How to Clean Vinyl Siding
Step by step guide on using a pressure washer to clean vinyl siding.
Choosing vinyl siding for your home is smart for many reasons. Not only does this type of exterior look great, but it is also easy to clean. Vinyl siding comes in various sizes and colors, so finding the perfect one for you shouldn’t be a problem.
While siding is a low-maintenance exterior, it does require a good cleaning once or twice a year, and most homeowners find cleaning it with a pressure washer to be the easiest way to do this. Of course, if the manufacturer of your siding recommends using something else, you should always go with their recommendation. Pressure washers, however, make the task a whole lot easier.
Why Does Vinyl Siding Need Regular Cleaning?
You may think that rain will wash off all of the dirt and debris that builds up on your vinyl siding over time, but that is not the case. Before you learn how to clean vinyl siding with a pressure washer, you have to learn why this is even necessary.
Things such as grease, dust, rust, and all types of debris can get stuck to your vinyl siding and make it look less than perfect. Unless you intend to get up on a ladder and wash your siding with a bucket of soapy water and a few towels, it’s best to go ahead and use a pressure washer.
Pressure washers that provide up to 3000 PSI (pounds per square inch) of water pressure work best on vinyl siding. Using a PSI number higher than that may damage the siding, so make sure that your pressure washer isn’t any more powerful than that.
Yes, there are some preparations you should make before you get started with the actual cleaning process, but there are only a handful of steps to take when cleaning your vinyl siding so that it looks amazing in the end.
Step 1: Inspect the Siding
Before you do anything else, walk around your home and visually inspect the siding itself:
- Are there any loose or cracked pieces?
- Are any of the pieces missing? You’ll have to repair and/or replace pieces of vinyl siding before you clean it.
- Look for areas where the siding overlaps. Remember that if you do have missing, cracked, or loose pieces of siding and you do nothing about it, water might get into areas where you don’t want it to go, which might wreak havoc on your home.
- Make sure that all of your windows are shut tight and sealed or caulked so that none of the water accidentally gets inside of your house. Let’s face it; this could be disastrous.
Step 2: Cover All of Your Plants
Take a look at the exterior of your home and determine if anything needs to be done, such as covering all of your plants, trimming any branches off of trees and bushes that might get in the way when you’re washing the vinyl.
Removing as many things as possible on the ground that might possibly be damaged by the washing detergent.
As far as the plants go, you might want to water them before you cover them. This way, it might prevent some of the detergent from harming the plants if it should accidentally get into one of them.
Step 3: Decide on the Type of Detergent That You Want to Use
There are a lot of detergents that you can use for cleaning your vinyl siding. For this step, you have two main options: choose a commercial over-the-counter cleaning detergent made just for vinyl siding, or make your own out of materials you probably already have at home.
For instance, if you notice mold or mildew on your siding, you can put together a mixture of 70% water and 30% white vinegar and use that. Your commercial options include products such as Simple Green’s House and Siding Cleaner and Wet & Forget Roof and Siding Cleaner.
Step 4: Test a Small Area Before Washing the House
Why do you need to test out a small area before cleaning the rest of the siding? Simply put, some detergents will discolor some siding, and some will even damage the siding. This doesn’t happen frequently but it does happen, so you’ll need to test your product out on a very small out-of-the-way section of siding before you go any further. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry!
Step 5: Start Working One Section at a Time
When cleaning your vinyl siding, it’s important to clean one small section at a time. For this task, you should use the black nozzle because it is specifically made for using soaps and detergents.
When using the pressure washer:
- Spray slowly and evenly, keeping track of the size of the area so you’ll know where to start next time.
- Spray at a downward angle at all times and be careful not to spray into any overlapping siding pieces. If this happens, the water could get trapped behind the siding and eventually cause mold or other types of damage.
- Once the section is thoroughly washed off, just let it dry naturally. Ideally, you’ll be doing this on a day that is bright and sunny, which can help the water dry off much faster.
One of the reasons why you want to wash your siding in small sections is because larger sections take too long and can result in the soap drying on the vinyl before you’ve had a chance to rinse it away.
Some people have two pressure washers and use the second washer to rinse off the siding. If you do this, use a nozzle that is a bit stronger than the black one, which has a 65-degree angle.
For plain water, choose either the 40-degree white nozzle or the 25-degree green nozzle because you’ll want a little more power when you’re spraying the siding with water.
Whatever you decide to use for the rinsing-off stage of this process, make sure that you have the tool close by because you’ll be switching back and forth frequently.
