Nine cleaning and maintenance hacks for corrugated steel

One of the major drawcards for corrugated steel, especially when used for roofing, is how easy to maintain it is. Insects don’t eat it, water doesn’t rust it, hail will seldom dent it, and it’s difficult
for damp to get a foothold. That doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no maintenance involved. Just as there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s no such thing as a building material that you
can put up and completely forget about. But there are ways to cut down the already-minimal amount of effort needed to clean and care for your corrugated steel products. In this blog, we
look at nine ways to work smart, not hard.

1. Schedule care in advance

Pop it in your calendar, or stick a note on the fridge. This may not seem like a hack, but it is: in these days of long weeks and busy weekends, it’s easy to forget to do things that aren’t part of your routine.
To-do lists are a good way of making sure you get around to occasional tasks. You don’t need to wash your corrugated steel sheeting often, but it’s important that you don’t forget to clean it entirely.
Keeping it clean will prolong the (already considerable) lifespan of your corrugated steel roof, and just getting up there at regular intervals to check that everything is okay will save you the hassle because if there is an issue, you’ll spot it early.
Depending on various factors, you should probably look at your corrugated steel roofs, awnings or cladding about twice a year. Schedule extra checks if there have been severe events such as hailstorms, veld fires or high winds.
Check at the beginning of the rainy season, and again at the end of winter. If you have overhanging trees, a large bird or fruit bat population, or high levels of air pollution, you may need to check more often.
But be sensible: if it’s raining, very hot, or very windy, postpone cleaning the roof or walls.

2. Safety first: do it with help, and don’t rush

Obvious? Not really. In the USA, 97 percent of people who fall off a ladder badly enough to need hospital treatment fall at home or on farms. Dehydration and heatstroke are also major
risks to people working outdoors in South Africa, especially in summer. It is important to only do what you are physically capable of, and take breaks.
Many people end up doing large DIY tasks solo, which is usually fine, but when it comes to roofs or anything involving ladders, this simply isn’t safe. If you’re working on a roof, you’ll be getting up high onto a potentially slippery surface,
so you might want someone nearby that can help if you do lose your footing and fall off. If you’re working on walls, you will be using a ladder and water, which can be a risky combination in their own right. Also, many hands make lighter work.
Hire someone if you don’t have a family member, neighbor, or friend who’s prepared to help.

3. Keep those gutters clean

A small, cheap job done frequently can prevent a big, expensive job later. Keeping gutters free of leaves, twigs, and so on will prevent the weight of debris and trapped water from bending the gutter or the panels to
which it is attached, and will also prevent mold and mildew from developing. A recently-cleaned gutter will take less time to clear when you get around to your scheduled roof-cleaning day.

4. Wear flat, clean, rubber-soled, closed shoes

Heavy work-boots with hard soles are bad for metal roofs, as they can scratch or dent the surface. Slip-slops and sandals are a bad idea because they don’t provide much grip or foot
support. Both of those factors are important when you’re cleaning roofs, which are sloped or going up and down ladders, which can be slippery. Closed shoes are a must.
Professional roofers use specialized boots with soft rubber soles, but you can also use tennis shoes, sneakers, or something similar. Hiking boots and trail runners will also work well,
especially if you don’t need to get onto the roof and just concentrate on walls. Regardless, be sure to clean the soles before getting up on the roof, because stones, mud and grit can damage
the finish of your roof, particularly if you’re using a coloured, coated product such as Chromadek. They can also make you lose your footing.

5. Soap, vinegar, water

Corrugated iron sheeting should never, ever be cleaned with anything corrosive or abrasive— these will damage the galvanized and/or colour coating on the sheets and allow rust, thereby
decreasing the lifespan of your corrugated metal product. Luckily, white spirit vinegar, dish soap and water are really all you need in terms of chemicals, and the equipment is equally simple:
kitchen or car sponges, a nylon brush or broom, and a hosepipe or buckets. Obviously, hosepipes are easier to use than buckets. A mild soap solution can be used to wash most dust and grime off corrugated steel products.
Be sparing with the soap: too much will make conditions very slippery. Dirt that sticks can be soaked for a few minutes, then scrubbed gently with a nylon brush or nylon kitchen scrubby. To
get rid of mildew, lichen, moss or mold growing on a corrugated metal surface, as might occur in high-humidity parts of the country or near the coast, use a solution of vinegar and water with
a dash of soap added. Apply this mix to the mildew, mold or moss, let it sit, and scrub it off with a sponge, brush or cloth.

6. Save money by not using a high-pressure hose

Chances are you don’t own a powerwasher/ high-pressure hose, so you’ll have to rent one. If you don’t know how to use a high-pressure hose, you might inadvertently damage
the corrugated steel sheeting or the roof’s flashing. However, you probably don’t need a high-pressure hose unless your roof is very dirty, or has stubborn dirt that a normal clean
hasn’t managed to get rid of. In most cases, especially if your roof is cleaned regularly and doesn’t have a build-up of dirt, a normal hose-pipe with a jet or sprayer attachment is fine.

7. Rinse thoroughly, without killing your plants

Be sure to get all the soap and cleaning products off your roof before calling the job done. Not only will soap/detergent residue leave visible streaks on your corrugated steel roof, it may also
cause the product’s finish to corrode, increasing the possibility of rust developing. A final, thorough rinse is essential for not only the lifespan of your metal roof but also the things on the
ground below it. Although you’ll be using only dish soap and vinegar on your roof, your garden plants cannot tolerate high concentrations of dirt, surfactants, and chemicals contained in those cleaning
products. The final rinse of clean water running off the roof will also rinse chemicals off your plants. If puddles form on the ground, use a yard broom to move them into drains or gutters. (It’s
also not good for pets to drink dirty, soapy water.)

8. Walls: clean what you can reach first
If the roof of your structure was properly installed, the upper reaches of your walls probably won’t be very dirty—but the lower reaches are a different story. Mud splashes, dust, impact
marks, and various other dents and dings are more common lower down. Get to the hard work first, while you’re still fresh. First, use a broom to sweep debris like spiderwebs and dried mud from the entire wall (being
careful not to scratch the finish of the corrugated steel) and then start washing, standing on the ground. Once you’ve cleaned everything you can reach, move onto the ladder. If there’s anything lower down that didn’t
come off at first, runoff from the upper reaches will soften it up, and you can go back to it. Be sure to rinse thoroughly from the top down when you’re done.

9. Roofs: go from top to bottom

Cleaning a corrugated steel roof from the ridge to the eaves is the safest and most efficient method. Runoff from the upper reaches of the roof will soften dirt on the as-yet-unwashed lower
reaches. First, clear a path from the eaves to the ridge very carefully, clearing it of debris and dust with a broom. Be very careful: this is when you are most likely to fall. Go slow. This is to ensure that
you have somewhere to walk. Wait for it to dry, then climb up to the ridge. Wash the roof systematically—think about your pattern before starting. Keep track of where it’s safe to walk.
Do it in sections, waiting for each to dry before starting the next. Do a final rinse to make sure all the soap and debris is off the roof before wrapping up. But above all: be sensible.
If you have a very dirty roof, there’s been an unforeseen event that has caused the roof to become unusually dirty, or you are not physically fit, it’s better to get a professional roof cleaning team in.

Feel free to contact us for more info or quotation: marketing@jcproofing.co.za / 010 040 8324

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