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Cleaning Solar Panels: Grease Cleaners (Degreasers) or Not?

Solar panels are an investment, and they need to work as efficiently as possible in order to save energy and money.

An important factor that can reduce the efficiency of solar panels is dust and dirt buildup on the panels. You need to make sure to clean them regularly, but you should use the right tools.

If you have just dust buildup on the panels, then you can just use a wet microfiber cloth to clean the panels. However, if you have grease buildup from dust and dirt mixed together then you may need to look for a better solution.

You probably know a lot of people cleaning their panels with water and soap although it is still not a 100% recommended practice by the panel manufacturers. Therefore it always makes sense what your solar panels are actually recommended to clean them in order to avoid unnecessary damage and void your warranty.

But, the question that has brought you to this page is whether you can use grease cleaners to clean solar panels.

Here is what you need to know in short:

Grease cleaners are solvents intended to dissolve grease and oil. Although grease is sometimes found in the dust buildup on solar panels, grease cleaners shouldn’t be used to clean solar panels. Because grease cleaners are too aggressive and can dissolve the coating found on solar panels, corrode components, and cause fires among other things you want to avoid.

What is a typical degreaser made of?

Degreasers are not one type of product but can have very different ingredients, depending on the job they are intended to do. They can have alcohol-based solvents, petroleum-based solvents, ammonia cleaners, detergents, and surfactants.

Degreasers also change in the chemical composition according to the functional area they are intended to be used. There are degreasers to clean kitchen appliances, car engines, garage flooring, oven cleaners, tile cleaners, and so on.

While there are so many different types of degreasers, grease cleaners are usually not recommended for solar panel cleaning because they can make more harm than good.

How do degreasers affect solar panels?

The most important thing for solar panel owners should remember is that the coating on their panels can be dissolved by degreasers. Almost all solar panels have a thin film coating on the surface of the panel to protect them from harsh outdoor environments and UV exposure.

The coating found on panels is usually made of acrylic polymers, which are organic chemicals that can be broken down by solvents like degreasers.

This means applying a degreaser you are not only cleaning the dirt and dust buildup on your solar panels but also taking away their ability to soak up sunlight.

However, there are other reasons why not to use degreasers to clean solar panels:

Causes corrosion

Applying a degreaser with a random composition of chemicals on your solar panels can cause corrosion of the panels. These chemicals can react with the components of your system, causing them to corrode and malfunction.

Can causes cracks on glass surfaces

Another reason why degreasers shouldn’t be used is that they can cause the surface of your panels’ glass to crack due to uneven expansion rates between the different components.

Although this is not common, the stress caused by these chemicals can cause the glass to crack and break over time.

Will void your warranty

Using degreasers to clean your solar panels is almost a guaranteed way to void your warranty. Most manufacturers don’t even recommend cleaning their products with light soap and water let alone these highly aggressive chemicals that can damage your panels.

Can cause fire hazards

Using degreasers on solar panels can cause fire hazards because most degreasers are highly flammable and can cause fires when they come into contact with heat or an electrical short.

What if there is oil or grease on the solar panels?

Usually, the most challenging type of dirt to clean found on solar panels is bird droppings which is an organic matter. You don’t need to use a degreaser to clean them.

However, let’s assume for a moment that you have another type of dirt, a more stubborn one like actual oil from a car engine or grease from cooking. Although these items cannot easily find their way onto solar panels, let’s say it does happen.

You have accidentally poured the lubricant you use to maintain skylight windows onto your solar panels during a bad storm. Or you have uninstalled your solar panels for a roof repair and the wall you have leaned them towards has grease on the ground.

Now, should you still stick to using just water and sponge or can you use grease cleaners?

You should never apply grease cleaners no matter what type of dirt has built up on panels or how difficult it is to remove it. If you cannot remove it after using a sponge with soap and water, then you should contact your manufacturer to see what they recommend.

Conclusion

Most types of dirt or grease are found on solar panels can be cleaned without using degreasers. If there is a stubborn stain on the panels you cannot remove you should contact your manufacturer first and ask what they recommend to clean it. They will generally recommend a viable option that doesn’t include using degreasers.

If you are still unsure or your manufacturer cannot provide an answer, then use soap and water with a sponge and rinse it off with water. Applying this method enough times can get rid of the toughest stains without affecting the panels’ ability to soak up sunlight.