Vinyl really is an easy-care siding. (Read: Low-Maintenance Siding Options) There’s no wood to rot, nothing to scrape and you’ll never have to go through the property maintenance chore of painting or staining. But like anything else, you'll need to get proficient at cleaning vinyl siding periodically. That’s not just important for keeping your home looking fresh, but also to help avoid stains, such as mildew.
When the weather is nice outside, it's the perfect time to get outdoors. So while cleaning vinyl siding is one of many home maintenance chores, it can also be fun and good exercise too. Here are some tips that will come in handy when cleaning vinyl siding … better and with less effort.
The Right Tools for Cleaning Vinyl Siding
Vinyl is tough, but you can accidentally damage it. A soft-bristle scrub brush can work loose embedded dirt and grime. And for areas that are too high for you to reach, try using a broom to scrub. Avoid using a stiff brush, since that can scratch vinyl. You’ll also need at least a couple of sponges. A small one will help you reach along narrower spaces, and a large one, like a car wash sponge, is great for cleaning wider areas.
Like other property maintenance jobs, you can use any bucket you have, but the bigger the better. And a bucket on wheels or casters is the best of all. If you don’t have a rolling bucket, check with a janitorial supply store. You can also use the empty tub of most utility vacuums (like a Shop Vac) as a rolling bucket. Just pop off the top and remove the filter, leaving only the empty tub. Be sure to dry it thoroughly after you've finished cleaning vinyl siding.
You’ll also need a ladder. If you have a one-story home, an 8-foot stepladder should be plenty. But if you have a 2-story home, you’ll need an extension ladder. Be sure the ground where you set up a ladder is flat and firm, and never lean a ladder against a gutter for support. The last thing you want is to wobble when you’re several feet off the ground. It’s also a good idea to have someone around to help when you’re working aloft. (Read: 11 Homeowner Do it Yourself Safety Tips)
When you clean vinyl siding, it's a good idea to collect several clean rags. You’ll need them for spot wiping, and for numerous other things while cleaning your home’s exterior. It’s also a good idea to have a squeegee on hand for cleaning windows as you go.
Recipes for Cleaning Vinyl Siding
You can clean vinyl with a pressure washer and plain water. But not everyone has one of those tools, and not everyone can wield one, either. With some gentle cleaners that you probably have around the house, you can remove years of grime in no time flat.
Is there anything that vinegar can’t do? That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but white vinegar can remove new mold and mildew stains and some research shows that vinegar can also kill the spores. Home hints guru, Heloise, told CBS about a study done by Good Housekeeping where vinegar was shown to kill 90 percent of mold spores. A bucketful of 70 percent water and 30 percent vinegar will clean your siding. And if you have areas with a heavier concentration of mold and mildew, use the vinegar full strength.
If your home is fairly dirty, intensive property maintenance is even more important. Try mixing up a combination of powdered laundry detergent with water and a little household cleaner. Please don’t use a cleaner that contains ammonia. The fumes are harsh, and combining it with detergent could produce hazardous fumes. Coastal Windows and Exteriors recommends a mix of 1/3 cup detergent and 2/3 cup cleaner for every gallon of water.
Is your siding super dirty? Then consider using chlorine bleach, adding about a quart of bleach to the detergent solution above. If you're concerned about your landscaping, then you can mix a solution of one gallon of water with one cup of oxygen bleach (what we used in my handyman business). Or Simple Green has an environmentally friendly House and Siding Cleaner that can be used by hand or with pressure washers to clean vinyl siding.
Cleaning Methods for the Best Results
Cleaning vinyl siding can be done almost any way but there are methods for getting the best results. First and foremost, start at the bottom and work your way up. Coastal Windows and Exteriors says this will help you avoid streaks. If you have extra dirty areas that need more attention, apply your cleaning solution to them first, then work in other areas for a few minutes while the cleaner soaks in. When you go back, it will be easier to remove.
To the extent possible, try to stay away from direct sunlight. Start working on a shaded side of the house, and work your way around the house as the sun moves. Direct sunlight heats up the siding, which will dry the cleaner before you have a chance to rinse it off. When rinsing, avoid spraying up into the underside of the vinyl seams. Where possible, always try to spray down and sideways. Spraying directly into seams can force water behind the siding, which can cause the sheathing to rot, and it can also loosen vinyl siding panels.
This isn't an easy home maintenance job, but you’ll be so happy once it’s done. And after a big, deep cleaning, you can hose off the siding from time to time to help keep it looking fresher longer.
Is it time to plan a weekend to clean your vinyl siding? We would love for you to share your cleaning recipes.