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How to Clean Exterior Siding

Last modified: 2020-08-20 | Approximate reading time 7 mins

Léa Plourde-Archer

With the weather getting progressively nicer, now’s the time to start your spring cleaning! Although people often begin with the indoors, the exterior part of the house should not be neglected.

The exterior siding of your house deserves a proper cleaning to look its best throughout the summer! What are the best techniques to clean exterior siding? We will explore this question in the following paragraphs:

Important Safety Measures When Cleaning Exterior Siding

In order to work in a safe environment and to avoid unfortunate accidents, it is important to always follow these recommendations:

  • Find the electrical installations so that you don’t hose them down inadvertently, as this would be a major health and safety risk;
  • Avoid using a ladder that is more than six feet high. At this height, it is impossible to eliminate potential accidents when working with a hose, especially considering that your stability is highly compromised;
  • Always protect your shrubs and plants when cleaning your exterior siding so that chemical products don’t affect their health;
  • If the cleaning technique requires the use of chemical products, wear long sleeves, gloves and protective glasses. This equipment will help protect your skin and your eyes from risks of burning or irritation;
  • Do not extend the application of chemical products on the siding, as this may cause damage to it.

Hose extérieure

How To Clean Aluminum Siding

The first option is to use an all-purpose cleaning product and water. The product will be applied using a pressure washer which will never be used at full force as this would cause deterioration to the siding.

Another way to clean this type of siding is to use a soft-bristled brush (with the same mix mentioned above) and to rinse it off.

If the stains are too stubborn, the following mix should work:

  • 1/3 cup of detergent;
  • 1/3 cup of bleach;
  • 1/3 cup of trisodium phosphate (which is a strong cleaning and degreasing product). For those interested, this product is also available in a biodegradable version.

If the surface (brushed aluminum or natural aluminum) that needs to be cleaned is oxidized, be sure to scrub it gently with a very fine grade of steel wool (from top to bottom). Avoid circular movements at all costs, as they will scratch the siding.

How to Clean Vinyl Exterior Siding

For regular maintenance, all-purpose cleaning products are recommended. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to dilute the product in the appropriate amount of water. It is also possible to use a mix of water and dish soap that you will rinse right after. In one case or the other, you can easily remove stains caused by sap, dirt or soot by scrubbing with a soft cloth.

For tenacious stains, mix 4 litres of water with 1/3 cup of Hertel (or any other comparable cleaning product) and 2/3 cup of trisodium phosphate to clean the siding with a soft-bristled brush.

For mould stains that are on the surface, the process will be completely different. First, the stain should be scrubbed using a soft-bristled brush with diluted bleach. If the stain is darker, combine bleach (1 litre) with a degreasing cleaner (2/3 of a cup) and a smaller quantity of all-purpose detergent (approx. 1/3 of a cup).

There are three main practical tips to clean exterior vinyl siding. First, clean from bottom to top by spraying the surface several times throughout the progression of the work, to avoid leaving streaks. Next, use a brush with a long handle to cover a bigger area without having to move. Lastly, never scrub a stain using too much strength, as you could alter the siding’s finish.

Do you wish to know how much your next exterior siding will cost? Take a look at our article on the subject!

Linge avec sceau eau et savon

How to clean brick exterior siding

The first available option is to use a pressure washer. However, make sure that the water jet is never aimed at the mortar joints as they will crumble. Ideally, it is advised to keep the machine about 60cm away from the wall.

To remove a stain, the use of liquid caustic soda is recommended. This product is the liquid form of caustic soda, a substance that is often used in products to unclog pipes. You can buy this product as-is or in its crystallized form. To transform the crystals into liquid, mix three tablespoons of crystals into four litres of water. Next, apply the product on the siding with the use of a soft cloth and let it sit for 15 minutes. If you are unlucky and the stain still hasn’t disappeared, you will have to do a second application. Don’t forget to rinse with water after each application.

If traces of mould have started to show up on your brick wall, mix two tablespoons of bleach with one litre of water. Apply the mix on the wall and scrub using a soft-bristled brush. Lastly, rinse with water. If there is still some mould left over, start the process a second time and you should be able to get rid of everything.

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Regardless of the option you choose, always start by removing dust from the surface with a vacuum cleaner before you start working.

