Cleaning Solar Panels: What Happens When They Get Dirty?

Have you ever wondered what happens when solar panels get dirty? While solar panels are incredibly effective and efficient energy sources, they can become less effective when dirt, dust, bird droppings, leaves, or other debris accumulates on them. This article will provide key information about how to clean solar panels and the potential impacts of not doing so.

1. Why Solar Panels Get Dirty

Cleaning Solar Panels
Chemistry World

Solar panels get dirty for the same reasons anything else gets dirty – dust, soiling from the environment, bird droppings, and pollutants in the air.

Dust in the air can accumulate on the surface of the panels and reduce their efficiency. In dry and sandy areas, the situation can be worse, since wind can carry away the grainy particles like dust, sand, and salt.

The environment adjacent to the panels also plays a part. Working panels in urban areas suffer more from air pollution and dirt caused by vehicles. Soiling can be especially serious when panels are installed close to construction sites or factories.

Birds and animals can affect the performance of solar panels too, even if you’re careful about the environment around them. The droppings that come from birds, for example, can be especially damaging, creating a layer on top of the panel that won’t come off until you clean it.

Finally, weather can also leave its mark on solar panels. Rain and snow can leave streaks and spots on the panels, while hail can even leave deep cracks that render the panels useless.

  • Dust
  • Soiling
  • Bird droppings
  • Pollutants
  • Birds and animals
  • Weather

2. How to Clean Dirty Solar Panels

Cleaning Solar Panels

Cleaning solar panels is an important step in maintaining a healthy solar system, and it requires minimal effort and cost. Follow these easy steps to get your panels running optimally.

  • The most effective way to clean your solar panels is with a long-handled soft bristle brush. Scrub the surface of the panels gently in a side-to-side motion. This will help remove the stubborn dirt buildup.
  • Once the surface is brushed, the next step is to use a garden hose with a nozzle on it to rinse off any residue. Aim the hose in a side-to-side motion across the face of the panel.
  • In cases where there are moderate to heavy accumulations of dirt, bird droppings, or other stubborn residue, you can purchase a commercial high-pressure washer to take care of it in a quick and efficient manner.
  • When using a high-pressure washer, use a nozzle with wide-angled spray and keep the pressure and distance lower than 10 inches away from the panel to be sure you are not damaging the panel.

Note: Avoid using abrasive materials, diluted acids, alkaline cleaners, or any type of solvents. These materials can damage the panels and result in a shorter life.

When cleaning your solar panels, it’s important to do it in a safe manner. Keep away from electrical wiring and take utmost care in not to get electrocuted. Finally, never walk on the panels as this could cause them to break or crack.

3. The Benefits of Regular Cleaning

Cleaning Solar Panels

Regular cleaning of solar panels offers several benefits, ensuring optimal performance and maximizing the return on investment.

Firstly, cleaning solar panels enhances their energy efficiency. Over time, dust, dirt, bird droppings, and other debris accumulate on the surface of solar panels, reducing their ability to absorb sunlight.

By regularly cleaning the panels, these obstructions are removed, allowing more sunlight to reach the solar cells and increasing the energy output.

Secondly, cleaning solar panels improves their longevity. The accumulation of dirt and grime can lead to the formation of hot spots on the panels, which can cause irreversible damage.

Regular cleaning helps prevent the buildup of such spots and extends the lifespan of the solar panels. By maintaining their cleanliness, the panels are more likely to operate efficiently for many years, ensuring a sustainable and cost-effective energy solution.

In addition, cleaning solar panels contributes to overall system reliability. When dirt and debris cover the panels, they can create shading and uneven heating, which can result in an imbalance in the electrical current produced. This can lead to system inefficiencies, decreased energy output, and potential malfunctions.

Regular cleaning helps maintain a consistent temperature distribution and ensures the panels operate at their optimal capacity, minimizing the risk of performance issues.

Lastly, regular cleaning of solar panels contributes to environmental sustainability. Solar energy is a clean and renewable source of power, and by keeping the panels clean and operating efficiently, the overall carbon footprint of the system is reduced.

Clean panels generate more electricity per unit of sunlight, which means less reliance on fossil fuel-based energy sources and a decreased impact on the environment.


Having clean solar panels is an important part of making sure they are working at their maximum efficiency. We hope this article has provided some insight into the what, how, and why of cleaning solar panels. It can be a tedious and time-consuming task, but it is also necessary to ensure that your solar panels are performing to their full capacity.

Related: Should I Power Down My Solar Panels at Night?

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