Thomas Ellis has been a window washer for 45 years. His father owned a window cleaning business in Milwaukee called Donâ€™s Window Cleaning where he started working at the age of 14.Â
"Back then, weâ€™d just hang over the side of a building and wash the windows," says Ellis. "Thereâ€™s a lot more to it these days. And itâ€™s a lot safer."
Since 2002, Ellis has run operations at Alâ€™s Window Cleaning, the company that routinely washes the windows of the U.S. Bank Center, which â€“ with 42 floors and at 601 feet â€“ is the tallest building in the state.
Ellis and his team clean the windows of the first two floors of the building â€“ located at 777 E. Wisconsin Ave. â€“ every other month. They wash all of the windows twice a year â€“ in the summer and in the late fall. It takes three full weeks of work for two washers to clean all of the windows on all four sides of the building.
The washers are able to access the windows through a sky climber and a "stage," both of which are stored in a garage thatâ€™s on top of the building.
They donâ€™t go out in rain or high winds. Occasionally, however, they get caught in bad weather halfway through a job which can get a little dicey. However, Ellis says he always keeps his cool.
But does he ever get vertigo?
"No, not me," he says. "Most people would have white knuckles. Itâ€™s not a job for everyone."
To ensure potential new washers arenâ€™t acrophobic, they actually have to go out on a job at a tall building to see how they react.Â "Because once you're up there, youâ€™re up there," says Ellis.
One of Ellis' best washers, however, got freaked out the first time, but asked Ellis to give him a second chance, which he did, and it never happened again.
Good window washers, according to Ellis, are not afraid of heights, but also have a strong work ethic because they are often not directly supervised.Â
"And you gotta be fast," he says. "You gotta squeegee the soap off right away or youâ€™ll get streaks."
Ellis says he uses a variety of cleaning products on windows including Dawn dish soap and ammonia.
Can washers listen to music while working? "Not when youâ€™re on the lift," he says. "Maybe if youâ€™re working on the ground. But itâ€™s not recommended."
Ellis says he has never witnessed anyone fall or get seriously injured during a job, but he knows it could happen and that employees need to be extremely mindful of what they're doing.
"Itâ€™s definitely a dangerous job," he says. "Iâ€™ve seen some bruises here or there, but luckily never any deaths."
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Molly Snyder
Published Nov. 30, 2015
OnMilwaukee heard Children's Hospital was in need of socks, and so we decided to help out with a Holiday Sock Drive to collect pairs and packages of socks for infants, children, teens and adults.
Published Nov. 29, 2015
Recently, OnMilwaukee caught up with Chris March, a finalist on season four of "Project Runway," "Project Runway All-Star Challenge" and creator of the exuberant, whimsical costumes for the Skylight's "My Fair Lady."
Published Nov. 27, 2015
On a recent Friday afternoon, we stopped in for lunch at Liquid Johnny's in West Allis. No, we did not have a "liquid lunch," despite the name of the bar and restaurant, but we certainly thought about it.
Published Nov. 26, 2015
The Black Friday shopping experience is a big, mixed bag of savings and safety issues. Milwaukee's Melanie Rice and Bryan Zysk know this first-hand. One even suffered a broken foot in a brawl over a DVD player.
Published Nov. 25, 2015
Recently, OnMilwaukee's Molly Snyder went to the Brew City Bruisers Boot Camp to test her roller skating skills and bad assery. Turns out, she spent a lot of time on her bad ass.
Published Nov. 24, 2015
Candy Cane Lane will celebrate 30 years this season when it plugs in the lights on Friday, Nov. 27. They will stay aglow through Sunday, Dec. 27.
Published Nov. 22, 2015
Children's Hospital of Wisconsin offers an array of social services, including The Robyn's Nest, run by Lona Long and a team of volunteers to provide clothing and other items to kids and foster families.
Published Nov. 20, 2015
Earlier this week, after looking at tragic photos of Syrian refugee children on Facebook, Gretchen Mead decided she was going to invite refugees to stay in extra rooms in her bungalow-style home in Shorewood.
Published Nov. 20, 2015
Suddenly, the warm-and-comfy factor in bars is a big deal, and so OnMilwaukee stepped up and went out on a couple of windy, chilly nights last week to scout out some of the city's coziest bars.
Published Nov. 19, 2015
Recently, we posted a story about the now-defunct Captain's Steak Joynt chain of restaurants and many readers remembered its famous cheese fondue. We got the recipe and last night we made it.