Solar Lights and Pressure Washers: Not a Good Mix

I found out the hard way:  pressure washers and solar lights don’t play nicely together.

We hired painters to paint our house and they came a day early to prep because they had an opening in the schedule. We and our solar lights were not prepared.

I came home to find all of our lights (solar and non-solar) covered with hardened strips of latex paint; dryer and bathroom vents and air conditioners were covered as well.

While I wasn’t surprised about the lights mounted directly on the house were covered with paint, I was stunned that solar lights chairs, grills and bird baths over 20 feet away from the house were covered with scraps of old paint strips, grass and dirt.  I also panicked at first because the paint had dried solid because it was a very dry and hot day.

Luckily, only one spot light was broken and that was because instead of securely attaching it to a deck post, I had hung it from a couple of nails where a plaque had been.  Not a wise move, it turns out; I found it in the yard over 20 feet away from the house, bent and filled with water and definitely beyond repair.

The good news is that all the other solar fixtures and electrical lights are all as good as new.  But it made me think that it wouldn’t hurt to give pointers to others facing this situation, particularly:

  • Preventing Damage to Solar Panels and All Lighting
  • How to Clean these Fixtures without Damage Should They get Soiled

Preventing Damage

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is true for solar lights in particular. Since solar security lights are easy to install, whenever possible, remove any solar panels that are remotely connected to solar spot or flood lights. If this can’t be done, make sure that the solar panels and lights are securely attached to the wall.

Next, cover all remote solar panels and all lighting fixtures with plastic bags and secure them with duct tape.  This will prevent the paint and dirt from spraying on to the fixtures.

While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to cover other things such as air conditioners or dryer or soffit vents.  Even if they are not in the direct path of the pressure washer, the splash back of the pressurized water is very strong and as noted above, reaches distances further than you might think.

Cleaning Paint from Solar Panels and Lighting Fixtures

While oil paint is unlikely to be come soft enough to re-dry onto other fixtures, latex paint will.  It’s actually an easy, though time consuming fix.   First, use a soft brush to loosen and brush off the paint that you can.

No matter how much you are tempted, do not use any object to scrape the paint.  Similarly, don’t use any harsh cleaners or paint solvents as these will damage the solar panel and any plastic parts of the lights.

While solar panels are generally study, a utility knife or razor blade will undoubtedly scratch them at the minimum or do permanent damage at worst.

Instead, take wet paper towels or rags and lay them over the area where the paint as dried. After a few minutes, you will be able to easily peel of most of the paint. For paint in corners or in any grooves, just use a soft toothbrush to brush it away.

(On an less pleasant note, the above method also works to remove “bird droppings” from solar panels and any type of lighting fixture.  Disgusting yes, but a necessary task for many locations.)

The same method can be used on plastic or glass panes of lighting fixtures.  While a razor blade can be used on glass panels, anything sharp is likely to permanently scratch plastic panes.

Within a couple of hours after my original horror at the state of the lights, all fixtures and solar panels were as good as new, except for the one that was not securely attached and was knocked several feet away.

Still, next time I plan on asking for a firm date when workers will come and cover the fixtures and solar panels as outlined above.  It will take far less time then cleaning.  In addition, we were lucky that no hard objects such as rocks hit any of the glass fixtures.

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