It may seem harmless and unassuming, but lichen can cause permanent damage to outdoor surfaces when left unaddressed for a period of time. Lichen growth could speed up wear and tear on wherever it is growing, which could pose a danger for properties, particularly for roofs, as the gradual damage may increase the risk of collapse.
What is lichen?
A fungus and a photosynthesising plant living together make up lichen. Like mosses, lichens thrive in damp environments. There is a wide range of colours a lichen can have and this mostly includes white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown, black and grey. Usually, lichen can be one of three different types, which are foliose, fruticose and crustose. Foliose lichens have distinct top and bottom sides, and could be flat, leafy or ridged. Lichens that look like tiny shrubs with round or flat branches are fruticose lichens. Meanwhile, ones that are in patches that form a crust on a surface are called crustose lichens.
Getting rid of lichen
Brushing and scraping them off with coarse tools are common methods of lichen removal. Although these ways require a great amount of time and effort, it is nearly impossible to fully remove lichen through this, especially if you are working on large areas such as roofs. Using such methods might also accidentally damage the protective layer of the surface from which you are removing the lichen.
A relatively easy way to remove lichen is to use vinegar. To do this, you must first clear the area of any organic debris that accommodates the growth of lichen, such as leaves and twigs. Scrape away the lichen patches using a stiff brush. Afterwards, fill a bucket with distilled white vinegar, the acetic acid strength of which should be no more than 5%, and then add 30 ml of washing-up liquid before pouring the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture onto the area and wait for a couple of days. After which, you will have to use the brush once more to remove the dead lichen. You may require lichen mark removal services for a more thorough lichen removal.
Another household solution for removing lichen requires the usage of chlorine bleach. It is an inexpensive solution, but it could corrode the surface you are cleaning, lighten the colour of the area, kill landscape plants and ruin fabrics. The bleach may also burn the skin, so be advised of this method’s hazards.
You may inhibit the growth of lichen by installing metal strips such as galvanised steel, copper and zinc which can be purchased from DIY stores and garden centres. If your area is surrounded by trees, you may also consider trimming overhanging branches for direct sunlight to dry out the moisture in the lichen.
The best way to prevent the growth of lichen on your property is, of course, regular cleaning. Clearing debris from lichen-prone surfaces and having them routinely pressure washed can be great prevention measures.
We may find lichen undesirable due to the damage it can cause the surfaces on which it grows. Despite this, do not forget that lichen, just like any organism,benefits us and the environment — we just want to keep them off our property.