Most modern siding is tough. Making sure your home has clean siding is not. Vinyl siding is the No. 1 choice of homeowners throughout the country and especially in Madison WI. Because it’s almost maintenance-free, it is high on the list of major benefits. Like all the other siding options, it isn’t perfect. Wisconsin weather is hard on siding. All kinds accumulate grime, wind-blown dirt and pollen. Insects, spiders and birds leave their marks. After a wet, damp spring or winter, molds, mildew and algae show up in shaded areas. Even wind-blown chemicals like weed killers and fertilizer weaken vinyl. Weak spots allow mold to grab hold.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to commercial cleaners advertised as ideal for vinyl siding. Some promise to remove mold, algae and mildew and keep it from coming back. Some do not. The Vinyl Siding Institute offers tips for cleaning and maintaining siding.
For everyday dirt, simple solutions are the best choice. Treating algae, mold or mildew takes harsher chemicals. Some cleaning solutions that target algae, mold or mildew are dangerous to landscape plants. And, if you choose the wrong chemicals you risk staining or damaging aluminum, stucco and wood trim. The source of the stain dictates the best cleaning agent.
Plan To Clean Siding – Know What You’re Up Against
The color of a stain on your home provides clues to what’s beneath it. Observe color variations as clues to serious or not-so-serious threats. The “color code” includes:
- Brown stains – especially on composite and older wood siding, brown stains signal moisture underneath the wood.
- Black stains – the most common sign of all major concerns: algae, mildew, mold and fungus.
- Green stains – almost always either algae or moss. Usually where air circulation is poor and there’s limited sunlight.
- Yellow stains – if it shows though siding there’s a potential problem with insulation and sheathing underneath.
- Rust-colored stains –water beneath the siding is rusting nails. Especially common on older wood and composite siding.
- Matching the siding color – usually just dirt or seasonal grime caused by water running down the surface. Often from damaged or misaligned gutters. Not serious on their own, these stains prep the surface for mildew and mold.
Unless you’ve dealt with stains before and are sure of what you’re up against, it’s wise to consult a professional. An inspection is a better call than a missed diagnosis that makes the problem worse, right? There are too many options for cleaning and additional suggestions on how to keep stains from coming back. A false step and you might face repairing or replacing siding.
Pressure Washing Siding – Is It The Ultimate
Pressure washing siding is a common choice to battle stains and dirt. But be advised, aiming a high-pressure stream of water at your siding is not always a great idea. Pressure washers, even homeowner versions, are capable of blasting paint off wood and the finish off concrete. Misdirected they will remove a layer stain from your deck or trim paint from around your windows. Unless you know how to handle it, a pressure washer can to do more harm than good. That’s why many siding makers advise against using a pressure washer.
Are you convinced a power washer is the only way to go? That’s a popular choice, but review the potential risks to your home and surroundings. Your pre-wash checklist should include:
- Detailed inch-by-inch Inspection – look for cracks, loose joints and wear. Identify areas that need extra attention.
- Secure eye protection – Water hitting the siding at high pressure bounces off at high pressure – carrying with it dirt and debris. Protect your eyes!
- Wear a mask – the fine spray coming off the house carries mold spores as well as dirt and debris. You do not want any of that in your lungs.
- Protect surroundings – if you’re using a detergent or cleaning agent protect exposed skin. Some products contain bleach. Take time to protect nearby plants from overspray, too.
A detailed inspection also reveals which side of the house gets more intense sun than others – more sunlight adds its own stress to vinyl. If the siding looks “chalky” use lower pressure to avoid damage. Areas with less sun exposure hold moisture longer. That’s where mold, mildew and algae are most common.
Pay close attention to seams and where siding meets with door and window frames. Don’t overlook where utilities enter the house. These are where water under pressure is forced in. Caulk or repair any gaps. You want to make the house look better, not add another problem, right?
Stay Alert As You Clean Siding
Remember there’s more to the walls of your house than siding. Take care with windows, too. Avoid hitting screens and joints with high-pressure streams. Consider adding a special window-wash solution to avoid steaks.
Always use the power washer on it’s lowest pressure settings. You want to clean, not blast, right? Spray wands adjust. A tight, jet stream blasts off dirt, a wide fan-shaped spray rinses and cleans. Professionals making a living power washing structures suggest;
- Never spray upwards – high pressure spray at an upward angle forces water underneath vinyl siding were it won’t dry. Water under siding leads to moisture problems in the future.
- Spray from the side – don’t spray straight at the siding. That concentrates the force and also sends much more spray bouncing back right at you.
- Think 45-degrees – aim the spray at a 45-degree angle to the siding so dirt, debris and dirty water moves away from you.
- Scrub when you need to – there are some stains that need old-fashioned scrubbing with a stiff-bristle brush.
- Rinse thoroughly – before moving on, rinse each section of the wall. Dirty water from upper levels will drip down and leave a dirty film. Rinse with clean water – especially if you’ve used a washing product.
You’ve spotted the one suggestion that you say isn’t realistic, haven’t you? The one that says “never spray up.” So, how do you reach the peak of the roof or the side of a two-story house? There are two answers: use a very long ladder or bring in a professional team. Calling on professionals is the safest, most reliable. Don’t spray up from the ground.
Sims Exteriors & Remodeling has decades of experience related to siding, roofing and replacement windows in the Madison area. Call 608-825-4500, or email us when clean siding is the goal for your Madison WI home.