You’ve heard about the advantages of vinyl. You’ve heard that it’s easy to maintain and to clean, that it will last for decades, that you don’t have to paint it, etc., etc., etc.
But do you know how to clean it?
Sometimes, in all the talk about how great vinyl is (and it is great!), we miss the fact that it will occasionally need to be cleaned.
After all, your vinyl is outside. Dirt is also outside! Pets! Tar! Mold! There are a lot of things that, over time, can make your vinyl look less-than-pristine.
Fortunately, after years and years of extruding, fabricating, and installing vinyl, we’ve found some important tips for cleaning, and we’re happy to pass them on to you.
1. General Cleaning
For most railing and fencing, this kind of general cleaning will be sufficient. Fill a bucket with water (warm or cold), and detergent or a mild household cleaning agent. Then, take a soft cloth, soak it in your water/soap mixture, and gently scrub your vinyl. Detergent and water will remove almost all of the surface dirt, although long- term buildup might require some elbow grease. Once you’ve cleaned the vinyl, rinse it with clean, non-soapy water from buckets or a hose. To avoid residue, don’t leave soap or detergent on your vinyl for more than 15 minutes.
2. Pressure Washing
The idea of pressure washing is appealing, since you can move more
quickly with a pressure washer than with a bucket and hose. And if you’ve neglected your vinyl cleaning for several years, you might have a build-up of dirt and debris that makes pressure washing a better option.
Pressure washing works well on vinyl—but ONLY if it’s done correctly. Pressure washers can have multiple settings, so make sure you set your pressure washer to the appropriate setting for vinyl. Setting your pressure too high will damage the fence.
3. Persistent Stains
Sometimes your fence just gets weird stuff on it. Rubber marks, tar, and
oil can all mark up a vinyl fence. Maybe your toddler colored your vinyl railing with permanent marker, or your teenager accidently got nail polish on it.
The good news is, all of these things can be removed. The best way to do it? With a melamine foam cleaning pad. (You might know those better as a Magic Eraser™ or Easy Eraser™). You don’t need to scrub violently; just apply slight pressure until the stain is gone.
4. Mold and Algae
Occasionally our customers have reported seeing a series of small black
dots on their vinyl. This is called artillery fungus, or shotgun mold, and it’s a surface issue that’s spread by landscape mulch. Additionally, vinyl that isn’t washed at all will sometimes get a green algae build-up.
Since vinyl is non-porous, these algaes and molds are not in the vinyl. They’re simply resting on the exterior. That means that they’re also easy to remove. Algae will come off with pressure washing (see Tip #2) or a good scrubbing. Shotgun mold comes off in the same way persistent stains do—with a melamine foam cleaning pad.
5. Hardcore Cleaners
So you’ve tried soap and water and a Magic Eraser... and you’ve still got some stains. Now what? It’s time to bring in the big guns—and by big guns, we simply mean a spot remover that works on vinyl. For example, Goof Off™ works very well. If you’re not sure if a cleaner is approved for vinyl, do a small spot test in a non-obvious place to make sure there is no discoloration or damage.
6. Restoring Dull Spots
After cleaning your vinyl, you might notice spots where the shine has
dulled. This is common, especially in newly installed vinyl. To restore the shine, wipe with a clean, damp cloth. If that doesn’t work, dry the surface and apply a non-abrasive outdoor paste wax. (Armor All and Johnson both make paste wax). You can also use house wax, automotive wax, or plastic boat polish.
When it comes to vinyl, there are a few NEVERs. NEVER use an abrasive cloth like
steel wool or other scratch pad. You should only use soft, non-abrasive cloths to clean vinyl. NEVER use an abrasive cleaner; use mild detergents only. And NEVER use cleaners that are not approved for use on vinyl.