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Pro Tips: Is Power Washing Bad for Your Siding?

November 3, 2020

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If you’re like many homeowners, you might eventually ask the question, “Is power washing bad for my siding?” Some do-it-yourself enthusiasts might suggest that pressure washing damages not only your home’s siding but also brick chimney faces, roofing shingles, and exterior glass. However, the real truth is that power washing is an excellent way to keep siding in good condition and protected from damage!

While this might seem like contradictory advice, knowing a bit more about proper power washing methods as well as mistakes to avoid can mean keeping your home’s siding in good repair and looking its best. You might also consider the best cleaning methods for washing away mold and for restoring vinyl so it looks like new again!  

Is It Safe to Pressure Wash Your Home's Siding?

Is power washing bad for your siding? The answer is both yes and no! Power washing is damaging when performed incorrectly, but professional pressure washing is beneficial for a home’s exterior walls. To better understand how to keep your home looking its best without damage, note a few details about washing siding:

pressure washing sanitization cleaning services

  • Power washing over cracks and holes in siding allows water to seep into the home’s interior spaces, risking structural damage and eventual mold growth. A professional power washing contractor ensures such openings are covered or patched properly before they begin their work!
  • While aluminum, vinyl, and other materials are dense and durable, it is possible to bend, scratch, or otherwise damage those surfaces by using too much pressure during power washing.
  • Aiming a power washing wand directly at surfaces increases water pressure, which can also mean dents and dings and other such damage! Professional power washing contractors know to stand a certain distance from a surface and hold the wand at an angle as well.  
  • Harsh detergents and cleansers allowed to dry before they’re rinsed away can leave behind streaks and water stains.
  • Homemade cleaning solutions, products meant for porcelain fixtures, or rust removers can also leave behind unsightly streaks, or even a sticky residue that attracts more dirt than when you started!
  • When power washing outside walls, it’s best to start from the bottom and work your way up, as dirt tends to run from the top of the home downward. Starting from the top of the home can simply create splatter and a muddy mess rather than actually loosening dirt and cleaning it away!
  • Washing nearby dirty surfaces with a power washer can also mean unsightly streaks; for example, if your home’s gutters are clogged and dirty, avoid spraying them or clean them before power washing your siding.
  • Using overly hot water on vinyl and metal siding can also leave behind streaks and other marks.

Cleaning Your Home's Vinyl Siding Using the BEST Methods & Techniques 

Soft wash pressure washing is the best way to clean vinyl siding! Soft wash systems start with specialty detergents meant to safely yet effectively dissolve even the toughest, thickest dirt and grime. Once dissolved, a low-pressure rinse, typically just a slight bit stronger than your home’s garden hose, is all that’s needed to remove dirt and debris.

A soft wash cleaning not only protects your home’s siding but also helps avoid splashing and splattering! There is also little to no risk of damaging exterior window glass, landscaping features, brick chimney exteriors, and other materials when you choose soft wash pressure washing for your home’s siding.

How Often Should You Clean Vinyl Siding?

A good “rule of thumb” is to clean vinyl siding every 2 to 3 years. It’s not recommended that you go longer than just a few years without power washing, as homes might hold lots of dust and debris that homeowners overlook, and pressure washing also cleans away bothersome insect nests and termite tunnels.

As with any home cleaning and maintenance job, you’ll also need to adjust this schedule to fit your property and needs in particular. For instance, homes in tropical environments typically need annual cleaning, to remove sand, silt, and any developing mold, mildew, algae, and moss.

As another example, if you live near a busy highway, airport, or production facility, you might notice that your home is often coated with bothersome soot and other residues. Annual cleaning will keep those outside walls clean and looking their best.

Homes also tend to trap and hold pollen and other airborne irritants. While most homeowners aren’t bothered by these debris, if you suffer from allergies, asthma, or other health concerns, annual exterior pressure washing helps improve outdoor air quality and allows you to breathe freely!

vinyl siding receiving pressure washing

Making Your Vinyl Siding Look Like New

Pressure washing is the best choice for restoring the appearance of vinyl siding; however, if your home’s siding is worn and aged and looks somewhat faded, it might need more personalized attention. First, mix white vinegar with water in a 30-70 ratio (30% vinegar, 70% water).

