Cleaning Vinyl Siding: How to clean vinyl siding
Summary: Cleaning vinyl siding can be a very easy process IF you clean your vinyl siding once or twice per year, depending on how dirty it gets. If detergents are used to clean your vinyl siding – use only mild detergents like laundry soap. Pressure washers can be used IF you observe a few precautions.
Cleaning vinyl siding can be as easy as squirting your garden hose or it may require a little elbow grease and some ladders. The variance really depends on how dirty the vinyl siding is and this is generally determined by how long it has been since the vinyl siding has been cleaned.
Why does my vinyl siding need to be cleaned?
You see everything outdoors gets dirty and vinyl siding is no exception. From dirt floating in the air to rain (every rain drop is formed around a speck of dirt … look it up) to airborne sugars that are produced from trees and bushes … vinyl siding just has to be cleaned periodically – just like most other outdoors products.
So how do you clean vinyl siding?
Cleaning your vinyl siding regularly is the key. If you stay up on keeping your vinyl siding clean then you will most likely only need to wash your siding down once or twice per year. This doesn’t allow any dirt to build up on your siding. If you have any stubborn areas, a soft bristle brush (like an RV brush) in combination with a mild detergent (like laundry soap) and a little elbow grease should do the trick.
What if my vinyl siding has mold or mildew?
We’ve successfully used a combination of a vinyl siding cleaner (we made), a pressure washer, a soft bristled extendable RV brush and some elbow grease to effectively clean mold and/or mildew off of vinyl siding.
What we have done:
1) Mix up the vinyl siding cleaner: 1/3 cup laundry detergent, 1 quart (32 fluid ounces) liquid laundry bleach PER 1 gallon of water.
2) Spray the solution onto the moldy or mildewed vinyl siding.
3) Scrub with a soft bristled RV brush.
4) Pressure wash the vinyl siding (ref. to our recommendations about pressure washing on this page).
5) Repeat process if necessary.
Here’s what the VSI says, “Small spots of mold and mildew can be handled with cleaners such as Fantastik® or Windex®. For larger sections, a solution of vinegar (30%) and water (70%) has proven successful. Alternatively, you also could try the following solution: 1/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) powdered laundry detergent (e.g., Tide®, Fab®, or equivalent), 2/3 cup (5 1/3 ounces) powdered household cleaner (e.g., Spic & Span®, Soilax®, or equivalent), 1 quart (32 fluid ounces) liquid laundry bleach, and 1 gallon (128 fluid ounces) of water.”
Can I use a pressure washer to for cleaning my vinyl siding?
Yes, although a few precautions need to be observed. If you are not 100% absolutely sure that you have an effective weather membrane (like Tyvek®) with taped (sealed) seams underneath your vinyl siding, you need to be extra careful not to get too much water behind your vinyl siding.
How do you achieve this?
A) By holding the pressure washer nozzle straight on while cleaning your vinyl siding.
B) By not directly spraying behind vinyl siding laps, seams or trim areas.
C) Keep your distance. Don’t get too close while spraying.
What if you do have an effective weather membrane (like Tyvek®) with taped (sealed) seams underneath your vinyl siding?
Follow the same guidelines as above but you don’t have to be as concerned about it. Why? An effective weather membrane does not allow water in liquid form to permeate it, although it does allow it to pass while in a vapor form (that’s a good thing … allows your home to breath).
Short Version: Yes you can pressure wash your vinyl siding BUT just be careful and don’t intentionally spray water behind your vinyl siding especially if you are not 100% absolutely sure you have an effective weather membrane (like Tyvek®) with taped (sealed) seams underneath your vinyl siding.
How do I clean stains off of my vinyl siding?
Carefully! Not to scare you but the use of harsh chemicals on vinyl siding is not a good idea and can be an expensive mistake. Example: We were once called out on a vinyl siding repair at a auto body shop. The owner wanted to clean his vinyl siding so he sprayed engine cleaner on it. WOW! The chemicals in the engine cleaner sucked chemicals in the vinyl siding that allowed the vinyl siding to remain flexible. Result the vinyl siding quickly became very brittle and had to all be replaced. Fortunately he only did this on a few walls and not the entire structure.
Here is what the VSI recommends:
“A list of commonly accepted cleaners is provided in the box below. Be sure to spot check any general or stain specific cleaner before using it on a large section of siding. After removing the stain, rinse 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.
General vinyl siding cleaners (e.g., Simple Green®, Nice & Easy®, Armor All®, etc.) can be used to clean dirt, bird droppings, and spider webs. Stain-specific cleaners are listed below. Rinse all cleaners with water before they dry.
[stain] – [cleaners*]
Bubble Gum - Fantastik®, Murphy Oil Soap®, solution of vinegar (30%), water (70%) 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®
Other Useful Cleaning Vinyl Siding Resources: Certainteed - Cleaning Vinyl Siding .pdf
*Cleaning Materials are listed in alphabetical order.
*VSI [or Siding4u] does 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.”
VSI stands for the Vinyl Siding Institute and their website is www.VinylSiding.org