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Cleaning up dirty, faded vinyl siding

by Kendall Holmes
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Our home along the Kennebec River

Our 1872 Victorian home along Maine's Kennebec River.

Seventeen years ago, the previous owners of my house covered up its clapboards with vinyl siding, and they encased many of its trim boards in aluminum.

I’m no fan of installing vinyl siding on old houses.

But, to be fair, the siding guys did a nice job. They worked around — and in no way damaged — the home’s roof brackets and other Victorian embellishments, such as the nicely detailed trimwork above each window. They paid attention to detail.

And I certainly can appreciate why the previous owners decided it was time for a cover-up. Those owners were getting along in  years — and in this part of the world, houses tend to shed their paint rather quickly. Paint might last seven or eight years on new clapboards and trim, but if you own an old house,  you can pretty much resign yourself to a top-to-bottom scrape and paint job every four or five years.

Of course, vinyl isn’t care-free either.

And that’s the subject of this post.

By the time Deb and I bought our house last year, its vinyl siding was dirty and faded. The siding had a glossy sheen when it was new. Now, it was dull and chalky, as was the aluminum trim.

If this describes siding on your house, cleanup is a fairly simple job. All you need are ladders, a hose, and a few household cleaning supplies.

Here’s how I got the siding on my home back into shape:

  • First I sprayed it with a garden hose to knock away a little crud, and to get it wet.
  • Next I mixed water, some Spic and Span, and a bit of bleach in a pail.  (The bleach would help kill off any minor mildew. )
  • Next I donned rubber gloves and scrubbed the siding with sponges and sponge mops. The Spic and Span helped break up and pulled off grime and chalk — while the bleach killed off mold and mildew spores.
  • Mildew is especially partial to dark, sheltered places. In a few spots, I needed to spray a concentrated bleach mixture (three parts water to one part household bleach) to kill it off.
  • Finally I sprayed the siding a second time with a hose, to finish washing off soap and other debris.

Once I was done, the vinyl siding looked as good as new. Its sheen was back, and its color was far more vibrant than before.

Of course, I also washed aluminum trim while I was at it. The washing job took off the grime and the chalky coating.

Unfortunately, though, the painted aluminum was getting gray with age. And so, as autumn approaches, I’m repainting the aluminum.

But that’s a topic for a future post.

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