Exterior surfaces naturally catch more dirt and grime than a home’s interior. Constant exposure to the elements can really do a number on surfaces like vinyl siding. Mildew, for instance, can take hold and spread quickly in wet conditions. Textured vinyl is more prone to collecting dirt. Light-colored siding shows dirt more than dark siding. Homes in certain locations can be a hot mess of dirt collection, such as newly developed neighborhoods, dusty roads, and subtropical climates.
Take a look at your siding. If it started out white and is now a sickly shade of brown or green, it needs a good washing. Years ago, that meant a full bucket of soap and water, a scrub brush and hose. Today, you’re lucky to have the option of pressure washing.
Pressure Washing Vinyl Siding
Pressure washers take a ton of time and effort out of exterior cleaning. However, they’re not for the faint of heart. If you feel better hiring someone for the job, keep in mind that the average cost of a professional pressure washing is $270, with some services running past $600. Hiring someone makes sense to a lot of homeowners, especially those who are elderly or disabled.
Renting a pressure washer is another option, but those will cost you up to $75-$100 per day at most home centers.
If you’re physically able and budget-conscious, you can purchase a good pressure washer for less than a few rentals and for less than one professional cleaning. The trick is finding the right one for your needs.
What kind of pressure washer do you need?
Power washers come in two basic types – gas and electric. For a one-story home, a good electric model will usually do the trick. For two-story homes and those with a lot of square footage, a gas pressure washer will serve you better.
Gas will give you more power, but you really only need 1300 to 1600 PSI for most exterior cleaning needs, including vinyl siding. Gas pressure washers usually range from 2000 – 4000 PSI and cost more than electric.
We’ve covered the pros and cons of both types in our power washer reviews. Go find one that suits your home and budget.
You’ve got the perfect pressure washer. Now what?
That siding isn’t going to clean itself, so it’s time to get down to business. Let’s dive into the step-by-step essentials of washing vinyl siding.
- Safety first – Pressure washers can create a HUGE amount of water pressure in one small stream than can severely injure you and your surfaces. We’ve covered all the safety basics in our Pressure Washer Beginner’s Guide. So study and learn before you even unbox the machine. Remember to:
- Always wear closed-toed shoes, goggles, and pants.
- Never ever touch the spray or aim it at anyone.
- Stay off ladders!
- Remove all tripping hazards and objects that can be damaged, including furniture, flower pots, toys, and tools.
- Cover vents and all exposed electrical outlets and light fixtures.
- Close any open windows.
- Cover plants so they won’t be damaged from the spray or detergent. For those you can’t cover, wet them down well and keep them wet to dilute any chemicals and prevent damage.
- Add the soap nozzle (usually black) to the end of the pressure cleaner wand.
- Apply the soap mixture with smooth, straight, overlapping strokes.
- Around windows and doors, try to spray from their edges at an outward angle to prevent water from getting trapped in the cracks.
- Work your way from the bottom to the top & try to hold the wand at a straight or slightly downward angle to prevent water from getting trapped under the siding. For a second story house, use a wand extension to achieve a good angle.
- For stubborn dirt, attach a rotating or scrub brush to the wand and scrub gently from the bottom up.
- Empty the cleaning solution from the machine and hold the trigger on the wand. Spray the ground until all traces of soap are gone.
- Now rinse from top to bottom. Hold the wand approximately 18 inches from the siding, being careful to hold the wand at a straight or slightly downward angle.
- If you see any stubborn dirt, try moving a little closer to the surface, but be careful that you don’t damage the siding. Use a scrub brush to remove anything that just won’t budge.
How often should you clean your siding?
The general rule of thumb for cleaning vinyl siding is about once every 2 years. Cooler, wet climates may require once a year to keep mildew from getting out of control. For small areas that are prone to grow mildew and accumulate dirt, spray them every so often with a bleach solution, scrub with a brush or sponge, then rinse. You may be able to extend time between full pressure washer cleanings to 3 or 4 years with timely touchups.
When NOT to pressure wash vinyl siding
If you have a home that was built pre-1978 and hasn’t been renovated with new siding since then, the exterior could contain lead paint. Local building codes may require you to hire a professional to remove it. Pressure washing or sanding it away is a danger to the environment and yourself.
