The Ultimate Guide to House Washing 2022
You no doubt wash your car on a regular basis. But when was the last time you washed your most important asset; your home? Just like your car, the exterior of your home also gets dirty. In order to keep your car looking it’s best, you clean it. Your home should be treated no differently!
Maybe you are considering an exterior house wash? Well lucky for you, in this article we will explore everything to do with house washing. From what house washing is, how to do a house wash yourself and answering some common questions along the way.
What is House Washing?
A house wash typically consists of applying a cleaning solution at low pressure to the windows, walls, eaves and gutters of a home. Once this cleaning solution is applied, it will go to work to help break down whatever contamination is present on the home.
Once the cleaning solution has had time to do its job, it will then be rinsed off with a pressure washer at either a low or medium pressure setting. The amount of pressure used will be determined by the exterior material.
Why Should I Wash My House?
Overtime dirt, mold, cobwebs and other contaminants will collect on the exterior of your home. If left to accumulate without any intervention, these will begin to cause damage to the cladding.
The cladding is an essential element of a building. It consists of the cladding material (weatherboard, brick etc.), an air cavity and finally a layer of insulation. It’s two main functions are to provide thermal insulation and weather resistance.
It is important that the cladding is kept clean as overtime a build-up of grime will begin to cause issues such as:
- Dulling, fading or staining
- Premature surface wear
- Rot to wooden cladding materials
Can I Pressure Wash my House?
The answer is, it depends!
In the hands of an inexperienced person, pressure washing your home is not a good idea! Pressure washers spray water at pressures which can do damage to the cladding of your home. Too much pressure can cause damages such as:
- Flaking or bubbling paint on painted cladding
- Etching or furring on wooden cladding
- Chipping or etching to stone cladding
- Blowing mortar from brick cladding
The other risk of an inexperienced person pressure washing a house is that high pressure water can easily find its way into the inside of a home. Areas which are vulnerable to letting water in are outdoor electrical outlets, switch board boxes, windows, doors and vents.
On the other hand, an experienced, professional exterior cleaner can use a pressure washer to clean the house both efficiently and effectively without causing potentially costly damage. Commercial grade pressure washers can be easily adjusted to spray water at low pressure. This can be achieved by:
- Changing the nozzle size at the end of the pressure washing gun. A larger opening allows more water to flow through and as result lowers the pressure. Contrastingly, a smaller opening limits the water flow and in turn increases the pressure. This is the best way to adjust the pressure.
- Reducing the engine revs by adjusting the throttle
- Adjusting the unloader valve
Certain cladding materials can endure higher pressures compared to others. For example, a brick wall (if in good condition) could handle higher pressure when compared to timber cladding or stucco.
If you are unsure about what pressures to use, it’s best to be cautious and use low pressure. Whilst the number varies depending on who you ask. Low pressure washing is generally regarded as being under 1000 PSI (pounds per square inch) or even under 500 PSI. If you can’t adjust your pressure then increasing the distance between the surface and the pressure washer is another way to limit the force of the water.
What Does House Washing Remove?
The most common contaminants found on a home are mould, dirt and cobwebs. The other form of contamination can be traffic film which can be present on properties which are close to busy roads.
Mold generally presents itself in either a green or black colour. It thrives in areas which are moist and don’t receive a lot of light. Sprinklers, trees and shrubs which are close to the home can create the ideal environment for mold growth. Leaking or overflowing gutters are another area which often produces patches of mold.
Dirt and dust find their way onto the exterior of your home through wind, rain and from general traffic. If you have a gravel driveway then it can be expected that dust will find its way onto the cladding.
If your property has a lot of trees and shrubs close to the home then the chances of having cobwebs will increase. Cobwebs don’t pose a threat to the integrity of your cladding but they sure don’t look very appealing.
Is your home close to a busy road or highway? If so, then traffic film could be present on the walls of your home. Traffic film is made up from things such as soot, grease and carbon deposits.
House washing will remove all of the above contaminants. However different cleaning solutions may be required to effectively remove mold when compared to traffic film.
Should you Wash the Outside of your House?
Yes! There are many reasons why you should wash your house. A person who is house proud will enjoy the way their house looks after it has been washed. A person who likes to save money will appreciate the fact that periodic house washing will noticeably increase the lifespan of the materials on their home. A person who is conscious about the health of their family will be pleased to see illnesses and contaminants from mold and mildew removed from their home.
Another group of people that should most definitely wash the outside of their house are those who are trying to sell their property. We all know first impressions count and a freshly cleaned house will certainly attract higher offers than a house which has been clearly neglected.
What is the Difference Between Soft Washing and Pressure Washing?
You may have heard of the term soft washing. Soft washing is the application of a cleaning solution at low pressure followed by a low pressure rinse. The whole process is designed to clean sensitive surfaces which can be easily damaged by high pressure. In soft washing, the cleaning solution is relied upon to do most of the cleaning work.
Pressure washing on the other hand uses the force of water which is pressurised by a special pump. The force and volume of the water cleans the surface. Pressure washing is best used to clean hard surfaces such as concrete and stone.
Some houses require a soft wash only approach due to the material that they are clad with. Other homes can be cleaned with a combination of soft washing and pressure washing, the pressure however is adjusted so that it doesn’t damage the surface.
What is the Cost to Clean the Outside of my House?
The cost to wash a house depends on a few factors such as:
How big is the home? A two-bedroom single story home will cost less to clean when compared to a five bedroom, two story home. Do you want the whole house cleaned or just one or two sides?
Is there clear access around all sides of the home? Do you want areas cleaned that are hard to get to such as balconies or dormer windows? If there are areas that need to be cleaned that require ladders, scaffolds or even elevated work platforms then you can expect to pay more.
Where is the property located? If located a significant distance from a professional exterior cleaner then expect them to include travel costs within the quote they provide. A good way to lessen this price if you do live in the country is to perhaps see if your neighbours would be interested in getting their properties cleaned too. That way the contractor would be more inclined to give you a deal because it provides more of an incentive to travel longer distances.
Level of Dirtiness
How dirty is the exterior of your home? If the home only has a light amount of dust and a few cobwebs then it will likely cost less to clean when compared to a home which is covered in mold and algae.
The cladding type can occasionally influence the cost of a house wash. Some cladding types can be easier to clean then others. For instance, vinyl cladding generally cleans up easier than stucco.
House Wash Cost
You can expect a professional house washing service to start from $350. Keep in mind that not all exterior cleaning professionals are offering the same service and result. A company that is experienced, has plenty of positive reviews, is insured and has professional equipment will most likely be charging more when compared to a someone who has little experience and may not be insured.
As with most things, you get what you pay for, so do your homework.
How Often Should You Wash the Outside of Your House?
This can be a difficult question to answer as many factors influence how often to wash the outside of your home. A general and good rule of thumb is to wash it yearly, particularly when approaching the warmer months.
A once yearly wash will remove the dirt and buildup as well as halt any organic growth. Washing the exterior of your home during warmer periods will allow the sun to dry everything thoroughly. Wet and humid periods brings dirt from the rain as well as making your house more vulnerable to mold growth.
Here are some extra things to consider when deciding how often to clean:
- Location: if you live near a dirt or busy road you may need to have a house wash more frequently, up to every couple of months
- Weather: after a storm or heavy wind and rain your house can look dirtier as a result of the dirt and debris
- House appearance: if you are a very house proud person and want your house to be looking its best all the time, then a more frequent house wash is ideal
What Tools Do I Need to Wash a House?
There are many ways to wash a house, some take far more time than others. Some ways are more effective than others too. We will break this up into two categories, the tools you could use as a homeowner and the tools you could use as a professional. This will help in deciding whether to clean your house yourself or call in a professional.
Homeowner/DIY Equipment Needed for a House Wash
Electric Pressure Washer – Cost $150-$1000
In order to wash a house a homeowner will need an electric pressure washer. These pressure washers can be purchased from most hardware stores for a few hundred dollars. They have small pumps so are far slower when it comes to cleaning and rinsing when compared with a commercial petrol or diesel pressure washer.
Exercise caution when using an electric pressure washer as often times the manufacturer can produce them with zero-degree tips in order to help the machine meet the advertised pressure rating on the box. These tips do a lot of damage as the water is concentrated into a fine stream of pressurised water. Instead look for a unit that includes a fan tip, ideally 25 or 40 degrees as it won’t be anywhere near as harsh on the exterior of your home.
Pump Sprayer- Cost $25-$80
The pump sprayer will be used to apply the cleaning mixture to the outside of your home. These sprayers are readily available at most hardware stores. Mix up the cleaning solution and pump up to pressurise the sprayer. These units can only spray a meter or two at maximum distance.
Ladder- Cost $100-$1000
If you have a multi-story home or want to wash areas out of reach with your sprayer then a ladder will be required. Depending on the height and features of the ladder you’ll have to spend between $100 & $1000. Extreme care must be taken if using a ladder as falls from height can be fatal. Only use a ladder if you are comfortable using one and ideally have someone footing the ladder for extra stability.
