Allison Hester has been writing for the exterior cleaning industry for over 20 years, and her publication, eClean Magazine, has quickly become the online resource for professional exterior contract cleaners.
We recently checked in with her to learn more about her magazine and how homeowners can clean their homes more thoroughly. Here’s what she had to say:
Tell us about eClean Magazine. Who should be reading it? What will they find?
eClean Magazine is a publication designed for the professional exterior contract cleaner (i.e., pressure washing, window cleaning, gutter cleaning, roof cleaning/soft washing, etc.). While knowing how to properly clean is important, so is knowing how to properly run a successful business, which is why eClean Magazine provides a mixture of both technical and business related articles.
What are the most-neglected areas of the home when it comes to cleaning?
When people think of cleaning their home, they primarily think of the interior. But keeping the exterior clean is also important.
Pressure washing and window cleaning not only make the house look better, they help protect the home from germs and bacteria and mold/mildew. Roofs and gutters especially need cleaning to prevent damage to the home. Also, oil and other spills in the driveway can cause slips and falls.
Wood decks and fences can add huge amounts of value to a home, but they must be properly cleaned AND sealed with a professional-grade sealer to protect against the sun and other weathering effects.
What are the risks of not giving these spaces/places TLC?
Not cleaning gutters can cause major problems like flooding; stained walls/siding/floors; rotting doors and other wood elements; cracking walls and foundations; warping or bowing floors; plus it can lead to mosquito and pest infestations; frozen gutters (i.e., “ice dams); and damage caused from heavy gutters ripping off of the home.
Those ugly black streaks on roofs are are actually caused by bacteria that are eating away at shingles, destroying the roof in the process and potentially increasing electric bills in the summer.
Decks and other wood surfaces will decay if not properly protected. Plus, cleaning and sealing wood makes a huge aesthetic difference and adds value to the property.
What are the biggest mistakes homeowners make when cleaning?
Homeowners will often attempt to clean their homes, decks, driveways, patios and roofs themselves using a pressure washer. The problem is that in untrained hands, a pressure washer can do more damage than good. Homeowners tend to focus on maximizing the pressure, which can cause damage to surfaces. Water can shoot up behind siding and cause the siding to warp. Too high of pressure or improper procedures can cause damage to wood surfaces and concrete. And high pressure can destroy roof shingles.
The other concern for homeowners is the danger of working from a ladder. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 90,000 people receive emergency room treatment every year due to ladder injuries. Homeowners are risking injury or death when they choose to clean gutters, windows, etc., from ladders.
What cleaning tasks should homeowners consider enlisting the help of a professional?
There’s the potential for damage any time a pressure washer is used in untrained hands. Beyond that, though, there’s also the risk of falling any time a ladder is used. I recommend hiring a professional for all these tasks.
What should homeowners look for when hiring a professional? What types of training/certification should they be on the look out for?
I would start by making sure the contractor is insured. They should not only have liability insurance, but care, custody and control coverage.
As for training and certification, those are generally not required by the industries I serve. There are trade associations that offer some certifications, but there are no uniform industry standards for gaining certification. Hiring a certified pressure washing contractor indicates that they have training and/or experience, but there a lot of good contractors who have not been certified. Likewise, there are various trade associations, and if a contractor is a member of such a group, they have likely gained some sort of education through these groups. But this isn’t always the case, and again, there are a number of quality contractors out there who are not members of any organizations.
When selecting a contractor, I would say look at their website, look at their uniforms, look at their trucks and equipment. Do they appear to be professionals, or do they look like they bought a pressure washer and threw it in the back of the truck in order to earn a few extra bucks? Ask them about their cleaning processes and see if they seem educated in what they are doing.
Again, are they insured? That will also help you know how serious they are about their business.
What should a good home maintenance schedule look like? What areas of the home should homeowners be addressing regularly?
Gutters should ideally be cleaned twice a year, usually in the Spring and the Fall. As for the rest of the home’s exterior, it’s going to vary from location to location, but generally falls into the once a year or once every other year. Window cleaning is going to vary by client, climate and personal preference.