Allen Norwood

Spring cleaning the roof can be a snap

This time it wasn’t an anonymous reader who contacted with the inevitable springtime question, but long-time friend Bob Williams. And it wasn’t an email, but a text: “What was that roof-shingle cleaner you once wrote abt?”

Once!? Man, at least a dozen times over the years.

Anyway, it was Shingle Shield that roof cleaning pros recommended. Shingle manufacturers list it among the products they approve, too. Learn more, and order it online, at

It’s a concentrate with no bleach. Wet the roof, spray with cleaner solution, let it soak, then rinse off.

Shingle makers also suggest Safer’s Moss and Algae Killer. And they recommend a do-it-yourself formula you can try, which does include chlorine bleach: One part bleach, three parts water and a small amount of trisodium phosphate.

And as I told Bob: You be careful up there!

Here are some other spring cleaning formulas (formulae?) readers have tested and recommended over the years:

▪  For windows, add one cup of sudsy ammonia and one cup of white vinegar, along with two tablespoons of alcohol, to a bucket of warm water. Fill another bucket with clean water. Wash window with solution, rinse with clean water. Squeegee, drying squeegee after each pass. Wipe window dry with clean cotton rag.

▪ Window maker Jeld-Wen has offered these solutions for cleaner: One teaspoon of baby shampoo to one gallon of water, or 1 1/2 cups of vinegar to one gallon of water.

▪ Avoid newspaper, which stains white vinyl. If you need to lubricate a track in a vinyl window frame, the folks at Pella say, use pure silicone spray instead of WD-40.

▪ For tough glass grime, including showers, try CRL Sparkle Cleaner & Stain Remover or CRL Sprayway Glass Cleaner.

▪ To wash the siding and deck at our house, I use a product called Jomax house cleaner. (Bob remembered that one.)

It’s made by Rust-Oleum, and widely available. It’s a concentrate that’s mixed with bleach and water. Wet down a manageable area, spray with solution, let soak, and rinse off with strong spray from hose.

Jomax also makes concentrates specifically for decks and roofs, which I haven’t tried. Anybody had an experience with either? How did they work?

How about those roof cleaning products that you spray on and leave, allowing rain to rinse over time?

▪ Many homeowners like to avoid chlorine bleach, and choose cleaners with oxygen bleach. Thompson’s makes an Oxyclean Deck Cleaner that gets pretty good reviews. The oxygen products and solutions aren’t quite as tough on mildew as chlorine, but are easier on deck boards and other surfaces.

Whatever you choose, wet down shrubs and plants before you spray cleaner nearby, and rinse thoroughly afterward.

It’s always a good idea to visit the online sites of the manufacturers who made your shingles, windows or other home components. You’ll likely find tips for cleaning and other maintenance – and could find that the wrong techniques will void your warranties. Lots of manufacturers recommend against power washers, for instance. You don’t want to void the warranty on, say, your expensive composite deck.

Finally, there’s this: When I wrote about roof cleaning two years ago, architect David Segmiller emailed to say that you don’t need to do it. Modern shingles have mold and mildew resistance built in. When the protective copper granules no longer work, the shingles are nearing the end of their useful life. He was pretty convincing.

I offer that, if you need an excuse to stay off the roof.

Allen Norwood: