First Aid for the Ailing House

Handle Aluminum Gutter Cleaner With Care

Q: I enjoy your articles. A past article included a "recipe" for cleaning aluminum gutters. I've used it before but have misplaced it. I believe it included TSP and possibly another detergent. Could you forward the copy? Thank you. -- Via email

A: You can make a solution consisting of 1 cup TSP-PF, 1 quart fresh Clorox bleach and 3 quarts of hot water, making up one gallon, and apply it with a soft bristle brush or a clean, white rag. Be aware that TSP-PF and bleach are harmful to vegetation, so you should soak it first, cover it with plastic and rinse the plastic, and soak the plantings again when all dripping has stopped.

Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner has also worked well, but there is a question as to its use on aluminum. There are reports that it can dull the finish, so try it in an inconspicuous area first, such as the end caps.

You can either wet a paper towel with the cleaning solution and wipe the gutter, or use a spray bottle and thoroughly wet the areas to be treated. Let stand for a few seconds and rub the stains with a soft brush or clean cloth. Rinse well.

There are commercial gutter cleaning solutions; one such can be purchased at, or by calling 888-376-6871.

Another one is Gutter Brite Black Streak Remover, which you can buy at, or by calling 800-346-7882.

Others have reported that Jomax, available at Home Depot, works well, and so do oven cleaners.

Q: In researching Wet & Forget, I see that its active ingredient is alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride. Will this have any negative effect such as staining or bleaching the roof shingles? I have gutters, but if it reaches the ground, will it have any bad effects on plants or pets? I realize that the product is fairly diluted (9.9 percent).

Parts of my roof have moss that is fairly built up -- about 1/4-inch. Will this product be up to killing that off? Thanks again. -- via email

A: Wet & Forget claims to be environmentally safe to all surfaces and vegetation. It also claims that it uses no harsh chemicals, and that it is non-caustic and non-acidic, with a neutral pH close to that of water. It also claims to kill all moss, lichen and algae.

It seems as if it should be safe to use on your roof shingles.

Just be sure to follow directions on the container; it's always the safest way to use any product, but so often ignored.

Q: During the summer of 2011, we had a deck and two sets of stairs installed on the back of our house. We used AZEK decking materials to replace our old wooden deck and stairs. We are very disappointed in the AZEK decking, in part because of the fading that has taken place. The color we had chosen was "Brownstone," and at this point in time, it has faded and has lost much of its original color. We are extremely disappointed in this product, not to mention the thousands of dollars we have spent thinking that this would be a great addition to our home and would help with future maintenance issues.

I am wondering if you would have any suggestions and/or solutions to help us out. We enjoy reading your column and the useful suggestions you have for your readers. -- Leominster, Massachusetts, via email

A: There are several lawsuits against the manufacturer of AZEK decking, alleging fading, discoloring, cracking and chalking.

Customers from a number of states, including someone from Massachusetts, have filed suit over these issues, and these lawsuits have been concentrated in New Jersey by the courts for efficiency since the first suit filed was in that state.

You may want to consult with your lawyer on how you can join the class-action suit against CPG, the parent company.

A TOOL EVERY HANDYPERSON SHOULD HAVE: All auto repair shops and garages have compressed air impact wrenches to use on the lugs of auto tires and any other bolts that need loosening.

Now such a tool is available to construction workers, tradespeople and homeowners.

I have just tried Porter Cable's new corded, 7.5 Amp 1/2-inch Impact Wrench to loosen up the bolt on our lawn mower blade to sharpen it.

The bolt was so tight that it was very difficult to loosen it manually, and it was also very awkward to do so because of the angle. I don't want to turn the mower upside down because of the gas and oil in it, so I usually just tilt it slightly, which makes it difficult to use a manual ratchet wrench.

The Porter Cable impact wrench worked like magic! And I am also sure that the blade is very securely tightened.

The Porter Cable impact wrench feels very solid in the hand and has a price tag of $119.

It is a very welcome addition to my workshop.

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