How to Clean Vinyl Siding 

Spring is upon us. The weather is getting warmer and that makes it easier to take care of outside chores.

With social distancing being the norm, for now, we have more time on our hands to tend to oft-neglected tasks around the house like cleaning the outside of our residences. If your home has vinyl siding, you know it needs routine care and cleaning.

After a harsh winter, it can start to look dingy. But the great thing about vinyl is that it’s resilient and durable. Many people love those qualities.

Also, unlike wood, you don’t have to deal with it rotting or splitting. Plus, it’s versatile. You can cover your entire house in this amazing material or you could combine it with another material such as brick.

It’s rather easy to clean vinyl siding which is wonderful news since it can attract a lot of dirt, dust, and stains. Pollen, grime, pollution, and rust can also take away from the visual appeal of your vinyl siding. It’s also easy for mildew and mold to grow in the shady areas of your home.

2 mildew
This is an excellent example of how grimy vinyl can start to look once mildew takes over. You can tell that it takes away from the overall appeal of the home.

Creative Commons Before washing/bleach by Farther Along / CC by 2.0

Then there’s the animal element to contend with. Insects can be such a pest. They leave behind gross droppings.

You reach for the insecticide to put them out of their misery. But lo and behold, the chemicals from the product can dull your vinyl siding’s finish.

Other household products such as paint and caulking can also take away from the curb appeal of your beautiful vinyl siding. But it’s super simple to clean vinyl siding.

There are plenty of products to help you. In this article, you will learn how to clean vinyl siding the right way.

Preparation First

Before you spring into action, you will want to take some cautionary measures to make sure that you don’t make a bigger mess than the one you’re trying to fix.

Pick the right day to do your cleaning project. If it’s bright and sunny outside the spots may dry quickly and unevenly. Wait for a cloudy day to handle your business.

Always approach working on a house with the mindset that safety comes first. This is not the time to jump on a ladder in your flip-flops. Wear closed-toe shoes to protect your precious feet.

Keep your hands covered with rubber gloves. Protect your peepers with safety goggles. Wear comfortable clothes that aren’t too big or too tight.

Also, you’ll be working with strong-smelling fumes so put on a face mask.

3 face mask
Anytime that you’re dealing with toxic chemicals you should wear protective gear. This lady isn’t taking any chances with her health and neither should you. Grab a face mask and keep your lungs nice and healthy.

Clear your path of anything that could cause you to trip and fall. Get rid of your little one’s toys. Put outdoor furniture in another spot.

Get a friend to steady the ladder by holding it as you’re using it to clean your vinyl siding. Also, if you’re someone who loves to leave the windows open to allow fresh spring air to travel through your house, make sure you close those windows before you start spraying.

Break out the plastic tarps to cover plants. Unplug electrical units and cover them with plastic sheets secured with duct tape.

Turn off the lights. If your house also has some brick facing, make sure that you cover the brick. You don’t want it to be affected by any runoff.

How to Clean Vinyl Siding Without a Pressure Washer

You can clean your vinyl siding without breaking the bank. Before you get started, check the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Also, remember to patch test your cleaner of choice on a small section of your house in an area that’s easy to overlook. Give it 24-48 to show the results.

If you notice some unwanted side effects, then you can at least breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you avoided ruining the siding on your house. If the cleaner works well on your siding, then you’re ready to rock and roll.

The best way to clean vinyl siding is to use a soft cloth or a long-handled, soft-bristle brush. You’ll want to dip the brush or cloth into your solution.

4 bristle brush
This soft bristle brush has a long handle and would be perfect for reaching places you couldn’t clean with a regular washcloth.

Scrub until you can see improvement. Avoid the temptation to scrub hard to get rid of built-up grime. You need to be gentle with siding.

Using too much force or pressure may cause it to crack. Here’s a list of some of the top vinyl siding cleaners to buy:

Krud Kutter Exterior Siding Cleaner

This vinyl cleaner contains a unique additive, SPOREX, which gets rid of tough stains from mildew, mold, algae, fungus, and moss. As a result, it leaves the surface completely clean.

Krud Kutter safely and easily dissolves the toughest stains from dirt, oil grease, bird droppings, tree sap, and acid rain. Plus, it even eliminates gray weathering on wood, chalking, and oxidation.

Moldex Instant House Wash

Moldex Instant House Wash’s advanced bleach gel formula removes unwanted stains deep below the surface. It gets rid of tough stains from, mildew, mold, algae, fungus, and moss.

This powerful cleaner restores the original look to vinyl. Plus, Moldex’s active cling technology allows powerful cleaning agents to hold onto the surface longer to achieve the highest effective contact time.

Simple Green House and Siding Cleaner

Simple Green’s siding cleaner uses the power of peroxide to lift grime without harsh chemicals. It does an excellent job of removing stains and discoloring from algae, moss, and mildew on vinyl siding.

Mold Armor E-Z House Wash

Mold Armor’s house wash has a powerful formula that cleans mildew, mold, and algae stains without scrubbing. It’s perfect for vinyl siding. It knocks out heavy stains and soil as well as typical stains and dirt.

