Roof Cleaning Guide

A Guide to roof cleaning products and contractors

Gutter Cleaning or Gutter Restoring?

Written By: Neal - Jul• 09•11

“No thanks, Just clean my roof”

A lot of homeowners confuse gutter cleaning and gutter restoring. They’ve decided to get their roof cleaned because of the ugly black stains ruining the look of their otherwise beautiful home but decline a gutter cleaning. This would be like cleaning your car but not the wheels and tires. I think it’s a problem in terminology. To most people, gutter cleaning is removing the leaves and sticks from the inside of the gutters. To the roof cleaning contractor, it is an additional service but an important option.

If the roof stains bother you to the point you’ve researched and are considering a roof cleaning then I encourage you to consider a gutter cleaning…..I mean, a gutter face restoring. Those unsightly roof stains are dominating the visual. It’s a trick of the eye and the mind. I assure you, after the roof looks brand new from a cleaning, the dark stripped stains on the gutters will stand out as the new eyesore…taking the place of the roof as the dominate visual.

You are buying curb appeal…

So, you are probably wondering why this is not included in the roof cleaning price? The answer is because not all roof cleaners offer the gutter restoring. It adds between 15% and 25% to the job costs ($75-$120) depending on the home size and design. By including it in the price, it confuses the bidding process in favor of the low bidder.  Another reason is that the roof cleaning detergent will not clean the gutters. Your gutters are made of a different material requiring a totally different cleaning process.

This process requires a soft brush and a special cleaner that will break the bond between the oxidized paint and the dirt. If you don’t clean both the oxidation and dirt at the same time, you will not be able to clean the gutters.

The largest cost in a roof cleaning (or house wash) is mobilization/demobilization ( the travel, set up, load up and return travel). Nearly half the labor and materials goes into this. You would likely pay double for the gutter restoring if you decided later that they in fact did ruin the look of your home with it’s newly cleaned roof….all because of the trip charge.

I highly recommend getting the gutter face cleaning or restoring if your roof cleaning contractor offers this service.

Let’s let the images speak for themselves…..

Pictures Provided by Over The Top Roof Cleaning

Aluminum Gutter Restoring
Gutter stains cleaned

Gutter before cleaning
Gutter after cleaning

Quick Estimates For Roof Cleaning

Written By: Neal - Jul• 05•11

Many people ask how it’s possible to provide an estimate for a roof cleaning in 5-10 minutes and without actually driving to the property to inspect the roof stains. Some customers have even dropped a roof cleaning contractor from consideration because they were not going to estimate their roof cleaning in person. Still, others are impressed with the technology.

First, let me address “free estimates”. Are estimates really free? For a very popular contractor, they might need two full time estimators in a vehicle, with gas and insurance expenses to cover all the requests for quotes. The costs for this, when you combine the labor and auto expenses would be in excess of $80,000 per year. Estimating is basically a function of sales and sales is an operating cost of doing business. It is not free, it is part of a businesses overhead. Just like the roof cleaning insurance, equipment maintenance and administrative functions, it is buried in the roof cleaning invoices. In other words, you pay not just for your estimate but for as many as 3 or more homeowners (depending on closing rate) that do not accept the roof cleaning price and purchase the service. So much for Free.

In time, repeating the same tasks again and again, a person becomes proficient at both the physical task of cleaning a roof and the ability to estimate time and material to do the job. With a  few questions, an image of the home and an address, a professional roof cleaner can easily estimate the job.

Here is an example image…It’s actually half sized!

What more information would a person need to bid the roof cleaning of these roofs?

We can see the roof size, the street access, the height…

In the hands of an experienced roof cleaning estimator, everything they need to price this job is in this image or can be answered by the homeowner. How dark your black streaks are is not really a function of the estimate. The labor is the same and the material cost between a mild vs strong application is a few dollars but even still, this would be a question the homeowner would be asked.

Without the overhead cost of sales/estimators, a contractor that uses this type of technology to provide you with a roof cleaning estimate is really the only true “free estimate”.

There are trades that cannot estimate without a site visit. Because of the nature of an “aerial view”, it’s accessibility on the internet via a desktop computer or mobile device and the fact that the work being estimated is so easily seen, roof cleaning companies can and do take advantage of this and pass that savings through to the homeowners.

