How to Clean Solar Panels Safely and Easily

Cleaning solar panels regularly is essential to ensure they absorb maximum sunlight and generate the most electricity possible. Dust, dirt, bird droppings, pollen and other debris that collect on the panels can greatly diminish their efficiency. Fortunately, with proper precautions and the right tools, cleaning solar panels is a relatively straightforward task that anyone can do. This guide will walk you through safe and effective methods for keeping your solar panels in optimal condition.

Why It’s Important to Clean Solar Panels

Solar panels work by absorbing sunlight and converting it into usable electricity through photovoltaic cells. Any opaque substance that partly blocks the sun’s rays from reaching the cells will reduce the panel’s energy output. Studies show that solar panels can lose up to 25% of their efficiency if not cleaned regularly.

Cleaning removes:

  • Dust and dirt – Airborne particulates like soil, sand and vehicle exhaust fumes that accumulate over time.
  • Bird droppings – Droppings can be surprisingly tough to remove if left to harden.
  • Pollen and leaves – Plant matter from nearby flora can adhere to panels.
  • Salt – Seaside areas get salt buildup from ocean spray.
  • Hard water spots – Mineral deposits left after rain or morning dew.

If you start noticing your solar system isn’t producing as much energy as usual, inspecting and cleaning the panels is one of the first troubleshooting steps to take.

Safety Precautions When Cleaning Solar Panels

While solar panel maintenance doesn’t require any special skills, there are some important safety guidelines to keep in mind:

Power Down the System

Switch off the solar inverter and disconnect the power source to avoid any chance of electric shock. Try to clean the panels when minimal sunlight is hitting them.

Handle Fragile Panels With Care

Don’t walk directly on solar panels, which can crack underfoot. Lay down plywood sheets first if access is difficult. Avoid dragging hoses across the panels.

Avoid Abrasive Materials

Use only soft cloths, sponges and non-abrasive brushes. Hard scrubbing can scratch the glass surface and damage the panel.

Don’t Use Too Much Water Pressure

While some pressure from a hose can help remove stubborn grime, too much force could crack the glass or dislodge wiring.

Work Safely at Heights

Use caution when cleaning roof-mounted panels and consider hiring a professional solar cleaning service if roof access seems risky.

Check Weather Conditions

Avoid cleaning panels in high winds, heavy rain or stormy weather that could make conditions hazardous.

Recommended Materials and Equipment

Gathering the right cleaning supplies will make the job much easier. Here is the essential gear to have on hand:

  • Soft-bristle push broom – For dry dusting panels before wet cleaning.
  • Microfiber cloths and sponges – For manual scrubbing and waterless washing.
  • Soft bristle brush – To agitate tough, stuck-on grime. Avoid hard bristles.
  • Biodegradable mild detergent – Specifically designed for solar panels.
  • Plastic scraper – Only for stubborn deposits like hardened bird droppings. Take care not to scratch panel surface.
  • Gardening sprayer or hose with adjustable nozzle – For rinsing. Use low pressure.
  • Squeegee – Helps wipe panels dry and prevent water spots.
  • Water source – Tap water is fine for most cleaning purposes. Deionized water can help avoid mineral deposits.
  • Eye protection and work gloves – For safety when working at heights.

Optional extras: camera or drone to inspect solar array before cleaning; ladder and harness for rooftop access.

Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Solar Panels

Follow these steps for best results cleaning solar panels:

1. Pre-Soak the Panels

If the panels are coated with thick grime, dirt and debris, soak them for 10-15 minutes before scrubbing. Spray or sprinkle water lightly across the surface using a garden hose or spray bottle. This softens the gunk and makes removal easier.

2. Remove Loose Particles

Dry dusting is the first cleaning step. Use a soft-bristle broom to gently sweep away any loose dirt, leaves, needles and other debris resting on the panels. Don’t press too hard or scrape the surface.

3. Spot Scrub Problem Areas

Inspect for any remaining trouble spots of dried bird droppings, stuck-on bugs, tar spots, tree sap and other grime. Softly agitate these areas using a microfiber cloth, sponge or brush with a mild detergent solution.

4. Wash Entire Panel Surface

When spot cleaning is finished, softly wash down the rest of the panel. Dip your cleaning cloth, sponge or brush in the detergent solution and gently wipe down the entire glass surface. Rinse periodically.

5. Rinse Thoroughly

Washing away all soap residue is crucial, so rinse panels thoroughly with water. Use a low-pressure setting on the hose. Point the stream along the sides rather than directly on the panels to avoid water damage.

6. Squeegee and Dry

Finish up by using a squeegee to wipe off all remaining moisture. Any droplets left behind will dry in hard-to-remove mineral spots. Allow panels to air dry completely before reconnecting power.

How Often Should Solar Panels Be Cleaned?

Cleaning frequency depends on environmental factors specific to your property:

  • Low-Soil Environments – Clean every 6-12 months.
  • High-Soil Areas – Clean every 3-6 months.
  • Near Farmlands – Clean every 2-3 months.
  • Desserts and Beaches – Clean every 1-2 months.

Check power output regularly for signs it’s time to clean. Schedule seasonal deep cleans before pollen or farming season. Inspect panels after storms also. For optimal solar collection, make panel cleaning a regular maintenance routine.

