How to Clean Vinyl or Fiber Cement Siding – Costs – Maintaining New Siding

Wouldn’t it be great if you’re new vinyl or fiber cement siding could stay new forever? Well, with proper maintenance and regular cleaning, it sure can look that way.

The Problem

Getting dirty, that’s the problem. Okay, that’s a bit simplistic. The elements that lead to dirty siding, be it vinyl or fiber cement, are numerous. It also depends on what’s on your property or type of work you may do on your property near your home. The common notable problems are:

  • dirt and yard debris blowing or splashing onto the siding
  • pollen floating in the wind and sticking to your siding
  • bird or critter droppings
  • spider webs
  • mildew
  • and all sorts of chemicals that may result from work done near or around your house

Addressing the Problem – The Basics

Let’s assume you care enough to maintain your siding on an annual basis. Depending on where you live, twice a year would be ideal. Either way, the steps are about the same. It’s as simple as:

1. Inspect the siding – walk around the home, get a feel for what areas need special attention, make note of that. If it’s been awhile since you’re last cleaning, don’t skip this step.

2. Devise a plan of action – Here’s where Fixing the Problem(s) noted below comes in. A basic cleaning is just that and if that’s all that your siding needs, then you can skip this step. But if there are troubled spots, then take time to decide how you’ll tackle things. Also take a few moments to determine what on your property could use covering up, such as nearby flower beds or gardens and any brick or stone siding you might have in addition to your vinyl / fiber cement siding.

3. Get ‘er done – Execute the plan. The basic cleaning involves removing what you can with a brush, then sudsing everything up, followed by a thorough rinsing and a final wiping. Sometimes though, more is needed.

Fixing the Problem – Beyond the Basics

The materials for any cleaning are fairly simple. This includes

  • a brush of some sort (they make siding brushes)
  • cleaning solution
  • water (of course)
  • ladder(s)
  • cloths (plural) – one for cleaning with the solution, and one, or ten for wiping it dry
  • plastic drop cloths and tape to seal off anything you don’t want to get wet and sprayed with cleaning solution
  • optionally a pressure washer to apply water and cleaning solution. Note though that misusing a pressure washer by applying too much pressure could void warranties for your siding.

via Yawata Company

The cleaning solution is obviously the key to bringing out the color of your siding and restoring it to a like-new condition. The simplest solution is a mixture of 70% water and 30% vinegar. This works for both vinyl and fiber cement.

Removing Toughest Stains

When it comes to excessively dirty areas or tougher stains to be removed, you could keep going with the simple vinegar/water solution, or you could move up to a more powerful cleaning solution. Here it helps to understand what not to use. For vinyl, you’ll want to avoid using undiluted chlorine bleach, furniture polish or related cleaners, organic solvents and grease removers – as all of these pose potential danger to the PVC material that is vinyl siding. With fiber cement, the general rule is to never use harsh chemicals or abrasives. Instead, mild soaps or detergents will work for cleaning most tough stains.

Fortunately, there are cleaning solutions that are specifically made for siding. These are sold generally by the gallon and you simply follow the directions on the container. Many of these are made to be used with a pressure washer. For vinyl, you can use household cleaners such as Fantastic, Windex or Lysol.

When it comes to the grunt work of cleaning, be sure to first tape off, with plastic, all items you don’t want to get wet with the cleaning solution. In the event that your taped over area may have unnoticeable gaps, it’s best to wet your garden areas first before taping the plastic. This will slow down any absorption rate that those areas will have for embedding such chemicals into the soil, thus minimizing damage to plant roots.

After protecting the environment, then work from the bottom up to avoid streaking. So, wash, rinse and move up to then repeat. Once the entire area up to the top is done, proceed downward again with dry cloth to wipe everything down.

Wrapping Up – Further Maintenance Suggestions

Preventative measures are a good way to minimize the need for hard cleanings down the road. This means trimming plant life near your house, so it isn’t brushing near your siding’s surface. Animals and insects will then be less attracted to the siding. If you must do work on your car or other contraption where grease spills are possible, take care and cover the siding at the time of that job. With vinyl, keep all heating sources, i.e. grills, as far away as possible from your home. Flames or high heat within 5 feet can lead to warped panels.

Tip: Make sure your gutters stay clean as overflow from there will impact your siding first.

With fiber cement, when cleaning is done, be sure to check for any areas that may need to be caulked again. This is an annual suggestion for siding maintenance and doing this around the time of cleaning is your best bet.

With vinyl siding, repainting is unlikely to ever be needed. The original color for your siding will fade over time, but do so uniformly. In the event that painting is desired, you could use acrylic latex paints to achieve new color. Two coats, and you’re good to go.

With fiber cement, painting is necessary, but assuming the original color was factory finished, you ought to not need it repainted for at least 15 years. Always check with the person that installed your siding for types of paints they suggest for updating your fiber cement siding.

The Cost of Hiring a Pro:

To hire a professional power washing specialist to clean your home’s exterior siding, it will cost about $200 to $300 on the low-end for a typical house, and $400 to $600 on the high-end for a larger house.

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