Peek into Jason Braun’s work life and you’ll see a lot of dirt. The dirt — in the form of dust and spots on windows — does not stay long because Braun’s work is to get rid of it, leaving crystal clear and sparkling glass on the windows of Southern Illinois homes and businesses.
As the owner of Carbondale-based Sunbright Window Cleaning, Braun has been professionally cleaning windows in the region full-time since 1998, but he was wielding a squeegee even before that.
“I’ve been cleaning windows since I was a sophomore in high school; that was 1985,” he said, mentioning that he began working part-time for a window cleaning company in his childhood home of Indianapolis.
After a stint in the Army, he worked for another window cleaning company before moving to Carbondale to study at Southern Illinois University in 1995. He complemented his Army National Guard tuition assistance with money earned cleaning windows on the side and, after graduation, he took the business full-time.
He said he never imagined making a career of window cleaning, but the business grew quickly.
“The man I worked for in Indianapolis told me that I was learning skills that I could take with me where I went, but I never knew that it was going to be my mainstay and that I’d be supporting a family of five all of these years later,” he said.
Today, Braun cleans windows from Murphysboro to Harrisburg and as far north as Centralia. He also cleans up to five stories — “as high as the lift will get me,” he said, adding that the tallest building he currently services is Good Samaritan Hospital in Mount Vernon.
He is out there in all sorts of whether and conditions, cleaning windows of businesses including professional offices, stores and restaurants. Usually, he is responsible for both the inside and outside of the glass, and he has most clients on a regular schedule of their choosing. He estimates 80 percent of his business is commercial cleaning.
“Some restaurants have us come every week, some are every other week and for some businesses, it’s once a month,” he said.
He explains it is important for businesses to have clean windows.
“Windows say a lot about a business,” he said. “Especially restaurants which rely on the perception of cleanliness. Many customers like to sit along the windows, and if you’ve got a nasty window, it doesn’t say very good things about the restaurant.”
Braun says that Sunbright’s services average $20 to $50 per cleaning. He says he can clean about 200 windows in a single day, thanks to skills and tricks he’s learned over the years, especially how to get spotless results very quickly.
“My moniker when I hire new guys is that I’m going to show them the fastest way to cut corners time-wise without cutting corners quality-wise,” he said. “They always tell me later that they originally thought I was blowing smoke at them, but they learned I am right. Like most people, their original idea of window cleaning ing is a spray bottle and paper towels.”
He says saving just a couple of seconds on each window translates into a lot of time when multiplied by dozens of windows.
“That can be enough time to be able to service one or two more clients that day,” he said.
Braun also makes sure his team of five employees has the right tools for the job including ladders, applicators, rags and high-end squeegees. In fact, he talks about “babying” his squeegee.
“You have to keep the blades of the squeegees sharp,” he said. “You can’t lay it on the ground face down, you can’t put it up against the building because once you even get a piece of hair or nick on it, it will leave lines on the window.”
Braun says a squeegee usually lasts him about two weeks before the blade needs to be replaced. He uses one squeegee for the glass and another for removing the excess liquid off window ledges. And while the squeegees are very upscale, he says there’s nothing special about the cleaning solution.
“There’s no ancient secret here,” he said. “It’s just water and dishwashing solution. That’s it.”
It’s also no secret that Braun enjoys his work, although he admits to being tired of hearing the same lines.
“I like most interacting with all of the people as the day goes by,” he says, “but I have heard the same things over and over again. You know, ‘You missed a spot,’ and ‘Will you come to my house when you’re done?’ I get that all of the time.”