51 W. End Trail #552
Macungie, PA 18062
Hydro Scrub provides pressure washing services to Berks, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties, including the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Whitehall, PA.
We are now closed for the season. Have a happy, healthy and safe Holiday season.
Q… I’ve got black spots on my siding, what are they and how do I remove them?
A… First, can you “feel” the spots or not? If you can’t feel the spots, the spots are probably just mold and mildew and can easily be removed with our exterior building cleaning and house washing services. If however, the spots are dark brown or black and feel like a little bump equal to maybe a pencil point or a large sand grain, the spots are likely to be artillery fungus, which is also known as shot gun fungus. A Google search for the terms will likely reveal more information than you care to know. Additional information regarding artillery fungus can be found in our useful links.
Basically, artillery fungus grows in your mulch. It looks like a little buttercup about the size of your finger tip and has several “seeds” in the buttercup. When conditions are right, the fungus “shoots” itself up to about 15 feet and lands on anything it can. On some surfaces, such as brick, you never notice the fungus. Other surfaces, such as vinyl or aluminum siding, vehicles, and windows, it is quite obvious. If allowed to “set up”, the fungus attaches itself to the surface and pretty much doesn’t want to come off again. Depending on how long the fungus has been attached, you may or may not have luck removing it with a pressure washer. Some "harder" surfaces, such as PVC fencing can be washed more aggressively with hot water than other surfaces, and removal of the fungus via pressure washing can occur.
There are no guaranteed results when dealing with artillery fungus. Usually by the time homeowner notices the problem and calls us, power washing will not remove the fungus. The artillery fungus “bumps” can be scratched off with your fingernail, but they often leave a reddish-brown mark behind. We have seen customers take some of the fine-grained ScotchBrite® pads or a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and some water and work the spots until they are gone; but you can scratch your siding doing this so be careful. It is also a very labor intensive task.
Insurance companies have excluded coverage for any damages sustained by artillery fungus for several years now. The best thing to do is to check the exterior of smooth surfaces (e.g., siding, cars, patio furniture, windows and window trim) for the fungus, and if it is there, take action immediately. Action usually involves cleaning the affected surfaces and removing the offending mulch in its entirety. Artillery fungus is one of the prime reasons you now see homeowners using rocks rather than mulch in their landscaping.
Q…Are your chemicals “safe” for my kids, plants and flowers?
A… This is a difficult question. We could simply say "yes" and leave it at that or we could throw in some statement about how we use eco-friendly chemicals, biodegradable chemicals, etc. which is what most contract cleaners do. From the start, we have said Hydro Scrub is different than other power wash contractors. We promised to offer information and knowledge based on our environmental background, and therefore, we offer the following.
In today’s world, the terms “eco-friendly”, “safe”, “biodegradable”, “non toxic”, etc. are all too often thrown around to appease customers concerns about the environment and to calm their concerns. What most people don't understand is that many items are biodegradable...it just depends on how much time you are talking about. Conversely, many items which are considered "friendly" items, such as road or table salt, are not biodegradable. Understand that everything is "safe" depending on how it is used and that materials which are often considered "dangerous" to public health are perfectly "safe" when used correctly. It's all a matter of definition. The problem with all these terms is there is no standard uniform definition as to what "biodegradable" is, what "safe" is, what "toxic" is, etc. Yes, there are laws and regulations for various industries which define these terms, but there is not one universal standard, and as such, it all becomes a game of words. It’s all a matter of what Hydro Scrub likes to call "marketing fluff". Everything is a matter of interpretation just like terms such as “the best”, “the cleanest”, “voted no. 1”, etc.
With the above said, let us explain our position. Power washing, in many cases, involves the use of chemicals designed to kill mold and mildew and lift surface contaminants away from items being cleaned. A lot of time, "power washing" is not power washing, it is actually "chemical cleaning". The power washer equipment simply allows application of the chemicals and quick rinsing of the same in an efficient manner. For example, using a power washer without chemicals, there is no way to remove mold and mildew from vinyl or aluminum siding... you will damage the siding before the mold and mildew are removed. Sure, you can remove some algae and surface dust from the surface, but true mold and mildew will remain unless chemicals are used. However, using the proper chemicals, the surface could easily be cleaned even with a garden hose... the power washer simply saves water and allows for a more efficient cleaning means. Proper chemical cleaning of exterior surfaces with the use of low power washer pressures is known as "soft washing" in the industry.
