Soft Washing vs Pressure Washing – What’s Better?
Soft washing vs using a pressure washer for cleaning your home. Which is better is a question that is often asked. Which should you do? Should you even do it yourself? Or should you hire a local power washing contractor to perform the clean on your house? Does the best method depend on what’s being washed, or are there other more important considerations?
Before we can decide whether soft washing or high pressure washing your house is a better method, first we need to understand how each one works and what each entail when the water hits your house.
- What is Pressure Washing?
- What Are the Benefits Pressure Washing?
- The Downsides of Using a Pressure Washer
- The Downsides of High Pressure Washing Your Roof
- Why Does the Asphalt Break Down Under High Pressure?
- The Downside of High Pressure Washing Your Vinyl Siding
- The Soft Wash Method for Safe Washing and What is Soft Washing?
- How Does Soft Washing Work?
- Benefits of Soft Washing Your Vinyl Siding or Roof
- Are There Any Downsides to Soft Washing?
- Ending the soft wash vs. high pressure washing debate
- Should I Pressure Wash or Soft Wash my roof?
- Should I Pressure Wash or Soft Wash my Vinyl Siding?
- Will Soft Washing Save You Money?
- Should I Pressure Wash or Soft Wash Concrete and Stone?
- What Soft Wash Equipment Do I Need to Clean My House?
- Soft Wash Equipment Recommendations
- What do Power Washing Nozzles do and Choosing Nozzles for Soft Washing?
- Which Detergents and Soaps Should Be Used to Soft Wash A House?
- Negatives of Soft Washing Yourself and the Benefits of Hiring Someone
- Negatives of Pressure Washing Yourself and the Benefits of Hiring Someone
What Is Pressure Washing?
What pops into your mind when you think of pressure washing also known as power washing and jet washing?
There’s a very good chance you are thinking of a tool which can generally be defined as a lance and nozzle connected to a hosepipe, powered by a motor and pump, that sprays high powered water jets at a (generally dirty) target, through this series of hoses. These hoses are connected to the lance that’s controlled by the operator.
What Are the Benefits of Pressure Washing?
Washing with a pressure washer is beneficial especially when there is a thick layer of dirt and grime build-up on the surface that needs removal. A popular use for a pressure washer is in the removal of graffiti.
Even if the graffiti paint has seeped into the concrete and sat there for several years, using a pressure washer to clean it away is possible because of the science behind how a pressure washer works. The name of the scientific method behind a pressure washer is Kinetic Energy.
Kinetic energy is what makes pressure washers highly effective.
Kinetic energy, as you may remember from your school years, is simply described as energy in motion, and that motion is exactly what’s happening to the water that is being forced out of a pressure washing machine onto its dirty target. Think of each tiny water droplet as a tiny hammer and chisel, hitting the surface of the dirty target. The pressurised water forces away whatever’s on the surface of the dirty target, generally resulting in a “just like new” finish.
The Downsides to Using a Pressure Washer
The claim to fame of pressure washer can also be its downfall because unfortunately, this cleaning method isn’t always going to be sunshine and rainbows. This is because the exact science (Kinetic Energy) behind what makes a pressure washer responsible for the effective cleaning of its targets, can also be the same reason you end up with untold damages to your dirty target. This happens most when pressure washers are used on the incorrect surface or if the correct pressure settings aren’t used properly on the machine.
Water spraying out of the wand at such high pressures knows no bounds, so if you’re not careful or not paying attention, then you can start to deteriorate the integrity of even the toughest surfaces. This is why pressure washers have many extensive warning labels.
This big downside to pressure washers is one of the many reasons most homeowners may be scared to rent one to clean their home, and therefore instead they opt for a professional pressure washing contractor to help them clean their home. Can it really be that bad, though? In a word, yes.
A quick internet search and you will find countless graphic images of roofs ruined by pressure washers. You will also find pictures of wooden decking that has been significantly damaged by the pressure being set too high on a machine.
