What Is The Best Way to Clean The Siding On My House?
Residents of Atlanta's suburbs need no explanation as to why a home's siding would need to be cleaned. We're all familiar with the look of a home that's gone too long between baths: that disgusting green algae buildup, the dingy gray look of the flashing and trim, the black moldy growth on the vinyl window frames, the cobwebs and bug droppings. oooh the bug droppings! A quick tour around McDonough, Locust Grove, Covington or Eagle's Landing for example, will show that many homeowners - to their credit - are proactively taking care of this ugly problem. But what about you? How are you keeping up with the dirty buildup on your home's vinyl, stucco or Hardie board siding? What is the best method to wash a house?
The Vinyl Siding Institute provides some guidelines on its website, and these guidelines can be applied across a variety of siding materials. However, their recommendations do allow for wide interpretation, leading to the development of a number of different methods - DIY or otherwise - that we'll discuss one by one below:
The DIY Options
Scrubbing With a Soapy Brush and a Bucket
This is the simplest method in terms of tools required and learning curve. However its also the most labor intensive, and dangerous. Basically you would take a brush mounted on a short pole, dip it into a soapy solution (usually one that contains some bleach to kill the algae and mold, and also a detergent to lift the dirt off of the surface) then brush the solution onto the surface being cleaned, scrub a little, and then rinse off with your garden hose. As you can imagine, this could take all day on even a small house. If your house is more than one story high, or if it has a walkout basement, you'll spend a lot of time balancing one-handed (or no-handed!) on a ladder, trying to reach those high points.
But even if you manage to pull off the daredevil feat that is "the brush method", there are other risks to your property. For one, different surfaces and finishes react differently to different soaps and cleaning agents. For example, the soap strength you use to clean vinyl siding might tarnish your bronze fixtures. It could fade the paint on your hardie board. It takes a lot of experience to learn all there is to know about the way one substrate will react vs another. Anticipating this, you might decide to use a weaker strength mix of soap. But then it won't clean as well, leading you to scrub a little harder to the point of damaging the finish on your vinyl or aluminum, leaving visible brush-marks. And on that point, it should be noted that even touching your siding with the lightest pressure possible can still damage the paint finish if it is oxidized, which - being that this is sun-drenched Georgia - is highly likely!
DIY Pressure Washing
Perhaps the most common DIY method these days is to buy a little consumer-grade pressure washer from one of the box bog stores and strap in for a much quicker, exciting time cleaning your siding. It'll bring a broad smile to your face to see all that grime and dirt stripped away from your home like it's nothing! You'll stand back to watch it dry, and little by little you'll begin to notice all the wand-marks you left behind - permanent, visible evidence to all of your Henry County neighbors that "Bill just bought himself a new pressure washer." The shame! But that's the good news. The bad news is that you'll also have forced water into every nook and cranny behind your siding, causing unknown amounts of water damage. The algae that survived your onslaught will surely appreciate the damp environment you're provided also, and will probably come rampaging back to life in short order. Obviously, this is a terrible option for you, the McDonough homeowner.
In the world of house washing, "softwash" is the buzzword - and for good reason: 'softwashing' or 'low-pressure washing' is the correct way to wash a home's siding, and is the method we use at Cyclone Roof Cleaning & Pressure Washing. The basic principle is this: soap down the entire wall with a carefully selected professional house wash surfactant and sodium hypochlorite solution. The surfactant helps keep the siding wet and also lift the dirt, webs, and debris off of the surface. Meanwhile the sodium hypochlorite (the active ingredient in common household bleach) kills all organic growth. Once the solution has had enough time to dwell on the surface and do its job, it is rinsed off with clean water. Specialized equipment allows the entire process to take place from the safety of the ground. Since no pressure is used, there's no damage, and since sodium hypochlorite is included in the soap mix, no organic growth is left to grow back once the work is completed.
DIY options for softwashing come as small soap injector packs that can be connected to a common garden hose spigot and sprayed onto the house by the homeowner. Simple, right? Well, not quite. Even though the basic principle agrees with modern cleaning methods used by experienced professionals, there are some important limitations. For one, garden hose pressure is often not enough to reach the highest points on a house, such as the gable ends of a two story house. But also, as we already mentioned, too strong of a cleaning agent can, if not handled correctly, cause problems with certain surfaces. So in an effort to avoid liability, the makers of such DIY kits need to make the solution mild enough that damage is unlikely. Of course, that means they're largely ineffective. The last time I was called to clean a house that the homeowner had already tried to wash, there was siding discoloration from the use of one of these kits. When asked, they described to me that since it didn't seem to be working, they let the product sit on the siding much longer than the recommended dwell time. During that time it was able to ruin the look of the siding.
Your Smartest Option
As you can see, the basic principles of house washing are not too technical. However the risk of personal injury is high, the risk of property damage is higher, the investment of time is considerable, and the chances of a satisfying outcome are rather low. In our view, your smartest option is to simply call Cyclone to take care of your house washing needs. Not only do we know exactly what we're doing, having washed hundreds of homes of all shapes and sizes, but we also carry insurance just in case there are any accidents. When all factors are weighed in the balance, it's easy to see why paying a professional to wash your house is one of the best value investments you can make. And the whole process can happen while you sit back and relax. That sounds appealing, doesn't it?
Written by: Chris Kinny
April 28th, 2018
Cyclone Roof Cleaning & Pressure Washing