Putting the best face on your home's exterior

Cleaning Home Siding

by Benjamin Roussey


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The siding of your home is one of the first things people see as they approach your home. It can be brick, fiber, cement, wood, vinyl, stucco, or a combination of any of these. Undertaking some preventive cleaning and maintenance on a regular basis can keep the siding in good condition, and a clean and well-kept exterior also increases the value of your home. Professional cleaning costs can run into hundreds of dollars. Cleaning the siding yourself is sure to save you a chunk of change.

Choosing a Washer

Grit, grime, and mildew are the prime culprits, and these can be cleaned with either a pressure washer or a home-washing kit. Renting a power washer is an option for cleaning siding. Electric power washers are ideal for single-story homes, while gas-powered ones may be needed for multi-story homes. A pressure washer makes it easy to clean the hard-to-reach places, too.

Preparations

Be ready to devote at least an entire weekend to thoroughly clean the siding on your house. You might need assistance, so see if a friend or family member is willing to help out.

Items needed for cleaning include soap or detergent, water, powdered bleach, plastic bags, duct tape, and drop cloths. Use the plastic bags to cover lights and electrical fixtures before securing them with duct tape. The drop cloths can be used to cover plants or shrubs that are close to the house. If there is any furniture outside the house, move it to a place away from the washer's spray. Move things out of the way before you start, so you can focus on cleaning once you begin.

Tackle Mildew

Inspect the exterior of the house for black spots that might be caused by mold or mildew. If you aren't sure whether a certain spot is mildew, apply a little bit of bleach to the area and see if it clears up. If it does, then it is mildew. Since a pressure washer cannot remove mildew, these areas will have to be cleaned by hand. You can mix one part of bleach with nine parts of water to make a solution, and then use this to wipe off the mildew.

Cleaning with a Pressure Washer

Most pressure washers have a slot where you can put in a soap solution or other type of cleaning solution. Spraying the siding with some type of cleaning agent is always better than using just plain water. If using a readymade solvent for cleaning, use one that is suitable for pressure washers. This will be indicated on the container, so check the label before you proceed.

You might have to practice using the washer before you actually start cleaning the siding, so you get the hang of it. Take all necessary precautions, such as using both hands to hold the nozzle, not pointing the nozzle at anyone, and not standing on a ladder. Failure to handle the pressure washer in the right way might lead to more damage than good. Do not spray directly at window panes as too much pressure can cause them to crack or break. Don't spray over pet food bowls.

Always wear protective clothing and gloves while cleaning home siding since you will be handling chemicals. And remember that you're dealing with water pressure that can be dangerous. Don't accidentally spray yourself or your helper at close range.

Try to operate the pressure washer at a lower setting to prevent any kind of damage to the siding. You can always increase the pressure if you find that your home can stand it and you need more to get a good clean surface. Use the extension wand (if provided) for hard to reach areas.

Spray in smooth overlapping strokes. If you can work from the bottom up, it will prevent streaks. Just think of it as similar to painting the walls of your house. This will ensure that you do not miss any spots. Divide the area to be cleaned into sections, and do them one by one.

Tips to Make Matters Easy

If you can use a rotating brush, there's nothing like it! They add some physical abrasion to the water's force. Remember to let the soap solution stay on the siding for a few minutes before you wash it off. When rinsing, start from the top and work your way down.



Special Care of Wood Siding

Wood siding is prone to mildew and algae because of the wood sealers and stains used. If you have wood siding, a pressure washer might have too much power and could damage the wood. A garden sprayer can be used instead along with some oxygen bleach. This type of bleach can also be used on vinyl siding to help restore its looks. Remember to apply the bleach solution on siding that is dry. Also, oxygen bleach is friendly to plants and animals.

If you've never used a pressure washer before it might take you some time to get accustomed to it, but it becomes easier the next time!

Reviewed April 2017


Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA, and grew up doing all varieties of home improvement projects around the home since his parents did not hire contractors or outside help to maintain their home or vehicles. As a result, he has acquired a multitude of home handyman skills in plumbing, carpentry, electrical and everything in between. He also has two Masters degrees and he served four years in the U.S. Navy.

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