Roof Cleaning Guide

A Guide to roof cleaning products and 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.

Safety..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide#Domestic_uses
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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide#Cleaning_agent

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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide#Dissolving_amphoteric_metals_and_compounds
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.

http://science.jrank.org/pages/6242/Sodium-Hydroxide.html
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?

biodegradable…

Biodegradation or biotic degradation or biotic decomposition is the chemical dissolution of materials by bacteria or other biological means.

http://msds.fmc.com/msds/100000010035-msds_us-e.pdf
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:

Application…

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…

“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.

 

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