Knowing this, it’s easy to guess that it’s not good for your roof. Take a look at some of the roofs of houses in your area, in particular the older houses. You’ll find lots of examples of poorly kept roofs. These examples might include moss growth and black streaking, this is more common in some parts of the country than others, because of the repeating cycle of precipitation, humidity, freezing, thawing, heat again, then back to cold. Needless to say, this doesn’t work well for the deterioration of asphalt shingles.
So how do you prevent or control it without breaking the bank?
Instead of buying a new roof, many homeowners who are concerned about the appearance of the roof or the integrity of the shingles will opt to pressure wash the algae or black streaking off their roof because they’ve heard it works.
Truth be told. Sure, it does work, but it’s a dangerous proposition for the integrity of your roof. Why does asphalt break down under high pressure?
Modern roofing shingles are composed of layers upon layers of tiny asphalt granules. Little bits of asphalt are forced together sometimes using a light adhesive, and a roofing shingle is born.
However, anyone who has ever had the pleasure of cleaning their gutters can agree, this asphalt can break apart quite easily. This is even before hitting it with a pressure washer.
When you use high pressurised water from a power washing machine on your roof, you’ll succeed in eliminating the moss, algae, and other growths for sure. You’re also likely to lose lots of asphalt granules from your shingles along with it. This is why when you power wash your roof, the same problems often come back, sometimes only a year later. To make matters worse, the lost granules aren’t replaced by anything. So structurally, the roof is now not as strong as it was once before. All because power washing best practices weren’t followed.
The Downside of High Pressure Washing Your Vinyl Siding
Using a pressure washer on vinyl siding is not advised by industry experts for several reasons. The main reason being that if too high of a pressure setting is selected on the machine, especially when coupled with an older vinyl siding, then all the pressure can start to break down the vinyl.
A quick and easy test to check whether your vinyl siding is starting to break down is to rub your hand over it. Has it left the palm of your hand chalky? Did any residue from the vinyl end up coating your hand? If so, that’s called oxidation.
This oxidation or chalkiness is a sign your siding is starting to deteriorate. In most cases, it would be recommended against using a pressure washer on the siding, but in this case, it would be strongly advised against it.
But what can you now use to clean the dirt, algae and grime off your home? Now would be a great opportunity to share the soft wash method.
The Soft Wash Method for Safe Washing and What is Soft Washing?
As we have discussed above, the benefits of washing anything with a pressure washing method are clear. It does work, though it does have its limitations. However, sometimes it works just that little bit too well. So what should you, the discerning homeowner, do?
Just how is it possible to wash your home if a high pressure, pressure washing method has the potential to damage it? The answer, for many scenarios, is the soft washing method.
So, what is soft washing?
Soft washing is a popular washing best practice used to clean delicate surfaces that would ordinarily be damaged by using a higher pressure washing method. Pressure coming out of the hose is generally under approximately 500 PSI, depending on the type of washer you are using, meaning you wouldn’t even have to worry about sticking your hand in front of the stream. Soft washing is becoming much more popular to use to clean asphalt roofing shingles, vinyl siding, and other surfaces. It can be used to clean anything with grime caked on the surface.
How Does Soft Washing Work?
The soft washing method uses detergents and solutions to break down any built-up dirt and grime on the surface. Instead of forcing highly pressurised water at the surface of the dirty target (as is the case with using a pressure washer), the detergents and solutions settle on to the surface and slowly begin to eat away at the grime. This makes soft washing a much safer alternative, especially for residential homeowners.
The first step to the soft wash method is to spray a mixture of cleaning solutions and or detergents onto the surface that you are about to clean. Top Tip: Don’t be too afraid to let the solution sneak into all the nooks and crannies of the dirty object because it will help to break down all the dirt in there too.