DIY vs Professional Solar Panel Cleaning

Is it worthwhile getting professional solar panel cleaning services? Here are the pros and cons:

DIY Cleaning Pros:

  • More affordable option
  • You can clean on your own schedule
  • Get to know your solar system better

DIY Cleaning Cons:

  • Risk working at heights on a roof
  • Possible electrical danger if not powered off properly
  • May miss some debris or not clean optimally

Professional Cleaning Pros:

  • Experts at safe roof access and electrical protocols
  • Industrial equipment does a more thorough job
  • Lifetime of panels may be extended

Professional Cleaning Cons:

  • Added expense – $100-$300 typically per home visit
  • Need to schedule service visits in advance

For many homeowners, DIY solar panel cleaning is perfectly adequate. But it’s a smart idea to bring professionals in for periodic deep cleans. Their powerful equipment can optimally restore efficiency.

Solar Panel Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Follow these handy tips for easier DIY solar panel cleaning:

  • Clean early in the day before panels heat up from sun exposure.
  • If water pressure is too high, use your thumb to diffuse stream.
  • Dust panels with a dry mop first so particles don’t scratch during wet washing.
  • For waterless washing, use specific solar panel cleaning concentrates designed not to scratch glass.
  • If cleaning roof panels, work cautiously and have someone spot you from below. Consider hiring insured professionals for roof safety.
  • Wipe in parallel strokes in the same direction as the electrical conduits underneath for best results.
  • Inspect panels after storms and clean off any droppings or debris before it hardens.
  • Using deionized water helps prevent mineral spots, but isn’t critical. Tap water works for most homeowners’ needs.
  • Dislodge stuck-on gunk by letting water or cleaning solutions soak for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing.

Keeping these handy tips in mind will help make solar panel cleaning fast and hassle-free.

Homemade Solar Panel Cleaning Solutions

While specialized solar panel detergents are recommended for best results, it’s possible to mix up effective homemade solutions for a fraction of the cost using common household ingredients:

1 part white vinegar to 1 part water:

The mild acidity in vinegar dissolves calcium and lime deposits effectively. Use for hard water spots.

2-3 tablespoons dish soap per 1 gallon (4L) of water:

A small amount of mild biodegradable soap in water cuts through oily grime nicely.

1/4 cup rubbing alcohol per 1 gallon (4L) of water:

The alcohol helps dissolve sticky tree sap and insect residue.

1/4 cup ammonia per 1 gallon (4L) of water:

Ammonia is useful for removing accumulated surface dirt and stains.

When mixing any cleaning solutions, use the mildest dish soaps and alcohols to avoid damaging solar panel components. Rinse thoroughly after application.

Solar Panel Cleaning Business Opportunities

The growing solar industry provides opportunities for entrepreneurially-minded individuals. Starting a professional solar panel cleaning service can be a rewarding business venture.

Here are some tips if you’re considering this business idea:

  • Get any needed small business licenses and insurance to operate legally and protect yourself from liability.
  • Invest in proper equipment like pole-mounted brush systems, tank fed poles and trailer-mounted pressure washers to work quickly and efficiently.
  • Attend solar training courses if new to the industry. Learn electrical basics and panel cleaning techniques.
  • Promote to homeowners with solar arrays, selling them on the benefits of professional deep cleans.
  • Offer discount packages for multiple panel cleanings per year to secure recurring business.
  • Expand by hiring employees as needed. Train them in safety protocols.
  • Provide panel inspection and troubleshooting services in addition to cleaning for extra revenue streams.

With the solar industry expanding rapidly, the market for professional panel cleaning services is bright. There is ample opportunity for entrepreneurs in this niche.

Solar Panel Cleaning FAQs

Q: Can I just spray solar panels clean with my garden hose?

You can use a garden hose to rinse solar panels after washing, but avoid power washing. The high-pressure water stream can damage panels. Follow the soft cleaning method steps outlined above for best results.

Q: How do I reach roof-mounted solar panels safely?

Use a ladder stabilizer extension for footing. Have someone spot you from below. Consider hiring insured professional solar panel cleaners if roof access seems risky. Safety should be the top concern.

Q: What if scrubbing leaves visible scratches on my solar panels?

Scratches can happen from sand or other abrasive debris getting lodged under cleaning cloths. Try cleaning again using soft sponges, microfiber cloths and gentle brushing with more water. Avoid excessive rubbing pressure. Minimize scratches by keeping panels cleaner more regularly.

Q: Can rainwater take care of cleaning solar panels?

Rain can wash away some surface dust and grime but isn’t sufficient. Fully cleaning all solar array surfaces and carefully drying the panels is needed to maintain energy efficiency.

Q: How can I access panels on a steeply pitched roof?

Set up secure roof anchors and wear a fall arrest harness for safety. Use pole cleaning systems that enable you to reach panels from the ground. Or consider hiring professional solar panel cleaners used to safely navigating steep roofs.


Regular solar panel maintenance through careful cleaning is crucial for optimal solar system performance. While it may seem daunting at first, with proper safety precautions and the right tools, most homeowners can effectively clean their panels on their own. Just take care not to use excess pressure and follow the recommended soft cleaning approach. Keeping panels free of dust, grime and deposits should become part of the regular upkeep on any home solar array. Schedule seasonal deep cleaning sessions where professionals use specialized equipment to restore panels to peak efficiency. With a few basic precautions and regular care, cleaning solar panels is quite straightforward. Keep your photovoltaic panels dust-free and generating abundant clean energy from the sun!