We frequently talk about how important your home’s first impression really is. If you’re looking for a “love at first sight” moment between your house and potential buyers, the first impression is the hinge upon which sales swing. We even speak from time to time about how important paint is to give your house a bright, clean face, but we realised recently that we’ve never discussed the chore of washing your house’s exterior. In staging property for sale, getting down the dirt and cobwebs inside and out is a given. How we missed this important first step for outside staging is a mystery.

In any case, washing your house is not as simple as you might imagine. Particularly if your house has stucco or concrete work on the exterior, those uneven surfaces can hide a multitude of sins. Such a surface can develop cracks and the indentations can house insects galore or even botanicals like moss.

If you are having your exterior painted by a professional, the prep work should include the pre-washing of your house. On the other hand, if you plan to paint the exterior on your own, you’ve first got to rediscover the surface which could be hiding under years of buildup.

No Pressure

Your first thought might be to use a pressure washer. Not all houses need or can stand up to this heavy-duty cleaning method. Pressure washers can do far more damage than the good they do in some cases. Vinyl or wood cladding materials, as well as some other hybrid materials like concrete-board products, can usually withstand pressure washing, but before you rent the machine, try cleaning the exterior down with your garden hose.

Houses made of brick, stucco or wood shingles, should probably not be subjected to high-pressure washing. These cladding materials can best be handled by one of the kits your home improvement store sells that are specially made for surfaces such as yours and work with a standard garden hose. The kits can include special cleaners and nozzles to help you get at the really grimy spots. Your hardware or home improvement retailer may also have water-fed brushes that look like mini-push brooms that make scrubbing a breeze.

When you’re ready to clean your house’s exterior, first inspect thoroughly. Pre-treat extra-dirty areas with the cleansing solution, giving the solution time to work a little longer.

Mildew and Rust Stains

If you have tough stains like mildew, mix oxygen-based bleach in a solution with water and dishwashing soap in a bucket. (The correct recipe: 100g oxygen bleach, four litres of water and 1/8 cup dishwashing liquid.) Use a medium bristled brush to scrub the stains away. Rinse with clear water when you’re finished.

Work With Your Cladding Materials

It’s important to remember that your house’s exterior is meant to protect your interior and its inhabitants from the elements. Houses are designed to tolerate water that comes from the top down. If you squirt pressurised water up and under, you’re likely to have problems, so apply the water, pressurised or not, in a downward motion.

To further complicate this chore, some experts will tell you that cleaning from the top down using a cleaning solution is best. The same experts say you should clean from the bottom up if you’re just using water. How confusing is this? We happen to believe that enlisting the help of gravity is never a bad idea and that all cleaning tasks work better from the top down. That’s just us. You’ll find your own system for making the exterior of your house sparkle.

Using a pressure washer to clean the exterior of your house can sometimes be the best answer, but remember pressurised water can be very dangerous. This high-intensity barrage of water can lift the paint right off and dislodge things like shutters. More importantly, a pressure-washer can also damage people and pets. Read the instructions carefully before you begin and secure children and pets far away from the area where you’re working.

Whatever method you use to clean the exterior of your house, making it fresh and clean inside and out are sure to help make prospective buyers fall in love.

Image courtesy of Hoselink.

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