Cobweb Brush- Cost $20-50
If there are cobwebs present on your home then a cobweb brush will be the best tool to remove them prior to applying soap and rinsing. These are found at most hardware stores, if you can’t find one then a soft bristled broom will normally suffice.
Window Cleaning Kit- Cost $50-$100
This one is optional, but if you like having clean windows then it is advised that the exterior glass is given a clean with a squeegee and mop. The combination of the cleaning solution and water from the pressure washer will no doubt leave water spots and drip marks if you do not clean your windows afterwards.
Professional Equipment Needed for a House Wash
High Flow Petrol Pressure Washer- Cost $8000-$15000
A professional level pressure washer is a significant step up in price from a DIY level unit. The main difference between the two lies in the engine and pump specifications. An electric pressure washer has a small electric motor whereas as a professional petrol pressure washer has a large petrol motor. The electric pressure washer uses a pump which may be able to produce 2000 PSI at 7 litres per minute whereas the larger petrol pressure washer can 4000 PSI at 30 litres per minute.
Litres per minute gives the best indication of how fast you can clean or rinse a surface. The higher the number the faster you’ll be able to clean or rinse. PSI (pounds per square inch) isn’t as important. PSI refers to the force of the water. As a baseline professional pressure washers are generally between 3000-4000 PSI.
As these units are very heavy, they are normally mounted on a vehicle or trailer and then plumbed into a hose reel which then allows the operator to move easily around the property.
12v Softwash System- Cost $1000-$4000
This unit replaces the need for a pump sprayer. A 12-volt pump sprays the cleaning solution from a set of tanks which are mounted on a vehicle or trailer. The pump sprays generally to the height of a two-story house. This often times eliminates the need for a ladder when doing a house wash as you can apply the cleaning solution from the ground.
Cobweb Brush- Cost $20-50
If the cobwebs are heavy enough then it can be useful to remove them with a dedicated brush. However, as the pressure washer used by a professional is very powerful, they are normally washed away without needing to brush.
RO/DI Window Cleaning System $3000-$5000
An RO (reverse osmosis)/DI (de-ionisation) window cleaning system is a series of filters which remove the salts, minerals and debris from water which if otherwise left would leave water and drip marks. The unit is built around a reverse osmosis filter and a DI resin filter. These two filters take all the impurities out of the water which leave the operator with pure water. This water when used with a special window cleaning brush and pole will leave the glass crystal clear.
How Do I Prepare My House for a House Wash?
There are a few precautions you must take before you perform a house wash. Here is a basic checklist of what you should be looking for.
- Make sure all windows/doors are closed This is an essential first step. You are spraying water and detergents at your house so you don’t want any of that coming inside. Ensure all windows are doors are tightly closed. If the windows don’t close properly either avoid spraying them for too long, cover them in plastic sheeting or have someone on the inside cleaning up any water that may get in. The same precaution should be taken with any doors, especially if they don’t have a weather strip or seal at the bottom. If any water is going to get through the door, it’s usually at the bottom.
- Move any furniture/objects away from the house If you can move furniture and other objects away from the house then do so, especially if you don’t want them getting wet! If you aren’t concerned then forgo this step. Keep in mind that a workspace free of obstacles is safer and more efficient.
- Tape up any electrical outlets, meter boxes etc. Ensuring all outdoor electrical fittings are protected from water is critical. Most electrical items found outdoor should be designed to be somewhat waterproof however, it is wise to tape any electrical outlets, lights, security cameras and meter boxes. Anything that is electrical should either be taped or not sprayed directly with water. Larger electrical items can be covered with plastic sheeting and then secured with tape to provide a barrier against water. If water does manage to find its way into an electrical outlet or other fitting then it will likely trip the safety switch in the meter box which cuts out the power. Most of the time all that is required to remedy this is to wait for the electrical component to dry out so that the safety switch can be switched on.
- Cover/wet any sensitive plants This step is only applicable if you are using sodium hypochlorite in your cleaning solution. Sodium hypochlorite (SH), also known as bleach is great for killing mold. However, it is also really good at killing plants if you don’t take the proper precautions. In order to avoid killing the landscaping ensure that thorough watering is carried out. Soak all plants and lawn areas before and after spraying sodium hypochlorite.
- Photograph any pre-existing damages
This step applies only to contractors. Before you commence the house wash, take the time to walk the property and look for any areas of damage. Photograph and make notes. Look for things such as broken cladding, areas of flaking paint and broken window screens. You don’t want to get blamed for damages that you didn’t cause!
How Do You Clean the Outside of Your House?
