If you live in a home with vinyl siding you probably already know the spring ritual of getting the hose, a bucket of warm soapy water, a stiff nylon bristle brush, and applying lots of elbow grease to get the exterior of your house sparkling for spring. Over the course of the year siding will get a build up of dirt, dust, pollen, bird and bug excrement, and if you live in a damp area that wants for direct sunlight, mold and mildew. While a bucket and a brush is a tried and true method to clean your siding, it isn’t the most effective, and can often result in damage from scrubbing that was a bit too enthusiastic.
Enter pressure washing. It will allow you to clean the exterior of your house in a fraction of the time that a brush, bucket, and hose will take. It can eliminate the need for tall, unstable ladders, making the process a whole lot safer. The pointed spray can get into tight areas that are difficult, or impossible with a regular scrub brush. And, last but not least, if you use a little caution and take a common sense approach, it can be less abrasive on exterior surfaces than hand scrubbing.
So, now we know why you might want to opt for a power washer over hand scrubbing, but what is the best way to do it? Let’s break it down.
Do a walk-around
Before spraying your house down with pressurized water in a pointed stream, you will want to double-check that there are no loose pieces of siding, window trim, molding, or other elements on the exterior. You will want to include checking all the windows to make sure there are no loose pieces, or gaps where water can intrude into the house.
Water all perimeter plantings
Make sure to really soak all of the flowerbeds and plantings around the perimeter of your house. Saturating the soil before pressure washing will help to dilute the soap and make sure that is is not readily absorbed by any of the plants.
Rinse exterior of house
A lot of people skip this step and go right into soaping up the siding with a sudsy blast. You can definitely go that route, but, rinsing an area before you spray it down with soap will remove any really loose debris, dirt, and dust, and aid in the efficacy of the soap actually clinging to difficult dirty spots, and not sitting on top of areas that would just easily rinse off. Plus, rinsing first will also give you some practice with adjusting the pressure of the sprayer, and figuring out the best spraying distance to safely clean your siding without damaging it. A good rule of thumb is to start several feet away from the siding, and move closer as necessary.
You don’t have to rinse the whole house, then go back and wash the whole house though. Just rinse, and wash in sections so you aren’t going around and around the house lugging a pressure washer with you.
Add cleaning agent to reservoir
There are a number of power washer soap additives available. You can usually find a variety at your local home improvement store. If you have a lot of plants around your home, or have pets, you will definitely want to make sure the detergent you use is non-toxic, but, pets or not, non-toxic is always a good way to go. Some people choose not to use soap at all and favor using a solution that is 30% white vinegar / 70% water.
You will also want to make sure that you have the soap tip installed on your washer. This will provide a lower pressure stream of water, and will adjust the stream to a wide 60-degree angle. This will allow you to apply soap more quickly by increasing the coverage area.
Apply cleaning agent
You will want to make sure that you apply the soap in a downward spraying motion, keeping the water spray pushing down at the siding and any trim pieces. This will ensure that the powerful water spray doesn’t penetrate behind the siding by spraying up where the pieces overlap. Getting water under the siding can have terrible long-term effects if moisture permeates the insulation and gets trapped in the wall.
It is also most effective to apply the soap from the bottom to the top. This will keep dirty drips from running down the siding and possibly setting into stains that are more difficult to get off.
Make sure you keep an eye on the soap level so it doesn’t run out. Double check the instructions on the soap for how long you should leave it before rinsing it off. If you soap up the siding and then immediately rinse it off, it will be a lot less effective than letting it sit for five to ten minutes. Just make sure you don’t let the soap dry on the house.
Rinse the exterior of the house
For this step you can keep the soap tip on, if you want to rinse the soap with a lower pressure, but it could take a bit longer to get all of the soap rinsed off, and you will want to keep an eye out for any lingering dirt. Using the general use power washing tip will give you more pressure for rinsing soap, and can also be the last blast that is needed to rinse off any stubborn dirt and debris. Since this tip will give you a more concentrated / higher pressure spray, you will want to make sure that you don’t get too close and risk damaging the siding by etching, and make sure that you keep the spray directed down, so it doesn’t get in under the siding, or behind trim and molding pieces.
Follow these few simple steps using a power washer to clean the exterior of your home and in very little time, and with very little effort, your siding will sparkle.