How to Clean Vinyl Siding

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In choosing how to clean vinyl siding, you have two basic options: manual labor or employing a pressure washer. Both methods will get the job done, but there are things to consider for either approach.

How to Clean Vinyl Siding - The Basics

Vinyl siding is pretty sturdy stuff and can take years of exposure to the elements and still look good with just a little regular care.

Using a Pressure Washer

When given a choice of cleaning methods, the quick pick is to use a pressure washer. Pressure washers take most of the physical labor out of the equation, but this approach has the potential to create some problems. The same water pressure you're counting on to remove grime from the surface of your siding can get behind the vinyl and create moisture problems, like rot and mold growth.

Siding is designed to slough off moisture coming from an elevated angle. A high-pressure water spray directed at an upward angle can get under the vinyl. Because it's hidden from view, if you do get the wood and insulation wet, you may not realize it until you have an expensive problem on your hands.

If you do electe to use a pressure washer, keep these things in mind:

  • Always use a light spray setting.
  • Direct the flow at a downward angle.
  • Avoid spraying directly at the edge of the siding, at corners, or between the molding and siding along doors or windows.
  • Remove loose vegetation around the area and avoid spraying siding through shrubs or trees.
  • Cover fixtures, like exterior lights or decorative elements, with plastic.
  • Use a mild soap, like dishwashing liquid or a chemical cleaner designed for siding.
  • Avoid using bleach. If you have mold or mildew, you can use an oxygen cleaner to remove it. If you do elect to use bleach, never use greater than a five to one concentration of water to bleach and saturate nearby flowerbeds with water afterward to dilute bleach that might kill the roots of plants and trees.

Washing Siding By Hand

Washing vinyl siding by hand is labor intensive, but it's the safest way to insure that you don't accidentally get water under the vinyl. It's also a good way to make sure you get everything as clean as possible. The good news is that siding doesn't require a lot of heavy duty scrubbing. A soft bristle brush or sponge should do the trick. To get some elevation without employing a ladder before you have to, plan on investing in a brush that will fit on a long threaded handle.Use a mild detergent cleaner, and make sure to work in a small enough area that you can wash and rinse the siding thoroughly before the soap has a chance to dry in place. To make rinsing easier, use the hose and a pressure attachment. As with using a pressure washer, always direct any water spray downward, not upward, and don't use more pressure than you need to.

How to Clean Vinyl Siding - Safe Practices

When cleaning siding, it's a good practice to wear safety goggles and shoes with tread that will grip the ladder or the ground. If you're working with bleach, be sure to wear gloves too.

Because you'll probably have to use a ladder for part of the process, make sure that you place it on a level surface that won't slip:

  • Observe the four to one rule and angle the ladder one foot from the wall for every four feet of elevation. (If you're using a twelve-foot extension ladder, the base should be positioned three feet from the wall.)
  • Don't use a ladder when it's windy or in a thunderstorm.
  • Don't use aluminum ladders near power lines.
  • Don't use a ladder if you are ill or are on medication that can make you dizzy or disoriented.
How to Clean Vinyl Siding