Maintain Your Vinyl Siding - Wash It!
Although vinyl siding is often touted as being virtually maintenance-free, to get your money's worth and extend the life of your investment, there are a few simple steps you need to follow.
Hose It Down
For the most part, all you have to do to keep your vinyl siding looking clean and brand spanking new is to spray it regularly. By simply hosing it off once or twice a year, you can keep up with the natural accumulation of dust, dirt, and airborne debris. However, if you take time every now and then to give it a bit more thorough cleaning, you will add years to its performance. In the long run, you'll make life easier for yourself if you take the time to methodically clean it every once in a while.
What Do You Need?
With the right tools, it's a no muss, no fuss proposition. If you've kept your siding relatively clean, you can easily remove most of the grime with a spray hose. If it's been a while and an accumulation of grime has built up, you might need a solvent and a soft-bristled brush, like the one you use to wash your car. To create the solvent, just mix one part laundry detergent and two parts powdered household detergent together with sixteen parts water. (A gallon of the mixture will suffice for the average-size house.) If there is mildew, you can mix white vinegar with water or make a mild solution with one part bleach and three to six parts water; the strength depends on how built up the mildew is.
Before you start to clean your vinyl siding, make sure your windows are closed! You don't want to spray water into your living room. Be safe, not sorry. First, cover anything you don't want the spray to hit. Turn off the power to any outside lights that may get wet. Cover lights and electrical fixtures with plastic bags, and secure them with duct tape. Cover any electrical outlets with plastic sheeting, and secure them with duct tape. If you have shrubbery or flowers, protect them. Place drop cloths or plastic over any plants or shrubs near the house and move any outside furniture away from the house.
Bottoms Up First, Then Top Down
Regardless of the type of solution you use, always start washing at the bottom of the siding and work your way up from side to side at a steady pace and then rinse from the top down to avoid having dirty water streak and stain your siding. Hold the nozzle at a 45-degree angle and when cleaning around doors and windows, angle the spray away from the opening.
Work from the bottom up, and move across the siding
Don't take a break between washing and rinsing! You don't want your cleaning solution to dry on the siding.
If you'd rather avoid the added hassle of solvents, which can become somewhat labor intensive, you can use a home-washing kit that attaches to the garden hose.
Before you begin, walk around the house and check for trouble spots that are covered in mildew, mold, or moss. To determine whether a trouble area is affected by mildew, apply a small amount of household bleach to the area. If it clears up, the problem is mildew. Spray from the hose (or even a pressure washer, for that matter) usually won't remove mildew, so you'll need to clean those areas first by hand with a bleach solution.
Attach a garden hose to an outside faucet, and then attach the washer to the hose. If the washer has a soap feed, mix a mild solution of water and detergent in a bucket, then place the soap-feed tube in the bucket.
Begin spraying the house, holding the nozzle at a 45-degree angle. Work from the bottom up, and move across the siding from side to side at
a steady pace. When cleaning around windows, hold the nozzle at an angle, and direct the spray away from the windows. Rinse the siding with clear water. Work from the top down to prevent streaks.
However, if it's been a while between cleanings and home washing kit just doesn't provide the oomph you need to get the job done right, you might consider a power washer. Sometimes you'll need to resort to more pressure because the home kits just aren't as powerful or effective as pressure washers. Pressure washers are rated at 2,500 to 3,000 pounds per square inch (psi). You can rent a pressure washer from an equipment-rental center or home improvement store for between $50 and $75 per day. Use a 25-degree nozzle for good coverage that won't damage the vinyl siding.
You will need the following tools in order to prep your vinyl siding painting: Garden hose, Safety glasses, Duct tape, Drop cloth, Plastic sheeting, Plastic bags and a Cleaning solution made with liquid detergent
Keep in mind that with a power washer, you have to be very careful. Pressure washers generate very high pressure, so it's essential to take safety precautions when using them:
- Use both hands when holding the spray nozzle
- Don't use pressure washers while standing on a ladder
- Never point the nozzle at anyone
- Always wear safety glasses
- Never point it up. Always aim the nozzle at eye level or downward. (If you spray upward, you may get water behind the panels and moisture trapped behind the vinyl panels will definitely create long-term problems.)
Otherwise, use the same techniques described for home washing kits, being sure to remove any mold or mildew before you begin to power wash.
All things considered, vinyl siding is a relative breeze to maintain. In fact, simply rinsing your home regularly will keep dirt and grime from building up and sustain a sparkling, fresh exterior. If dirt does up, a little elbow grease combined with a vinyl siding cleaning kit will probably restore the siding's pristine appearance. And as a last resort, a power washer will remove the most stubborn grunge.