Although applying a waterproof product can be recommended for certain types of exterior siding materials, such is not the case for brick walls. This product will trap the humidity on the wall, which will increase the chances of mould development.

House facade_exterior

Photo: Pixabay

Cleaning an exterior siding that is made of cement or concrete

As was the case for brick siding, it is also recommended to use the vacuum cleaner to remove dust from a concrete or cement surface before cleaning it. Next, go on with the process by using a mix of water and washing soda. Do not confuse this mix with caustic soda crystals which are much more corrosive. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper dosage. In the end, rinse the surface completely. 

In this case, applying a waterproof product is recommended if you wish to increase the level of protection of your exterior siding so that it doesn’t experience premature degradation.

How to clean stone exterior siding?

For this type of material, the best solution is to use a pressure washer. However, since you will have to use a lot of pressure to clean the surface, this technique should be avoided if the walls are weakened. If you are very patient, make a mix of water and baking soda. Apply it on the surface by scrubbing with a strong-haired brush. Like with cement and concrete siding, you can also use a mix of water and washing soda that you will scrub onto the walls using a brush.

Other techniques are also available but they can only be completed by a certified professional. You can choose between:

  • Cleaning with a grinder: this is a dry cleaning technique;
  • Sand washing: this high-pressure cleaning technique uses sand and is very efficient to remove longstanding dirt. However, this process can cause damage to the siding if not done properly. Always hire a pro for this type of work. Note that this technique is also available for other types of exterior siding such as cement, concrete, brick or wood. Depending on the type of material, the amount of pressure will be different.

Stone exterior

Photo: Pixabay

How to clean a parged wall

Once again, the pressure washer saves the day! To avoid causing damage to the surface, use a low level of pressure. Next, scrub the surface (with a metallic brush and not a soft-bristled brush) and make sure to get a brush that is specially made for this type of material.

The mix of water and bleach is also very efficient for parged walls (with a half-and-half mix). Spray the liquid on the wall using a spray bottle and wait at least one hour. It must, however, be noted that this technique is not recommended on a coloured wall of this type.

Cleaning exterior siding that is made of composite wood or real wood

The recommended technique consists of cleaning the surface with a pressure washer and a mix of water and soft soap. Since wood is more sensitive than stone, never use the machine at full strength. 

Cleaning a sheet metal siding

To clean a sheet metal siding, there are several options available to you. First, in terms of spring cleaning, we suggest the use of a garden hose to perform a simple cleaning with water.

For traces of mould, it is recommended to use the following mixture to remove them:

  • 1/3 cup of laundry detergent
  • 2/3 cup of trisodium phosphate
  • 1 pint of bleach
  • 3 pints of water

The surface should be cleaned with a soft bristle brush, as mentioned in the annual cleaning procedure.

Do you notice traces of oil, tar or wax on your steel siding? To remove them, be aware that mineral essence will be of great use. After his application, however, be sure to take a second step: washing the surface with soft soap and a soft-bristle brush and finally, rinsing with clear water.

Type of siding Product/tools needed
  • Mixture of water and detergent or mixture of detergent, bleach and trisodium phosphate
  • Pressure washer or soft bristle brush
  • Very thin steel wool (for oxidized surfaces)
  • For daily cleaning: soft cloth, all-purpose detergent or a mixture of water and dish soap
  • For stubborn stains: soft bristle brush and a mixture of water, Hertel and trisodium phosphate
  • For mould marks: long-handled soft bristle brush, diluted bleach or a mixture of bleach, grease cleaner and all-purpose detergent
  • For an annual cleaning: pressure washer
  • For stains: caustic soda laundry and a soft cloth
  • For traces of mould: bleach, water and soft bristle brush
  • Vacuum cleaner (to dust before cleaning)
Cement or concrete
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Mixture of water and soda crystals
  • Waterproofing product
  • Pressure washer or
  • Mixture of water and baking soda (or soda crystals) and rigid bristle brush
Parged wall
  • Pressure washer and metal brush designed for plaster walls
  • Bleach, water and metal brush designed for plaster walls
  • Pressure washer and mixture of water and mild soap
  • For spring cleaning: garden hose
  • For traces of mould: water, laundry detergent, bleach, trisodium phosphate and soft bristle brush
  • For stains (wax, tar or oil): mineral essence, mild soap, water and soft bristle brush

You need some help to choose your exterior siding? Check our article Exterior siding: which material should you choose?

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