For more information about Roof Cleaning, visit Roof Cleaning Contractors



Roof Cleaner Review

Written By: Neal - Jul• 04•11

I’m not going to mention the name of this product only because I don’t want to increase their “link juice” and increase their page ranking. If you want to, google “roof cleaner EZ pouches” and you’ll find their name and website.

First, let’s look at the marketing gimmick…

“Roof Cleaner: Biodegradable , NO chlorine bleach, No Solvents, No Phenols

They tell you what it doesn’t have in it. That’s great but wouldn’t it be easier to tell you what it does have in it? I mean, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have uranium or sulfuric acid and they didn’t list those. A bowl of cheerios doesn’t have chlorine bleach,  Solvents or Phenols and it’s biodegradable but I doubt it would make a very good roof cleaner.  So why this tactic? because it’s a targeted marketing gimmick.

Okay, we know what isn’t in their “pouches” so what is in them? Per the company, the main ingredient is Sodium Hydroxide.

Per the CEO:

Okay, it’s Sodium Hydroxide based. So what is Sodium Hydroxide and is it safe, biodegradable? Every product is safe if handled properly so for this article we’ll focus on safe as far as it applies to your roof.

A solution of sodium hydroxide in water was traditionally used as the most common paint stripper on wooden objects. Its use has become less common, because it can damage the wood surface, raising the grain and staining the colour.

A common use of sodium hydroxide is in the production of parts washer detergents. Parts washer detergents based on sodium hydroxide are some of the most aggressive parts washer cleaning chemicals.
Dissolving amphoteric metals and compounds
Strong bases attack aluminium. Sodium hydroxide reacts with aluminium and water to release hydrogen gas. The aluminium takes the oxygen atom from sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which in turn takes the oxygen atom from the water, and releases the two hydrogen atoms. In this reaction, sodium hydroxide acts as an agent to make the solution alkaline, which aluminium can dissolve in. This reaction can be useful in etching, removing anodizing, or converting a polished surface to a satin-like finish, but without further passivation such as anodizing or alodining the surface may become degraded, either under normal use or in severe atmospheric conditions.
Two of the more common household products containing sodium hydroxide are drain cleaners and oven cleaners. When most pipes are clogged it is with a combination of fats and grease.

So, Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH, also known as lye and caustic soda) can damage wood, is the most aggressive parts cleaner chemical, will dissolve oils and can dissolve aluminum. What are your gutters made of? What is asphalt shingles made of?


Biodegradation or biotic degradation or biotic decomposition is the chemical dissolution of materials by bacteria or other biological means.
CHEMICAL FATE INFORMATION: The pH effect of sodium hydroxide in water is naturally reduced by the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This reduction is also effected by dilution with water and by the natural acidity of a given water body. There is no degradation of sodium hydroxide in waters, only loss by absorption or through chemical neutralization.

Sodium Hydroxide does not actually “bio-degrade”. It is diluted by water volume (PPM) or neutralized by chemical reaction.

So, we now know that the claims of this product are focused on misdirection (what it doesn’t have in it), a false claim of being biodegradable and a lack of transparency of the dangers it poses to your shingles. All of this for the purpose of marketing. Like I jokingly mentioned earlier, it doesn’t contain any dangerous uranium either. The subtle marketing ploy of listing scary sounding ingredients it “doesn’t” contain is suggestive and subliminal. My roof cleaning solution doesn’t contain uranium either….nor does any that I’m aware of but by listing it one might assume there are products that do. This is nothing but a cheap advertising trick, don’t be duped.

On to:


So you’ve bought the “EZ pouches”, now, how to apply and clean your roof. You’ll need a pump-up sprayer because neither their hose applicator or a pressure washer are capable of injecting (drawing the chemical into the water stream) a solution strong enough to clean. This means multiple trips up a ladder and walking on your roof (range of pump-up sprayers are limited). They claim 1 gallon per 187 sq ft and 8 gallons for 1500 sq ft. I’ve cleaned hundreds of roofs and for even a small ranch we typically would use 2-3 times that volume. This is little more than a misting. However, having never used their cleaner, and knowing how they actually clean (more on that next), I’ll assume a misting is all that’s needed.

Pro Bundle of 4 EZ pouches and pump-up = $100


“Rinsing the roof cleaner from the gutter or ground will be more challenging to get enough ummpph to knock loose the residue.
** Note: A garden hose may not have enough pressure to rinse older roofs, or stains that have been in place for several years. In these cases we recommend using a pressure washer as described below”

Knock loose the residue? A pressure washer? Yep! The common ingredient in all gimmick cleaners and generally buried in the fine print and footnotes. I could spray milk , koolaid or plain old water on your roof and clean it with a pressure washer. After all the scare tactics of containing no dangerous chemicals, the manufacturer is now suggesting that your roof cleaning, using his miracle cleaner needs a shingle destroying pressure wash.

