Your home is under constant attack from Mother Nature. Unfortunately, your exterior siding takes the brunt of her wrath including heavy rainfall, storms and hurricanes, freezing temperatures, dry heat, ice and snow. Aside from climate concerns, a host of dirt, grime, and stains can dull the appearance of your siding. Pollen, spider webs, mold, and mildew are common materials that can dim your siding’s appearance. Understanding how to clean siding on a regular basis will help to extend its lifespan and better protect your home.
Many types of materials are used for siding in the residential construction industry. Vinyl, wood, fiber cement board, stucco, and brick are common siding materials used throughout the United States. Depending on your home’s type of siding, you will practice slightly different siding cleaning and maintenance techniques. In this article, we will show you how to clean vinyl siding, wood and fiber cement siding, as well as stucco and brick siding. These techniques will keep your siding looking fresh and remaining strong for longer.
Cleaning Vinyl Siding
Vinyl is a durable siding material that is attractive and easy to clean and maintain. It is one of the most popular types of siding in the United States, considering 32 percent of all U.S. homes are covered in vinyl siding. At the same time, vinyl siding can become noticeably grimy and sun-bleached over the years. Pollen, dirt, bird and insect droppings, and even algae are common substances that plague vinyl siding if not cleaned regularly. Especially if your home’s vinyl siding is brand new or just a few years old, it’s important to get into the habit of routinely cleaning vinyl siding to keep it looking fresh.
How to Clean Vinyl Siding
Here at Modernize, homeowners often ask us many questions about vinyl siding, and cleaning and maintenance is a common topic. Delve into the best practices for cleaning vinyl siding with these frequently asked questions.
How often should you clean vinyl siding?
At a minimum, plan to deep clean your vinyl siding at least once per year. You can knock it out with other yearly home maintenance tasks, such as cleaning your gutters and changing your A/C filters. It’s nice to plan a deep vinyl siding clean for a warm, sunny spring or fall day when you don’t mind being outside for a few hours. Cleaning vinyl siding in the spring is also a good idea because the cold, snow and ice has subsided and you will not have to worry about them wreaking havoc on your siding after cleaning.
Can you pressure wash vinyl siding?
It is tempting to pressure wash vinyl siding as a quick, easy and hands-off method. However, pressure washing can damage your vinyl siding if it is not done correctly. Vinyl siding is not the strongest siding material on the market. Pressure washers can blast water at up to 3300 PSI, which can remove paint and even tear through the siding or damage the layers behind it if applied to a targeted area. Not to mention, if the strong stream of water ends up hitting a window, it can damage or even shatter them. These damages can end up costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars to fix. If you want to pressure wash your home’s exterior, we recommend using a very low water pressure setting or ideally, have a professional handle the job rather than doing it yourself.
Can you clean vinyl siding on your own?
Yes. Luckily, cleaning vinyl siding is a relatively easy DIY home maintenance task. There are vinyl siding cleaners that can be bought at a local home improvement store and will not damage your siding when used correctly. There are also effective DIY cleaning solutions for vinyl siding that you can easily prepare using common household items. Use the following tips to keep your vinyl siding looking its best:
- Clean vinyl siding with a soft cloth, soft bristle brush, extension pole, and either a store-bought vinyl siding cleaner or DIY cleaning solution (more on this below).
- Start at the bottommost areas of the vinyl siding and work your way upwards. Work on one section at a time, and make sure to rinse thoroughly using a garden hose after scrubbing each area. Work your way around the home until complete.
How do you make your own DIY vinyl siding solution?
You can easily make your own vinyl siding cleaning solution at home using a few different methods:
- Best solution for basic grime: Mix ⅓ cup of trisodium phosphate (TSP) with ⅓ cup of ordinary powdered laundry detergent in a bucket with 1-gallon of hot or warm water. Mix together well, then use a soft-bristle brush or soft cloth to scrub the siding. For stubborn siding, add 1 quart of chlorine bleach to the above solution. Bleach will also kill any mold and mildew.
- Best for mold, mildew, and algae: Mix 70% warm water with 30% white vinegar in a bucket and use a soft-bristle brush to scrub the siding.
- Best green cleaning solution: If you are hesitant to use bleach or vinegar on your home’s exterior, you can opt for a clove oil solution instead. Mix 2 quarts of warm water in a bucket with ½ teaspoon of clove oil. This should break down mold clinging to the siding.
