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Cleaning & painting vinyl siding

Bottom wave element on the Florida Paints website

WHAT IS VINYL SIDING?

Vinyl siding is a standard low-maintenance solution for home exteriors with a relatively long lifespan with regular maintenance and cleaning. 

Like all substrates, there comes the point where investment in upkeep is needed. Eventually, the sun and weather will break down the pigments and resin in the vinyl and cause fading, cracking, warping and/or buckling. 

Depending on the condition of the siding, it will need to be pained or replaced. Painting vinyl siding is a notable cost saving over replacement. “The national average for painting a home is around $3,700, but the average for putting up new vinyl siding is around $5,500 for a 1,500 square foot home”. (Vis Exterior, 2021). 

Before one can paint vinyl siding, the siding must be thoroughly cleaned and allowed to dry. Inspect the siding and check for chalk by rubbing your hand across the surface and check for color transfer. In addition, check for cracking, pitting, or deterioration. Moderate to severely damaged siding should be replaced, as the paint is only as good as the substrate to which it is applied.

CLEANING VINYL SIDING

Like all exterior substrates, one should clean vinyl siding regularly to optimize the appearance and lifespan of the substrate. Failure to perform regular maintenance will allow the accumulation of dirt, grime, oils, pollen, and jet wash deposits and permanently stain the siding. In addition, these accumulations can provide a food source for organic growth such as mold, mildew, algae, etc. 

The best way to clean vinyl siding is with a soft bristle brush. Always start at the bottom and work your way up to avoid streaking. Promptly and thoroughly rinse away any residue as you go, or it can dry on the surface, requiring another cleaning. 

An excellent general-purpose vinyl siding cleaner is a mix of 2-parts water to 1-part white vinegar. This solution will remove dirt, grime, and light mold, and mildew stains. For a more robust cleaning solution, use a mixture of 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent and 2/3 cup a powered household cleaner such as Comet or a premixed compound like TSP.

Always use proper personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, protective clothing, and organic charcoal respirators as appropriate to the cleaners applied. See manufacturer’s safety recommendations for details.

Man cleaning vinyl siding

One may use a pressure washer for faster results. When washing, use moderate pressure, approximately 2000 PSI. At higher pressures, the individual spraying must use great care to avoid damaging the siding. Ensure that the stream is perpendicular to the siding or pointing down; do not clean at an angle that will drive water behind the siding (bottom edge and overlaps) and potentially damage the underlying structure. Use caution when pressure washing near doors, windows, electrical panels, faucets, or any penetration in the siding.

MODERATE TO HEAVY MILDEW/ALGAE

For situations where heavy mildew or algae is present, household bleach, not pool chlorine can be added to the previous cleaning solution. For best results, mix 3 quarts of warm water with 1 cup of TSP. Add 1 quart of household bleach and mix thoroughly. Always wear gloves and goggles to apply the cleaning solution. Liberally apply the solution with a low-pressure pump-up sprayer, starting at the bottom of the wall and working up. Allow the solution to sit for 5 – 20 minutes, scrubbing with a soft bristle brush if necessary for stubborn stains, but do not allow the solution to dry on the surface. Only apply an area that one can clean within approximately 30 minutes. Flood rinse the surface to remove the cleaner altogether. If pressure washing, flood rinse from the top down, then clean from the bottom to the top, but not at an upward angle. 

Mold on vinyl siding

WHAT NOT TO DO

“Avoid using any vinyl siding cleaners that contain organic solvents, undiluted chlorine bleach, liquid grease remover, nail polish remover, or furniture polish or cleaners. Any of these products might damage the vinyl siding’s surface. Also, avoid using highly abrasive scrubbers or steel wool; these, too, can cause damage when cleaning vinyl siding.” (Bobvila. com, 2021). 

PRIMER & PAINT SELECTION

If the siding is in questionable condition, one should apply a primer or conditioner to ensure proper adhesion to the substrate. Florida Paints recommends using either AquaSeal 3690/3692 or SunFlex 3850 primers for a solid bond of the paint film to the surface foundation. The finish paint should be a high-quality 100% acrylic or acrylic urethane paint in a satin finish to emulate the original vinyl siding surface best. Florida Paints recommends 1220 SeaSide or 1120 Legacy Premium 100% Acrylic for a long-lasting, beautiful finish. 

COLOR SELECTION

When painting vinyl siding, you mustn’t choose a color darker than the original color of the siding. If working with a previously painted substrate, peel back a piece to discover the original color vinyl on the underside.TB-15 2110 Page 4 of 4 

Knowing the original color of the vinyl is critical as each color of vinyl siding is engineered to absorb a certain amount of heat. As the siding absorbs heat, it will expand and shrink as it cools. Darker colors absorb and hold more heat than lighter colors. Improper color selection could cause the siding to expand beyond its installation limits and warp or buckle. If this happens, the siding will need replacing. 

Exterior house siding with dark color patches

APPLICATION

For best results, apply with an airless sprayer and when the outdoor temperature is moderate, humidity is low and the sun is obscured by clouds, but rain is not imminent. Painting outside of these conditions can affect the adhesion and performance of the product. Apply all products in accordance with the product datasheets.

REFERENCES

Bob Vila. (2021). How to clean vinyl siding. Bobvila.com. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/ how-to-clean-vinyl-siding/ 

Vis Exterior. (2021). Can vinyl siding be painted, visexterior.com, https://www.visexterior. com/blog/can-vinyl-siding-be-painted

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