Let the solution sit on the surface for 15-20 minutes, depending on the level of grime that has built up on there. This is also called the dwell time. Exactly how long does depend on how dirty the surface is. If there is more dirt, algae, grease or grime that needs to be removed, then allow the solution to sit for much longer. As the solution sits there, it is slowly breaking down the dirt particles.
Third (and Final) Step
After you have allowed the solution to sit for at least 15-20 minutes, grab your wand and use a stream of very low pressurised water to wash away the solution. Not only will the solution wash away, but the dirt will fly off with it too. For any bits that are caked on a little heavier, you can use a soft brush to lightly scrub to help to lift the grime.
Benefits of Soft Washing Your Vinyl Sidings or Roof
The main benefit of the soft washing process is just how delicate it can be on your home while having maximum results. Unlike high-pressure washing, you really won’t need to worry about chipping away at the paint or shooting asphalt off your roofing shingles, because there just won’t be enough water pressure to do that.
Avoiding significant damage to your property is, of course, a huge benefit to soft washing, but it’s not the only positive.
Soft washing has scientific benefits that go above and beyond just cleaning your sidings or roof. When detergents and/or solutions are sprayed onto the surface in the first step (mentioned above), they start to break down the mildew and algae. This we already know. It’s also worth considering what else is being removed behind the scenes, bacteria.
As the grime is removed off your house, along with it goes lots of bacteria. This makes soft washing far more beneficial on top of just boosting your home’s appearance. Your home’s ecosystem becomes healthier because of it.
Right now, you may be thinking, doesn’t using a pressure washing method also remove the algae, mould or mildew from a dirty surface? Surely the bacteria would go with it too?
Then yes, you’d be correct. Using high pressure, a pressure washing machine does remove the mould, mildew and other grime from the surface, but high pressure alone isn’t enough to remove the spores that cause these growths in the first place. Using high pressure will result in a surface that isn’t as clean, plus the need to wash it again in as little as only a year. Soft washing sounds great, right? Surely there’s a catch?
Are There Any Downsides to Soft Washing?
There are some downsides to soft washing that exist, but fortunately, they’re quite minimal in comparison to the downsides of using the high pressure washing method to wash your home or roof.
Soft washing is a lot more complex than using simple high pressure methods. Although it’s not the most complex home improvement project that you could attempt to pull off, soft washing is much more complicated than just pointing and spraying a high-pressure hose at a dirty surface to clean it. However, because of this, it’s important to do your homework especially before you try to tackle soft washing as a DIY home improvement project.
One of the major downsides you need to consider is that the chemicals used when soft washing can damage plants. Some power washing contractors have noted that using a soft washing method isn’t advised for a home with lots of plant life. Especially if this plant life is lining the home’s exterior. However, this can be a bone of contention amongst many power washing contractors. Many experienced pros have come forward to debunk the dangers of power washing solutions ruining plant life.
Should I Pressure Wash or Soft Wash my Roof?
Because of the high likelihood of shingle damage that can be caused by using high pressure directly on asphalt, it would be better and safer for you to use the soft wash method for roof cleaning in place of any higher pressure method. This is because you certainly don’t want to watch pieces of asphalt flying straight off your roof. If this happens, this means you’re also watching the integrity of your shingles become compromised at the same time.
Roofing shingles can be delicate enough, so while cleaning them is important, it’s unnecessary to run the risk of further damaging one of your home’s most important assets (your roof) with a pressure washer.
Should I Pressure Wash or Soft Wash My Sidings?
In a very similar way to the reasons stated in the recommendation for using soft washing over pressure washing in roof cleaning, it should be recommended that you use the soft washing method to clean your home’s sidings for the same reasons. On top of helping to prevent the risk of damage to them, it’s going to be more effective and ultimately better for the environment.
Will Soft Washing Save You Money? – Soft washing vs pressure washing
Since soft washing can fully break down bacterial particles that help mould and mildew cling to your surfaces, the fresh-looking appearance will stay for much longer.
