How to Clean Lead Flashing

Lead Flashing & Alternatives
how to
Lead flashing on large roof

Like any product designed to last, lead flashing does require a certain level of maintenance if its lifespan is to be maximised. Ensuring your lead flashing is clean is by far one of the most effective ways to do this, and the process can be carried out reasonably quickly and efficiently with only a few basic tools and products.

But how is it done? What will you require and how should the process be carried out? Will you have to make any prior preparations, and will maintaining your lead flashing in such a way decrease the risk of damage and wear? This guide aims to answer these questions and more, so let’s jump in.


What is Lead Flashing?

Lead flashing is a type of flashing generally used for weatherproofing various sections, joints, crevices, and more on traditional and modern buildings. It can be found on various parts of a building but is most common on the exterior roof and walls.

Lead is far from the only material utilised when it comes to available flashings – alternatives include aluminium, steel, and zinc, among others. However, the flexibility of lead as a material is what has made it so popular over the years, with very few alternative products allowing for such durability and flexibility in equal measure.

Areas of a home that can benefit from lead flashing include the aforementioned roof and walls as well as the chimney, sills, drip edges, valleys, pipes, channels, and more. On some homes you may find all of these, while on others fewer cases, but the vast majority of homes will feature some form of flashing, and in most situations this flashing will be lead.

Will I Need a Professional to Clean My Lead Flashing?

The answer to this question really depends on a number of factors regarding the nature of your situation. For example, if your lead flashing is high up on a multiple-storey building and you have little-to-no experience working on roofs or at a height, then it is absolutely best to call in an expert.

Some lead flashing – for example, certain types of window flashing – may prove accessible from within your household (IE by opening your window, leaning out safely, and working on the flashing from there). In such situations, cleaning your flashing may prove simple enough that you don’t have to resort to professional assistance.

Safety should always come first – if you plan on performing any maintenance on any part of your roof, ensure you have all the correct safety measures in place including safe access, appropriate protective equipment, safe secure platforming to work from, and the required tools consistently accessible throughout the process. If you feel you cannot meet these requirements, it is best to start looking at calling a professional and at least consulting them on what should be done.

What is Patination Oil?

There is a way to help prevent the need to clean lead flashing anywhere near as much as you would otherwise need to, with some tradespeople believing utilising such a method eliminates the need to clean your lead flashing at all (aside from removing debris).

This product is known as patination oil – it serves as a protective layer or coating on your lead flashing and can be applied either by a professional or yourself. There are multiple versions of it available from different manufacturers.

As certain details of product features may vary between each make, be sure to read the instructions of any product you buy thoroughly before use – if you are unsure of how to apply or are concerned of incorrect application, don’t hesitate to get in touch with an expert.

How Do I Clean Lead Flashing?

Before looking into cleaning lead of any kind, some important safety tips:

  • ALWAYS wear protection cloth such as work gloves and safety boots along with thicker clothes and goggles if possible
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after, even if wearing gloves, especially before doing anything like eating, drinking, or handling household objects
  • Wear a protective mask if sweeping or otherwise handling lead to protect your respiratory system
  • Take extreme care when handling lead physically – it is a lot heavier than it looks! Lifting aids should be utilised if possible
  • If in doubt, consult an expert

Patination oil is the best way to prevent dirt and debris ruining your lead. If your lead has been on your roof for some time, you may still be able to restore it via one of the many lead restoration kits available on the market. These usually include patination oil, which can then be applied to your lead as per the instructions supplied with the kit.

Sometimes you may come a light stain on the surface of newly laid lead flashing. This means that the lead has not been treated with patination oil. If not too severe, they can be treated with mildly acidic substances such as vinegar or lemon juice. Apply to the surface with a nylon brush or fine wire wool. Take care not to damage the lead. Once clean and dry, apply patination oil.

Will Cleaning Lead Flashing Prevent Future Damage?

This is a question that is often asked when it comes to cleaning – after all, what is the point in cleaning something that is barely visible from ground level if there are no practical benefits. There certainly are physical advantages to cleaning lead flashing, but the short answer is that nothing will make your flashing invincible when it comes to general wear.

However, lead flashing has an incredible lifespan in excess of 100 years, meaning that if it is kept in good shape with a routine clean once or twice a year, you won’t have to go through the expensive process of removing, repairing, or replacing your lead for up to century.

However, dirty lead leads to increased wear, not to mention the ingress of potentially harmful dirt, debris, fungi, and more. It is these substances that a clean should aim to remove in particular, whether that involves a quick sweep or a more intensive procedure.

Have More Questions About Lead Flashing?

You will now hopefully have a clearer idea on the different processes that go into the cleaning of lead flashing, including the products and equipment you’ll need as well as the precautions you can take to ensure the process runs safely and smoothly.

Lead flashing is an exceptional product that is sure to prove even more effective when cleaned – we have a wide range of flashings and various products with which to maintain them, including a multitude of cleaning solutions.

If you have any more questions about lead flashing, then do not hesitate to contact us – our incredible team will do their best to help answer any questions you may have about flashings, or indeed many of our many products and supplies. Simply call us on 01295 565565 or talk to us direct using the chatbox below.

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