As homeowners, we all want to keep our homes looking their best. Vinyl siding can be an attractive, low-maintenance option for the exterior of a house. However, like any other surface, vinyl siding gets dirty over time from exposure to the elements. Finding the most effective way to clean vinyl siding without causing damage is key to maintaining your home’s appearance.
Pressure washing is commonly used to clean vinyl siding. When done properly, pressure washing is an effective cleaning method. However, too much pressure or improper technique can lead to damage. In this article, we’ll look at when you should and shouldn’t pressure wash vinyl siding, proper pressure washing technique, signs of pressure washer damage, and alternative cleaning solutions for vinyl.
When Is Pressure Washing Vinyl Siding Safe?
Pressure washing vinyl siding is generally considered safe when proper precautions are taken. A pressure washer applies a high-pressure spray of water or cleaning solution to surfaces to remove dirt, mold, mildew and other grime. Common residential pressure washers have a psi (pounds per square inch) between 1500-4000.
Vinyl siding is designed to withstand a reasonable amount of water pressure. As long as you use the proper nozzle, keep the pressure washer wand moving at all times, maintain a safe distance from the vinyl, and use additional cleaning solutions appropriately, pressure washing vinyl siding should not cause damage.
Always check your vinyl siding manufacturer’s recommendation before pressure washing. Most vinyl can withstand pressures of up to 1500 psi when done carefully. Higher commercial grade pressures could damage the siding.
Potential Dangers of Using Too Much Pressure
Using an excessive amount of pressure is one of the biggest risks when pressure washing vinyl siding. The high-pressure spray could tear vinyl or loosen the panels from your home.
In addition, if you allow the pressure washer wand to remain stationary for too long in one area, the concentrated spray could damage the vinyl. Keeping the wand moving is critical to prevent damage when pressure washing. Standing too close to the vinyl with a high or narrow spray pattern is also problematic.
Signs of Pressure Washer Damage on Vinyl Siding
How can you tell if your vinyl siding has been damaged by pressure washing? Here are some key signs to check your home’s siding carefully after pressure washing:
- Cracks or holes in the vinyl siding
- Lifting or curling at the edges of panels
- Sections of siding detached or coming away from the home
- Warping or rippling of the vinyl surface
- Bubbling underneath the topcoat
- Color fading in certain sections
If you notice any of these warning signs of pressure washer damage, discontinue pressure washing immediately. Your siding may need repair or replacement. Always follow your siding manufacturer’s care instructions closely whenever cleaning vinyl surfaces.
Tips for Safely Pressure Washing Vinyl Siding
Now that you know what can go wrong pressure washing vinyl, here are some best practices for keeping your vinyl siding clean while avoiding damage:
Choose an Appropriate Nozzle Tip
A 15-degree or 25-degree nozzle is typically recommended for vinyl siding. The wider spray pattern helps spread the pressure across a broader area. Never point a high-pressure zero degree jet spray at vinyl siding.
Limit Pressure to 1500 psi or Less
Most residential pressure washers deliver enough force for vinyl siding. Excessive commercial grade pressure increases damage risks significantly. Adjust your machine accordingly.
Always Keep the Nozzle Moving
Don’t allow the high-pressure spray to remain focused on one spot for longer than a few seconds. This can be enough time to penetrate or tear vinyl.
Maintain a Safe Distance
From the Surface Positioning the nozzle too close amplifies the pressure on the vinyl’s surface. Most experts suggest at least 4-6 feet between the nozzle and vinyl siding.
Apply Detergent Before Pressure Washing
Applying a cleaning solution or detergent before power washing helps lift dirt so the pressurized water can rinse it away. The detergent also allows you to use less intense pressure.
Rinse at a Low Pressure First
Consider doing an initial low pressure rinse with your garden hose or garden hose sprayer attachment. Then follow up with targeted higher pressure power washing if necessary. The preliminary rinse helps prevent driving dirt deeper into vinyl surfaces with only high-pressure.
Work Methodically Section by Section
Take your time moving across or down surfaces methodically instead of haphazardly power washing the entire house. This allows better control over cleaning technique
Inspect Your Work Frequently
Periodically stop to inspect the siding up close while you are working. Catching any potential issues early allows quicker correction.
When to Avoid Using a Pressure Washer on Vinyl Siding
While pressure washing certainly has its place cleaning vinyl siding, there are also times when it’s best avoided:
On Older or Possibly Damaged Siding
Previous pressure washer damage, cracks, peeling surfaces or other signs of wear indicate weaker areas that high-pressure water spray could further degrade.
With Extremely High-Pressure Machines
Commercial grade pressure washers or modified consumer units can easily damage vinyl with too much concentrated pressure and require professional operation. Most vinyl cannot withstand pressures over 2000-3000 psi.
Around Windows, Trim or Accessories
The interfaces around windows, corner posts, decorative elements or accessories often feature trim and caulking sensitive to high pressure. Clean these areas with mild soap and low pressure water only.
Under Windy Conditions
Wind can lead you to position the pressure washer wand too close to surfaces while compensating for blowing spray. Avoid pressure washing vinyl siding on excessively windy days.
Alternative Cleaning Solutions for Vinyl Siding
Pressure washing certainly helps cut through caked-on grime, but it’s not the only way to clean vinyl siding. Here are a few alternative cleaning methods to consider:
Garden Hose End Sprayer
These manual sprayers connect to a garden hose allowing you to apply cleaning solutions with more control and less pressure than an electric power washer.
Mild Detergent or Siding Cleaner
Products designed specifically for vinyl can help lift dirt without adding pressure. Use a soft brush if needed.
Low Pressure Rinse
Set your pressure washer to the lowest pressure setting or rely solely on your garden hose sprayer for a more gentle rinse.
Soft Wash Cleaning Solutions
Specialized soft wash formulas and equipment can clean vinyl siding chemically with very low pressure. Soft washing is safe for delicate surfaces when applied correctly.
Putting Safety First for Your Home’s Vinyl Siding
Like any cleaning job around your home, preparation, using the right tools, and proper technique are key to keeping your vinyl siding looking its best. Always check manufacturer guidelines and inspect for damage regularly when pressure washing older vinyl. With reasonable precautions, you can safely pressure wash vinyl siding to reveal the attractive exterior hiding beneath dirt and buildup.
But when in doubt, gentler cleaning methods get the job done too without unnecessary risk to your home’s siding. You can also call on professionals like Sullins Suds Pressure Washing to help you clean your vinyl sidings!