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How to Clean Vinyl Siding

In this DIY Smarts, Ask This Old House painter, Mauro Henrique, goes over all of the basics of using a power washer to clean exterior vinyl siding.

In this video, paint expert Mauro Henrique cleans the vinyl siding of a house with a power washer. He first explains the basics of a power washer and discusses the differences between colored tips when it comes to pressure washing, and why it is extremely important to know what each means.

What to Use to Wash Siding

The preferred tool to clean vinyl siding is a power washer. When used correctly, it can keep your home looking fresh and clean.

The color of the nozzle determines the angle of the water stream, which causes the water pressure to be more or less concentrated. Mauro advises that beginners use the tip with the widest angle as it is the least likely to cause damage to your siding. After, he demonstrates the proper technique in how to clean your vinyl siding.

Steps for Cleaning Vinyl Siding

1. First, you need to understand the color-coded nozzles that come with a power washer. When you powerwash, it’s all about the tip. Every tip is good for a specific surface, so you have to figure out what kind of surface you’re working with to determine how to clean it.

  • Red tips - The most powerful. The tip isn’t angled at all, so they can really clean things aggressively. Red tips are good for hard surfaces like concrete or masonry, but not for siding.
  • Yellow tips - Have a 15-degree angle, but are still pretty powerful. Best for hard surfaces.
  • Green tip - Have a 25-degree angle, which decreases the pressure and minimizes the risk of damaging the material. The green tip still allows for a strong spray, so experience is recommended while using this nozzle.
  • White tip - Have a 40-degree angle and are designed for softer surfaces and materials. These are great for all types of siding material, including vinyl and wood. Best for inexperienced homeowners trying to power wash their house.
  • Black tip - Also called the detergent nozzle, it is the tip you use to spray any cleaning solutions onto any surface.

2. Set up the machine.

3. Close any open windows. If there are any electrical outlets in the area you are spraying, shut off power at the breaker and protect any outlets from the water.

4. Add the chemical/detergent injector to the power washer. Put the hose into whatever cleaning solution you are using and make sure it stays submerged in the liquid while power washing.

5. Connect to the water supply by attaching your home’s garden hose.

6. Mauro decided to use white vinegar as his cleaning solution. Dilute it by mixing 70% water with 30% vinegar.

7. Start with the black tip to spray the cleaning solution.

8. Stand at least 3 ft (1 m) back from the area being sprayed. Make sure to wear safety glasses.

9. Spray from the bottom and work your way up to prevent streaking.

10. After the cleaning solution is on, wait 5-10 minutes to let the solution breakdown any dirt, mildew, or mold. But be wary of the sun, do not let the solution dry onto the siding.

11. Once it’s time to rinse off the solution, use the green or white tip. Spray from top to bottom.


When done incorrectly, power washing can be a dangerous job both to yourself and the material being clean, so Mauro urges caution when using a power washer. Fortunately, most power washers come with the same color-coded system Mauro described to help select the right tip for the job.

For this project, Mauro used a 3600 PSI Gas Pressure Washer, which is manufactured by DeWalt and can be rented from The Home Depot.