Next, pre-rinse the siding with plain water to remove dirt, dust, cobwebs, and other residues. Then, use a garden hose sprayer to clean the siding with your vinegar-water mixture, starting from the bottom and working your way up. Work in small sections and rinse the mixture with fresh water as you go.

Your last step is to use a vinyl restoration product from a hardware or home improvement store. Ensure you read the instructions for the product you choose and mix it with water or otherwise prepare it as instructed.

If your restoration product doesn’t make your home’s siding look like new, you might be able to paint it to restore its appearance. It’s best to check with a local painter about tackling this job, as siding doesn’t always hold a paint color very well.

If you want to try painting your home’s exterior yourself, start with an acrylic primer and then use a paint meant for exterior vinyl. Test your paint in a small, unobtrusive area, allowing it to dry for several days before checking its appearance; this will tell you if your home’s siding will hold paint and if that new coat will work to restore its appearance!

Will Bleach Harm Vinyl Siding?

Bleach will harm vinyl siding only if applied at full strength! Chlorine bleach is actually a good choice for cutting through thick dirt and grime, but it’s vital that you dilute that bleach before application and spray it onto the home rather than dumping large quantities onto any one area.

For your home’s siding, mix a quart of bleach in a gallon of water. Spray the mixture onto the siding surface using a garden hose attachment and, as with your vinegar solution, work in small sections so you can rinse the bleach as you go.

If your bleach solution doesn’t clean siding as expected, don’t use a stronger solution! Too much chlorine bleach can dry out and crack siding, and leave behind noxious odors. For tough dirt, call a power washing contractor for professional cleaning.

power washing vinyl siding for mold

How to Get Grimey Mold Off Your Vinyl Siding

Bleach is not always the best for killing green mold off vinyl siding. Instead, mix a 30-70 solution of white vinegar and water. Vinegar helps kill mold, mildew, and other contaminants and isn’t as drying or damaging as bleach!

Since vinegar can kill some plants, cover your landscaping features before you begin. Work slowly and rinse your vinegar solution as you go, so nothing is left behind. A quick rinse also helps remove that unpleasant vinegar smell that might otherwise get left behind!

If your vinegar solution doesn’t kill and remove green mold and other residues, try a mixture of one-third cup powdered laundry detergent, two-thirds cup powdered household cleaner (Comet, Ajax, etc.), one-quart chlorine bleach, and one gallon of water. Once mixed thoroughly, spray onto the home with a garden hose attachment and rinse quickly.

Can You Use Abrasive Cleaners on Vinyl Siding?

While you can typically use abrasive cleaners and brushes on metal siding, avoid these harsh cleaning methods on vinyl! Vinyl siding is tough and durable but you can scratch, etch, and otherwise damage it with non-diluted abrasive scrubs, wire brushes, and other such tools.

For tough spots of dirt and grime, mix up a paste of baking soda and water and gently massage it into the siding. Let this paste sit for a few minutes, so the baking soda can work to dissolve grease, dirt, and other debris. Rinse the paste off with a garden hose or wipe it away with a clean, damp cloth.

Can You Pressure Wash Wood Siding?

Soft wash systems are an excellent choice for wood siding, decks, fences, and other such surfaces around your home. Soft wash pressure washing helps avoid cracking, chipping, and splintering wood, while the surfactants used for soft wash cleaning help kill mold, mildew, moss, and algae growing along these surfaces.

pressure washing wood

However, as said, DIY power washing is bad for siding and especially wood materials! Too much pressure can chip old and brittle wood or peel away paint, while the wrong detergents might leave behind streaks. Letting detergent dry on wood siding also creates a sticky residue. To ensure a thorough, safe clean, leave this work to a professional power washing contractor near you. Our company is Lansing Power Washing and we're the go-to cleaning service team. When your home is beginning to look grimey, call your local pressure washers for exterior house cleaning in Lansing!

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