What is the best solution(s) for cleaning vinyl siding and/or aluminum gutters?
June 3, 2011 5:37 AM   Subscribe

Outdoor spring cleaning: What is the best solution(s) for cleaning vinyl siding and/or aluminum gutters? Bonus if it doesn't kill my flowers!

Yesterday we tried Simple Green and many different brushes. The heavy dirt was removed from the gutters with the Simple Green and a scouring pad, but there is some stubborn stains that I can't seem to remove. Oh and I just planted flowers so lets not kill them in the process!
posted by kgreerRN to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
The stains may be mildew or mold. I've had good success with the house wash stuff you can buy at Home Depot. It's bleach based, so you could probably do the same thing with some bleach and water, but I don't know what the proportions should be.

For aluminum gutters, they get to a point where they just have to be repainted to look good again.
posted by COD at 6:20 AM on June 3, 2011

That's probably mold and/or mildew. You're going to need something a little more serious to get that off. Simple Green is basically a dilute ammonia solution. That's neither the right chemical nor sufficiently concentrated to do what we're talking about. We're talking a 1:10 bleach solution.

Fortunately, if you dilute the stuff sufficiently, there's little to no risk to your flowers. A power washer is what you're looking at. The bleach solution can be applied directly to the house with a brush or sponge, but by the time it hits the ground, you'll have diluted it so much that it's no real risk to anything, and it breaks down in a matter of hours.

The easiest way to do this is going to be to hire a power washing company to come out and take care of it for you. This is going to cost you $150 or so, in all likelihood. More if your house is unusually laid out. But in addition to being more expensive, they're a little less likely to take the kind of care around your flowers than you are. The risk here is not the chemical cleaners, but them walking on them or crushing them with the equipment.

Of course, you can rent a power washer from Hope Depot or a local equipment place for $50 a day. They're not that hard to use, and you have the ability to be as careful around your plants as you like. Note that the psi rating really isn't what you want to pay for; you're looking for volume. 5 gallons/minute should do the trick. Stick a half bottle of bleach in a 5-gallon bucket of water, and you should be good to go. Heck, if you're careful, you can just use straight bleach.

Depending on how long this stuff has been on your house, any of this may or may not work. Mold and mildew can leave some pretty nasty stains on vinyl and aluminum which can be an absolute bitch to get off. But if bleach and a 5 gpm washer won't do it, you may be SOL.
posted by valkyryn at 6:22 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

It may sound crazy, but I used a bunch of those Mr. Clean Magic Erasers on the tough-to-get-out stains on my vinyl siding. Not sure if that will work on the aluminum, though!
posted by sneakyalien at 7:12 AM on June 3, 2011

Every time I have had a house pressure washed they used plain bleach diluted in water. Usually they would cover the plants with tarps but even when they didn't the plants didn't seem to mind.
posted by TedW at 7:15 AM on June 3, 2011

I'd rent a pressure washer. No bleach or other cleaner. This will be a lot cheaper than paying someone else and (in my experience) very effective. Place towels at the thresholds of your doors on the inside to keep water from getting blasted in. There are small pressure washers you can buy that run at about 1500 psi; the ones you can rent are about 3500 psi and are more effective.
posted by adamrice at 7:43 AM on June 3, 2011

There are small pressure washers you can buy that run at about 1500 psi; the ones you can rent are about 3500 psi and are more effective.

Again, psi matters a lot less than volume. Some of the smaller machines can easily kick out 5000 psi, but they only move 2 gallons/minute. But a machine that puts out 1500 psi at 5 gallons/minute is going to be 1) a hell of a lot more effective, and 2) far, far less likely to damage the material you're working on. You can cut wood and sever limbs at 3500 psi, but if there's no volume behind your pressure, you're basically left just trying to blast stuff off with pressure rather than washing it with volume.
posted by valkyryn at 10:58 AM on June 3, 2011

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