Pressure Washing Vinyl Siding

Posted on 23. Aug, 2012 by in pressure washing

Before you jump right in to pressure washing your own vinyl siding, there are some things you should consider.  First and foremost is the expense of renting or purchasing a pressure washer to handle the job.  The cost can often be prohibitive when it comes to purchasing your own machine, so many may opt to rent one instead.  No matter which route you decide to go, have the place you purchase or rent equipment from show you how to properly use the machine.  Keep in mind, they likely won’t know all the things that a professional pressure washing service would, but at least learn what you can before getting started.

Take your personal safety into consideration, if you plan to pressure wash your home on your own.  Working with high pressure water can be dangerous, and the injuries caused by pressure washers can be life threatening.  I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to wash something, but be aware of the dangers, and consider the cost of proper personal protection equipment.  At the very least, you will likely want some good rubber boots and a pair of goggles.

Next consider what types of cleaners to use when pressure washing your vinyl siding.  There are many so-called specialty cleaners on the market today, but most professionals still opt for chlorine and some kind of soap for a surfactant to help lift dirt from the surface.  At least once a week people will call our Jacksonville, FL pressure washing company, and ask if we can wash their siding without chlorine or bleach, and the answer is typically no.  The Vinyl Siding Institute even recommends chlorine or bleach for cleaning vinyl siding, and we will talk about the pros and cons to watch out for when using this.

On their website there is a list of commercially available cleaners for vinyl siding here, but be sure to understand the warning for each type of cleaner.  Some can be extremely corrosive, dangerous to handle, and harmful to your siding, landscaping, and other surfaces if used improperly.  The same goes for chlorine and other soaps typically used by professional pressure cleaning contractors.

The reason we use and recommend chlorine is because it’s kills mold, mildew, algae, and fungus that can damage your home.  Without a product like chlorine, we can’t guarantee the effectiveness, or long lasting results we get when using it.  One of the biggest reasons for power washing your vinyl siding is to remove mold, algae, and other contaminants, to help control their invasion under the siding and into the home.  If you simply wash away the residue and don’t kill the spores, the problem will return rather rapidly.

One of the biggest issues we see caused by using bleach on vinyl siding is spotting or discoloration.  If you view the recommendations at the Vinyl Siding Institute, you will see that chlorine is recommended, but only when it’s properly diluted.  We are often called to clean after another, inexperienced pressure washing contractor has damaged vinyl siding using too much chlorine/bleach.  We use a concentrated form of chlorine not available at supermarkets or home stores, but we dilute it to the lowest possible concentration to give the proper cleaning effect we are after.  Undiluted, it can bleach vinyl siding, kill your plants, and harm many surfaces on the exterior of your home.

Any cleaner you decide to use to pressure wash your vinyl siding should first be spot tested, and should only be used when diluted to the proper ratio.  If this is not done, not only can you bleach or discolor the surface, you can accelerate the oxidation process as well.  Speaking of oxidation, be sure to run your fingers across a dry portion of siding somewhere inconspicuous. Then look at your fingers.  If a white powdery residue comes on on your fingers, and leaves a shiny spot on the siding, you have oxidation.  This isn’t a huge issue because all siding oxidizes to some extent, and it can be removed, but not without significant expense.

If your siding is oxidized, it’s often best to just clean the dirt and leave the oxidation, but this must be done with low pressure, which leads to the next point.  If you do choose to wash your own vinyl siding, be sure to use low pressure to rinse.  The lower pressure tips are typically the higher number, such as a 45 degree fan tip. This tip is usually a white tip, and probably the only thing a homeowner should use on their own siding to prevent the possibility of damage.

Whatever you do, do not get too close when spraying your vinyl siding with a pressure washer, especially if you do have oxidation.  You can cause streaks and wand marks from too much pressure, and getting too close.  Keep at least 12″ between your lowest pressure tip and the siding to avoid damage.  Also, try to spray directly towards the siding at a 90 degree angle.  Don’t spray upwards and under the laps of the siding.  This can dislodge both vinyl and aluminum siding, and force water underneath. This goes for any kind of lap siding.

