Many people have questions about cleaning vinyl siding; whether it is necessary that vinyl siding be cleaned, what makes it dirty in the first place, and then of course, HOW to clean vinyl siding. Vinyl siding looks good, is very durable and does not fade easily, but even the low-maintenance vinyl siding needs to be cleaned at least once a year. This article will strive to answer all your questions regarding cleaning vinyl siding.
Lets first look at what makes vinyl siding dirty so that we know what we are taking about when it comes to discussing how to clean it. Obviously there are a few different methods of cleaning, and different solutions may need to be used for different stains and forms of dirt.
What Makes Vinyl Siding Dirty
- Algae – Algae may grow on your vinyl siding dues to some type of dampness combined with a lack of direct sunlight, and if you have an expanse of water near your home you may notice that the algae grows more on that side. This can also happen on portions of a vinyl siding which is constantly dampened by lawn sprinklers or which are near trees and shrubs which drip their sugar-laden sap on the vinyl.
- Mould & Mildew – Mildew is a universal term for growth which is produced by mould fungi. It can occur on inanimate surfaces such as aluminium, wood or vinyl as well as on living materials such as plants and trees. Mildew can also be found on grease, dirt, and various industrial pollutants. The chief environmental element requirement for mildew growth is moisture. Tropical areas which have a high humidity (moisture) and high temperatures are renowned for mildew. It can cause unsightly stains on your vinyl if it is not cleaned off regularly.
- Other substances – Other pollutants such as car oil, soot from a barbecue, grass, rust, bird-droppings and if you have children, felt-tip pens, bubblegum and crayon can also cause your vinyl siding to start looking very grim. Even rainwater can eventually make your siding dirty as each raindrop is clustered around a speck of dust and this will eventually start to show.
One way to prevent the mould, algae or mildew from returning once you have got rid of it is to spray a bleach solution on to the siding. Do not make the solution too strong; 1 quart of household bleach and a quarter cup of ammonia-free liquid dishwater detergent per 3 quarts of water should work well. You could also use a mixture of 6-8 fl oz of Sodium Percarbonate, which is non-toxic and is used to treat fruit and vegetables, mixed into about one gallon of warm water.
Tools & Equipment Needed For Cleaning Vinyl Siding
It is always a good idea to make sure that you have everything you need before attempting cleaning vinyl siding, as it is very frustrating if you are halfway through, and possibly a bit wet and you realise that there is an integral piece of equipment which you need that is missing. Of course the equipment that you need will depend on what type of cleaning method you are going to use and whether there are just ordinary stains or tough stains you need to get rid of.
- Detergents – If you do not have major stains to get rid of the best detergent for the job is a normal household dishwashing liquid. There is a list of stain removers for harder stains further down in this article.
- Brushes – soft-bristled brushes with telescoping handles are the best for cleaning vinyl siding. You could also use a sponge mop or a broom and some old towels.
- Buckets – even if you are doing power-cleaning it is still a good idea to have a bucket or two handy for certain sections which you may want to do by hand.
- A ladder – for getting to those really high places.
- A hose – to spray down the vinyl (this is for regular cleaning and an ordinary garden hose is all that is needed here).
The above should suffice to do any cleaning that you need to do, unless you are going to be cleaning vinyl siding via pressure washing, in which case you would need a pressure washer as well. If there are bad stains on your vinyl siding you may need special stain removers.
Stain Removers For Cleaning Vinyl Siding
In some cases there may be stains that are not able to be removed with plain household detergent, so here follows a list of the stains that you may come across and the stain removers that you could use.
- Mildew/Mould/Algae – Windex or Fantastik works well for small areas. For larger areas a mixture of 70% water and 30% normal household vinegar will do wonders. You could also use diluted household cleaners or bleach when cleaning vinyl siding, but it is preferable not to use bleach as it could affect the siding if too strong and will also adversely affect any plants or grass directly below the siding or trees or shrubs which may touch the siding.
