Sign Maintenance Australia


How do you clean an exterior sign?

How to Clean an Exterior Sign: A Comprehensive Guide


Exterior signs are crucial for businesses, as they serve as the first impression for potential customers. Over time, these signs can accumulate dirt, grime, and other debris, which can diminish their visibility and impact. Regular cleaning of exterior signs is essential to maintain their appeal and ensure effective communication with customers. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to clean an exterior sign to keep it looking vibrant and professional.

1. Assessing the Sign’s Material

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s crucial to identify the material of your exterior sign. Different materials require specific cleaning methods to avoid damage. Common sign materials include:

1.1. Metal Signs

Metal signs are durable and resistant to weather conditions, making them a popular choice for outdoor signage. To clean a metal sign:

Begin by removing any loose dirt or debris using a soft-bristle brush.
Mix a mild detergent or dish soap with warm water in a bucket.
Dip a soft cloth or sponge into the soapy solution and gently scrub the metal sign, paying extra attention to any stained areas.
Rinse the sign thoroughly with clean water using a hose or a bucket of water.
Dry the sign with a clean, lint-free cloth to prevent water spots or streaks.

How do you clean an exterior sign?
How do you clean an exterior sign?

1.2. Plastic Signs

Plastic signs are lightweight and versatile, making them a popular choice for various business types. Here’s how to clean a plastic sign:

Start by rinsing the sign with water to remove loose dirt and debris.
Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing warm water and mild detergent in a bucket.
Dip a soft sponge or cloth into the soapy solution and gently scrub the plastic sign, focusing on any stubborn stains.
Rinse the sign thoroughly with clean water, ensuring that all the soap residue is removed.
Dry the sign using a clean, soft cloth to prevent water spots.

1.3. Wooden Signs

Wooden signs exude a rustic charm but require delicate cleaning to prevent damage. Follow these steps to clean a wooden sign:

Begin by dusting the sign with a soft brush or cloth to remove loose dirt and cobwebs.
Mix a mild wood cleaner or a few drops of dish soap with warm water.
Dampen a soft cloth in the cleaning solution and gently wipe the wooden sign, following the grain pattern.
Rinse the cloth frequently and avoid excessive moisture on the sign.
Once cleaned, wipe the sign with a dry cloth to remove any residual moisture.

2. Safety Measures

Cleaning exterior signs often involves working at heights or using ladders, which can pose potential risks. To ensure your safety during the cleaning process, follow these safety measures:

2.1. Use Proper Protective Gear

Before starting, wear appropriate protective gear such as gloves, safety goggles, and non-slip shoes. These will protect you from chemicals, debris, and slippery surfaces.

2.2. Secure the Area

Ensure the area around the sign is clear of obstacles and notify others nearby of your cleaning activities. Use safety cones or signs to indicate a work zone, especially if you’re working in a high-traffic area.

2.3. Use Ladders Safely

If you need to use a ladder, make sure it is stable and positioned on a level surface. Always maintain three points of contact when climbing up or down, and never lean or reach too far from the ladder. If the sign is located at a considerable height, it’s advisable to hire a professional with proper equipment and experience to ensure safety.

3. Cleaning Techniques

Cleaning an exterior sign involves different techniques based on the level of dirt and the type of surface. Here are some effective cleaning methods:

clean an exterior sign

3.1. Pressure Washing

Pressure washing is an efficient method for removing stubborn algae from signs with sturdy materials such as metal or plastic. Follow these steps to use a pressure washer:

Begin by assessing the pressure washer’s power and adjust it to a medium setting. High pressure can damage the sign’s surface.
Position the pressure washer nozzle at a distance of approximately 2 feet from the sign.
Start spraying the sign with a sweeping motion, working from top to bottom and side to side.
Pay close attention to areas with heavy dirt buildup or stains, and adjust the nozzle distance if necessary.
After thoroughly cleaning the sign, rinse it with clean water using the pressure washer.
Allow the sign to dry completely before inspecting for any missed spots or streaks.

3.2. Hand Cleaning

For delicate materials like wood or signs with intricate details, hand cleaning is the safest and most effective method. Follow these steps for hand cleaning:

Prepare a mild cleaning solution by mixing warm water and a few drops of dish soap or a gentle cleaner.
Dip a soft cloth or sponge into the cleaning solution and wring out any excess moisture.
Gently scrub the sign, focusing on areas with visible dirt or stains. Use a soft-bristle brush for hard-to-reach crevices.
Rinse the cloth or sponge frequently and continue cleaning until the entire sign is dirt-free.
Rinse the sign thoroughly with clean water, ensuring all the soap residue is removed.
Dry the sign with a clean, lint-free cloth to prevent water spots or streaks.

4. Additional Tips

To ensure optimal cleaning results and preserve the longevity of your exterior sign, consider the following tips:

4.1. Avoid Harsh Chemicals

When selecting cleaning products, opt for mild, non-abrasive solutions that are safe for the sign’s material. Harsh chemicals can cause discoloration or damage to the surface.

4.2. Test in a Small Area

Before applying any cleaning solution or technique to the entire sign, test it in a small, inconspicuous area. This will help you determine its effectiveness without risking damage to the entire sign.

4.3. Regular Maintenance

Implement a regular maintenance schedule for your exterior sign to prevent excessive dirt buildup. Regularly inspect and clean the sign to maintain its appearance and visibility.

4.4. Seek Professional Help

If you’re unsure about the appropriate cleaning method for your sign or if it requires specialized care, consider consulting a professional sign cleaning service. They have the expertise and equipment to handle different sign materials and ensure thorough cleaning without causing any damage.


Cleaning your exterior sign is crucial to maintain its visibility, professionalism, and overall impact on potential customers. By following the appropriate cleaning techniques based on the sign’s material, taking necessary safety precautions, and implementing regular maintenance, you can keep your sign looking vibrant and welcoming for years to come. Remember to always prioritize safety and seek professional assistance when needed. With proper care, your exterior sign will continue to serve as an effective marketing tool for your business.

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