Soft Wash vs Pressure Wash: Determining the Best Method for You
A professional pressure washing can achieve some really dramatic results. Watching that layer of dirt wash away is a pretty satisfying experience. Where regular cleaning and maintenance falls short, only pressure washing can take care of built-up grime.
While researching cleaning companies, you may come across services advertised as power washing, pressure washing, and soft washing. If you don't know the differences between these terms, then don't worry, you're not alone.
What's the main difference between soft washing and pressure washing?
The main difference between power washing and pressure washing methods is the temperature of the water. Power washing blasts water at a high pressure using hot water, but the water used for pressure washing is not heated. The hotter temperature used in power washing makes it easier to cut through grime and clean surfaces. Lastly, soft washing is similar to pressure washing, however the pressure per square inch, or PSI, is lowered to less than 500, making it safer to use on less durable surfaces. Let's learn what these services are all about.
Pressure washing and power washing sound like the same thing, but there are a few distinctions. Power washing utilizes the same idea of blasting water at high pressure, only with hot water. This sets power washing apart because the hot water not only acts to sanitize surfaces, it is also superior at breaking down organic materials.
Power washing machines are usually heavier duty machines, as well. You can't acquire a professional-strength power washer, nor should you. These are extremely dangerous to you and your property without training. Additionally, power washing is mainly for outdoor cleaning of driveways, stone walls, and rough concrete. These machines are more commonly seen in commercial and industrial settings.
Pressure washing is an extremely effective solution for cleaning various surfaces of the home, and unlike power washers, pressure washers don't heat up water. However, the pressure is still high enough to be dangerous. Amateurs often learn the hard way about the cutting power of a pressure washer. Water is being pushed out at such a high rate, it can cut through a finger to the bone in a split-second. According to Nerdist, it can also do stuff like carve a pumpkin or descale a fish at 60,000 PSI, for example.
With that being said, special care must also be taken when pressure washing home sidings. You need to be at the correct distance to avoid wearing down vinyl sidings, wood shingles, and other types of susceptible house siding. Pressure washing is meant to clean walking surfaces, decks, stone pathways, patio furniture, and so forth. Anything that is hard, but has deep grooves that allow dirt to be embedded is a great candidate for pressure washing. If you’d like to learn more about this method, read our blog that discusses four areas of your home that need to be pressure washed.
Pros and Cons of Pressure Washing
One of the biggest pros of pressure washing is how effective it is. We’ve discussed how a pressure washer can rapidly clean a surface due to its intense pressure. However, when that kind of power is in inexperienced hands, it can quickly become a dangerous situation. This means that the force used in pressure washing is both a pro and a con, and it depends entirely on the training and experience of the person doing the pressure washing.
Additionally, with pressure washing, you run the risk of damaging property. If the pressure is too intense and is applied too close to the surface being cleaned, it can cause damage. Excessive washing can tear up a wood deck, and pressure washing can damage stucco or vinyl siding if done improperly.
Pressure Washing Pros
- Effective for walking surfaces
- Cleans deep grooves cracks well
Pressure Washing Cons
- Can damage property
- Can cause injury if mishandled
Now, you may be thinking that soft washing has nothing to do with pressure washing. Ironically, pressure washers are used to soft wash, but they are modified to lower the PSI, or pressure per square inch.
Soft washing is done using less than 500 PSI for rinsing or cleaning applications. The pressure washer tip is replaced with one that widens the spray, therefore dropping the point of pressure. On top of this, soft washing utilizes special cleaning solutions to break down dirt and organisms living on surfaces. These cleaning solutions are eco-friendly and will not strip protective coatings on your home's exterior. Soft washing methods are preferred in a variety of situations over pressure washing, including on surfaces like:
- Cedar shake siding
- Wood panel siding
- Outdoor rooted plants
- Stucco and coquina
- Outdoor wood furniture
- Screens, enclosures, and lanais
- Vinyl siding
Pros and Cons of Soft Washing
The advantages of soft washing, such as effectively cleaning your pavers without risking any kind of damage without hurting the environment, are apparent. The downside, however, is that less pressure means that for some surfaces, it’s more challenging to get them clean. Because of this, the lower pressure is both a pro—meaning it’s good in that it doesn’t cause damage—and a con because it means that it may take longer and repeat applications to get a surface free of buildup or grime.
Soft Washing Pros
- Lower pressure and less risk of damage
- Less likely to strip protective coatings
Soft Washing Cons
- Possible repeated applications
- The need for cleaning solutions
- Stains due to cleaning solutions and water run-off
How do I know when my house needs a wash?
There are some key signs that it’s time to give the exterior of your home some attention, and some of those signs may not be that obvious. The aesthetics of your home are a great reason to get your home pressure washed, but there are other signs that it’s time to call in professionals beyond things looking dingy.
You’re paying more for your power.
