The modern single-blade window cleaning squeegee was patented by Ettore Steccone in 1936; it was made of lightweight brass with a very flexible and sharp rubber blade.[2] The Ettore Products Co. is still the leader in the squeegee market today.[3] Squeegee kits can include a telescoping pole to extend the washer's reach.

Simple squeegees are made in various shapes for household use, including the cleaning of shower doors, bathroom tile, and garage floors.


The "swivel method", or "fan method" as it is referred to by professionals, uses a series of strokes combined with turns that hold the water away from the leading edge of the squeegee; when the turn is completed in the opposing direction, there is no water and no dirt left isolated. However straight strokes, either horizontally or vertically are normally much more efficient than “fanning”. If a few spots are missed, a chamois leather cloth works better for touch up than a towel of cloth or paper.[citation needed]

This is caused by the squeegee being angled incorrectly forcing the water under the rubber blade out into the dry area of the glass or from solution being pushed up into the top edge of the window. The squeegee should instead be tilted in the direction that the blade is moving across the glass to force to water into the wet area of the glass.[4]

Another method used by window cleaners is to tap the blade on an already wet area of the glass to remove any excess water on the rubber blade.[5] Alternatively the rubber blade can be dried with a towel, although this method is slower and not practical when using extension poles.

According to Guinness World Records, the world's fastest window cleaner is Terry Burrows of South Ockendon, Essex, England, who cleaned three standard 45-inch × 45-inch office windows set in a frame in 9.24 seconds at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in March 2005. He used an 11.8-inch squeegee and 2.4 gallons of water.[6]

Floor cleaning[edit]

The floor squeegee is similar to the window squeegee but has a long handle like a push broom, used to clean floors after they have been sprayed with water or soap, to push the water into drains.

This is often used in places that need the floors cleaned regularly, such as army barracks or the meat departments in supermarkets. Hospitals sometimes use the floor squeegee to clean up any spills that occur in operating rooms or regular patient rooms as the design of the squeegee lends itself towards a more sanitary clean up.

The earliest quotations mentioning squeegees in the Oxford English Dictionary refer to their use in cleaning decks on board ship: in 1844 a "squee gee" in an American book,[7] in 1851 a "leathern squilgee" in Moby Dick, and in 1867 in a British book by Admiral William Henry Smyth.[8] An 1884 reference is about squeegees used to clean mud off a road.[9]

Printing and photography[edit]

In screen printing, a squeegee is used to spread ink evenly across the back of a stencil or silkscreen, making a clean image on the printed surface. Screen-printing squeegees usually have much thicker and less flexible blades than the window cleaning variety.

A squeegee is also used in photography printing on fabric to dry the photographic paper after it is washed, preventing wrinkles or water spots.

The earliest reference to a squeegee used for drying in photography is an 1878 description[10] by chemist and photographer William Abney of squeezing excess water away. His squeegee had no handle, and was "a flat bar of wood, into which is let a piece of india- rubber about 1/2 centimetre thick and 2 centimetres broad." The user should note that "the india-rubber of the squeegee must be brought to bear with considerable pressure on to the surface of the paper, and the strokes made with it should commence from the centre and finish towards the ends."[11]


The ice on skating rinks is resurfaced using a squeegee and other tools. Nowadays, they are all integrated in an ice resurfacer.

Tennis courts sometimes have squeegees to help keep them dry and control the flow of water.

Other uses[edit]

Stiff-bladed squeegees are used in addition to margin trowels and grout floats to apply grout or adhesive when applying ceramic tiles to a surface.

Small, hand-held plastic and rubber wedges with an edge formed as a blade are used in signwriting for the application of vinyl sheeting to decrease the possibility of air pockets. Signwriters' squeegees come in different models, some of which do not have handles, but are approximately the size and shape of a credit card.

Automobile squeegees are used in some universities to clean chalkboards.

During the September 11 attacks in 2001, window washer Jan Demczur used a squeegee to free himself and five others from an elevator shaft in the World Trade Center in New York City.[12] [13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Logan Elsworth Ruggles, The navy explained, Appleton NY c1918
  2. ^ Howser, Huell (January 8, 2003). "Squeegee – California's Gold (5002)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archive. 
  3. ^ "The Ettore story". Italystl.com. Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Window Cleaning Guide". Retrieved February 6, 2014. 
  5. ^ dontwc. "Window Cleaning Video". Youtube.com. Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  6. ^ "The World's Fastest Window Cleaner". Fastestwindowcleaner.co.uk. Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  7. ^ Matilda Charlotte Fraser Houstoun, Texas and the Gulf of Mexico: or yachting in the New World, J. Murray 1844
  8. ^ William Henry Smyth, The sailor’s word-book: an alphabetical digest of nautical terms, London 1st edition, 1867
  9. ^ The Law times reports, 50 635/2, London 1884: Law Times Office
  10. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, OUP, 2016
  11. ^ W. de W. Abney, A treatise on photography, Longmans 1885, 3rd edition
  12. ^ Window washer’s squeegee handle in collection of National Museum of American History
  13. ^ "September 11: Victims and Heroes – Jan Demczur". Archived from the original on November 14, 2008. 

Further reading[edit]