What's the best way to clean my horse's stall walls? They have quite the crusty mix of slobber, grain, bran mash, and sometimes poop.
Cleaning stall walls is a chore that most of us despise, but find very satisfying at the same time. Here's a plan on how to make it work.
First we should discuss how most barn are made - and that is in some sort of modular fashion. Typically, the stalls are composed of large panels, measuring about 4 feet wide and framed in heavy duty metal. These are assembled into the stall, fitting into a metal track over a concrete footer at the floor. Very often, the concrete and metal footer is covered with mats and shavings. The actual panels are either wood slats, stained and sealed, or composite wood covered in thin metal panels and possible even painted. Usually, these panels are left their original silver color.
You will also find cinder block barns, with either raw or painted blocks. You can also find wood barns, brick barns, and many barns that use a variety of building materials. This may impact how you choose to clean and what you clean with.
Could use a touch up!
This is why I love to clean stall walls if they are made of composite covered by sheet metal - spray, scrub, wipe or hose. For the most part, the bran mash goo and water bucket drips and grain smears are easy to remove from these stalls. The caked on poop and urine is easy, too, we just don’t like to do it.
Before you begin, please move the horse out of his stall, and maybe even his neighbors, too. Do this on a well ventilated day, or kick on the fans if you have them. Remove water buckets, and automatic waters too if you can. You may want to cover the automatic waterers and use this as a chance to really clean them also. Rake and sweep the bedding into the middle of the stall or strip it all together, and have a wheel barrow handy, as you often find the edges are where lots of wayward poops like to hide. Grab a step ladder if you are not as tall as Shaq, and sweep the tops of the stalls and fan and rafters for spider webs and dust before you begin with crust removal. Removing the dust saves you changing the cleaning solution as often, and it makes your stall safer in general.
I suggest finding a safe, non-toxic cleaner that you like or make one from vinegar. Commercial cleaner are OK, too, you just need to be extra careful about getting all of the residue gone. You also have fumes to worry about. A note about bleach: Chlorine bleach mixes with ammonia from urine to create very poisonous gas. You should definitely skip the bleach.
Get the dust away first, then get to town.
It’s super easy to put some cleaner in a spray bottle and apply it that way, or you can use a bucket and sponge, although I don’t always want to put my hand in there…. Whatever method you choose, simply apply some of the cleaner and let it sit for a minute or two. While that’s soaking in, you can grab a scrub brush or a double sided sponge and give a quick swirl around to loosen the crusty crud on the walls. Many home improvement centers have long handles you can attach to cleaning brushes to get the hard to reach spots, or you can work from a step stool. One genius tip from a super wise reader - use a powered screw gun and attach a cleaning brush attachment. No work needed, let the screw gun do the scrubbing.
Once you have soaked and scraped the crud, either wipe with a cloth (you will need a lot), or rinse with the hose. Before you put the shavings back, you will need to let everything dry. If you find a ton of rust, you can use a metal brush to clean the area and immediately paint over with a rust preventing paint. (Again, another chance to go to the hardware store.)
Why do they poop on the wall? WHY??
For stall with wooden walls, you will definitely be doing a bit more elbow greasing. Some wooden walls are bare, some are finished with oils, and some are finshed with a polyurethane finish. Either way, your elbow grease and a good stiff brush or scrubby sponge is your best friend. You can likely use the same vinegar based or natural or even commercial cleaner here, but you may want to do a test patch first.
Be warned that if you have a finished wood stall wall, and you want to touch up the finish, you should contact the barn manufacturer or a licensed contractor. Very often, the finishes used are combustible, and have been known to cause fires. Linseed oil is a prime example. Cleaning the surface is fine, it's the touch up you need to be careful about.
Your horse's stall may also be made out of cinder block - painted or bare. Pressure washers are super here. Just be wary of washing away the paint. That's the trick with pressure washers - they are amazingly powerful.
Pressure washers are also a good idea - IF you want to deal with the gigantic puddle of water that is left behind. (Which may be OK, but typically I try and avoid making puddles, especially inside.) I may do the inside of the stalls “by hand”, and save the pressure wash for the exterior, where I can sweep the puddles into the courtyard.
Ideally, this job should be done on an "as needed" basis depending on how messy your horse is. At any rate, it's super critical to keep the dust and cobwebs away to improve air quality and keep any electrical stuff protected.
How do you like to clean stall walls?