Apply your soap with low pressure from the bottom up to prevent streaking.  Allow your cleaner to dwell until it has done it’s job, then rinse lightly from the top down.  Bottom up for soap, top down for rinsing.  It’s best to try and get the water to slowly cascade down vinyl siding, so it rinses thoroughly.  Rinsing with lower pressure will actually rinse faster than high pressure, because the water can accumulate and cascade down, taking the dirt with it. High pressure produces a lot of mist that doesn’t really clean anything.  Rinsing higher areas may require a slightly higher pressure tip to get the water to reach, but keep all the previous warnings in mind.

Another thing to consider when speaking of heights is working on a ladder.  Sometimes using a ladder to pressure clean a home is unavoidable.  Be forewarned that triggering the gun on a pressure washer while on a ladder could lead to a nasty spill.  Pressure washers can produce a significant enough kick when the gun is triggered to knock you right off of your ladder, so if you’re not comfortable and competent at climbing ladders, seriously consider hiring a professional power washing company.  Holding the weight of a pressure washing wand, the weight of the hose and the column of water inside of it, can also be a significant task while climbing a ladder.  Keep in mind that ladders are also extremely slippery and dangerous when wet.

For a professional, power washing vinyl siding is not an extremely difficult task, but as you can see, if you don’t plan things out properly, and take the proper precautions, you can have serious problems.  Watch out for things like loose laps of vinyl siding, and check to make sure none of the vinyl is so old that it’s turned brittle.  High pressure can punch holes in old vinyl siding, it can cause cracks to expand, and it can cause any loose sections to come completely undone.

You will find that, without experience, pressure washing a home can take quite a long time.  It can also be costly to rent or purchase a machine, buy the proper cleaning chemicals, personal protective equipment, etc. In the end, it’s often better to simply hire a professional pressure washing company to handle the job for you.  When you’ve added up all of your time, effort, and money, you will quickly see the value in having a professional expedite the work and give you top notch results.

If you want your vinyl siding cleaned properly, and don’t want to lift a finger, simply click the button to the right to request a quote for your Jacksonville, FL pressure washing project, and our experts will handle it for you.  Or just call us now at (904)304-0810 and we’ll get you on the schedule today!

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5 Responses to “Pressure Washing Vinyl Siding”

  1. Marcus @ 24 August 2012 at 12:12 PM #

    Thanks for the great article. As siding manufactures, we constantly get homeowners asking about the best way to clean their siding and we can now point them this direction.
    Thanks again.

  2. admin 24 August 2012 at 2:24 PM #

    Hi Marcus. Feel free to add a link back to our article on your siding FAQ page. Your signature here gives you an automatic link to your site in return.

  3. Kimberlee 27 August 2012 at 8:53 PM #

    Found your site and read your information. This is very informative for both the homeowner and the professional contractor. Pressure washing using incorrect methods can cause enormous amounts of damage both seen and unseen. Your instructions are easy-to-follow and accurate. Excellent information.

  4. Matt 15 July 2013 at 1:56 PM #

    Great article! I do have a question though: do you guys use a brush to apply the chemicals & clean the siding or do you simply apply it through a sprayer and let it soak? Seems like you would need to scrub it some, right?

    I have never pressure washed anything or cleaned a house, but I’m ready to get started on my 2 story…I’m sure I’m in for a battle.

    • Wood Doc 15 July 2013 at 3:24 PM #

      We downstream the chemicals using the pressure washer. In some cases, we will apply chemical using a 12 volt pump, or a pump up sprayer if needed, but this is usually not necessary.

      As for scrubbing, we do hand scrub some things as needed, but there is actually very little that this is necessary on. With vinyl siding, I doubt you’ll need to do much scrubbing, unless you have dirt dobber nests or something else that requires it.

      Be careful doing a two story home. If you’re not experienced, you could wind up in a world of hurt. As professionals, we wash 2 story homes from the ground 99% of the time. We very rarely need or use a ladder for this type of work. Without the kind of equipment we use, you may need a long extension to reach these heights without getting on a ladder yourself, so please be careful. Ladders and pressure washers don’t mix well, especially for the inexperienced.

      Good luck with your project, call us if you’re in our area, and the battle is too much to handle alone.

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