Roof Cleaning Products and Chemicals.
I received a call earlier this year form a customer who had purchased his roof cleaning products from one of the big box stores. He fell (can’t remember the details) and it scared him bad enough to find someone to do it. He asked if I would come and provide labor only to clean his roof and use his roof cleaning chemicals, since the had already purchased them.
I know all about these roof washing chemicals and politely declined. My insurance company would cancel our business insurance if they found out we were using an unapproved method for cleaning customer roofs.
These new “gimmick” cleaners are showing up in growing numbers all over the country. These companies are looking to get in on the action as they see the roof cleaning industry growing and lots of homeowners looking to save money by washing their own roofs, instead of hiring someone to do it for them. I call them gimmick cleaners because they have some very slick marketing techniques that draw you in with the promise of fantastic results. “You just spray it on your roof and forget all about it!” “It does all the work and you can move on to other household chores!” “But wait! If you call now, we will include a second bucket, FREE!” (along with that handy key chain with the built in flashlight…..Just pay S&H) Three months later, you are still looking at a roof with slightly less dirty shingles and wondering if there really are roof cleaning chemicals that work.
Check out this roof.
This customer applied one of these “spray it on and walk away chemicals” We got the call to provide a roof cleaning after the customer saw the white residue build up a couple months later.
What do I mean by unapproved roof products? I am glad you asked. The is only one way that a roof should be cleaned and it is the only method approved and endorsed by the shingle manufacturers themselves. It involves a light bleach solution and some type of surfactant. (A surfactant is some sort of detergent for soapiness and cling)
Our friends at ARMA – Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association – have issued a technical systems bulletin on the correct way to clean a roof. ARMA is a trade association that represents most, if not all of the shingle manufacturers today. The bulletin has been around for many years and they have not changed it. I think they do not endorse these gimmick chemicals because they don’t want a bunch of complaints,and even lawsuits, brought against them for backing a product that has limited results. 99.9 % of professional roof cleaning companies use the light bleach/soap method to clean roofs because it simply works.
Roof Cleaning Chemicals Explained.
These “new” roof cleaning chemicals and methods are nothing more than a rehash of the chemicals used when roof cleaning was in its’ infancy 20 years ago. At that time, lots of companies were using these sodium hydroxide based products. A few companies were advertising oxygen based roof cleaning, but most were using the hydroxide.
As it grew in popularity, roof cleaning companies started looking for easier and more efficient ways to do the work, and the age of using bleach and soap was born. With the testing and backing of the shingle manufacturers, roof cleaning became an explosive industry. There are new and innovative products coming out all the time. Pumps, hoses, reels, you name it and someone is looking for a way to refine it.
The only constant over the years? That’s right, it is the bleach/soap roof cleaning method. It has not changed and there I don’t see it changing anytime soon. It is quicker, more efficient and does the best job of anything chemical out today. Oh, sure we are always going to see the companies looking to start a new niche and ride the wave of the latest trend. We have seen that with these box store products. They also attach the words “eco friendly” to these roof cleaning products.
They do work- sometimes – well, occasionally, ummm …..ok, rarely. Take a look at this roof cleaning job we did in Cary NC. The remnants of whatever DIY cleaning agent they had sprayed on had crystalized nicely. The customer was not happy with the results and called us to do a proper roof cleaning.
How about this one:
I got this call from a customer who had a contractor pick this up at the store and spray this stuff on his roof. It was purchased at the local home improvement store. I am not sure why all this stuff crystalizes and just sits there, but it is going to catch up with the manufacturers at some point and they are going to have some explaining to do.
Do not waste your money on these products to clean your roof. They are not “eco friendly”, they do not work and you will end up mad, with your roof still dirty and $50 to $100 out of pocket. If you want to remove the roof stains yourself, and are a do it yourself type of person, do some research on the proper way to clean a roof using bleach and a bleach friendly soap.
Heeeeeey, wait a minute, you say. It says on the box store roof cleaner that it is “eco friendly” and does not contain any bleach, solvents or phenols. THAT is part of the gimmick. Flip it over and read the CAUTION panel on the back. “Corrosive to skin” “Severe eye irritant” “Inhalation of mist may produce respiratory irritation” “May be fatal if swallowed” . That does not sound too eco friendly to me. If you think about it, how is a product going to kill your roof algae if it is eco friendly?
Be careful, roof cleaning is a dangerous sport. I am not here to teach roof stain removal classes, but I have done enough of it over the years to pass on a little wisdom. If you are going to clean your own roof, whether you are using the box store products or doing the correct way with the bleach / soap solution, you need to take the appropriate safety precautions so you don’t fall.
Using an algae preventative to seal my roof.
Can I use an algae preventative on my roof? Great question! There are several out there and I have not looked in to the actual recipes of these chemicals. I have read about them, and it seems you put them on after the roof is cleaned to prevent the regrowth of algae. They are some type of polymer or sealant that does not wash off when it rains.
Deferring again to our friends at ARMA – They have issued a bulletin advising against using sealants of any kind on a roof. We don’t use it, and like the bulletin advises, you should check with your shingle manufacturer before you do.
The point of this quick blog is not to denigrate DIY types. I am, for the most part, one of them myself. I have been burned by the infomercial mentality syndrome a couple times in my many years, so I try to pass along any advice when I can. I also do a ton of research when approaching any DIY project. (It’s how I got into the roof cleaning profession to begin with.) These roof cleaning products you will find online and in stores are, for the most part, a waste of good money and they do not rinse off easily at all. You will usually end up having to buy more and wait, wait and wait some more for a roof that eventually looks allllllmost clean.