How to Clean Vinyl Siding

by Michael Franco
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Brick homes require a whole host of maintenance tasks, including repointing the joints, pressure washing away grime and replacing damaged bricks. Homes with wood siding present a similarly long list of tasks, including repainting, caulking, replacing damaged boards and routine cleaning. But homes with vinyl siding? While not entirely maintenance-free, they, far and away, require the least amount of work on a regular basis. In fact — except for certain extreme circumstances — all it really takes is some mild detergent and a soft cloth to keep it looking as good as the day it was installed.

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Still, there are a few things to watch out for when cleaning any house clad in vinyl, and there are a few tips and tricks to get the job done efficiently. Here's all you need to know.

Tools You'll Need

  • Cleanser. (This could be a mix of vinegar and water, dish soap, laundry detergent or other commercial cleaners. More on that in a minute.)
  • Soft-bristled brush with a telescoping handle
  • Soft cloths
  • Buckets
  • Hose
  • Pressure or power washer (if needed)
  • Ladder
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Cleaning Vinyl Siding

If your vinyl siding is just dirty from being out in the open year-round, then you should be able to get it clean with a simple cleanser. A favorite is a mix of 70% water and 30% distilled white vinegar. Depending on the height of your home, you can apply this mix on a soft rag, working back and forth and starting at the bottom and working your way up. While that might sound a bit counterintuitive, it's a good way to avoid streaks that might result from doing it in the reverse order. When you have a length of siding cleaned, use your hose to spray away the cleanser.

Spray your brush or rag clean with the hose, and change the water in your bucket frequently.

You can clean the entirety of some homes this way, with the help of a ladder. But if your home is very tall, you'll also want to employ a soft-bristled brush with a telescoping handle. Also, if there are grooves in your vinyl siding, the brush will be more effective at removing dirt than the cloth.

Other Cleaning Solutions

While the vinegar and water mix is a popular, inexpensive and environmentally friendly choice for cleaning your vinyl, there are other options you can employ. For another homemade option, a dash of liquid dish soap in a bucket of water can get the job done. There are also commercial vinyl siding cleansers, such as this one from Simple Green.

Dealing With Mold and Mildew

Most mold and mildew will come off using one of the cleaning options mentioned above. However, if you have a stubborn patch that just won't wash away, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute, you can try a stronger homemade solution by combining 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent like Tide or All, 2/3 cup powdered household cleaner like Spic and Span or Arm & Hammer, 1 quart of liquid laundry bleach and 1 gallon of water.

It is important to note that when you are working with bleach, you need to make sure it is well diluted, as in the recipe above. Also, it's important to rinse it away regularly during the cleaning process. That's because, due to its highly corrosive nature, any bleach that's allowed to stay in contact with your siding can damage it. If you have shrubs or plants that might get cleansing solution on them during this process, be sure to cover them before using a bleach-based cleaner. Alternatively, use a plant-friendly solution of 1 gallon of water and 1 cup of oxygen bleach, which won't harm your greenery.

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Power Washing

If your vinyl siding is particularly dirty — or if you simply find it easier to do this — you may want to use a pressure (or power) washer to get it clean. This can be a highly effective way to blast grime off your vinyl siding panels. Some pressure washers allow you to add a cleansing solution to the water stream, so any of the formulas described above will work here as well.

One important thing to keep in mind when employing this method to clean your siding is that you will want to keep the water spray either angled straight ahead at eye level, or angled slightly down. You never want to spray upwards, because that could force water behind the vinyl panels, where it can damage the wood underlayment.

Also, pressure washers work with a variety of different PSIs, which is the force exerted by the water stream. Check with your vinyl siding manufacturer to see what the maximum recommended PSI is for cleaning, and make sure you do not exceed it.

Dealing With Discoloration

If part of your vinyl siding has discolored, there isn't much you can do cleaning-wise to get it back to its original hue. Instead, you'll either need to live with it or replace the discolored section.

The best way to deal with discoloration, though, is to prevent it from happening in the first place. This means using extra caution when spraying chemicals like insecticides around your home and ensuring that if you get any on the siding, you wash it away as quickly as possible. The same holds true for any other stains or sealants that might splash onto your siding while undertaking other home improvement projects.

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