Living in New England can be something of a dirty job. And the task of cleaning off months (or years) of accumulated grime and dirt from the exterior of a building takes much more than a scrub-brush and a bottle of Windex; it requires professional help. This is not just a labor-intensive job, it also calls for extensive knowledge of building materials, cleaning products, and cleaning methods.
Removing the Dirt
For residents of condos, townhomes and co-ops, knowing when, how and why—or why not — to have the exterior of their building cleaned could be a matter of dollars and cents, but it also should be about what makes common sense. Most associations would find it unnecessary to clean their building’s entire exterior each month, but some might want it done semi-annually, while others could allow the façade to darken for years before tending to it. It all really depends upon a community’s perceptions, needs, and budget.
Knowing the causes of exterior sediment and the cleaning methods used to deal with it can enable residents to take a realistic approach to the problem of keeping their building’s façade looking sharp. It’s hard to say what creates the most stains and grime on buildings: air pollution, soot from oil-burning furnaces, or car exhaust. Facades are soiled by atmospheric conditions like air pollution and acid rain, and the buildup of dirt on a building over time can dull architectural details and lessen the overall beauty of the structure.
“I would say moisture and humidity create the most stains and grime on New England buildings,” says Jim Pasternak, president of Northeast Power Washing in Marlborough, Connecticut. “You might read about a lot of companies that talk about air pollutants. I’ve heard people talk about exhaust from jets that come down and land on roofs. But what I find is that the sections of a house or a building that I clean, it’s the north side that is always dirtier because those sections get the least amount of sun. So when there is a rain or a morning dew, there is a moisture against the siding or the roof; it has longer periods of dwell time, which creates a better atmosphere for organic growth such as algae, mildew and mold.”
David Friedman, president of Insta-Brite Mobile Washing Inc. in Whitman, Massachusetts, agrees with Pasternak on what creates the most grime and stains on New England buildings. “The number one reason people need to clean their homes is because of the growth of mold and mildew,” he says. “And that’s on all types of siding, whether it be vinyl or painted or stained.”