Just because vinyl siding has fewer maintenance needs doesn’t mean it doesn’t need any maintenance at all. Like any kind of siding, it can still accumulate several kinds of stains, such as grime, dirt, animal droppings and, in serious cases, mold. Fortunately, thanks to its mild weather conditions, spring happens to be an ideal time to do a bit of maintenance on your siding.
Here are a few cleaning tips to help you get started:
Wear the Right Safety Equipment
Remember: safety always comes first. Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes with slip-resistant soles to reduce the risk of accidental slips, rubber gloves to keep your skin from coming into contact with potentially harsh chemicals in the cleaning solution, safety goggles to shield your eyes from splatters and a face mask to protect your from fumes. And, as a general rule, you should have someone hold the ladder while you’re cleaning the upper portions of your siding. If, however, you have any concerns about any potential safety hazards, it’s best to let professionals clean your siding.
Use the Right Tools
The Vinyl Siding Institute recommends using a soft cloth and long-handled, soft-bristle brush when cleaning vinyl siding. Unlike hard-bristle brushes, soft-bristle brushes can reach into the grooves of textured siding, ensuring dirt isn’t left behind.
As for the cleaning solution, the safest choice for cleaning siding is to use a homemade cleaning solution made of 70% water and 30% white vinegar. This vinegar cleaning solution should be able to remove minor stains. For more stubborn stains, you can use a stronger solution made from one-third cup laundry detergent, two-thirds cup powdered household cleaner, one-quart bleach and one gallon of water. If this solution isn’t enough, you can use commercial cleaning solutions. Just make sure to read the siding manufacturer’s manual, and check the label for any chemicals that could damage vinyl siding.
Chemicals and Tools to Avoid
Specific types of vinyl siding may react differently to certain chemicals, but as a rule of thumb, you should avoid cleaners that contain organic solvents, grease or nail polish removers, and undiluted chlorine bleach. You should also avoid using abrasive cleaning tools like steel wool as these can scratch vinyl siding as well.
What About Power Washers?
Power washers can make cleaning a lot easier and faster, but you need to be careful. Otherwise, you could damage your home’s roofing system and siding. It’s also best to check with the manufacturer’s manual first as recommendations for using power washers tend to vary depending on the manufacturer. Some don’t recommend using power washers while others do, provided it’s set to the lowest pressure settings.
It’s important that you gradually raise the water pressure. First, point the nozzle straight at the siding while making sure the water stream remains at eye level. Avoid pointing the nozzle in an upward angle to prevent driving water into the back of the siding. Be careful when cleaning areas of your siding that are near windows, doors and plumbing connections as high water pressure can damage caulking. To prevent streaks on your vinyl siding, wash the siding from the bottom-up and in a side-to-side motion.
Proper Techniques for Cleaning Vinyl Siding by Hand
If, however, you prefer to clean your vinyl siding the old-fashioned way, there are tricks you can use to make cleaning your siding a lot easier. Here are some cleaning tips:
Divide your home’s vinyl siding into five-foot by five-foot areas – Some portions of your vinyl siding are dirtier than others. It’s more practical to start with the dirtiest parts and then work your way to the mild stains. Don’t forget to test a portion of the cleaning solution on a small area of the siding.
Start cleaning from the bottom of the vinyl siding – Scrubbing from the bottom-up will prevent streaks from forming on vinyl siding.
Avoid putting too much pressure on vinyl siding – You’ll need a bit of elbow grease to scrub off stubborn stains, but you should be careful not to put too much pressure on the siding.
Rinse your vinyl siding with water frequently – Doing so prevents uneven drying.
What About Mold?
Mold can only eat away organic materials so it shouldn’t be a problem for vinyl siding or metal roofing panels. However, left unattended, mold can affect the other parts of your exterior that are made from wood and organic materials. Not to mention mold stains can lower your home’s curb appeal. That’s why you should remove mold stains on your siding as soon as possible.
You’ll need a stronger bleach or vinegar solution to remove mold on the vinyl surface. Start by scrubbing the most visible mold spots and letting the solution soak in for several minutes. You can use a toothbrush to scrub off mold in the siding’s grooves. Make sure to completely rinse off any residue from the cleaning solution. Otherwise, the solution might leave stains.
Mold: A Symptom of a Bigger Underlying Issue
Mold can be a symptom of a bigger underlying issue. Mold and mildew thrive in dark and damp areas. One possible source of moisture is water leaking from your gutters. Even if you manage to remove mold stains, as long as there’s a source of water, mold and mildew will keep reappearing on vinyl siding. As such, if you happen to see mold on your siding, it’d be a good idea to have a roofing contractor inspect your gutters.
Remember: regular gutter cleaning is a must. If leaves and other organic debris are clogging your gutters, water will spill over onto your roof or siding, increasing the risk of leaks and creating a damp environment that’s the perfect breeding ground for mold. Under the excess weight load, sections of your gutters may even start to pull apart at the seams, creating leaks.
Aside from routine gutter maintenance, what are the other ways you can prevent gutter leaks? You can replace your old gutter system with seamless gutters. Seams or joints, after all, are the weak point of conventional gutters. To make sure your new gutters are installed properly, make sure only an experienced contractor handles the seamless gutter installation.
When It’s Time for a Siding Replacement
Of course, no amount of cleaning can improve the appearance of worn vinyl siding. If the colors on vinyl siding start to fade or cracks start to appear, it may be time for a siding replacement. And, if you’re considering replacing your siding, spring is an ideal time to get a siding replacement.
Why is spring arguably the best time to pursue home improvement projects? Why not summer? For one thing, spring’s mild weather conditions ensure minimal disruptions to your day-to-day routine and reduce inconveniences. In contrast, if you wait until summer to have your siding replaced, you might have to deal with the scorching summer heat. While contractors are installing new siding panels, warm air can enter your home, lowering indoor comfort and increasing cooling costs.
Plus, it’s simply more practical to schedule it in spring when the weather is ideal. Contractors, after all, are able to work faster and more efficiently in mild weather conditions. There’s also the issue of demand for contractor services peaking in summer, which makes it harder for you to schedule an appointment on your preferred date, let alone book an appointment with a contractor.
To make sure your siding replacement and seamless gutter installation are done properly, make sure to hire a qualified contractor. Haven’t found a contractor yet? Here’s a vetting tip: the number of years a contractor has been in the industry should give you a good idea of their level of expertise.