What Gear Do I Need for Highrise Window Cleaning?

Jacob WallaceHigh Rise Safety

Let’s say you’re a professional window cleaner, and you’ve been doing storefronts, small businesses, and residential jobs. You want to get into high rise cleaning, but where do you start? What sort of gear do you need?

Personal Gear

DBI/SALA ExoFit harnessThere are five pieces of personal gear you’ll need to find: a harness, a bosun’s chair, a descender, a back-up device, and carabiners.

The very first thing you need to invest in is a good harness. It should be comfortable for you. Since everyone has a different body, take some time to search for the right one for you. Regardless of which harness you choose, it needs a minimum of a front or back D Ring for your back-up device (but preferably will have front, back, and waist D rings). When you’re shopping, make sure that it meets ANSI standards. Your harness may also meet NFPA standards, but this isn’t crucial.

MIO Deluxe 2-point cushioned bosun's chairNext, you’ll need a bosun’s chair, which at its simplest is a plank suspended by rope for you to sit on as you work. You get your choice between 2-point and 4-point suspension, which means that the strap is either going to attach to two points on the plank or four. Is 4-point safer? No, not really; you’re tied off either way. It’s more a question of preference. Optionally, you can also pick a bosun’s chair that has a cushion for added comfort. Regardless of which chair you choose, make sure you pick one that has connection points for your buckets and tools!

Petzl I'D Descender
Third on the list is your descender. What’s a descender, you ask? Good question. It’s a device that attaches from your chair to the main line, and it’s the thing that allows you to go down the rope. Though descenders come in four different varieties—cylinderrackfigure 8, and self-braking—we strongly recommend self-braking devices such as the Petzl I’D or the ISC D4. These are incredibly easy to use, and they fulfill the ANSI requirement that your descender is anti-panic (stops when you pull too hard) and self-braking (stops when you let go).

Goblin Rope Grab by CAMP SafetyThe fourth thing you need is a back-up device (also known as a rope grab). This attaches to your safety line and catches you in case your main line fails. We recommend purchasing a self-trailing back-up device that will automatically follow you down the rope without manual adjustment. Some back-up rope grabs come with lanyards, but others only specify maximum lanyard length. If that’s the kind you get, make sure to select a lanyard that is compatible with your rope grab. Also, note that handle ascenders are not acceptable back-up devices.

The final item on your list is a set of good carabiners. You probably already know what a carabiner is, but it’s the clip that connects all of your components together. Window cleaners will want only to use ANSI rated carabiners. Though you can use non-ANSI rated biners (and there are lots of great ones), you’ll have to be prepared to explain to an OSHA inspector why! At any rate, it’s always a good idea to have a few extra carabiners around. It can’t hurt. If you want to learn more about the jargon associated with carabiners, check out this handy info page we put together.

Non-Personal Gear

All of the above items are carried on your person when you descend the building, but you’ll also need ropes to descend on. Specifically, you’ll need two: your main line and a safety line. Ropes come in different sizes—7/16″, 1/2″, or 5/8″—and you’ll need to pick the right size for your equipment. In terms of length, you’ll need to pick a rope that is as long as your tallest job.
New England KMIII

You’ll also need some way to anchor your rope. This will vary from job to job, based on available anchors on the roof. We recommend having some anchor straps on hand. They can wrap around almost anything to give you an anchor point. Note that whatever you attach to has to be able to support at least 5,000 lbs.

Optional Gear

PMI Advantage II helmet
With the things already listed, you could get by on a job. But there are two other items you’ll probably want: a helmet and edge protection. Though helmets are still technically optional for window cleaners, we strongly recommend them. Not only do they protect your head from falling objects, but they also protect you from hitting your head against the building (when you’re hanging by a rope, and the wind kicks up, you want to be safe).
18 in abc Nylon Rope Protector
Edge protection is simple if you think about it: you’re securing your rope on the roof and then dropping it over the edge to descend. When the rope hangs over the edge of the building without anything to pad it, it will wear out quickly. Rather than buying new ropes all the time, you can get a rope protector, which is basically a sleeve made out of canvas, nylon, leather, or plastic. These last a long time, and are much cheaper than a new rope.

Depending on your setting, there are other things you can get, such as glovessuction cup grabbers, and more. That being said, if you have a harness, a bosun’s chair, a backup device, some carabiners, two ropes, a helmet, and a rope protector, you should be good to go.


Of course, in addition to having all the right gear, you need to get proper training. High rise window cleaning is an inherently dangerous job. It is essential that you get all of the training you need before attempting any work at height.

Check out these two kits we’ve created for you, to make getting set up for high rise window cleaning easier than ever.

Ready to get set up? Call us at 1-800-989-4003 or shop online! We would love to help you get outfitted for highrise cleaning.