However, if you prefer to go the DIY route, you can mix your cleaner and still get epic results.

Bleach Cleaner:

A simple mixture of detergent, water, and bleach will have your siding looking as good as new.

It works on stubborn mildew and mold. Be careful when dealing with bleach.

It’s such a strong chemical. It gives off toxic fumes so using it outside in a well-ventilated area is better than using it inside.

You have to be careful with anything that can be hard on your skin, lungs, and the environment. But using bleach does have its perks. It makes surfaces white again after being discolored by the elements.

Plus, it kills nearly all types of bacteria and mold. Mix the following household ingredients in a garden sprayer:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1-quart liquid laundry bleach
  • 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent
  • 2/3 powdered household cleaner

5 bleach
The kind of bleach you want to get is the good old-fashioned stuff. Reach for Clorox in a bottle like the one you see in this picture. Don’t buy the kind in a spray bottle. You’ll get more bang for your buck going with the gallon size bleach.

Pour the ingredients into a sprayer. After applying a coat to your siding, let it stand for five to ten minutes. After the time is up, rinse the cleaner off with your garden hose. No garden hose?

No problem. Thoroughly clean your sprayer. Fill it with water. Rinse the siding using your sprayer. Depending on the condition of your siding, you may end up needing to apply a second or third coat until it looks good again.

Vinegar Cleaner:

Another great alternative is to mix vinegar and water. It is safer than bleach and still effective at cleaning your siding. It also breaks up mildew like a boss.

Vinegar is better at killing mold and mildew on porous surfaces. Other cleaning methods simply can’t compete. Plus, it doesn’t give off dangerous fumes like bleach. It’s natural and safe for yourself, your family, and the environment. With that being said, it does involve a more time-consuming process. This is what you will need for the project:

Cleaning materials:

  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • Water

Cleaning supplies:

  • Bucket
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Small plastic container
  • Large Scrub Brush
  • Small Scrub Brush (great for tackling mold and mildew)
  • Ladder

To get the 70/30 water to vinegar mixture, add 3 cups of vinegar for every 7 cups of water you use. You don’t have to be super precise with this.

Just grab your bucket and start mixing. Keep the consistency gritty. Get your ladder out and start working on the first section.

6 ladder
These gentlemen all have the right idea. Notice how the man in the front is holding the ladder to support the other man. Look up at the top left-hand corner and you’ll see another person’s foot peaking out. He’s up pretty high. The higher you climb, the harder your fall. So make sure you have another person by your side to hold the ladder so you can avoid any unnecessary trips to the ER. 

Creative Commons New Mexico National Guard  by The National Guard / CC by 2.0

Begin dividing your siding into small sections. Tackle the most visible part first. Next, break the remaining areas into smaller sections.

Next, you will grab your ladder and go to the first section you have decided to clean. While wearing your rubber gloves, use the large scrub brush and rub against the grain. Rinse your scrub brush to remove mildew or dirt.

Break out your small scrub brush to tackle those tough to reach areas below the panel. Roll those sleeves up and be prepared to get tough on resistant stains.

Even though vinyl siding is resistant to mildew and mold, when it gets dirty, mildew can grow on the dirty coating. This is more likely to happen as temperatures heat up especially in areas with a lot of humidity like the south.

Mildew shows up as black spots. You may notice them under eaves first. Use baking soda and a smaller scrub brush to knock out mildew spots that aren’t trying to budge.

Baking soda is amazing at knocking out tough stains. Rinse off any extra baking soda paste after you’ve removed the stain. Be prepared to pace yourself.

Work in small areas so you can quickly spot what’s clean and what isn’t. With your cleaner of choice in hand, begin scrubbing from the bottom up to avoid streaking. Work in vertical sections until the work is complete.

How to Clean Vinyl Siding with a Pressure Washer

If you have a large home, then you’ll get tired of the long process of cleaning vinyl siding by hand. In this case, it’s far better to opt to pressure wash your home.

7 pressure wash
You’ll notice that this man isn’t cleaning with a cloth or a long-handled brush. Instead, he’s using a pressure washer. His job will undoubtedly be easier and take less time. If you can afford to do so, why not get a pressure washer similar to the one he’s using? It’s lightweight and can save you time and energy.

Creative Commons building pressure washer by Leo Reynolds / CC by 2.0 

If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can buy or rent one. You’ll save energy and time. Plus, you’ll get great results.

The downside is that if you don’t know what you’re doing you can damage your siding. If the vinyl manufacturer doesn’t recommend that you pressure wash the siding, then don’t.

Otherwise, if it’s okay to pressure wash your home, then it’s time to get cracking. Just make sure you follow the recommendations regarding the amount of pressure to use to clean vinyl siding.

Pressure Washing Your Siding the Right Way

Before you even break out your pressure washer, look around your house. You need to make sure that the siding is intact. Check that there are no pieces of loose vinyl.

