Vinyl siding covers the exterior walls of millions of homes in the United States. It was first introduced in the 1950s as a replacement for aluminum siding. Vinyl became increasingly popular as the technology improved and some of the earlier problems, such as color consistency and fade resistance, were resolved. By the 1980s vinyl was a mainstream exterior finish product, so if your house has vinyl siding, you’re not alone!
One of the advantages of vinyl siding is that it is designed to clean easily and maintain its original color for decades. In fact, one of the key selling points has always been “never paint again.” Of course the fact that people sometimes just want to change the color of their houses means it sometimes does get painted anyway. I painted mine when I wanted to go from grey to yellow.
1. Cleaning Vinyl Siding by Hand
Vinyl can be easily washed with a wet rag, much like you would wash a car. You don’t generally need to use any kind of soap for normal cleaning. You can use plain water and a soft rag and just simply wipe it down and rinse. This is the safest way because it’s gentle and you control where the water is going. This also uses the least water, but is probably the most labor intensive.
2. Cleaning Vinyl Siding With a Hose
When it comes to general everyday cleaning, the garden hose method of cleaning vinyl siding is the most common go-to. For things like lawn mower or weed wacker debris, this is the simple solution. The vinyl itself is waterproof so you don’t have to be shy about spraying it down, but it is important to be careful not to get any water behind the siding. More on that below where we talk about pressure washing.
If you do wash your siding down with a garden hose, the use of a nozzle will help greatly reduce the amount of water used in the process.
3. Cleaning Vinyl Siding With a Pressure Washer
Whether you call it pressure washing or power washing, the concept is the same. Normal garden hose water is run through a high-powered pump and then pumped through a tiny nozzle to create a stream of very high-pressure water. This water is sometimes heated and there is often a way to include a detergent additive to the water to increase cleaning power.
Using a pressure washer on vinyl siding can work fine, however it’s often not really necessary. If you are going to pressure wash your vinyl siding, be aware of these things:
Don’t Get Water Behind the Siding
Vinyl siding is designed to be installed loosely so that it can expand and contract with temperature fluctuations. This means there are some gaps, by design, in the installation. These gaps are placed so that precipitation, guided downward by gravity, won’t get into them. High pressure water, however, especially when pointed upward at all, can get behind the siding and do damage.
Don’t Get Too Close
Vinyl siding can get brittle over time. The years of continuous exposure to the sun, along with expansion and contraction, can cause the vinyl to become far less pliable than it was the day it was installed. Couple that with a very high-pressure spray and it becomes possible for the water spray itself to just simply crack the vinyl, which creates a place for water to get behind the vinyl and do damage.
Be Sure It’s Not Painted
If your vinyl siding is still the original color, you don’t have to worry: The color goes into the vinyl a good ways, if not all the way through. But if the vinyl has been painted, the power washer might just blow that paint right off! Paint will adhere to vinyl siding, but it doesn’t have the same kind of bond it would get on a material like concrete or wood, so it can be much more easily damaged. You can check in an inconspicuous location by attempting to scrape some color off. If it comes off, it’s painted.
Easy Maintenance, Long Lasting
The original selling points of vinyl siding hold true. It’s usually very low maintenance and cleaning is easy when necessary. Just be careful not to get water where it isn’t supposed to be. And if you’re up on a ladder, be sure to follow all of the proper ladder safety protocols and don’t work alone!