How to clean vinyl siding

how to clean vinyl sidingVinyl is a very durable and low maintenance siding for your home. Millions of homes have been sided with vinyl because as the saying goes “vinyl is final”.   When the siding gets dirty or covered in green or black algae it can be cleaned rather easily and in some cases is a DIY home maintenance project.

There are several problems that occur to the vinyl siding as it ages. Chalking or oxidation of the finish is very common on gray, tan and some darker colored siding. This chalking is due to the sun breaking down the vinyl and causing the color to fade and deteriorate. White spots the size of a quarter or patterns repeating all over the siding can be caused by the nail heads under the siding heating up or the galvanizing on the nail head touching the back of the siding and causing a chemical reaction.

Unfortunately, all of these problems are irreversible and permanently damage the siding.

Regular cleaning is an important maintenance step if you want your vinyl siding to look great and last a long time.

There are several ways to clean vinyl siding beginning with a do it yourself method that lasts about 6 months, to a professional method that lasts about 3 years. They also have different costs and labor time that it takes to clean the siding.

A professional, low pressure, hot water, detergent wash will last the longest and have the lowest chance of damaging the siding,  finish or vegetation around the home. This method uses a professional hot water power washer with the pressure turned down to a couple of hundred pounds per square inch. A biodegradable safe cleaning solution is introduced into the water stream via a chemical injector and applied to the siding surface using special tips that can shoot 40 feet up. This eliminates the use of ladders. The solution is then rinsed off with low pressure leaving the siding completely sterilized and as clean as the day it came out of the box.

Contractor grade soft washing will last around 2 years and has the potential of killing the plants around the home.   Softwashing is the use of an electric or air-powered pump that delivers a very strong solution of bleach and soap to the siding. Runoff and overspray can cause plants or grass to be damaged or die, glass to etch and painted finishes to be damaged. Extra care must be taken to make sure all these surfaces are wetted with fresh clean water the entire time the home is being cleaned.  The solution has to be strong because the process does not use hot water or pressure. Contractors using this method often use a “buffer solution” first to put down a chlorine neutralizer barrier as a preventative method to prevent plant damage. Any mistake in the process can cause plants to be damaged or killed or property damage.

Handyman or homeowners trying to use high-pressure power washers to clean siding often end up with streaked siding due to the high pressure removing oxidation in uneven patterns. The internet is full video and photos of damaged siding caused by power washing or inexperienced operators.  Algae is not completely removed or killed by high-pressure water as water does not kill algae, in fact, water makes it grow faster. The siding may look clean but there are still microscopic algae spores on the siding that quickly reproduce and the “cleaning” will only last about 6 months. This method also requires the use of ladders on two-story homes and those ladders can damage the siding and make it dangerous for the operator trying to work 15-20 feet off the ground with a heavy hose and high-pressure water.

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