Some power washing chemicals are indeed dangerous to human health in their concentrated form... they can cause burns to skin or cause blindness (deck strippers containing sodium hydroxide are notorious for this), are an inhalation/ingestion hazards if dust particles are breathed before they mixed into a solution or if they are swallowed, but so is dishwashing soap, laundry bleach, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint thinner, and other household chemicals. The active ingredients in many household products are exactly the same as the products used during power washing. However, during the washing process, chemicals are rarely, if ever, applied in full strength... they are diluted significantly... typically down to 5% or 2% or less of their non-diluted concentration. While we would not recommended drinking or rinsing oneself off with such chemicals, even in the diluted form, the chemicals at this concentration do not pose a significant risk to kids, pets, plants and flowers. The diluted chemicals which are sprayed onto your house are further diluted when the house is actually washed and then rinsed. After the house is washed and rinsed, it is rinsed one more time and then any plants and vegetation in the washing area are rinsed again. Chemicals entering the environment are then either degraded through natural processes of bioremediation or oxidation, which brings us back full circle. Bleach for example, often used to kill algae, mold and mildew, contains chlorine. Any residual chlorine from house washing operations is broken down by sunlight (UV radiation). However, deck stripping chemicals are notoriously harsh chemicals and have a real potential to burn or otherwise stress vegetation.
Frankly, unless your pets or kids are playing immediately under us while we do our work (something which obviously we do not permit), there is minimal, if any, risk to them from our services. With regards to vegetation, there is a much greater risk of physical damage to your vegetation as a result of an errant footstep or by the dragging of hose around a small plant than damage by chemicals.
If Hydro Scrub damages your vegetation, we will replace it or pay to have it replaced. But please, don’t try passing your green thumb failures onto us... we do take pictures of your property before we start our work... and this includes pictures of already stressed plants and vegetation.
Q…Do you place ladders against my house/building?
A… Hydro Scrub always tries not to place any ladders against your house/building. Hydro Scrub routinely utilizes step ladders and up to 24-foot wands to clean properties. However, in some circumstances, an extension ladder is required to reach an area, but this is quite rare. If we do utilize an extension ladder, it will have a stabilizer bar on it, as well as padded rubber ends to protect against damage. While we prefer step ladders over extension ladder simply because there is no contact, we are extremely cognizant of the damage ladders can cause when used improperly. If we are to lean a ladder against your gutters, we have a "gutter insider" which braces the gutter, pads the gutters, and prevents ladder slippage against the gutter.
Q… How come you can't always wash aluminum siding?
A… Aluminum siding is very much like paint on older cars... one coat of paint and no clear coat. After years of exposure to the elements, the paint becomes faded, oxidized and dull looking…just like a car's paint that hasn’t been maintained. After approximately 15 to 25 years of age, a fair amount of aluminum sided houses cannot be washed because the washing process removes some or all of the oxidized paint, leaving the siding with little or no paint in these areas. A blotchy final appearance is the end result.
Aluminum sided homes with their original paint in excess of 25 years probably cannot be safely washed without causing issues to their final appearance. If your house has aluminum siding and the paint on that siding is 15 - 25 years in age, contact us for a discussion. Generally speaking, your options consist of four choices: do nothing, wash it and live with the final appearance, wash it and then paint it, or replace the siding. Hydro Scrub has strategic alliances with companies that provide aluminum siding painting services… it is a specialized service and you do not want just anyone painting your siding. Call us if you have questions. As long as your aluminum siding is not dented or creased, spray painting of the siding is a viable option to replacement.
Q…Will the black streaks come off my gutters?
A… Black streaks on gutters are from the oil contained in your asphalt shingles as well as pollutants running down the roof. An electrostatic bond exists between the gutter and the contaminants forming the streaks. Streaks are especially noticeable on white gutters, but can be seen on tan, as well as some other colored gutters. Normal house washing procedures may not remove these streaks. The streaks typically have to be removed with higher concentrations of detergents specifically formulated for such purposes along with physical brushing. This task is often referred to as "gutter brightening". Gutter brightening can be quite labor intensive depending on your house design. Brushing second or third story gutters is quite challenging, especially if the ground below them is not flat or easily accessible simply because you cannot get leverage on the pole brush at such heights. While streaks can usually be removed, sometimes they cannot....it depends on how far deteriorated and neglected they are. In some cases, paint is removed from the neglected gutters and the gutters are damaged. Test spots are required before brushing an entire gutter. Hydro Scrub typically lists physical gutter brushing an optional service during house washing.