If your home stays cleaner for longer, you’ll have to wash it less and if it needs less washing, that also means less money out of your own pockets. This is money you can then spend to have a professional power washing contractor clean your fencing or to clean your driveway. Or maybe you can use that extra cash to spend on any other home improvement project you’ve been meaning to get started with.
Should I Pressure Wash or Soft Wash Concrete and Stone?
Now here is somewhere that it would be recommended to use a high powered pressure washer for cleaning. This is because surfaces like concrete or stone walkways, and driveways, are resilient. Therefore, it’s probably best to use a high-pressure washer if you don’t have access to a surface cleaner. Surfaces like walls can be the perfect opportunity to use a high-pressure method.
What Soft Wash Equipment Do I Need to Clean My House?
Due to the differences in washing techniques, it makes it necessary for you to have different equipment for soft washing than what would be used for more traditional pressure washing techniques. This is because of the wide variety of power washing equipment options; we’ll focus on just a few key items that are undoubtedly needed for performing soft wash services.
It also should be noted that complex purchases like power washing setups and equipment should only be made after you have done your due diligence. To do this, you should read through reviews from multiple trusted resources to make sure you are getting the equipment suitable for the job you wish to complete. The recommendations below should be used simply as a guide for your soft wash setup purchases.
Power washing setups can get confusing when you’re new to looking at this market. The machines can appear complex, not to mention all the smaller parts that are needed to guarantee the whole setup works together. Piecing one part from one manufacturer with another part from a different manufacturer leaves lots of room for error and potential room for breakages and longer-term damage so is not recommended.
Because of this confusion that is felt by most newcomers to this industry, many power washing stores offer soft washing kits available for purchase online. The idea of these kits is meant to be a one-stop-shop for everything that you’ll need to get you started with your soft washing project.
By buying everything as a package deal, there’s a good chance that you’ll save money when compared to buying separate individual parts. You’ve also got the added bonus of saving yourself time and headaches that come with piecing together soft washing equipment when you’re not experienced with the equipment.
If you already have a machine that can be used for soft washing and you only need the other soft-wash friendly equipment such as hoses and nozzles, then you can probably get by with one of the lower-priced kits that don’t include any expensive plant or machinery.
For people with these needs, many shops or online stores offer ‘pump’ kits that come with a pump, plus all the parts and supplies needed to make your machine soft wash friendly.
Perform a quick internet search if you’re looking to purchase one of these kits. There will be a handful of different options available and each option should take what you already own into consideration, meaning some kits come with pumps while others do not.
When searching for soft washing machines, you’ll find that many of them come with titanium hose reels. Also take note, that many of these machines are described as roof cleaning machines. This can be quite confusing when you first research the industry, so it’s worth mentioning here.
These roof cleaning machines are the same machines used to soft wash just about anything. They’re soft washing machines for all intents and purposes, however just marketed as roof cleaning machines because cleaning roofs just happens to be the most common use of these.
What do Power Washing Nozzles do and Choosing Nozzles for Soft Washing?
Making sure that you are using the correct nozzle is critical for any power washing job. This is because it allows you to adjust the water pressure that is leaving the wand. Without the aid of any nozzle at all, the water would simply run from the hose. Imagine your garden hose when it has no nozzle or tip attached. That’s exactly what would happen with your pressure washer.
With a garden hose, when you place your thumb over part of the opening, the water will shoot out faster and further. The same idea holds true for the nozzles that you need to connect to the end of your power washing hoses, so as you can imagine, they’re very important when it comes to soft washing your roof, and any other delicate cleaning tasks. You want to be able to adjust your pressure whilst you are working on the task.
Which Detergents and Soaps Should Be Used to Soft Wash A House?
One of the main benefits of soft washing vs high pressure washing is that you can more easily break down the moulds, mildew, dirt, and grease. Doing this is possible because soft washing uses some form of chemical-based solutions where high-pressure washers generally do not.
Soft wash detergents help by breaking down the dirt on a molecular-level. This is what leaves your surface cleaner for much longer than if you used any traditional high-pressure washing method. There are very many brands that exist, each with different strength grades.
It’s worth taking the time to consider the job that you are doing, and then researching which type of detergent, soap or degreaser would be better suited to that individual task. The last thing you would want to happen, after taking so many other precautions, would be to use the incorrect detergent that then causes damage to the surfaces or structure of what you have been cleaning.
Negatives of Soft Washing Yourself and the Benefits of Hiring Someone
An obvious starting point here would be the cost of the initial purchase of any, or all of the tools, chemical solutions, PPE, Plant or other equipment that you may need to hire to allow you to complete the project effectively. You should also consider whether this would be needed again for future treatments of soft washing.
Of course, quite a substantial amount of this can be reused such as Helmets or a Full-Body safety harnesses that may be used for the high to reach place for example. You should bear in mind that in some cases, you may also need to go to the added expense of hiring out scaffolding to ensure your safety.
Then you need to consider that there is a good chance that your regular hose doesn’t carry a strong enough water pressure to access those hard to reach places. This now means you need to factor in an additional expense of hiring a water pump to assist you to carry out an effective soft washing treatment yourself.
Another expense would be the chemical solutions are going to need to be replaced after each time the soft washing treatment has been completed. This is unless the shelf life on the chemicals lasts approximately a year or two, which will probably be the next time you need to carry out another treatment of soft washing.
A DIY project that you imagined would be quite affordable may now be starting to look similar to, if not running into more cost financially than hiring a professional to come and carry out the work for you. It’s not also the economic cost that you need to worry about and consider, there is also the added time it takes you to complete this project.
Also think about whether you are experienced in working with soft washing equipment, as if this is your first soft washing project, for an untrained individual, this is not likely to be a job that you can complete quickly. It will probably take you a minimum of one day to complete, and potentially much longer. That’s providing that you get the right weather two days in a row to be able to finish the project properly.
Yet there are still a couple of other downsides to soft washing your home yourself.
If you do not yet know the correct techniques and washing methods that you need to use, whether this is your first attempt or fifth, or through just being very inexperienced, you could end up causing some serious damage to various areas of your property.
A few other things to consider before making your next DIY project something as big as soft washing your house are below.
- If you wash different parts of the house too aggressively, or you use the incorrect tools, cleaning solutions or techniques, either through being inexperienced and untrained, small particles of the parts you are cleaning may start to become dislodged. Leaving what you have just cleaned exposed to extreme weather conditions
- You should never casually clean parts of your home with tools from around the house and garden, you need to always make sure you have the correct tools to do the correct job for you. This will save you from needing to require expensive repairs or replacements, to what is arguably your biggest investment, any sooner than you should really need to.
Benefits of Hiring Someone
Rather than tackling these problems yourself, you can save time and potentially prevent yourself a lot of trouble down the road, by hiring a professional Soft Washing service to undertake your project for you.
They will take care of everything and leave your home looking as perfect as the first day you set eyes on it. It’s fair to say that most people know that their house’s exterior should be cleaned and maintained now and again, but what that doesn’t mean is that they should have to try to clean it themselves. It is an admirable trait to have the spirit and desire to go for the DIY approach, it does not always mean that it is the smartest option. The risk to your home, to yourself or your family, is just too high.
Some of the best reasons to hire a roof cleaning company are below.
It’s far safer for yourself as well as your family.
Safety should by far be one of the biggest factors to consider when looking at any DIY project, which would then ultimately lead you into hiring a professional Soft Washing Contracting company. DIY projects are reportedly some of the riskiest activities there are out there.
Many accidents already occur to highly trained professionals that have had extensive training in dealing with all aspects of house maintenance. You can just imagine how dangerous it can be for an untrained, and sometimes overly enthusiastic, novice in the world of DIY. Professional soft washing might be more expensive than doing it yourself in the short term, but factoring in safety is definitely worth the extra financial cost.