- Best for insect residue: If insects have wreaked havoc on your home’s exterior, you can use a borax cleaning solution. Mix one cup of household borax with one gallon of warm water. Scrub the areas with insect residue with this solution. As an added benefit, borax solutions can help by keeping away insects in the future.
What are the best store-bought cleaning solutions for vinyl siding?
If you choose to buy your cleaning solution at a home improvement store, there are a few preferred products. Simple Green makes a siding cleaner that is environmentally friendly and will not harm your siding. Apply this with a soft bristle brush and remove with a wet cloth or garden hose. You can also use Star Brite Mold and Mildew Stain Cleaner, which comes in a spray bottle for convenience. Alternatively, basic household cleaners like Lysol can also remove dirt and stains.
If you attempt to clean your own vinyl siding and do not see visible improvements, we recommend connecting with a siding professional to clean your siding effectively.
Cleaning Natural Wood Siding
Cleaning wood siding requires a slightly different method compared to vinyl siding. However, to clean wood siding you can also opt for either store-bought cleaning solutions or DIY cleaning solutions.
How often should you clean wood siding?
The best practice for maintaining wood siding is to plan to clean it once per year in the spring. However, because of its more natural appearance compared to vinyl siding, you may be able to clean once every 2 years, depending on your geographical location and climate.
Can you use a pressure washer to clean wood siding?
Similar to vinyl, it is not recommended to use a pressure washer to clean wood siding. Power washers can damage natural wood and diminish its natural quality, destroying your investment in this highly sought after type of siding. Pressure washers can strip paint from wood, warp wooden boards, and cause moisture that can lead to mold and mildew. If you are tempted to use a pressure washer, make sure to place it on a very low setting. Better yet, to avoid damage, be sure to hire a professional to wash your wooden siding or use a safe DIY cleaning solution.
Can you make DIY cleaning solutions for wooden siding?
Yes. Just like vinyl siding, you can quickly and easily make DIY cleaning solutions for natural wood siding. Here are a few options:
- Best for a basic wood siding cleaner: Mix equal parts white vinegar with warm water in a bucket. Fill a spray bottle with the solution and spray it directly onto the wooden boards. Then, scrub the siding with a soft bristle brush and hose it down to rinse. Pro tips: This solution also works for stains on wooden decks!
- Best for mold or stubborn grime: Oxygenated bleach, rather than chlorine bleach (which can be harmful on wood), can be used for more stubborn grime. Mix equal parts oxygen bleach with warm water in a bucket. Again, fill a spray bottle with the bleach solution and apply directly to the siding. Use a soft bristle brush to scrub and rinse with a garden hose. It’s best to test oxygen bleach on your wooden siding before applying all over the home, in order to ensure its safety. Apply to a small area of siding and leave it on for 20 minutes to ensure no damage is done.
Are there store-bought cleaning solutions for wood siding?
Yes. There are also store-bought cleaning alternatives available if you do not want to DIY. Simple Green siding cleaner is great for wood siding because it is gentle and earth-friendly. Mix 1 ½ cups of Simple Green Siding Cleaner with 1 gallon of water in a bucket. Apply and scrub with a soft bristle brush, rinsing downward when complete.
Discover additional tips for maintaining and treating natural wood siding.
Cleaning Fiber Cement Siding
Cleaning fiber cement siding is relatively more simple than cleaning vinyl and wood siding. However, it is recommended to clean fiber cement more frequently than vinyl and wood – once every 6 to 12 months. This will keep the material fresh and clean as well as maintain its durability over the years. Follow the following steps to clean your home’s fiber cement siding:
- Soft cloth or sponge. It is preferable to use a soft cloth or sponge rather than a bristle brush on fiber cement, since it will be more gentle.
- Non-abrasive cleaner. Be conscientious about the type of cleaner you use for fiber cement siding. The good thing about fiber cement is that it can be cleaned using household dish detergent. Mix your regular dish detergent with warm water. Wet your cloth or sponge with warm soapy water and apply directly to the siding. Hose it down from the top to the bottom of the siding.
- Do not use a pressure washer. Using a power washer is unnecessary for fiber cement, and can be damaging. Use a DIY cleaning solution to easily remove dirt and grime. Call a professional if you are not seeing the results you would like.
