When homeowners think about ways to beautify their homes and boost their curb appeal, ideas such as new landscaping or a fresh coat of paint on doors and window sashes may come to mind. But there’s another curb appeal hack you can employ to give your home an instant facelift: spruce up your home’s siding! You don’t have to replace siding to see improvements (though you can, and you might consider it if it’s been a while… more on that here). Instead, you can invest some good old TLC and, working with what you’ve got, freshen up your property’s look while extending the life of your siding investment.

Why Focus on Siding?

Well, take a close look at it–yours, a neighbor’s, anyone’s really. You’ll notice that most everyone’s siding, especially this time of year, is a little worse for the wear. Siding takes a beating because it’s exposed to the elements 24/7. As Donna Boyle Schwartz, writing for BobVila.com, notes, “vinyl siding can accumulate a host of dirt, grime, and stains on account of things like pollen, bird and insect droppings, spider webs and rust. In shady, moist areas, mold and mildew can grow, and vinyl is also vulnerable to discoloring effects from insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. In addition, vinyl siding’s finish may be marred by a number of commonly used household maintenance products, including caulking, driveway sealant, tar, motor oil and paint.”

We don’t notice the deteriorating condition of our home’s siding as easily as we might notice decline elsewhere on our properties because it’s a long, slow process. But if you take a moment to really look, chances are you’ll find that your siding hasn’t even been on your radar… and that it needs to be! Luckily, there are some simple approaches for cleaning your home’s siding.

Siding Spruce-Up Option 1: Clean Siding By Hand

This approach obviously requires more elbow grease than Option 2 below; it’s best suited to addressing mild to medium amounts of dirt, grime and mold/mildew. If your siding needs major attention, skip to Option 2.

These cleaning solutions are intended for use with a soft-bristle brush or soft cloth or sponge so as to not damage your siding:

  • A 70:30 mixture of water and distilled white vinegar works like a charm for for milder buildup. Vinegar is an excellent eco-friendly cleaner (read more about it here).
  • Simple Green can be an effective solution, but be aware that the extent of its eco-friendliness has been called into question.
  • If you’re worried about landscaping, Schwartz at BobVilla.com suggests using a “cleaner solution comprised of one gallon of water mixed with one cup oxygen bleach in a bucket. The oxygen bleach will clean the vinyl without damaging your landscaping.”
  • When contending with smaller patches of stuck-on grime, use a soft cloth or sponge and an all-purpose household spray cleaner of your choice.
  • A 4:1 mixture of water and bleach will remove tough mildew stains.

Spruce Up Option 2: Power- or Pressure-washing Siding

If you’re battling neglected siding, you may need to enlist a power-washer or a pressure washer to get the job done right. If you don’t own one, you can rent one for between $50-$150/day. This option requires only the machine and water, eliminating the need to bring cleaning solutions into the mix, and it’s super effective for removing built-up dirt and grime.

But as the folks over at HouseLogic.com explain, “beware if you don’t have experience with the tool. Power washers can strip paint, gouge softwoods, loosen caulk, and eat through mortar. Also, the tool can force water under horizontal lap joints, resulting in moisture accumulating behind the siding.”  In addition, some manufacturers caution against the use of pressure washers on their products or set pressure limits, so be sure to investigate whether this is the case with your siding manufacturer.

Remember, no matter which approach you choose, that your hard work should extend the life of your siding, not jeopardize it! Here are some final tips for doing it right from Tina Gleisner: “To the extent possible, try to stay away from direct sunlight. Start working on a shaded side of the house, and work your way around the house as the sun moves. Direct sunlight heats up the siding, which will dry the cleaner before you have a chance to rinse it off. When rinsing, avoid spraying up into the underside of the vinyl seams. Where possible, always try to spray down and sideways. Spraying directly into seams can force water behind the siding, which can cause the sheathing to rot, and it can also loosen vinyl siding panels.”