Just recently, a neighbor of a friend of mine got a brand new fence installed.
It was a six-foot privacy fence that encompassed the backyard of their townhome. Compared to the rest of the neighbors older fences – it stood out.
The fresh looking pressure treated wood even had a smell to it in addition to looking absolutely amazing. However, I asked my friend a simple question (being a pressure washing company owner):
“How old is your next door neighbors fence?”
Truth be told the answer surprised me. The darker wood, covered in what looked like black algae spots and mildew was only four years old he said!
I thought it was at least 10! But needless to say, what his neighbor truly needed was a fence cleaning. And truth be told, if my friend doesn’t stain his fence, he will need his cleaned in the next 24 months!
Fence Cleaning 101
Today we will look at the following when it comes to fence cleaning:
- What is fence cleaning?
- How to clean your fence
- Fence material matters
- How often should you clean your fence?
First, what is fence cleaning anyway?
What Fence Cleaning is:
Fence cleaning is synmonus with “pressure washing my fence,” or “power washing fences” and is commonly down by homeowners either with a company or by renting a pressure washer!
When someone refers to fence cleaning, typically what they’re looking to accomplish is to remove:
- Algea and moss from their fence
- Get rid of the aged wood look caused by mother nature
- Remove spots, bird droppings, organic build-up
- Give their fence that new look again
Why fence cleaning matters is another question in itself, but we’re glad you were just thinking it! Typically, fence cleaning is when a homeowner or professional exterior washing company applies a mixture of soaps and surfactants to a fence surface.
This is followed by a washing with either a hose, power washer, or pressure washer (be sure to use the correct settings) to then remove soaps/surfactants but also the dirt and grime!
Now, if the fence is wood you can stain it to restore the look! If it’s vinyl or steel – you have a pretty fence again!
Why clean your fence:
You want to have your fence cleaned for several reasons aside from the obvious curb appeal reason! Reason number one to have your fence cleaned is curb appeal, followed by:
- Curb appeal with a new fence
- Remove organic build up that harbors moisture, thus causing fence decay
- Increase the life of your fence by keeping it clean (and thus staining if wood)
No that you know why it’s vital to keep you fence clean, let’s talk about how.
How to Clean Your Fence
Just like the saying, “Not all things are created equal,” a lot can be said for cleaning your fence in that not all fence types are created equal in the sense of cleaning them.
For example, a wood fence could be greatly impacted in a negative way if you just take a pressure washer to the wood surface. On the flip side, a vinyl white fence would be just find.
That being said the exact steps to clean a fence in general are as follows:
- Get your supplies ready. This means gloves and safety glasses, followed by your power or pressure washer (Where to rent power washers here). Next you will want to prep your supplies and if you need soaps be sure to have those ready too.
- Take a wire brush to wood fences that have really bad spots that are caked on like bird droppings or perhaps soil/grass
- We the surface of your fence
- Apply surfactants and soap if you plan on using them (helps with deeper, more through cleaning, just be sure to care for landscaping)
- Set your pressure washing settings accordingly (For wood fencing, 1500 psi at the most)
- Use a 25 degree tip
- Use long, consistent strokes as you power wash your fence to give a nice clean, and even look!
Now, if you haven’t caught on there are some variables that may factor into how you clean your fence, with the biggest obviously being the type of fence. In other words:
Fence Type Matters-
You have to pay special attention to the type of fence you’re cleaning. Certain materials call for certain cleaning instructions, here are few highlights for each.
- Start at 500 psi, and work your way up form there. Use 1500 psi for pressure washer/power washer settings at the most! Start low!
- Do not strip wood (this can cause more harm than good)
- Use a 25 degree nozzle (this is the focus of the spray for your power washer) This is a must for wood fences
- Evenly wash your wood fence to prevent streaking
- Let dry for 48 hours before staining
- Get your materials ready
- Consider using a surfactant to aid in removing common green and black algae
- Wet vinyl fence
- Apply solution to clean and let it sit for 3-5 minutes
- Gently remove with hose or pressure washer at the right setting 500-1000 psi to avoid damage
- Aluminum fences should not rust and are rathe simple to clean
- You can typically use something like dish soap and a hose to clean your aluminum fence
- If that doesn’t work, using a power washer and/or pressure washer works as well too
- Once again, check for the proper settings
- Similar steps as cleaning your aluminum fence from above
- Be aware of rust spots
- Have a goal, for example if the fence is painted do you want to remove all old paint?
- Be sure to use proper PSI settings
How often you can clean your fence:
When it comes to cleaning your fence, at the end of the day the question as to how often you should clean your fence is not always cut and dry… it depends!
Typically, a general timeframe is every 3-5 years for cleaning your fence. This allows for the fence to recover from the last cleaning and helps you keep it looking good!
Some older fences may require some more TLC early and often, but it really depends on what you are going after. If cleaned and stained (for wood fences) you should be able to stretch 4-5 years before having to do it again.
We get it home maintenance can be a lot which is why we recommend using these two guides:
What are your options?
So now that you know:
- How to clean your fence
- What fence cleaning is
- Why you need to clean it
- And how often to clean your fence
The last question you might have is what are your options for getting your fence cleaned?
Typically, most homeowners try cleaning their fence one time before never doing it again! Renting the power washer, dealing with water all day, being outside in the sun (or cold) and then having to turn around and stain a fence is a very long and tedious process.
Even for the most seasoned DIY types.
That being said if you would like to have your fence cleaned, we recommend reaching out to pressure washing company that has experience! Don’t just go for any Joe with a truck!
Your fence matters, and a lot can go wrong if proper fence cleaning methods are not used! That being said, here are some helpful articles and guides to help you: