Out, Out Darn Spot Exterior Cleaning and Graffiti Control

In the legendary musical

Anything Goes, the character Reno wants to be taken back to Manhattan or as she calls it "my dear old dirty town." In the last decade, New York has cleaned up its act, but Reno had it right - it's still a dirty city. Millions of cars and trucks and multiple industries pollute the air. Acid rain and every day wear-and-tear beat on building façades, and graffiti vandals mark their territories in all but the most posh zip codes. Keeping the exterior of one's buildings pristine is definitely a challenge.

It's a challenge, however, that shouldn't be ignored. Keeping your building's exterior clean is not just about aesthetics, but it's about creating a positive atmosphere for residents. A clean building is also a more attractive financial investment and more viable in the real estate market; good exterior grooming shows the building is being maintained. Ignoring a lingering patina of grime can also cause damaging pollutants such as sulfur, nitrogen oxides, and other acid rain pollutants to break down and deteriorate the building's surface material.

However, it's a challenge that should be left to the professionals, not the building cleaning staff. Cleaning a building isn't just about using any soap and a power washer. Cleaning professionals are knowledgeable about various building materials including limestone, brownstone, marble, metal and brick, and will thoroughly evaluate your façade to determine what various substances and approaches are needed to clean and protect that material.

Home, Clean Home

"You only hope someone hasn't tried to clean the surface before you get there," says Ed Talmo, president of Enviro-Northeast, an exterior maintenance firm in Highland Lakes, New Jersey. "They mean well, but they don't have the background and the knowledge about the specific type of stone or brick it is, whether the surface has been painted or sealed, and what type of cleaners can be used on it. The worst case scenario is when you go to the job and find acid burns [on the building] because people don't know what they are doing."

A thorough cleaning of an especially dirty building façade should be done every two to five years, unless something particularly nasty is on the surface that needs to be taken care of right away. "Otherwise, ignoring whatever is on the [exterior] can start breaking the surface down and causing problems," says Talmo. "Once a year might be a little excessive, and some buildings can get away without a cleaning for five or 10 years where the pollution isn't that bad."

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