So your vinyl siding is starting to look a little bit dirty. Maybe mildew is gathering on the shady side of the house or mud has splashed up onto the base of the siding during heavier rains.
Over time your vinyl will require maintenance so you don’t become the dingy house on the block. While it might be intimidating to consider deep cleaning your siding (sounds like a real pain, right?), it’s still a necessary part of the upkeep of your home.
But you don’t have to get on your hands and knees and scrub with a brush.
So let’s take a look at why siding gets so dirty, how to clean efficiently and with minimal effort, and ways to prevent future dirt from forming.
Why Does Siding Get so Dirty?
Before we tackle ways to clean your siding, let’s explore why it gets dirty in the first place. Since it’s on the wall, it might not make immediate sense that it gets such a dingy appearance so fast. But there are a number of factors that can contribute to dirty siding:
- The shady side. Depending on the orientation of your home, you might find that one side of the house develops a green hue while the others don’t. This is largely in part to having one side of the home that never sees the sun. Since mildew thrives in cold, damp atmospheres, if you have an entire side of the home that faces North in the Northern Hemisphere or South in the Southern Hemisphere those will rarely see the light of day and become a breeding ground for mildew, moss, and mold – especially in humid climates.
- Low foundation. Another major contributor to dirt on the home is a low foundation. If your foundation rests right above the ground it’s susceptible to splash-back when it rains, which can build up dots of mud over time and form a gritty dirt film along the bottom few feet of your vinyl siding. If you have a taller foundation made of brick, stone, or concrete, you’ll still experience this splash-back but you’re less likely to notice due to the texture your foundation naturally has (as the mud will blend into the texture of the foundation).
- White siding. Let’s face it: it’s impossible to keep white clean! Just like you can’t go to work in your favorite white button-down without staining it at some point during the day, you can’t have that lovely, pristine white siding without stains. Unlike natural or dark colored siding, white shows everything. You don’t stand a chance of dirt or build-up blending in, so be prepared to clean your siding more often.
How to Clean Vinyl Siding
There are a lot of ways you can clean your vinyl siding, and not all of them have to involve taking a brush to it and scrubbing with good old fashioned elbow grease (though that does, unfortunately, have a time and a place). You might find that a combination of several simpler methods will work best for your particular build-up of dinge or debris, so here are the three best ways you can take care of dirty, mildewed, or muddy vinyl siding without scrubbing.
Vinegar Water and a Hose
For mildew or fungus you can reach (or for all over mildew if you have a sturdy, tall ladder), vinegar can be a great all natural solution. Vinegar is known to kill fungus of all kinds, and it even prevents the spread and future growth of fungus. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to using vinegar to clean and treat your mildewed vinyl siding:
- Make your solution: White vinegar is the cheapest type, so grab yourself a gallon-sized (two gallons if you have a large home) bottle next time you’re at the grocery. Your solution should include 2 cups of vinegar per gallon, the rest water.
- Application: If you have a small section of the home to clean, you can pour your solution into a spray bottle, saturate the siding, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. This allows enough time for the vinegar to begin to saturate the fungus and loosen it from the siding. If you have a large portion of the home to cover, consider pouring your solution into a large bucket and splashing it onto the siding instead, as this will reduce application time.
- Clean: Rinse with your garden hose on the highest setting after letting the vinegar sit. A bulk of the mildew, mold, or moss should easily rinse off if you have a decent amount of water pressure.
- Treat: After you’ve rinsed away any fungi, apply another round of vinegar solution to your siding – this time ensuring you extra-saturate any areas that could be vulnerable to re-growth. This will prevent future growth of any fungus. You can reapply this mixture every month or two for long-term results.
If you think you need something a little hardier than vinegar, a DIY bleach solution is very effective at cleaning vinyl siding. Here are the materials you’ll need:
- 1 cup powdered laundry detergent
- ½ cup dish detergent
- 1 quart liquid laundry bleach
- 1 gallon water
- 1 garden/weed sprayer
- 1 garden hose
Once you’ve mixed the laundry detergent, dish detergent, bleach, and water you can add them to the garden sprayer and apply thoroughly to drench the siding. You only need to let it sit 5-10 minutes before rinsing off with the highest setting on your garden hose. If you like, you could also spray the vinegar solution onto the siding after the vinyl has dried to prevent further growth of any kind of fungus.
If you have access to a pressure washer (also known as a power washer), this will be the quickest, most thorough method to clean your dirty vinyl siding. Pressure washers utilize immense water pressure to clean caked-on dinge that other methods won’t sufficiently clean. Here’s the best way to make sure you pressure wash your home safely and thoroughly in one pass.
- Chemical cleaner: You can grab a house cleaning solution at any hardware store for this application. These solutions are designed to eat through caked-on grime without damaging the siding or fading the color if you have colored vinyl. You’ll mix it according to the instructions on the bottle and pour it into the pressure washer.
- Apply cleaner: Before rushing into washing, you’ll want to spray cleaner onto the home and allow it to sit to ensure maximum efficiency since pressure washing alone won’t remove all stains. If you first spray the home on a low setting with the power washer you give the dirt, debris, or grime a chance to loosen before you take a pass with pressurized water. Spray the cleaner thoroughly onto the siding and let it sit for about 10-20 minutes, one section at a time.
- Wash: Once you’ve sprayed your section with solution and let it sit for a time, you can begin to power wash your siding on the highest pressure setting. Here are a few tips to ensure efficiency and safety:
- Don’t spray too hard too close to the vinyl. If you hold the power washer too close, it could warp or dent the vinyl.
- Using a long wand will help you reach high without having to use a ladder.
- Remove window screens before beginning. They’re easy to damage, and no matter how hard you try to avoid the screens, mistakes can happen and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Go slow and steady. Take your time to ensure you’re not missing a spot.
- You might scrub with a car wash brush any sections that just wouldn’t come clean.
Keeping Siding Clean
Once you’ve deep cleaned your siding you’ll never want to do it again (even using these simple scrub-free techniques), because let’s face it: it’s a pain in the neck… and back and everywhere else! To help reduce the number of times you’ll need to clean vinyl siding, here are some simple maintenance tricks to prevent buildup and keep vinyl siding clean:
- Keep landscaping tidy: Plants that brush up against siding transfer pigment, dirt, and plant sugar to the vinyl. Keeping these trimmed away from your siding will cut back on transfer.
- Routinely hose the siding: Routinely spraying water on the siding with your garden hose will remove dirt as it forms before it has a chance to cake on and build up. Routinely taking the hose to your siding is a lot easier than having to deep clean.
- Keep your grill away from the house: Not only is a hot grill a melting hazard near siding, it can also cause oil build-up that clings to fungus spores, dirt, and other debris. Moving your outdoor cooking appliances away from the house will eliminate the splash-back of cooking dirt and oil from your vinyl.