Many houses across the country make use of vinyl siding to protect the edges of their homes from moisture and damp. However, as commonplace as they may be, all too often they become dirty and unattractive. This can be a problem when it comes to selling your home, as dirty siding can indicate a lack of general maintenance, and potentially larger problems. As such, it’s a good idea to keep stains and mildew at bay using these 5 simple steps.
Identify the Stains
Before you start cleaning, inspect your vinyl siding in order to identify the stains. This will help you determine now just what cleaning utensils to use, but also the cleaning products. Simple stains such as dust and grime are easier to get rid of than mildew or mold.
Once you’ve determined what you’re up against, it’s also a good idea to check the manufacturing guidelines for cleaning vinyl siding. Most manufacturers offer a 50-year warranty on the siding, but if you accidentally damage it due to improper cleaning, you might find yourself having to replace it instead.
Protect Surrounding Areas
Make sure that all windows and doors are closed. If you’re using a pressure washer, you will want to protect any wiring, as well as plumbing and electricity outlets. Also, if you have any plants growing close to your house, such as ornamental shrubs or flower beds, you can cover them with a plastic sheet, to prevent them being damaged by the cleaning spray.
Pick the Right Cleaning Solution
In most cases, a mixture of water and white vinegar will do the job, even if you have to get rid of mildew. It’s also safer, and more eco-friendly. Tougher stains or mold may require a chemical solution. Usually, a mixture of laundry detergent, powdered household cleaner, bleach and water will handle such jobs — check manufacturer’s guidelines for exact dosages.
If you’re worried about your landscaping being affected by the cleaning solution, there are commercially available natural cleaners that you can use, or a mixture of water and oxygen bleach. Avoid substances such as paint remover, paint thinner, undiluted chlorine bleach, nail polish remover, or furniture cleaners, as they will damage the vinyl coating.
Start Cleaning from the Bottom
Using a soft brush, or a non-abrasive cloth or sponge, start applying the cleaning solution, working your way up from the bottom. This will prevent any streaking on the walls. It also helps if you divide the areas you want to clean into small sections and clean them one at a time, which helps you keep track of which areas have been cleaned or not. When you have to clean around door and window frames, or around outdoor taps, it’s best if you do the cleaning by hand.
Rinse from Top to Bottom
Once you’ve (gently) scrubbed off all the dirt and grime, you can start rinsing off the siding, going from top to bottom, and making sure to get rid of any residue as you go. If there are still any stains, you can go over them as needed, following the same step as above.
Vinyl siding manufacturers recommend that rinsing is done gently, usually with a garden hose, to avoid any damage to the siding. However, this will take more time, so you might be tempted by using a pressure washer instead. So you’re probably wondering:
Should You Use a Pressure Washer on Vinyl Siding?
Pressure washers are a great cleaning tool because the force of the water jet dislodges any stubborn dirt, and can thoroughly rinse off any cleaning products. The problem is that they can also damage the vinyl coating, as well as lead to discoloration, and even water intrusion. Most manufacturers don’t recommend them, yet if you’re careful, you can still make this work.
When using a pressure washer on vinyl siding, avoid using it on the highest setting. Instead, go for a gentler water flow, which has less chance of damaging the coating. It is important that the water stream is kept at eye level (use a ladder for higher areas), and pointed straight at the siding, instead of an angle. This way, you can prevent water getting behind the siding layers, which could then result in mold and mildew building up.