Step 6: Lather, Rinse, Repeat
As you’ve probably already guessed, you’ll just repeat this process over and over again until the entire house is completed. It may take a few hours if your house is small or all day if your house is quite large.
Just keep in mind that you have to keep repeating the process until the entire house is completely clean and dry.
Don’t forget to rinse the siding with water before the soap has had a chance to dry. This is one of the most important tips when learning to clean your vinyl siding with a pressure washer. And don’t worry; it’s a lot easier and a lot faster than you might think.
Check our article comparing the best pressure washers for cleaning vinyl siding.
Some Important Tips to Remember About Cleaning Vinyl Siding
Cleaning vinyl siding with a pressure washer sure beats doing it with a brush and a bucket of water, but that doesn’t mean the process doesn’t have to be done a certain way.
Following the steps mentioned above is a great place to start, but if you still don’t feel comfortable cleaning your siding yourself, here are a few other tips that might make it a little easier on you:
- Always use the lowest pressure possible, meaning the 65-degree black nozzle. For rinsing, you shouldn’t get any more powerful than the 25-degree green nozzle because the other two nozzles may be a bit too strong.
- Always use mild detergent and not cleaning solutions that are harsh or corrosive in nature. By the same token, don’t use degreasers, undiluted bleach, or furniture polishes because all of them can damage the siding.
- If you have a two-story home, you might want to consider using a gas-powered pressure washer because they are more powerful and therefore can reach higher. If you already have an electric pressure washer and you don’t want to purchase another one.
Just buy a telescoping wand tool or some type of extension wand to reach the very top of your home. There are even high-pressure spray kits you can buy that reach up to 25 feet or so.
- If you buy a commercial detergent, make sure that it says “approved for pressure washer use” somewhere on the label. Never buy an over-the-counter detergent that doesn’t say this.
- Always read your user manual thoroughly and adhere to the instructions just as they are printed. Remember that each pressure washer is different, so you should always check yours to make sure that it’s being operated properly throughout the cleaning process.
- You can use a brush for extra-tough stuck-on debris. Try a rotating or utility brush, which often snaps to the end of the pressure washer wand and can be used as a foaming brush as well.
- Try to let the detergent remain on the siding for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing so that it can break down all of the debris. This being said, make sure that you keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t dry on the siding before you have the chance to rinse it off.
- Never spray directly on vents, eaves, or light fixtures. Keep the wand pointing down and spray only on the siding and nowhere else. Also, be careful not to spray window panes or other fixtures that might break under the pressure.
- Never get too close to your home when spraying your vinyl siding. Even if you’re using the low-pressure nozzle as you’re supposed to, stay fairly far back because a pressure washer that is too powerful can easily damage your vinyl siding.
Why Use a Pressure Washer on Your Vinyl Siding?
As opposed to washing your vinyl siding “by hand,” using a pressure washer instead is hands-down the best solution. Using a pressure washer is not back-breaking and is easier for numerous reasons than using a bucket and a bristle brush.
If you’re still not convinced that using a pressure washer to clean vinyl siding is a good idea, here are three benefits that will convince you otherwise:
- It gets the best results. Let’s face it; when you’re scrubbing by hand, the results will only be so good. Regardless of how hard you scrub with your brush, the results will never be the same as a low- or medium-pressure power washer.
- It is fast and efficient. Cleaning your vinyl siding the old-fashioned way takes forever, and it’s very easy to skip or miss spots along the way. On the other hand, using a pressure washer is both fast and much more efficient than the manual way.
- It works without damaging your siding. Vinyl siding can become damaged if you use the wrong tools, but as long as you use the appropriate nozzle and not one that is too high in pressure, your siding will be perfectly safe the entire time.
- It can be more cost-effective. Constantly buying brushes, cloths, and cleaning materials can get expensive, but once you purchase your pressure washer, you can use it for many years to come without extra costs. The only expense you’ll come across is the cleaning detergent itself, which you’ll use less of because you only need a small amount each time.
Using a pressure washer to clean your vinyl siding is a true miracle worker in many ways. Since you usually don’t have to climb ladders and you can use a variety of nozzles, it’s easy to make sure that you use the right pressure and the right materials to get the job done right.
Unless you prefer to use over-the-counter detergent, you can simply add some mild soap or dishwashing detergent to the washer each time you clean your siding.
Pressure-washing your vinyl siding is cheap, efficient, fast, and simple, which are just some of the reasons for its popularity.
You might also like our article on cleaning aluminum siding.