Your vinyl fence doesn’t require much maintenance (which is probably why you chose it), but after the elements take their toll, your fence will need a little TLC every now and then. Plenty of cleaners on the market claim to work on vinyl fencing, but here’s a secret they don’t want you to know: You don’t need to buy a special cleaner or dump more chemicals into the environment.
For the most part, durable vinyl fencing is simple to clean. Dirt is your biggest enemy, while mold is a close second. Mold and mildew can collect even on non-porous vinyl fencing, particularly in moist regions such as the Northwest.
Here’s a guide to help you keep your vinyl fence pristine without using any harsh chemicals:
1. Spray it down. The pressure from a garden hose can go a long way toward removing grime. You can even attach a soft bristle brush to your hose, similar to what you would use on a car. See how far you can get with just water before turning to cleaners.
2. Wash with biodegradable soap. For mold and dirt that won’t spray away, a mild soap may be required. You can make your own by using castile soap, a natural, vegetable-based soap that’s biodegradable and won’t harm plants or animals. Start out with two cups of castile soap—you can add a teaspoon of lemon juice for cutting grease, a half-cup of white vinegar for its bleaching properties, or several drops of an antibacterial essential oil such as lavender, lemongrass, or orange. Add a teaspoon or two of this mixture to warm water for a soapy solution.
3. Scrub with super-fine steel wool. If your cleaner doesn’t do the trick, try gently scrubbing with super-fine steel wool. But be careful, as you don’t want to damage your fence.
4. Use baking soda for stains. Tackle tough stains with a baking soda scrub instead of bleach, which is harmful to wildlife and vegetation.
5. Remove rust with white vinegar. If your vinyl fence has rust spots, try putting a little white vinegar on a soft cloth and rubbing the area with light pressure to bleach the stain.
6. Bring in the big (green) guns. For stubborn stains that won’t budge, you may need a heavier cleaner. Don’t worry; there are plenty of eco-friendly options. Simple Green is a popular cleaner for vinyl fences—it’s non-toxic and biodegradable.
Environmental impact is increasingly a consideration for homeowners who are considering building a new fence. Keep in mind that how you choose to maintain your fence can have an ongoing impact, as well.