So, you just bought solar panels, and now you’re wondering how to take care of them. Luckily, solar panels are pretty low-maintenance, but that doesn’t mean you can skip out on cleaning them. After all, dirt and grime will reduce their efficiency and keep you from getting the most bang for your buck. 

Let’s take a look at how to clean solar panels, whether it’s worth the effort to do so, and how solar panels get dirty in the first place. 

dirty solar panel

How Solar Panels Get Dirty

When you consider the fact that solar panels are outside, it seems obvious that they’d get dirty. They’re subject to frequent weather changes, bird droppings, debris buildup, and dirt. It really doesn’t matter what kind of climate you’re in, there’s always an environmental factor that can leave its mark on your panels (temporarily, at least). 

For desert dwellers, the biggest culprit is dirt and dust. Whether you’re driving around in your RV or your solar panels are stationary, chances are, you’ll need to clean them frequently to keep them working properly.

If you’re in a more humid climate, you’ll have to deal with things like fallen leaves, bird droppings, pollen, and more. It’s easy to underestimate what nature can do to our equipment!

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Can You Clean Solar Panels?

Absolutely! Cleaning solar panels doesn’t need to be a big deal, but there are a few important factors to keep in mind–learning how to clean your solar panels, what equipment you need, and the safety measures you should take will set you up for success. 

You might also consider hiring a professional under certain circumstances. Most notably, if you can’t safely reach your panels, you’ll want to call a pro. Ultimately, the most important element to consider is safety before you decide to climb onto your house, RV, or boat roof with a bucket of soap and water. 

Does Cleaning Solar Panels Make a Difference?

This is probably the number one question asked when it comes to cleaning solar panels: Does it really make that much of a difference? Surprisingly, it does. 

In fact, one homeowner found that her solar panels’ energy production was lagging even though she lived in a climate that experienced significant rainfall. After cleaning her panels, she noticed a 20% spike in energy production! This shows how important cleaning your panels is, regardless of where you live. 

Solar panels work by capturing the sun’s energy. If those rays are deflected by dirt, they’ll never reach your system. While this may seem minor day-to-day, over the lifetime of the panels the energy loss can be significant.

squeegee solar panels clean

How Often Should You Clean Solar Panels?

A good rule of thumb is to clean your panels about every six months. This prevents pollen, dirt, and grime from getting “baked on” during sunny days, which can leave a film that’s hard to scrub off. Nevertheless, if you live in a dry, dusty climate or you’re traveling with them on your RV or boat, you might want to clean them more often. 

For instance, if you happen to drive down a particularly dusty dirt road, consider hosing them down once you get to your destination, regardless of when your last cleaning was. This will keep your solar panels operating at maximum efficiency.  

→ Related Article: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

What Should You Use to Clean Solar Panels?

With all this talk about how important it is to clean your solar panels, you’re probably wondering what materials you’ll need. 

The first (and most obvious) is water. Admittedly, sometimes all you’ll need is water. If you’ve recently fully cleaned your solar panels and you just want to remove dirt and dust, simply hose them off. 

Nevertheless, your regular cleanings should involve water, a mild biodegradable soap, a soft cloth or sponge, and a squeegee. Once you have these materials, you’re ready to start cleaning.

How to Clean Solar Panels

Below we discuss how to clean solar panels step by step. So grab your soap and your hose, and keep scrolling! 

Step 1: Turn Off Your Solar System

The first and most vital step you should take is to turn off your solar system. This is important not only for your safety but also for your system’s health. There should be a shut-off switch between the panels and the batteries, depending on your system. 

Step 2: Make Sure Panels Are Cool

This is crucial because when solar panels are hot, moisture will evaporate almost immediately when applied, potentially leaving a film of soap and grime. Not to mention, you could burn yourself! 

To avoid this, plan to wash your panels in the early morning or late in the day. 

sparying solar panels with hose

Step 3: Hose-Off Dust and Dirt

Now that you’re ready to start the cleaning process, hose off the dust and dirt. This will prevent unintentional scratches from occurring when you begin to wipe them down. It also helps you see spots that might need a little more attention. 

Step 4: Clean Panels with Soft Cloth or Sponge

Next, wet your cloth or sponge (microfiber cloths are ideal). Then, apply the mild soap and gently remove the dirt and debris from your panels. Thoroughly rinse them until all the soap is gone. For added measure, use your squeegee, which will show you whether or not your panels are truly clean. (Plus, it’s super satisfying!) 

Safety Tips for Cleaning Solar Panels

While cleaning your solar panels is a relatively simple job, you must take certain safety precautions to avoid a potential disaster. First and foremost, never clean your solar panels in inclement weather, and if you find yourself caught in the wind or rain while you’re up there, come down immediately. 

Next, collect the proper safety gear. This includes a helmet, non-slip boots, and even a harness. Even if it seems like overkill, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Lastly, never wash your solar panels alone. Have someone on the ground to give you a hand and to be available if you need help.

man using sponge to clean rv roof

Is Cleaning Solar Panels Worth the Effort?

Homeowners and professionals have consistently found that cleaning your solar panels regularly keeps them working at maximum efficiency. So, yes, it’s absolutely worth the effort. After all, you’ve invested in this amazing way to harvest energy from the sun, why not get the most out of it?

This is why you must know how to clean your solar panels properly, how often to do it, and how to do it safely. All you’ll need is a few low-cost items and a little time, and your panels should be maintenance-free for another six months or so.

Now we want to hear from you! Do you find it’s worth it to clean your solar panels regularly? Let us know in the comments below.  

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