Ask the Builder

Ask the Builder: Cleaning Home Exterior as Easy as Washing the Car

After washing your car, consider pointing the hose toward your house.
After washing your car, consider pointing the hose toward your house. (By Kathy Carter)
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By Tim Carter
Saturday, June 27, 2009

Q: DEAR TIM: Money is really scarce now, and the exterior of my painted home looks dingy. Is it possible to wash the outside of my home like one might wash a car? Are there house-cleaning supplies that will get off years of dirt, mildew and spider droppings? Should I pressure wash my house instead? -- Meganne W., Gilmore City, Iowa

A: DEAR MEGANNE: Money is very tight for all of us. Painting the exterior of a home can be very expensive, and sometimes it's not necessary. I believe I'm one of the few in my city who washes the exterior of my home much like I wash the car. When I do this, my clean house looks brand new. It might save you thousands of dollars.

My house is in a large city and sits just miles from two major interstates. There are many trees surrounding my home. The house gets covered with soot from the diesel exhaust of tens of thousands of trucks and organic debris generated by vegetation and tiny insects that crawl all over my home. Thousands of people suffer the same problem -- I get their e-mails each week.

Regular soap doesn't seem to cut through the spider droppings, mildew and black marks left on the siding from rotting tree debris. What does work is a pretreatment of oxygen bleach solution. Oxygen bleach is merely a dried form of hydrogen peroxide, which makes it one of the greenest cleaners you can use. When the powder is mixed with water, it creates billions of oxygen ions that break apart organic matter. The solution doesn't harm plants or trees, as chlorine bleach does.

I apply the oxygen bleach solution to the exterior of the house with a hand-pump sprayer. I work in the shade to minimize evaporation. After letting the solution sit on the siding and trim for about five minutes, I wash it off with a solution of liquid dish soap and water. Years ago, I purchased a brush made to clean RV vehicles. It has bristles that are about two inches long and are fairly soft so as not to scratch paint. It does a fantastic job of removing dirt, soot and organic debris that's been loosened by the oxygen bleach. After rubbing the surface with the brush, I immediately rinse the area with a garden hose, pointing the nozzle down toward the ground.

I try to work on an area that's about 100 square feet at a time. I always squirt down the next section of the house with the oxygen-bleach solution just before I hand wash using the brush. That way, one part of the house is soaking while I'm cleaning and rinsing the previously sprayed section. This method allows me to constantly be working.

Tim Carter can be contacted via his Web site,

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