Plico Team 04/09/2023 12 min read

What is the Best Way to Clean Solar Panels?

The best way to clean solar panels is by enlisting a professional. Natural substances like dirt, salt, and pollen can accumulate on the glass, preventing your solar panels from taking full advantage of the sun. Solar panels may need servicing every few years, and the best way to clean them is to seek professional assistance. But in the case of a little dust and debris, it may be a task you can tackle yourself. Regularly cleaning your solar panels can have a positive effect on their energy output, as well as improving the overall look of your home.

Do solar panels need cleaning?

Solar panels need cleaning just like any other home appliance. Keeping them free of dust and debris maximises their performance and prevents safety hazards. However, you may not need to clean them as often as you think. This depends on where your home is located and the type of material your panels are subjected to.

The position of the solar panels on your roof allows rainfall to dislodge dirt and leaves. However, depending on weather conditions and the degree of tilt, debris may get stuck. This blocks sunlight from reaching your panels and reduces their efficiency over time. In worst-case scenarios, this build-up may cause permanent damage and require replacement solar panels. 

If you live in areas prone to corrosion, such as near a beach or areas with excess dust (where building and construction are taking place, for example), or have birds perching near your panels, regular cleaning will improve performance. If you live in a low rainfall area, then your panels will also benefit from cleaning.

Routinely checking and cleaning your solar panels minimises the risk of grime build-up and long-term damage. Keeping solar panels free from obstructions allows them to take full advantage of the sun and produce more of that clean green energy for your household. 

Although some maintenance tasks are achievable on your own, it is important to call professionals for a thorough and safe cleaning. Getting your solar panels professionally cleaned is recommended once every two years, depending on your house location and environmental conditions.


What causes dirt build-up on solar panels?

One of the main causes of dirty solar panels is dust and pollen from natural rainfall. While rain dislodges larger objects like leaves and twigs, it leaves residue on the panel’s surface when it pools and dries. Over time this buildup can significantly reduce the efficiency of your solar panels. In some cases, it even leads to moss or lichen-forming.

Bird droppings are a surprisingly common cause of poor solar panel performance. If left unaddressed, they end up covering considerable portions of your panels and become harder to clean yourself. If your solar panels are positioned underneath a tree, be mindful that this may attract birds and increase the amount of debris falling onto your panels. 

The position of your roof also affects solar panel cleanliness. The rain will not clear obstructions if a panel is angled incorrectly or positioned flat. This results in muddy residue when it dries. Panels in a flat position generally require more frequent servicing than angled panels. 

If you live in a new development or close to construction activity, your panels may require regular cleaning to remove excess dust. Similarly, if you live in coastal areas, your panels will be subject to sea spray, causing a build-up of salt on your panels.


Two Plico solar technicians on a roof installing solar panels


How do I clean my solar panels?

The first thing you should do before cleaning your solar panels is turn off your system at the inverter, as per the instruction manual, before commencing any cleaning. 

The best time to clean your solar panels is early morning before your panels heat up. Overcast days are preferable since too much sun increases the risk of water evaporating and causing dirt smudges. 

Most dust and debris can be tackled at ground level, which is also the safest option for cleaning solar panels. Point a hose at the panels for a few minutes to wash away any build-up.

Whenever possible, avoid climbing onto your roof. If you feel comfortable and capable enough to clean your panels from your roof, always use proper safety equipment and wear a harness. Some surfaces, such as Colourbond, pose a greater risk of slipping than other surfaces and are best left to the professionals. 

Similarly, if your house is more than one storey and cannot be cleaned from the ground, it is best to enlist a professional solar panel cleaning service. When cleaning from the roof, opt for a long-handled broom with soft bristles if your panels need scrubbing, but avoid using detergents or harsh chemicals on your solar panels. They have the potential to damage the glass or leave unsightly streaks. 

It is important to note that although basic cleaning may be done yourself, a professional must conduct solar panel services, repairs, and maintenance.


Does cleaning solar panels improve performance?

Anything that stops sunlight from reaching your panels affects performance. So when environmental debris accumulates on your solar panels, it negatively impacts your system’s output. 

A properly installed solar system requires very little maintenance, but your solar panels benefit from a quick hose-down during the dry summer months. Not only will it optimise the amount of light that reaches your panels, but it will also look better. 

Regular cleaning also helps to extend the lifespan of your solar panels. Keeping your panels clean and regularly serviced reduces the need for repairs and replacement.


How often do I need to clean my solar panels?

You should have your solar panels serviced professionally once every two years if you live in corrosion-prone areas. This ensures that your system keeps functioning properly. However, if you notice anything blocking your solar panels, like leaves or twigs, you should rectify the issue as soon as possible. Checking the condition of your solar panels is especially important during summer, as the dry weather and lack of rain often result in more debris settling.

Plico offers ongoing support and cloud-based monitoring to all of its members, so we can help assess if your panels’ performance may be impacted by dust and debris. Cleaning is the responsibility of the homeowner. If you have any questions or would like to know more about Plico’s unique offering, our friendly team is always happy to help on 1300 175 426.


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