Pollution, dirt, and mold are common problems with all types of house siding. Sometimes siding that looks as if it needs a new coat of paint really needs only a good scrubbing. The most time-consuming — but thorough — way to wash it is the old-fashioned way: with a bucket of sudsy water, a nozzle hose, and a soft-bristled nylon scrub brush screwed onto the end of a pole.
Pressure washers can do this job faster, but they are not as thorough and can damage the siding and finish. If you go this route, learn how to use a pressure washer properly. (I’ll cover this in an upcoming article.)
■ Soft-bristled nylon scrub brush
■ Extension pole
■ Spray nozzle
■ Trisodium phosphate (TSP) detergent
■ Mildewcide, if needed
How to wash your house:
If mildew is present, use a solution of 1 quart of bleach to ¾ gallon of water and a small amount of the TSP detergent. (Paint dealers also sell mildewcide that can be used to clean wood siding.)
■ Turn off the power to any outside lights that could get wet.
■ Remove any items in the way.
■ If you have shrubs or flowers in the area, cover them with plastic so no cleaning solution gets on them.
■ Close windows and vents.
■ Put on eye protection and gloves, and be careful on the ladder.
■ Wet the siding, spraying in a direction away from doors and windows.
■ Scrub the areas with a soft-bristled brush on the end of an extension pole, working in small sections at a time.
■ Start at the top and work your way down; this allows the dirt to wash down and keeps the bleach from staining.
■ Rinse the cleaning solution off the siding before it dries.
One of the reasons that vinyl siding is a great choice for your house is because it’s relatively low-maintenance – the color doesn’t fade or peel, so there’s no need to repaint it regularly. However, it will start to look dingy if you don’t clean the siding every so often. Cleaning your vinyl siding is an easy job if you have a pressure washer, but what if you don’t? You don’t have to just live with dirty siding. There are a couple of other ways to get the job done, and they aren’t as difficult as you might think.
You may not have the power of a pressure washer, but there’s no substitute for good old fashioned manpower. You can clean the siding by hand. If you’re battling mold or mildew, vinegar and water make an excellent solution for cleaning vinyl siding. Start by covering the grass or plants close to your house with a tarp, because vinegar can kill your plants if it spills or drips on them. Then mix your cleaning solution in a bucket, put on rubber gloves to protect your hands, and head out with your scrub brush to clean the siding. Start at the top of the house and work your way down – that way the vinegar and water solution that runs down the siding as you clean the top will loosen the dirt and make your work below a bit easier.
What if there are only a few visible spots that you need to clean? Spot-cleaning your siding is even easier, and you don’t even need to mix up a solution. Grab a bathroom cleaner like Scrubbing Bubbles, spray it on, let it sit for a minute, and scrub it off. It’s probably not practical to buy enough spray cans to scrub the entire house, but if someone was cleaning the grill too close to the house last weekend and left grease stains on the siding, this is a simple and easy way to remove them.
With a Garden Sprayer
Not up to all of that scrubbing by hand? That’s OK too. An option that’s easier than scrubbing and cheaper than buying or renting a pressure washer is mixing up a bleach solution in a garden sprayer. You can use just bleach and water, or you can add laundry detergent for extra cleaning power.
Bleach, like vinegar, is bad for your plants, so you should again make sure that you protect them before you start spraying. You may also want to wear a safety mask to protect your face and prevent you from breathing in bleach fumes. It can help to attach a fireman nozzle to the garden sprayer if you need to reach very high spots, like the eaves of your house. After you spray and let the bleach solution do its work for several minutes, you can use your garden hose to rinse it off.
Cleaning by hand or using a garden sprayer will be more time consuming than using a pressure washer – you’ll have to work in sections, because your bucket or sprayer won’t hold enough solution to let you do the whole house at once. However, both are simple ways to get the job done without the expense of buying or renting a pressure washer.