Q… Must I move my patio furniture or personal items?
A… Yes and no. You should move all your furniture and personal items at least 35-feet away from our anticipated work area, but if you do not, and in our opinion there is a risk of damaging any items, Hydro Scrub will move those items for you... but you will be invoiced for our time spent moving your items. We don't mind moving one or two items normally, but too many people simply leave their entire patio collection, grill, kiddie pool, etc. in our work area and moving these items takes time which was not budgeted for cleaning your property.
Also, we dislike moving personal items, because all too often they have not been moved recently (e.g., flower pots) and sometimes they are damaged (e.g., the bottom falls out). Small, fragile personal items such as bird feeders, door hanging items, wreaths, flags, etc. really need to be moved by the homeowner.
Q… Will my windows be “streak free” when you are done washing my house/building?
A… Hydro Scrub always tells those undergoing exterior building cleaning / house washing that they should plan on having their window exteriors cleaned after our services are rendered. In some cases, windows come out nearly spot and streak free, in other cases, the windows do require a good cleaning.
The amount of streaks and spots which may result on your windows is dependent on several factors, including: last time windows were cleaned, how much “stuff’ comes off your building or house, the hardness of the water being used to wash, and, in some cases, the concentration of the detergents we must use when washing.
Windows which are older than 5 years and which do not undergo twice a year cleaning have minuscule water marks on them from normal precipitation. These windows tend to become more spotted from our services than those which undergo routine cleaning. To remove these water marks, you can use 000 or 0000 steel wool, which, when used with copious amounts of water or cleaning solution, will not scratch the glass. If you have specially coated windows, you should check with the window manufacturer before using any products to clean your windows.
Q… How much pressure do you use when cleaning my house/building?
A… Pressure in pounds per square inch (psi) varies for house/building washing. Generally speaking, if we are washing vinyl or aluminum siding, the pressure is between 300 psi and 1800 psi at the spray tip of our wands. The pressure that actually hits the surface being cleaned is probably between 200 psi and 800 psi.
Dryvit® surfaces are cleaned with as little as pressure as possible... typically below 1200 psi at the spray tip.
Brick, stone, stucco and concrete surfaces are typically cleaned at pressures of 1800 psi to 3000 psi, depending on the surface. Some bricks, known as soft-faced bricks, can be damaged with pressures as low as 1200 psi.
The contractor must know what pressure to use while cleaning what surface. This is why people should hire professionals. The damage most homeowners cause to their property when using pressure washers, especially those which are rented, is related to using the wrong pressure. Often the rental yards provide machines with spray tips which cause the machine to run at maximum pressure, when such is rarely required. Remember, in most cases, it's not the pressure which cleans, it's the chemicals, and therefore, one must know which chemical is used for what cleaning task and at what concentration. This is why it is important to hire a contract cleaner that has "been around the block" and has experienced a multitude of cleaning challenges.
Q… Can I leave my window screens in place?
A… Yes. Window screens can be left in place during building washing. The benefits of leaving them in place are that the screens will be cleaned and you didn’t have to remove them. The negatives are that your window sills won’t get as clean with the screens in place simply because we cannot “get to” the sills. You may have to vaccum debris and bugs from the window sills when we are finished. So it remains your choice... leave the screens in or take them out.
Q…Do I need to be home when you wash my house/building?
A... No. Hydro Scrub often conducts exterior building cleaning services when nobody is present. However, do not be surprised if we ask you some questions as to whether you have wood floors around sliding doors, French doors, or your front entrance door. Why do we ask this? Unfortunately, we have experienced too many property owners who think their doors don’t leak, when they actually do leak. Our concern is that if you are not around when we wash and your door with a wood floor behind it leaks, the wood may become spotted or otherwise watermarked.
We will also ask you about your exterior electrical outlet boxes. All too often these outlets are ignored and the weather tight gaskets are ripped or otherwise damaged and are in need of replacement before we arrive.
While we prefer washing properties while someone is present, such is not required. But do understand that our Terms and Conditions indicate that “Hydro Scrub expects your property to be in good repair and weathertight. This includes, but is not limited to all electrical service including receptacles and light fixtures. Doors and windows shall also be weathertight. Hydro Scrub is not responsible for damages as a result of water infiltration from poor or improper installation, maintenance or repair of electrical related items, doors or windows. ”
If you have any specific concerns, please feel free to contact us to discuss your exterior building cleaning or house washing project.