In some cases, the buildup on the outside of your home can impact how well temperatures are regulated, which means that your furnace, heat pump or gas fireplace has to work that much harder to make your home comfortable.
The roof is discolored and has streaks.
This is more than a cosmetic issue, though it’s certainly unsightly. Over time, algae can result in streaks or discoloration on your roof, which can cause serious damage. Repairing damage can cost significantly more than just having your roof professionally cleaned a few times a year, depending on the severity.
Your gutters are overflowing.
Gutter cleaning is often a neglected homeowner task, but it’s essential. When gutters are fully clogged and overflowing, water can’t drain from your roof. Damage to your roof and home is often a result. Pressure cleaning can remove those clogs, and regular gutter cleaning can keep it from getting worse.
The exterior of your home looks dirty.
This one goes hand in hand with the power bill. Not having your home professionally washed results in it looking dingy and dirty. Eventually, it impacts your power bill, but until then, it’s just unsightly.
Your home has stains.
Once dirt and grime have been on your home long enough, there’s a risk of stains. While pressure washing can still get the stain out in many cases, it is an extensive process because of deeply settled grime.
When Should You Soft Wash vs Pressure Wash?
The type of washing is going to depend on how your home is built, the materials used, and its surroundings. Typically, you'll be getting one or the other done to your home, that is, unless you're getting your entire home done top to bottom. In that case, you're going to want a soft wash for the roof, windows, and sidings and a pressure wash for your driveway, walkways and patios. Overall, the job would need to be broken into two phases — the first phase would be pressure washing all the hard surfaces, and the second phase of soft washing would require changing out the cleaning solution and nozzle for the rest of the home. Need more details on when to use a pressure washer? Check out our blog to help make the decision easier.
Health Benefits of Professional Washing
Giving your home or business a deep cleaning is important — but not just for aesthetics. Your health is impacted by the long-term build-up of dirt, grime, pollen, algae, and decaying matter, too. All that stuff piles up over time in between cracks, underneath sidings, around stones, and on patio furniture. According to Homes.com, depending on where you live and what your landscape looks like, dirt and mildew can settle on surfaces like your roof and cause allergies and asthma. All of these contaminants embed themselves into your exterior surfaces where the garden hose can't penetrate and standard cleaning soaps don't do enough, either. The end result is you getting sick more often and not even realizing the source. This is why investing in a professional cleaner is worth every penny.
Can You Rent a Machine to DIY?
The short answer is "yes." The question that should be asked is "should you?" Pressure washers can be rented at your local home supply store, but they require care, experience, and skill to operate effectively. As for attempting to soft wash your home by yourself, you run into similar hazards with no experience.
If you go down this route, you'll need to use the right chemicals, equipment, and have the nozzle that allows you to soft wash. These chemicals are very strong, so you have to use the correct dilution to get results without leaving a film or damage to the surface. We know there are some very adamant DIY'ers out there who live for the challenge and want to save money on home projects. But, we ask you to reconsider this project and hire a professional. You'll get it done faster, restore surfaces to “like-new” conditions, and you won't risk property damage.
Get it Clean the First Time
Cleaning the outside of a home or business is a big job. You can easily spend a whole week trying to tackle it alone. Throw in some bad weather and the sun's unrelenting rays and you have a recipe for frustration.
It's much harder to focus on what you're doing, especially if it's with something like soft washing or pressure washing. That's when mistakes are made, which can mean bad news for you or and your wallet.
Take a break and let the professionals handle all the outside cleaning and detailing. At Labor Panes, we pride ourselves on being perfectionists, and we offer a wide range of services, including window washing and gutter cleaning. Contact us today to get a free quote and quick service in your area.
Frequently asked questions about washing your home
Can I soft wash with a pressure washer?
Yes, you can! Pressure washers can be modified to produce a lower PSI, making them ideal for soft washing.
What does soft wash mean for pressure washing and what is a soft wash?
Soft washing includes cleaning chemicals and has a lower PSI than typical pressure washing applications, making it a viable option for surfaces damaged by a higher PSI.
How much does it cost to soft wash a house?
This depends on several factors, including the size of the home and the extent of the work. You can cut down on the cost of soft washing by regularly maintaining the exterior of your home, eliminating the need for special attention due to more build-up.
What is cheaper: soft washing or pressure washing?
This, too, depends on many factors. The size of the structure, type of job, how deep stains are and materials needed all factor into the price of either service. Homeowners can expect to pay roughly $200 for a soft wash project, or $200-300 for their annual pressure wash.
What is considered a pressure wash?
Anything from 500 PSI to over 3300 PSI is considered a pressure wash. 500 PSI and below is considered a soft wash.
How much does it cost to pressure wash?
This depends on the project. If a surface has been neglected, the project will require more time and materials and, thus, cost more. We provide a free quote so that we can provide a cost estimate before we begin working.