Stingray…Yay or Nay?
Window cleaning, compared to other cleaning and maintenance professions, is – for the most part – blessedly simple and straightforward work. That’s why many of us enjoy what we do. But as with every job, there are certain situations that can ruffle the feathers of even the most Zen window ninja out there.
Case in point: interior cleaning. It’s likely that you’ve encountered occasional frustrations in the line of duty. For example, a ladder is needed to reach a window or skylight, and because of the expensive furniture and belongings of the client (and maybe because of the nervous and hovering client him/herself) – you absolutely dread bringing a ladder into their house. Or, you’re cleaning inside a car dealership and the thought of ladders, equipment or workers falling and damaging themselves and/or a car that’s worth the mortgage on your house fills you with dread. Maybe a stairwell or an unmovable piece of furniture stands so close to a window that the angle required to put a squeegee to work in that space is not possible. Finally there are the “Class A” commercial buildings, full of expensive objects and materials, electronics or other immovable objects, and possibly (as in the case of a law firm) containing important documents, that could all be damaged by dripping water.
All of these issues, if tackled with the traditional ladders and squeegees, have two things in common: they compromise safety, and they waste time.
Fortunately, the people at Unger have come up with a new, self-contained, indoor cleaning system called the Stingray, which was designed with these challenges in mind. The Stingray was released in European markets in September, and is due to come to distributors in the USA in January. The most basic advantages of the Stingray will be its ability to clean indoor windows without ladders and without dripping, and its 3M-designed cleaning solution’s ability to make routine maintenance easier.
Here’s how it works. The Stingray has a unique triangle-shaped head design, and comes with fitted green micro-fiber pads that have a hole in the middle. This surrounds the “pad-enclosed spray-nozzle,” and that’s where the no-dripping part comes in: on the backside of the cleaning head, the handle contains a compartment where you attach pouches of pre-filled cleaning solution, and at the touch of a button, it is released through the hole and directly onto the glass. It doesn’t drip because the solution is trapped between the pad and the surface you’re cleaning. The handle of the Stingray swivels smoothly 360 degrees on a 3D joint, and the sectional poles have an easy-click modular design that can reach up to eighteen feet, removing the worry of ladders.
Unger promises that the Stingray is the most efficient indoor cleaning tool, ever. Its ergonomic design means less stress on the body, and, according to their research on effectiveness, it cleans windows up to 25% faster, and uses about 40% less chemical than traditional methods.I spoke with Unger’s John Lombardo about more detail-oriented matters concerning the Stingray, and – being a mostly residential window cleaner and traditional squeegee-and-ladder user, I had a lot of questions.The first matter to clarify is that the Stingray is designed for interior, non-industrial cleaning only. The reason for this is that the washable pads (which can be laundered up to 200 times before they start to wear out) are made of short-ply microfiber. This means that once that pad is saturated and dirty, it needs to be changed out for a clean one, or it can’t clean effectively anymore. So no outside cleaning, and no “restorative cleaning,” which is when a surface is so heavily soiled it needs real, old-fashioned scrubbing to get it right.
The key, Lombardo says, is to get the surface to a proper maintenance level first, and then use the Stingray regularly from that point, with no more than a year between cleanings, depending on the environment. Homes with frequent cooking oils in the air, homes of smokers, or industrial settings are not going to benefit from this product.
The cleaning head also has 1-inch-thick sides that the pad wraps around, which effectively cleans the closest frame around the glass.
Next, I asked about the pre-filled pouches and the 3M cleaning solution, which contains Scotch Guard. My first question was about toxicity. Lombardo pointed out that their research found that facility managers are first and foremost concerned with the health and safety of their workers, and aside from wanting to keep people off ladders, they were also concerned with their inhaling of cleaning solutions. (Keep in mind that proper use of the Stingray system eliminates any air contamination around the cleaner.) Every liquid substance on the market has an SDS, a Safety Data Sheet, that tells you what to do it’s ingested or if it gets in your eyes. The cleaning solution in the Stingray is so benign that there is no action to take other than flushing with water. It contains water, alcohol (which dries fast with less fogging) and Scotch Guard.