- Crayon – can be cleaned off easily with Lestoil
- DAP (oil-based caulk), and Felt-tip Pen – Fantastik works well on these stains
- Grass stains – can be removed fairly easily with Fantastik, Lysol, Murphy Oil Soap, or Windex
- Bubble Gum – a solution of 70% water and 30% household vinegar, Fantastik, Murphy Oil Soap, or Windex works here.
- Lithium (car) Grease, and Motor Oil – can usually be cleaned with Fantastik, Lestoil, Murphy Oil Soap, or Windex
- Tar or Pencil – is quite easily removed with Soft Scrub
Cleaning Vinyl Siding The Eco-Friendly Way
As we are all aware, we are putting too many pollutants and non-biodegradable chemicals into the air and the earth, which is destroying our planet. There are “green” ways to clean your vinyl siding which are far more eco-conscious, and not harmful to man, beast or nature.
- Detergents – use biodegradable soaps only. If necessary for something stronger use a solution of water and borax, which is non-toxic and will clean, disinfect and deodorise at the same time.
- Bleach – Do not use bleach as it is toxic to human, animal and plant-life. For stubborn stains use a bleach alternative like oxygen bleach or a water/vinegar solution.
- Elbow Grease – instead of using a lot of chemicals and high-pressure water to remove stains do it the old-fashioned way, with a scrubbing brush and a little bit of physical labour.
- Lemons – end the cleaning off by using a solution of water and lemon juice to coat the siding with, as it works well as a coating which prevents debris from adhering to the siding by forming a biological topcoat.
- Water – use lukewarm water where necessary and for tough stains use a high-pressure nozzle attached to an ordinary garden-hose and set on a misting spray.
- Mould & Mildew – a solution of baking soda or washing soda added to the detergent/water mix will remove these stains. After cleaning you can dab the spots with a solution of biodegradable soap and tea tree oil.
Right, so now we know what causes stains, what tools we need for cleaning vinyl siding, which cleaners we need for which stains and even what Green options we have, it is time to stop procrastinating and get on with the job of cleaning vinyl siding the way it should be done, efficiently!
Cleaning Vinyl Siding The Easy Way
Once you have your equipment and cleaners you are almost ready to begin cleaning vinyl siding, except for one or two things. Before you actually get down to the cleaning phase it is important that you prepare the vinyl siding and do various other prep work.
Preparing For Cleaning Vinyl Siding
- Close all the windows and doors.
- Switch off and cover all external electrical outlets and light fixtures so they do not get wet.
- Move garden furniture, cars, toys etcetera away from the house.
- Cover any etched metal or glass which could be affected by cleaning solutions.
- Cover any plants with plastic sheeting so that they do not get damaged by any of the cleaning materials and no mould or mildew falls into them.
- Check for mould and mildew (a drop of bleach on dirt will not change it, but will turn mould white) and if present use a solution to get rid of it.
Steps For Cleaning Vinyl Siding
- Sections – it is easier to work in section s of about three to five feet, starting on one side of the house and working your way around.
- Spray – the walls with the garden or high-pressure hose to loosen any loose dirt. Do not use too much water-pressure or the water could get behind the cladding and cause damage. Spray downwards for the same reason, not upwards.
- Hand- Tools – get your bucket full of water and chosen detergent or stain remover, and your long-handled brush or broom covered with old towels and secured with duct tape. You will use this to scrub the vinyl siding of any dirt and grime which may have gathered.
- Direction – there are two schools of thought as to whether you should begin scrubbing at the top of the siding and move to the bottom or vice versa. As far as I am concerned both ways work as long as you rinse the detergent off before it has a chance to dry and streak.
- Rinse – make sure that you rinse each of the siding with the hose after you have scrubbed it so that you remove all the dirt and grime and the soap does not cause streaking on the vinyl siding whilst you are cleaning it.
Once you have completed cleaning vinyl siding in one section, move to the next section and repeat Steps 2 – 5 until you have covered the entire house. Once you have finished that, crack a cold one sit back and relax and admire your handiwork and forget about it for another year!