Same goes with asbestos. Pre-1970s homes sometimes have what looks like concrete panels at the base of the house. Those could contain asbestos. Disturbing it with pressure washing or any other activity could stir up asbestos fibers which are dangerous to breathe in.
If you have an older home that could contain either lead paint or asbestos, it’s worth getting it tested before you try to pressure wash any exterior surfaces.
For general dirtiness all you'll need is a bucket of soapy water – dish soap or common laundry detergent work well, a soft bristle brush and a garden hose. Apply the soapy mixture by hand and thoroughly rinse the siding with clean water from the garden hose.What pressure washer nozzle is safe for vinyl siding? ›
The yellow 15-degree nozzle is the best choice for siding and similar surfaces. When cleaning siding, you need to start at the top and work your way down. Keep the nozzle a consistent distance between 3 to 4 feet from the surface you are cleaning and keep the nozzle moving to avoid causing damage to the surface.Can you clean vinyl siding with a power washer? ›
A pressure washer can quickly ruin vinyl siding by cracking it with the high-pressure stream of water, so it's necessary to know which pressure-level and nozzle to use. Starting low and gently working your way up is the safest bet. Never start off on the highest pressure setting.How do you clean vinyl siding without scrubbing? ›
One part bleach to four parts water. For example, you'd use one gallon of water for every quart of bleach. Alternatively, choose brand variations for that purpose. Apply the solution to the siding, and allow it to sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off.
Don't Use Abrasive Cleaning Tools
Items like steel wool, wire brushes and paint scarper can leave permanent scratches, discoloration and even puncture wounds in your vinyl siding and should be avoided when trying to clean a home's exterior.
|Vinyl siding cleaners||General cleaners (e.g., Simple Green®, Nice & Easy®, Armor All®, etc.) can be used to clean dirt, bird droppings, and spider webs. Stain-specific cleaners are listed below. Rinse all cleaners with water before they dry.|
|DAP (oil-based caulk) cleaners||Fantastik®|
Rinse away with a sponge and clean water, a garden hose, or a low pressure setting on your pressure washer. Apply the detergent solution – If your vinyl is just dusty and has no set-in dirt or mildew, plain water may be enough. Most of the time, you'll need soap to get a thorough cleaning.What is the number one vinyl siding cleaner? ›
If you want clean vinyl siding without having to scrub it, Zinsser Jomax House Cleaner and Mildew Killer is the perfect product for you. This solution is great at getting rid of dirt and grime and all you have to do is spray it onto your home. Not only that, but Jomax also kills mildew and mold on contact.How often should you power wash vinyl siding? ›
Homeowners with vinyl, metal, or composite siding should pressure wash their homes once a year. If you have wood siding, we recommend you pressure wash only when you have dirt or mildew buildup, unless you use very gentle pressure to wash away pollen or cobwebs on an annual basis.Should you brush or spray vinyl siding? ›
The best method to apply paint on vinyl siding is to use a sprayer. Spraying can save loads of times and it gives a look similar to the original factory finish. Sprayer painting doesn't leave any brush or roller marks on the surface of the vinyl siding.
When pressure washing, only use cleaning solutions that are safe for vinyl. Avoid using anything that has organic solvents, bleach, liquid grease remover, undiluted chlorine, and similar ingredients.What tip to use to pressure wash a house? ›
For harder surfaces and a higher psi, use a 15-degree spray nozzle. For softer surfaces and a lower psi, choose a 25- or 30-degree nozzle. If you're washing a two-story structure, begin at the top and work your way down; you'll probably need to attach the extension wand to reach the upper floor.How do you make vinyl siding look new again? ›
- Remove oxidation, mold/algae and bug stains from siding using Vinyl Renu™ Professional Grade Cleaner. Rinse thoroughly.
- Allow siding to completely dry.
- Apply Vinyl Renu™ faded vinyl siding restorer with a quality brush or airless sprayer.
Using a garden hose, spray only the section of siding that you're working on with water. Spray using a downward motion to avoid forcing water underneath the siding, where it could cause damage and rot. Using a scrub brush and the TSP/water cleaner, scrub the siding to remove the grime and dirt.