Cleaning is boring! Cleaning is a waste of time! Cleaning is the one thing I truly hate! It doesn’t matter how hard I wipe the dust off the tables in my tidy house, the domestic dust particles are still there on the next morning. Or when I have to clean the windows. Both sides!
After 2 hard hours of spraying and rubbing, you think you are done with this chore. But life isn’t that simple and I’m not the maid my boyfriend wants me to be. London is known for its maritime climate which is very hard to predict. Sometimes, it’s sunny and ten minutes later it’s raining in torrents. You can imagine how I feel when my perfectly cleaned windows have rain drops all over its surface. Awful!
Three day ago, I was walking near the Gherkin thinking about my windows which were messy again because of the previous-night storm. I looked up to enjoy my favourite building in London. Then, I spotted three men on the outside of the skyscraper. They were window cleaners. Before this moment, I had never thought about “How do they clean 30 St Mary Axe?(a.k.a. The Gherkin)”. I was angry because I had to clean again the three windows in my home, but what about the Gherkin’s windows?! How long does it take to clean its 7,429 glass panes?
Now, I have the answer! It takes about ten days and nine professional and experienced window cleaners in London to clean the whole exterior of the building. I have encountered more interesting facts about some of the most emblematic buildings in London — Gherkin, Big Ben, London Eye and Shard.
Cleaning 30 St Mary Axe a.k.a The Gherkin
Most Londoners know everything about the notorious skyscraper. But my article is not exclusively for Londoners. So, let me tell you the most interesting facts about the 180 metres-high tower.
30 St Mary Axe is usually called The Gherkin because of the unique design of the building. It’s located in The City of London. The skyscraper’s construction was completed in December 2003. Since then, The Gherkin has become one of the symbols of London and an example of the contemporary architecture of the capital of the UK. The 40-story building has won prestigious architecture awards around the world including “the most admired new building in the world” in 2006. By the way, did you know that just one pane of glass in the building is actually curved — the one at the top of the building. The rest of them are 100% flat.
Now, back to the topic. In 2007, the skyscraper’s windows were cleaned for the very first time from the outside of the building according to Daily Mail. The company which has the hard task to maintain clean all the windows in the building is Lancaster Cleaning. The window cleaners of the agency have to use a special cradle because of the curved form of The Gherkin. The cradle edges out so that the cleaners can do their job. The wind is a real problem 180 metres above the ground. The cradle cannot be used at speeds higher than 20mph. There is no need to hurry, though. There are more than 7400 glass panes in the external skin of the extravagant skyscraper! It takes up to two weeks to make all the windows sparkling clean.
Cleaning Big Ben
There are many interesting facts about Big Ben’s cleaning process. But first, let me tell you a little bit about its history.
Big Ben is actually the nickname for the enormous bell(13,760kg) located at the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster. A curious fact is that in 2012 the clock tower at the north end of the palace was officially called the Elizabeth Tower. This act was a gift for Queen Elizabeth’s 85th birthday. So, let me clarify one thing for people who are not that familiar with the UK and London in particular. The Clock Tower, The Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben are actually one thing. These are three different nicknames for the clock tower at the north end at the Palace of Westminster. Actually, Big Ben is the famous bell in the tower, but most tourist are mistaken and often refer to the clock tower.
The tower was built in 1858. The clock and the dials were designed by Augustus Pugin. An interesting fact is that the clock tower was the last project of the designer before his descent into madness. He designed the tower to be 96 metres tall. Big Ben is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world, but only UK residents are allowed to take an inside peek at the interior of the tower. Overseas visitors don’t have this privilege. Anyway, they can still enjoy the look of the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world.
Now that you already know a bit more about the famous clock tower, let me share some very interesting facts concerning Big Ben’s cleaning. Take a look at this video from the distant 1955 and see how they cleaned the tower more than 60 years ago:
Since 1955, the cleaning technology has evolved significantly, but the cleaners who clean Big Ben’s four faces still use the very same tools: soap and water. The tower is cleaned every five years by professionals who must be really careful not to harm the faces of the clock. Each of them contains 312 pieces of opal glass. The task might not look very hard to you, but imagine yourself hanging on a rope 90 metres above the ground with clock’s hands constantly moving around you.
In 2016, the clock tower will be cleaned once again and if you are not afraid of heights, the London cleaning agencies might be hiring! By the way, if you are really looking for a job as a maid in London(it’s much safer), I know a company that is now hiring. The name of the agency is Housekeepers London. Take a look at their Contact and Cleaning Jobs page. You will thank me later! Now, let’s continue with the next landmark.
Cleaning London Eye
London Eye is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe with height of 135m. In 1999 when the landmark was erected, It was the world’s tallest ferris wheel. There are 32 passenger capsules. Each of them weights ten tones. The total weight of the construction (wheel + capsules) is more than 2000 tonnes. The total passenger capacity of the wheel is 800 per revolution.
An interesting fact is that the wheel doesn’t have to stop for passenger to come on board. The capsules speed is about 1km per hour. It allows all passengers in each capsule to step on and off while the The London Eye is still spinning. If you are afraid of heights, you should consider the fact each rotation takes half an hour.
These facts are really surprising, but what amazes me even more is: “How do They Clean This Mega-Structure?”
Actually, London Eye has been cleaned only once since 1999. Last year, the professionals from Kärcher were selected to deal with this extreme cleaning job. The agency needed three whole weeks to complete the task. The extreme cleaners had to work only at night because during the day the attraction was open for visitors. The technicians were able to deep clean no more than 3 capsules each night. Removing grime and traffic film that has been layered for the past 14 years were just some of the chores in their cleaning checklist.
The previous experience in the area of monuments has helped Kärcher deal with the job without any problems. In the past, they have worked on some iconic landmarks as: Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, The Statue of Liberty in New York and Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. With this professional background, it’s no wonder the London Eye’s management assigned the task to this very company.
The tallest building in the United Kingdom is actually the tallest building in the European Union(310m). It’s also the second tallest building in Europe overtaken only by The Mercury City Tower in Moscow(339m). A very curious fact is that about 94% of the materials used in the construction of the building are recycled. This makes it the biggest eco-friendly construction in London. The skyscraper has 44 lifts and 11 000 glass panels equal to 56 000 m2. This makes the building extremely hard to clean.
The Shard’s angled design is complicating significantly the windows’s cleaning process. The professional abseilers need a whole week to deal with just one of the sides of the tallest building in London. Maintaining clean the windows is not just a difficult task, but it’s also a very expensive one. I can’t tell you the exact numbers, but the unofficial price per year is 130 000 £.
I’m not an expert in the technology field, but I’m pretty sure soon the scientists will invent some kind of glass that doesn’t have to be polished. Most certainly, nanotechnology! This will save an incredible amount of money globally!
Now that you have read my entire article, I hope you have learned many new intriguing facts about four of the most emblematic London landmarks. If you can supply any further information about the cleaning process of The Gherkin, Big Ben, The London Eye and The Shard, I will be more than happy to edit my article and include your information!