By Angie Hicks
House cleaning isn’t just an inside job. Your siding, driveway and garage floor get dirty, too. And just as a freshly cleaned car seems to drive better, a spic-and-span exterior feels great to come home to.
Siding: You can clean it the tried-and-true way, rinsing with a hose, using a long-handled brush to scrub with soapy water (laundry detergent works) and then rinsing well.
To remove mildew or algae, consider a hand-pump garden sprayer and oxygen bleach (NOT chlorine, which can strip color and kill plants). Mix powdered oxygen bleach with warm water, stir and apply with a long-handled brush to dry siding. Let it work for about 10 minutes. Use a water hose to rinse well.
You may be tempted to use a power washer, but use caution and start with the lowest setting. Water jets can injure people and damage masonry, stucco or wood siding, and may force water through seams of vinyl-siding panels. Also, power washing alone will not remove mold or mildew.
If you use a pressure washer, be sure to wear eye protection. Start at the top of your house and work down, directing the water downward and going side to side across the siding.
Concrete driveway or garage floor: Concrete is porous and will hold stains if vehicle fluids like oil, grease and antifreeze are allowed to linger. Other stains can come from tires, mold, mildew, rust and fungus.
The first step in removing a stain is also the best way to keep future fluid leaks from staining: Cover the area with a drying agent, such as cat litter. Let the desiccant remain for a day before removing it and then scrubbing the stain with laundry detergent.
If it’s not gone, clean the area again, but this time use a power washer and trisodium phosphate (also known as TSP). For rust stains that don’t remove easily, apply powdered oxalic acid (also known as wood bleach), and let it stay for a few minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.
If all else fails, a professional may use muriatic acid to eat away the stained portion of concrete. Be very careful if you try this yourself. Use one part of acid to 10 parts water and wear protective clothing and a respirator.
To discourage future stains from setting, seal your driveway after it’s been cleaned and allowed to dry for a few days. If you do the job yourself, read the instructions and apply evenly with a sprayer or roller. Don’t use the driveway for 24 hours.
To remove tire marks from a sealed concrete driveway, scrub with a small amount of degreaser. Or use a solvent or chemical stripper to remove the sealer. Reseal once the stain is gone.
Asphalt driveway: Use care when removing stains from asphalt driveways, since detergents or cleaners that contain petroleum-based solvents can damage asphalt. Because oil stains also can damage asphalt, it’s wise to follow cleaning with resealing.
Hiring: Cleaning your siding, driveway or garage floor is a job you can do yourself, but if you have a multi-story home or difficult stains, you may prefer to hire a power washing service. An experienced pro who is highly rated by local consumers will know how much pressure to apply and will have tools and products that clean effectively without causing damage to your home or property.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, www.angieslist.com, a resource for consumer reviews.