Discover additional tips for maintaining fiber cement siding.
Cleaning Stucco Siding
Due to its porous surface, stucco siding can easily accumulate dirt and grime if not cleaned routinely. If grime, mold and algae are left sitting on stucco for years upon years, it can cause long-term damage as well as a diminished appearance and property value. Stucco siding will benefit from a deep cleaning once or twice a year to remove mold, mildew, dirt, grime, and grit. Here are the steps you should follow to clean your home’s stucco siding:
1. Inspect the siding thoroughly
Walk your property and look closely at your siding. Look for any damage, such as cracks and gaps. Do not apply water to the siding until you get these damages repaired. Doing so can cause a build-up of moisture, which can lead to mold and mildew growth. If you detect damage, get in touch with a siding contractor to see whether or not you need to repair or replace the siding.
2. Rinse the stucco
Before washing, it’s best to rinse down the exterior of your home with a garden hose. This will help remove any excess dirt and debris before cleaning. Note that you can pressure wash stucco. However, be sure to use a gentle setting of about 1,500 PSI or below and a 25-degree nozzle. Stand at least 24 inches away from the siding when applying the pressure washer, and make sure to apply at a 45 degree angle to avoid any damage. If you are unfamiliar with using a pressure washer, it is best to use a gentle garden hose instead or hire a professional siding cleaner.
3. Apply a stucco-friendly cleaning solution
After rinsing, you can apply a cleaning solution to the siding. There are a few options that will work. You can use a dish detergent and warm water mixture for basic stains and grime. If you are dealing with more stubborn grime, you can use either a solution of equal parts bleach and hot water, or alternatively a borax and water solution. For this cleaning option, mix 2 gallons of warm water with ½ cup of borax and 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap in a bucket. Note that borax will work harder than just dish detergent and water, but it is less abrasive than bleach.
4. Scrub the solution
Use a soft bristle brush to scrub the solution into the stucco. A brush works better than a cloth for stucco due to its tougher surface.
5. Re-rinse the siding
After scrubbing your stucco siding top to bottom, use your hose or low-pressure power washer to rinse again. Rinse downward at a 45 degree angle so that the cleaning solution falls away from the home.
You might consider having your stucco sided home cleaned professionally, for a cost of between $300 and $500 dollars for an averaged-sized home. This might prove to be beneficial for larger or two story structures where ladders and/or scaffolding are necessary.
Siding Maintenance and Cleaning: General Tips
The frequency of cleaning and maintenance required for your type of siding will depend on your home’s geographic location, climate, and atmospheric substances your home is exposed to. For example, if your house is situated close to a freeway or industrial area, you can expect a heavier dose of dirt and grime on your exterior siding and you may need to clean it more frequently.
All in all, there are several best practices and tips that can be applied to all types of siding. The following information generally applies to all types of siding:
Inspect siding frequently
To maintain the protective qualities of your exterior siding, it is paramount that you inspect and re-apply caulking, mortar, and stucco as necessary. This prevents moisture from entering the wall cavity which could cause damage, mold or mildew growth. These areas include nail or fastener penetrations, plank and trim connections, as well as the joints of adjoining siding boards.
Make repairs to cracks and gaps
It’s crucial to repair cracks in exterior siding to prevent water and moisture from penetrating the wall cavity. You should also always repair any visible cracks before cleaning or pressure washing.
Use flexible caulks and sealants
If you are sealing cracks and gaps on your own, use caulks or sealants that maintain flexibility. Look for the words “permanently flexible” on the label or caulking tube.
Keep vegetation away from your siding
Besides providing insects an easy path to your home, vegetation can promote mold and mildew growth. If you have landscaping near your siding, be sure to inspect the siding more frequently for damage – as often as once per month.
Point sprinklers away from siding
If you use sprinklers, verify that the sprayers from these irrigation systems are directed away from your home to avoid excessive moisture.
Keep gutters clean
An obstructed gutter system will allow dirty water and debris to overflow onto your siding, causing damage over time.
By performing these siding cleaning and maintenance techniques, you can extend the beauty, lifespan, and durability of your home’s siding. Not to mention, regular siding cleaning and maintenance can help you to avoid costly siding damage. If you would like to get in touch with a siding professional for guidance on your next siding project, be sure to tap into Modernize’s network of siding contractors.
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