By Dolores Moore, Contributing writer

Any season of the year, clean, sparkling exterior windows give a house a well-tended appearance. But cleaning windows must be approached with safety in mind. Those high places, those obstructed corners, the awkward windows have to be cleaned to do a good, complete job on all exterior windows. Before looking at some tips for really clean exterior windows, here are some safety issues for managing the task.

- Can you clean from the inside? If you can, do so, but never lean out too far.

- Close and lock the windows so they won't suddenly spring open and unbalance you.

- Ladders should extend four rungs above the one you stand on, with three overlapping rungs on the extendable sections.

- Never place the ladder on a wet or slippery surface. Wait until it dries or place a thick damp mat under the feet.

- For cleaning windows in awkward corners and angles, use a ladder with a pointed top to reach these exterior windows.

- Never use ladders with bent or broken rungs -- that compromises its strength. Ensure that the rubber feet are secure when cleaning windows, otherwise it might be you getting cleaned up!

- Never sit or stand on ledges, sills or wooden window boxes when cleaning windows. Never lean the ladder against boxes or wooden trellises, they rot and weaken with age.

These tips for sparkling exterior windows can be used for cleaning windows in general, and mirrors, too.

- When cleaning windows, wash the frames first or you will just dirty up those exterior windows and spoil your efforts. Painted frames can be cleaned with warm water and a mild detergent, wiped dry with a cloth. For wooden or varnished frames, dust off then wax lightly.

- The best ingredients for cleaning windows are warm water and vinegar or the juice of over-ripe lemons. Use chamois leather or old newspapers for rubbing down.

- Bird droppings are often a problem on exterior windows; remove them with a bit of hot vinegar on a cloth.

- Buy a squeegee with a sponge on one side and rubber blade on the other. You can get extensions for these that allow for cleaning windows in high and awkward places. A hard-bladed squeegee for summer, soft for winter, to beat changing temperatures.

- Use half a cup of vinegar to a gallon of warm water, wetting the sponge, cover the window, taking care with corners and sides. Now put the rubber blade in the solution, press and pull it down the window, top to bottom, then side to side, wiping the blade off with a cloth. Dry the bottom frame with a cloth.

- Clean exterior windows on a dull day. Sunshine will dry them streaky and make cleaning windows a harder task.

Cleaning windows, especially exterior windows, is a necessary but very satisfying job, as the results make your house look really good and well cared for. Remember to keep safe and go for the shine.