Scotch Guard is the part that makes routine maintenance easier. It supposedly keeps the glass from getting as dirty as it would without it. I asked Lombardo for a detailed description of how Scotch Guard works, and why they chose to work with 3M on this product.
He said, “The 3M Scotch Guard utilizes nano-technology that builds a microscopic, protective layer on the glass. The layer provides resistance from dirt build-up. That does not mean it prevents fingerprints and dirt from staying on the glass, but it does mean that it helps them to not stick to the surface as firmly, and that they are much more easily removed. When we developed the Stingray, we focused on end-user-needs, like ease of use, safety, and efficiency. The tool is built with these benefits in mind and we needed the glass cleaner to build on the end-user-benefits. 3M Scotch Guard liquid does just that, so it was a great fit.”
Honestly, I have to say that this claim is the only thing about this cleaning system that makes me raise an eyebrow. As a glass-cleaning expert, my main concern about any layer of anything being left behind on a glass surface is streaking. But apparently, the buffing nature of the microfiber pad (which Unger calls a “polishing pad”) prevents this. It’s also important to remember to use the solution sparingly, because once the pad is saturated, streaking will happen.
The pouches cost about $2.50 apiece, which started to raise my other eyebrow, until I learned that one pouch can clean up to 1,300 square feet of surface area, which comes out to about 150 2’x4’ windows. The pouches can be bought in cases of 24, which will clean about 3,500 windows.
The pump that releases the solution onto the glass is battery powered, and the batteries are included with the original purchase. The batteries are located in the handle, near the head of the Stingray. Despite the weight of the batteries, Lombardo reassured me that the unit only weighs 1.8 pounds.
And finally, the poles: there are no tubes or wires running through the pole sections. They are modular, so when taken apart, the cross-section of each part has a metal connection-point inside, and when connected, the button on the handle operates the pump on the head, no matter how many pole sections are hooked up to it.
As with any cleaning tool, there is a technique that works best with the Stingray. First, you’re supposed to “frame out” the pane of glass by running the head around the edges. Then, similar to the fan-technique used with squeegees, there is always a leading edge that travels first in an arc-like motion. This traps the dirt and moisture most effectively and reduces the risk of streaking.
At last we come to the big question: how much does the Stingray cost? There are several packages, ranging from the most basic option that comes with the short handled head, one pad and one pouch, which is $150. On the other end you have the deluxe package, with 14 feet of pole sections, 3 pads and 4 pouches, for $330.I was curious to know if the Stingray has any competitors on the market. Indeed, it does. The Cleano, made by Pulex, is similar. But after some research, I concluded that besides having a way less cool-sounding name, the Cleano is also inferior because it is 15% heavier, and it sprays its cleaning solution out of the top of the cleaning head, rather than the Stingray’s more contained method.
Overall, I think this sounds like a promising product. It looks easy to use and has a sleek design and a straightforward way of functioning. The fact that it would save time, and eliminate some of the concerns that come with having a ladder indoors, would ease your mind and restore the simplicity and ease that we already value in the window cleaning profession.
The Stingray was unveiled this summer (2016), stateside, at the ISSA Interclean Convention in Las Vegas. Unger would like to show their support for their USA distributors by making it available through them first, so it will not be found online, initially.
Unger is so excited for the release of the Stingray that they are organizing a “Stingray Experience” contest. Distributors that host demonstrations of the product will be entered to win a cruise for two in Florida which will conclude with a snorkeling trip to view live stingrays in their natural environment. “Some of the employees at Unger have decided that whoever wins will need a chaperone for that trip,” Lombardo said. “Many of them have volunteered for the job.”
The Stingray seems to have a promising future, so be sure to ask your local distributor for a demonstration as soon as it becomes available. Tell them that Window Cleaning Magazine sent you, and that if they win the “Stingray Experience,” our writers are more than willing to chaperone that trip to Florida. I’ll be waiting, here in snowy Minnesota, with my snorkeling mask.
WCM TV attended an Open Day at J Racenstein NJ and asked what real window cleaners seeing it for the first time, thought of the Unger Stingray. Click on to the film below.