Q&A / 

House Cleaning

DEAR TIM: Money is really scarce now, and the exterior of my painted home looks dingy. House cleaning usually refers to chores inside a home, but is it possible to do a residential house cleaning washing the outside of my home just like one might wash a car? Are there special house cleaning supplies that will get off years of dirt, mildew and spider droppings? I’ve never seen anyone do this before. Should I just pressure wash my house instead? Meganne W., Gilmore City, IA

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. You should come to my house every three years. I believe I’m one of the few in my city that washes the exterior of my home much like I wash my car. When I do this, my clean house looks brand new. I’ve done this for years, and I’ll gladly share my cleaning house tips with you to hopefully save you thousands of dollars in this time of need.

My house is located in a large city and sits just miles from two major interstate highways. There are many trees surrounding my home. These things cause the house to get covered with soot from the diesel exhaust from the tens of thousands of trucks and all the organic debris that is generated by the vegetation and tiny insects that crawl all over my home. I know thousands of people suffer the same problem, as I get their emails each week.

The exterior of a house needs to be cleaned just like the inside. Clean it instead of repainting! PHOTO CREDIT: Kathy Carter

Regular soap doesn’t seem to do much to cut through the spider doo, 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 perhaps the greenest cleaner I know of as it is just a dried form of hydrogen peroxide. When the powder is mixed with water, it creates billions of oxygen ions that break apart the organic dirt, more water and non-toxic natural soda ash. The solution doesn’t harm any plants or trees as does chlorine bleach.

I apply the oxygen bleach solution to the exterior of the house with a regular hand-pump sprayer. I always try to work in the shade to minimize evaporation. After letting the solution sit on the siding and trim for about five minutes, I then wash it off with a solution of regular liquid dish soap and water. Years ago, I purchased a special brush that’s made to clean the sides of RV vehicles. It has bristles that are about 2-inches long and are fairly soft so as not to scratch paint. It does a fantastic job of removing the 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 regular garden hose always pointing the nozzle down towards the ground.

I try to only 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. This 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.

Let’s discuss pressure washing. I can hear the professional companies shriek now.

Pressure washing seems to have permeated our culture much like the high-pressure streams of water from the tool are injected deeply into cracks and seams where water isn’t supposed to go. I own a pressure washer and use it for cleaning certain things around my home, but painted siding is one thing that I would never use it on, except as a possible rinsing tool. If you do that, make sure you have a 25-degree tip or wider on your wand.

You can do a test if you like with a pressure washer. Try to use it on a small section of your home getting it as close as possible to the painted surface to where it does no harm to the paint or wood. Feel free to apply any cleaners that are recommended by the manufacturer of the tool. Rinse the surface and let air dry. Then go back and hand wash a small area that was cleaned with the machine using soap and water and the special brush or a sponge. Rinse that smaller area and let air dry. I’m quite certain you’ll discover that the pressure washer left behind a very thin film of dirt. You can do the same test on your car at a self car wash that has pressure-washing wands. You’ll be shocked to see the pressure washer can leave dirt behind.

I discovered oxygen bleach nearly 15 years ago while doing research for a deck-cleaning column. After meeting with the head chemist of the huge company that distributed the chemical, I began extensive testing. After six months, I discovered that the product was the most powerful cleaner I’d ever seen. It got rid of stains in clothes, decks, carpets, anything that was water washable. The best part is that it was color and fabric-safe. It was a green cleaner long before the present Green Movement.

Prior to this I thought there was only one bleach - chlorine bleach. Many of us know how harsh it is. It’s such a strong oxidizer, that it blasts apart fabric and synthetic dye molecules. This is why clothes fall apart and fade when you continuously use chlorine bleach each washing. Chlorine bleach is also highly toxic to plants and vegetation.

Fifteen years ago, there were just one or two companies selling oxygen bleach. I decided to sell it to help survive as the money I got from writing my column wasn’t enough to support a family. I’m proud of all the happy customers I’ve accumulated over the years, and feel so strongly about this earth-friendly green chemical that I’m not afraid to write about it.

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