Notice the sharp square lines. This is not the results of a sprayed on cleaner. This is the footprint of a pressure washer.

In conclusion, let me suggest an alternative if you are dead set on using a warranty voiding Sodium Hydroxide (with no harmful uranium) to clean your roof. You can buy Sodium Hydroxide from home soap making suppliers for less than $2 per pound. Add some dawn detergent and you’ve made  $80 worth of gimmick roof cleaner for just 8 bucks. toss in a $29 pump up sprayer, a $700 pressure washer, a half day walking your roof and you are about twice the price of hiring an insured Professional roof cleaner that follows the ARMA guidelines for cleaning the algae discoloration of roofs.

(ARMA is a trade association representing the majority of North America’s asphalt roofing manufacturing companies, plus their raw material suppliers. The association includes almost 95 percent of the nation’s manufacturers of bituminous-based roofing products.)

Never pressure wash asphalt shingles. If the gimmick product suggests using a pressure washer, you are being duped.


Choosing a Roof Cleaning Contractor

Written By: Neal - Jul• 03•11

So you’ve finally got tired of seeing the black roof stains grow and grow and grow on your roof. You’ve done your research and learned it’s not jet fuel or pollution and that you don’t need a new roof. You’ve also learned that the expensive DIY roof cleaning products don’t work by researching on the internet.

Congratulations!  You are in a select group of homeowners that have avoided the costly learning curve of removing the black roof stains from your home. The number one problem in this relatively new industry is education. Many roofing contractors and product sales company’s are taking advantage of uneducated homeowners, costing them hundreds of dollars in useless or sometimes damaging chemicals or in extreme cases, thousands of dollars in unneeded roof replacements.

You’ve come a long way and avoided the gimmick products and the unscrupulous roofer preying on the uninformed. You are out of the woods, into the light and your wallet is safe…right?


There are several pitfalls yet to avoid in order to get those ugly black roof stains cleaned from your home. There are three types of roof cleaning contractors you should avoid. There are company’s that will (believe it or not) actually pressure wash your roof with equipment that would rip up your wooden deck. Just imagine what it does to your shingles. There are also company’s that have signed on with the useless or damaging gimmick cleaners that use the smoke and mirrors of “Low Pressure” to pacify your concerns of damage. Knowing that their gimmick cleaning chemical doesn’t work, they claim and maybe even demonstrate their fancy water broom or special surface cleaner. They might even show you how low their pressure is. Here’s the catch, no amount of water pressure stronger than your water hose is safe and when they are up on your roof, they will use whatever pressure they need to get finished and get to the next scheduled job. Your roof is a secondary concern to their schedule. Most importantly, both of these two groups of contractors would void your roof warranty. The last type is the part timer who might or might not be doing the cleaning properly but has no insurance, no website and should their be an issue or problem, they can disappear as fast as they appeared on the roof cleaning scene.

Here are a few tips when you have decided to solicit bids on getting your roof cleaned.

  • Look for an established roof cleaning company. Google “roof cleaning (your city)” The search engines will generally locate the most popular companies at the top of the page.
  • Visit their website. An established roof cleaning company will have it’s own domain and not some 5 minute directory listing.
  • Call and ask them questions. Do they use pressure washers to clean the roof? Will the roof be clean when they are finished “that day”. Ask them to explain their process.
  • Are they insured?

Not all roof cleaning contractors need to visit your home to provide you with an estimate. Some of the more experienced and established companies can provide you with an estimate using mobile devices to view your home while discussing it with you over the phone. If the contractor does require a visit to provide the estimate, take that opportunity to view his equipment. Most professional contractors will be in a truck or pulling a fully equipped trailer with company logo’s.

As for the costs of a roof cleaning,  while most contractors won’t offer a flat rate due to the unique issues that vary from home to home,  most homes fall into a range of $325 to $700 depending on the size. If you own a average sized home (According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home size in the United States was 2,700 square feet in 2009) and you have received a price exceeding $1000 you probably need to get additional bids.

To find a roof cleaning pro, visit Roof Cleaning Contractors