Soft Washing v. Pressure Washing
A plethora of my customers ask me the same question, “What the heck is a Soft Wash?”. It is a good question to ask. Frankly, I asked it myself prior to getting into this industry. It could quite possibly be the most important component of the pressure washing industry!
To really understand the difference between Soft Washing and Pressure Washing we need to define them. Pressure washing or power washing is the use of high-pressure water spray to remove loose paint, mold, grime, dust, mud, and dirt from surfaces and objects such as buildings, vehicles and concrete surfaces. Soft washing is a cleaning technique that uses low-pressure water to safely clean the exterior surfaces of a house. This method also uses cleaning solutions to effectively kill mold, mildew, moss, bacteria, and other microorganisms.
Now why do you care about the definitions of these two words? What you really care about it is that soft washing is a delicate technique and pressure washing is a brute force action. Both are useful and both are necessary at times, but soft washing is the engine that propels the residential cleaning industry.
Soft Wash Deep Dive
Soft Washing can be done with gas or electrical pumps and even a pump-up sprayer that you as a homeowner have probably purchased from the big blue hardware store or the big orange hardware store. As professionals, we only use the handheld sprayers in small or specialty application. 99% of the time we will use the gas or electric systems. These systems are low pressure applicators. They produce a pressure range form 30psi to about 130psi and disperse a volume of 1 gallon per minute (GPM) to 10+ GPMs. I have found the “Goldilocks” applicator to be an electric system that applies 5.5 GPMs at 60psi in residential work.
Pressure Wash Deep Dive – Explanation and Specs of Machines
Pressure Washing can be done with electrical or gas-powered machines. They can be used with hot or cold water. Pressure washers have two significant specifications that we use to identify their cleaning effectiveness, PSI (pounds per square inch) and GPM (gallons per minute). GPM is the most important of the two specs. GPMs equate to the horsepower in your car. The cleaning potential really come from how many gallons per minute a pressure washer can apply to a surface. A typical pressure washer that a homeowner buys is around 3,000 PSI and 3 gallons per minute and cost in the $300 range. In the pressure washing industry, we use between 4 GPM and 10+ GPM with the most common being 8GPM. The PSI runs the gambit of 2,000 PSI up to 5,000 PSI. Our machines in the industry can be cold or hot water units whereas homeowners are exclusively cold-water units. The reason for this is because the price of a hot water unit is at least double the price of its corresponding cold-water unit. Which makes it cost prohibitive for a homeowner to buy a hot water unit.
When to Use Pressure washing and Soft Washing
I personally believe that a soft wash should be used on every single job. We used our 12V soft wash system to pre-treat and post treat every time we use our pressure washer. Pressure Washing should be used sparingly. Concrete driveways, walkways and porches are the most common reasons to use a pressure washer. Most homeowners will use high PSI pressure washers on the siding of their home to remove the mildew. This does remove the surface pollutants but does not kill them. The only thing that a homeowner who does this is really doing is destroying their siding and cutting the life of their siding in half.
A brick house should not be pressure washed unless you enjoy replacing mortar in between the bricks. A soft wash application should be used to kill the organic material and then a high-volume rinse will remove the dead organic material from the brick.
A pressure washer should NEVER be used on an asphalt shingle roof wash! We have all held a shingle before and picked off some of the granules from the shingle with our finger… imagine what happens when you hit that shingle with 4000 PSI!
A soft wash system can be used to apply multiple solutions to clean different types of stains whereas a pressure washer on its own simply will not get certain stains out. In summary, almost always use a soft wash system and only use a pressure washer for concrete cleaning.
Soft Washing is a staple in the industry and in my opinion, pressure washing without using a soft wash system is a disservice to the customer. Pressure Washing alone will cause the mildew and organic growth to return quickly translating to an increase in the frequency of needing to have surfaces cleaned. If the company pressure washing your home does not know what a soft wash is… RUN!