Cleaning Vinyl Siding
The correct methods for cleaning vinyl siding should be understood both prior to purchase and for existing installations. Ease of maintenance is one of the outstanding perks of owning vinyl siding. Freedom from repainting is a major benefit and savings, but be sure you consider vinyl siding maintenance as part of your decision-making and warranty needs. While siding manufacturers have instructions for each product within their vinyl siding lines, the following instructions are good general guidelines.
Preparations for cleaning vinyl siding
If your siding has accumulated grime for several years, you may need to take additional steps and a stronger cleaning formula than the procedures for annual cleaning. Reading the difference between the two can be an incentive to schedule cleaning at the end of each summer or winter.
- Planning: Choose a day with high overcast or work on a shaded wall. Never wash a wall that's hot or sunlit. Plan to work in 4-by-4-foot squares. Start at the top of the siding so the grime-laden solution doesn't run down to a cleaned area, and move horizontally to uncleaned areas. Use a garden hose. Power washers can void some warranties. They can also cause pitting, holes, or seepage behind the siding which can lead to mold, rot, and other warranty-voiding problems. Garden hoses have far less power but it's still a good precaution to aim them horizontally or downward rather than up. Direct the hose spray away from window trim edges. Always scrub gently.
- Supplies needed: A 5-gallon bucket and garden hose. A dispenser jar with "wash" and "rinse" settings that screws onto your hose. One or two ladders. An adjustable-handled soft- to medium-bristle brush--never a hard-bristle. Sponges, non-abrasive scrubbers, and/or soft cloths. Drop cloths and duct tape to cover any brick or masonry below the siding. Cleaning solution supplies as described below.
- Annual cleaning: Your siding manufacturer or local hardware or building supply store has vinyl siding cleaning products and apparatus. Simply pour the cleaner into the plastic jar that attaches to a screw-on lid with dial. The jar and lid attach to the hose, and you dial between "wash" and "rinse." Wash a 4-by-4-foot section with the cleaning solution. If necessary, use the brush for spots, stains, or grime. Let the section sit for five minutes while you move to the next horizontal section, and then repeat the procedure. Aim the hose at the previous section when it's time to rinse. This goes surprisingly quickly, especially with two ladders that you can "leap frog" from the just-washed area to a new area.
- Built-up grime: In a 5-gallon bucket with 3 quarts of water, make a solution of a half cup of powered laundry detergent, two-thirds cup of TSP (for degreasing) and one-and-one-third cups of bleach. Stir until detergent has dissolved completely, Wear protective goggles, glove, and footwear. Rinse a 4-by-4-foot square with the hose. Apply the cleaning solution with the brush or a sponge. Let it sit for five minutes, scrub problem areas, then rinse very thoroughly.
Cleaning stains and problems areas
Removing mold and mildew
Small spots of mold and mildew can be cleaned with a non-abrasive scrubber and Fantastik® or Windex®. To test whether it's mold or mildew, apply a very small amount of undiluted bleach and rinse after a few minutes. If it's mildew, the bleach will remove it, so favor cleaning with bleach solutions described here.
For larger sections, cleaning vinyl siding involves your choice of cleaning solutions. These include vinegar (30%) and water (70%). Another formula is 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent, 2/3 cup powdered household cleaner (e.g., Spic & Span®, Soilax®, or equivalent), 1 quart liquid laundry bleach, and 1 gallon of water. Apply the solution and let it stand for 5 minutes, then scrub lightly and rinse very thoroughly to remove all residue.
Cleaning off other stains
* The following list of commonly accepted cleaners is provided by the Vinyl Siding Institute.
** Always spot check any general or stain-specific cleaner before using it on larger areas. After removing the stain, rinse very thoroughly with water. Do not use cleaners containing organic solvents, undiluted chlorine bleach, liquid grease remover, nail polish remover, or furniture polish or cleaners. They can affect the surface of the siding and can void your warranty.
General vinyl siding cleaners (e.g., Simple Green®, Nice & Easy®, Armor All®, etc.) can be used for spots or small dirty areas such as bird droppings and spider webs. Stain-specific cleaners are listed below. Thoroughly rinse off all cleaners with water before they dry.
Bubble Gum - Fantastik®, Murphy Oil Soap®, solution of vinegar (30 percent), water (70 percent) and Windex®
Crayon - Lestoil®
DAP (oil-based caulk) - Fantastik®
Felt-tip Pen - Fantastik®, water-based cleaners
Grass - Fantastik®, Lysol®, Murphy Oil Soap®, Windex®
Lithium (car) Grease - Fantastik®, Lestoil®, Murphy Oil Soap®, Windex® Motor Oil-Fantastik®, Lysol®, Murphy Oil Soap®, Windex®
Paint - Brillo® Pad, Soft Scrub®
Pencil - Soft Scrub®
Rust - Fantastik®, Murphy Oil Soap®, Windex®
Tar - Soft Scrub®
Top Soil - Fantastik®, Lestoil®, Murphy Oil Soap®
When you're finished cleaning your vinyl siding, take the time to clean decks, patio furniture, and garbage cans. They'll be ready for winter storage or for the beginning of your outdoor entertaining season. And your vinyl siding will have that nice, clean-feeling brightness it had when it was new.
*Cleaning materials are listed in alphabetical order.
**SPI, VSI, or Vinyl Siding Zone do not endorse products or processes and makes no warranties for the products referenced herein. Reference to proprietary names is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to imply that there are not equally effective alternatives.
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