Try to spot any cracks in the siding. Double-check that all your windows are shut. Make sure the caulking and glazing on those windows are in good shape to prevent water seeping through.

Drench the soil in your garden beds that surround the perimeter of your house. Doing so will dilute the chemicals you use so plants don’t get hit with the full-strength version.

Make sure you get the right amount of pressure first by installing a soap tip to the end of your pressure washing wand. It will provide a lower pressure blast at a wider angle (60-degrees).

As a result, the soap’s volume will cover a wider area. Step a few feet away from the house. Steady yourself with a firm stance.

Hold the nozzle at a 45-degree angle to the trim and window. You’ll be able to lift and knock out dirt from below more effectively.

8 spray at angle
Now this man has the perfect 45-degree angle. His pressure washing skills are on point. He has a target and he’s aiming to hit it. This is the way you want to pressure wash the side of your home. Have a target, aim for it, and hit it. Keep the pressure washer at 45 degrees just as you see pictured and you’ll ace it.

Make sure the stream is at eye level. Use both hands to spray the siding from the bottom up in small sections. Use a side-to-side motion.

Don’t rush it. A steady pace wins the race. You’ll avoid streaking if you keep it nice and even. While pressure washing, you’ll likely notice that your cleanser starts to run low every few minutes.

Watch the level so you can turn off the pressure washer and refill when needed. When the container gets low, take the time to switch nozzle tips. Rinse the area that you washed before the cleanser dries on the vinyl siding.

Don’t spray where the vinyl lengths overlap. Doing so is likely to force the water behind the vinyl panels and penetrate the insulation.

Also, don’t target the spray into corners. As you clean surrounding areas these zones will still get misted by off-spray. Wipe them down clean with a dry towel to prevent water damage.

9 check wet spots
Once you’re done with the pressure washing, you’ll need to dry off areas susceptible to water damage. This man has the right idea. He’s in the corner checking things out. If you run your hand across a wet area in the corner then grab a rag from your handy toolbelt (like the one wrapped around the man’s waist) and start drying that spot ASAP.

Creative Commons Vinyl Siding by Bart Everson / CC by 2.0

Also, avoid spraying in an upward direction. Doing so can force water or chemicals behind the siding. This could lead to issues with mold and mildew that grow in wet spots.

It’s not easy cleaning mold or mildew from the siding. To kill mold and mildew, you’ll need to scrub the spots and let the solution soak for a few minutes.

You can mix your solution of 30% vinegar and 70% water to treat mold and mildew. Hit the most difficult and noticeable spots first.

When you’re done with your project, turn off the pressure washer. Switch the tip on the wand to a general-use tip with a 15-20 degree angle.

You’ll get a stronger pressure stream to remove the cleaner and dirt. Use the same spray technique being careful not to blast upwards.

Given that this tip carries more pressure, it could also do more damage. You’re almost done.

The final step is to take a dry towel and wipe down any residue on the inner and outer corners of the siding. Doing this will absorb extra moisture in sensitive areas that are more prone to getting water damage.

What not to do:

Your vinyl siding just needs a little TLC. So be patient and put in the time and effort it takes to make it look good. Don’t take shortcuts.

A word of caution about cleaning materials: don’t use the wrong types of products on vinyl siding. Using the wrong products will only damage the surface of your siding. Here are ones not to use:

  • paint thinner
  • nail polish remover
  • spot removers
  • paint remover
  • straight chlorine bleach
  • furniture cleaner
  • liquid grease remover
  • vinyl siding cleaners that contain organic solvents

Also, don’t use highly-abrasive scrubbers or steel wool to avoid damaging your siding. Working with chemicals such as bleach is serious business.

Avoid injury by reading all precautions and warnings. When your work is done, get rid of chemicals according to the manufacturer’s directions.

If the directions leave you scratching your head over something, pick up the phone and give the manufacturer a ring. They’ll explain the instructions to you.

10 call help
Once your job is done you’ll need to properly dispose of the cleaning materials. If the manufacturer didn’t leave clear instructions, take out the time to call them for a detailed explanation. You’ll protect the health of yourself, your family, ad the environment.

How to Maintain Vinyl Siding

There may be times when you want to make some improvements to the exterior of your home. Before you start your renovation project, make sure that you cover vinyl siding when using stains, sealants, and wet concrete.

Be careful when using insecticides or herbicides as they have the potential to stain the vinyl siding. Check out the product labels of chemicals before applying them. Although vinyl siding is durable, it does require some occasional maintenance.

You want your home to look attractive and brand new for as long as possible. With a little elbow grease, you can knock out any dirt, mold, mildew, or stains that start to make your vinyl siding look grimy and dull.

Aim to give your vinyl siding a good cleaning a least once every year. Bear in mind that you may need to do it more often if you live in a place that kicks up a lot of dirt and dust.

If you plan your day of cleaning well, you can knock out your project in a day, especially if you recruit some help. Following the simple tips outlined in this article will make cleaning your vinyl siding a breeze. Your home will look brand new again.

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