Clean Your Siding With This Simple Guide

    Clean siding before and after  East Coast Powerwashing / CC BY-SA

    After a long hard winter, clean siding is a quick and affordable way to brighten up your house exterior. Just make sure that you choose an appropriate cleaning method that won't harm your siding, yet will get rid of dirt and stains.

    Follow these tips to clean siding successfully and keep it looking good longer.

    Siding   ntm1909 / flickr

    To Pressure Wash Or Not To Pressure Wash?

    There is a great debate over whether you can safely clean siding with a pressure washer. What’s the answer?

    Yes, it is very possible to pressure wash siding without doing damage IF you keep 3 points in mind:

    1. Use correct pressure. A pressure washer is great for hard surfaces like asphalt but dangerous to softer items such as window screens. Wood and vinyl siding fall somewhere in the middle, meaning that power washing can be great – when done at low pressure (1,300-1,500 PSI), with a wide tip on the pressure wand, and very carefully.

    2. Avoid potential water damage. If the pressure washer is handled incorrectly, a strong stream of water may be directed under the siding, which is very bad news. 

    3. Don’t put yourself at risk. Consider the height of your home. It is dangerous for you, as an amateur, to attempt to maneuver a pressure washer while perched on a ladder. A telescoping wand with a support belt can help you pressure wash higher, but is on the pricey side.

    RECOMMENDATION: If siding is lightly soiled, DIY cleaning with a garden hose works well. For tough stains or if you have a multi-story house, hire a pro to pressure wash.

    Pressure wash siding  Steened / Wikimedia Creative Commons

    How To Clean Specific Types Of Soil

    • Surface dirt and dust. Apply a cleaning solution of dish liquid and warm water with a handheld garden sprayer. Scrub gently using a soft brush. A pole-mounted brush will help you to clean the siding higher up. Rinse off with your garden hose.

    • Mold, mildew, and algae. Clean as above, scrubbing in a side-to-side motion. If this isn't sufficient, wash with a mild bleach or oxygen bleach solution. (Test this cleaning solution first on an inconspicuous part. Do not apply bleach to aluminum siding, because it can change the color.)

    • Oxidation. Vinyl siding is prone to fading and oxidation, which results in a chalky appearance. Clean the siding; then apply a vinyl restoration product according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Badly faded vinyl may be painted with exterior acrylic.

    • Soot. First, sweep any loose soot off your siding with a dry broom. Next, wipe the area using a dry cleaning soot sponge. Follow with an application of commercial soot remover or degreaser. Rinse as the final step.

    • Graffiti. The sooner you remove graffiti from your siding, the easier cleanup will be. Apply a solvent with a clean rag, and take care to avoid smudging the graffiti paint or marker. (Next time you paint your house, consider a high-gloss finish, which is more resistant to vandalism.)

      Damaged siding  Ryan Frost / flickr

    Simple Siding Maintenance Tips

    1. Clean siding every 1-2 years, more frequently in humid climates that foster mildew and algae. The best season is spring, to remove winter’s grime.

    2. Promptly repair any siding that is loose, cracked, dented, or otherwise damaged.

    3. Stain and seal or paint your home’s exterior regularly (unless you have vinyl siding, which does not require finishing).

    4. Prune nearby trees and shrubs to avoid sap stains and mildew growth.

    5. Barbecue at least 10 feet from the house. Your grill’s heat is especially hazardous to wood, aluminum, and vinyl siding.

    6. Position lawn sprinklers so that their spray does not hit your exterior walls.

    7. Clear your gutters regularly and adjust the downspouts to drain rain and snowmelt away from siding.

    Colorful siding  Lucy Orloski / flickr

    Laura Firszt writes for

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