Professionals are more than likely going to do a much better job.
Without the same professional training or the same high quality, professional equipment, your results aren’t going to be as good as a trained professional Soft Washing cleaning company. If you are being honest you shouldn’t reasonably expect the results to be the same or similar.
Highly trained professional soft washing cleaning personnel know what they’re doing and they’ve got years of experience. They’ve also got the tools to make the job quicker, easier and much more efficient.
Professional soft washing contractors have invested large amounts of money into their business to purchase the correct equipment, and into their employees to give them the relevant training. The high-quality tools they have purchased allow them to deliver consistently amazing results, whilst still working very quickly and efficiently.
So, to put yourself in a position where you expect to be able to deliver the same great results is an unfair pressure to put on to yourself, and you definitely should not make the mistake of thinking you could do it faster, or cheaper, yourself.
It would be wise at this point to prepare and plan to save yourself from a lot of hassle and expense by hiring a professional company.
Negatives of Pressure Washing Yourself and the Benefits of Hiring Someone
Using a pressure washer on an old home is not as simple as you might think. While it may be a great way to clean dirty sidings, brickwork or to prep for a new paint job, if not done properly, it can cause more harm than good. You can cause damage to the wood or older soft masonry surfaces and end up forcing water into the structure of your older house.
Pressure washing definitely has its place in house maintenance, so it’s worth not being against pressure washers and even completing the pressure washing yourself. Pressure washers are a great tool, they just happen to get misused way too often. There are times and projects where a pressure washer is the best tool for the job, however, some projects work best with higher pressure (2000-3000 psi) and others work best with lower pressure (1250-2000 psi). You can see an example of different types of equipment to be cleaned using different pressures below.
- Decking (Low pressure)
- Railings (Low pressure)
- Wooden Fences (Medium pressure)
- Vinyl or Plastic Fences (Medium pressure
- Asphalt (Medium pressure)
- Concrete Driveways & Sidewalks (High pressure)
- Metal Patio Furniture (High pressure)
- Stone and Pavers (High pressure)
There are many other things to consider when looking at a pressure washing project yourself, these negatives are very similar to carrying out a soft washing project yourself.
It just happens that the amount of damage you could do to your house when using the pressure washer is much higher than using the soft washer. The amount of force that is generated from the pressure washer can cause damage to brick, wooden surface, and in some cases even to the plastics on your house.
You would also need to consider the financial implications to purchasing any additional equipment that you need, including different angled nozzles and nozzles that allow for you to alter the pressure of the water jets.
Benefits of Hiring Someone
The benefits here are again, almost identical to hiring a contractor to carry out the soft washing project for you. The other main benefit to consider hiring someone to undertake a pressure washing job for you is that most of the contractors that complete this type of work will deliver both types of washing solution.
Summary – Soft washing vs pressure washing
It is particularly important to avoid damage to your house, especially if you have concrete or brick hardscapes. Whilst the majority of things to be cleaned can be repaired or where needed, sections can be replaced. These repairs are always noticeable since it is nearly impossible to match the colour of the new section to the colour of the existing material. A brick patio or driveway can also be repaired for example, but it can also be very costly to remove mortar, and damaged bricks and can be very difficult to match the newer repaired section to what is already there.
This is true for wooden materials too, whether that be in decking or house sidings, or sections of timber frames that need to be repaired or replaced.
It is with these things considered, that we would suggest that soft washing is the better option for all of your house exterior cleaning needs. This is especially down to the fact that, with the addition of the correct cleaning detergents and soaps, there is very little that cannot be cleaned by Soft Washing, whereas as we have already demonstrated above, although pressure washing can have its place within an effective cleaning and maintenance program for the house, it is also limited in its effectiveness on some times of materials.
We hope you have found this article both useful and helpful for the guide Soft washing vs pressure washing.
Read Our Guide for Not Use Pressure Wash