Before you begin house washing, you have to identify what it is that you’ll be cleaning off the home. Does the home have a lot of mold and mildew on the cladding? Or is it close to a busy road with dark, greasy looking stains on the walls? Is the cladding very dusty? Start with the no mold steps below as these work for most contaminants.
Before jumping straight into it, make sure you have followed the house washing preparation checklist, this can be found above. It is highly recommended that you have the following items of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) on hand before getting started.
- Safety goggles
- Chemical resistant gloves
- Hearing protection
- A vapor mask or respirator
A chlorine solution is the most effective at removing stubborn mold, however it is not always required. As the use of chlorine greatly increases the risk of chemical inhalation, chemical burns, killing of plants if coming into contact with chlorine it must be used with caution. Most mold can be removed using a general all purpose cleaner and it is recommended that this be tried first. However, if you are feeling confident and the all purpose cleaner is not removing it then proceed cautiously with a chlorine cleaning solution.
If there is no mold on the home then follow these steps:
- Use a household general all purpose cleaner such as Simple Green following the dilution ratio on the bottle. Alternatively, consult a local pressure washing or cleaning store for an appropriate cleaner.
- Spray the cleaner onto the exterior surface and let it sit for about 10 mins.
- Use the pressure washer with a fan nozzle to rinse the area. Ensure that you aren’t using high pressure and maintain a safe distance of at least 30cm from the tip of the gun to the cladding.
- If the staining isn’t coming off repeat steps 2-3 again. Stubborn dirt etc. may need a few applications in order to remove it from the cladding.
- Once all of the staining is removed, thoroughly rinse the area with the pressure washer.
If you have identified that there is mold on the home then follow these steps:
- Mix 1 part chlorine with 10 parts water in a pump sprayer.
- Spray a small amount of the solution on an inconspicuous area of cladding. In rare cases the chlorine in the cleaning solution can react with organic pigment paint. Wait for 5 mins, if no reaction occurs then proceed to the next step. If a reaction has occurred wash off the chlorine solution and do not use on the rest of the house exterior.
- If it is a warm day, prewet the cladding with fresh water. Spray the cleaning solution on the affected areas. Work in small areas. For example, only clean one side of the house at a time. If you are using home owner grade equipment then it’s wise to cut that area in half again as you don’t want the solution to dry on the cladding.
- If spraying around windows, ensure that the windows are pre wet with water before applying the cleaning solution. Let the chemical sit for 10 mins, keep it wet with more cleaning solution if you notice that it is drying on the surface.
- Use the pressure washer with a fan nozzle to rinse the area. Ensure that you aren’t using high pressure and maintain a safe distance of at least 30cm from the tip of the gun to the cladding.
- If the staining isn’t coming off repeat steps 3-5 again. Stubborn mold may need a few applications in order to remove it from the cladding.
- Once the stain is removed, thoroughly rinse the area with the pressure washer. Make sure to rinse the plants if you suspect that the solution could have come in contact with them.
If cleaning brick or stucco then you may need a stronger concentration of chlorine in the cleaning mixture. If the 1:10 ratio isn’t working after a few attempts then go to 1 part chlorine to 4 parts water. This will help to tackle the more stubborn mold.
When working with chlorine-based cleaning solutions keep these tips in mind:
- Thoroughly rinse all landscaping in close proximity to where you have cleaned
- Don’t allow the solution to dry on any surface. If needed, keep wet by misting with water or mist with the cleaning solution
- Don’t spray the solution on stained timber doors, fences etc. as it will cause stains, the same goes for a lot of metals. If necessary, cover these areas with tape or plastic sheets and be very careful where you spray!
Is House Washing Worth It?
100% YES! When done well, house washing can:
Lift the appearance and street appeal of your home
A clean house exterior will greatly transform the look of your house from the street, you will be the envy of all your neighbours! Just look at this before and after transformation.
Decrease maintenance requirements
Mold, dirt and continual moisture on the surface can affect and eat into the paint or timber on the cladding. Removing this regularly will increase the longevity of the exterior material and therefore allow you to save money on those home repairs.
Destroy harmful mold spores that can be inhaled and impact health
Mold spores on the outside of your house can make there way inside when doors and windows are open or via wind. These spores can be harmful to your health when inhaled. Having a regular exterior house wash will destroy these toxic spores and stop any negative impact on your health.
After reading this guide you should now be well equipped to undertake an exterior house wash. Is it a job you want to try yourself or maybe it’s less hassle to call a professional exterior cleaner? Either way, you can refer back to some of the tips at any stage along the journey.
If you are an Adelaide based home owner looking for an exterior house wash, then get in touch with the friendly team at Superior Exterior.