If you are like the millions of others caring for their home’s surfaces, you probably own a pressure washer. Pressure washing, sometimes called power washing, is a quick and effective method to blasting away dirt, old, mildew, and algae from the different surfaces around your property. Although pressure washing is effective at removing grime, there is a very high chance that pressure washing will damage some of the common surfaces around your property.
So how can we effectively clean these more delicate surfaces without ruining them? This leads us to soft washing, which is every exterior cleaning professional’s favorite method to cleaning surfaces potentially damaged by pressure washers. Soft washing and pressure washing are the two primary methods used by exterior cleaning companies to clean houses, decks, driveways, roof, and much more.
At this point you are probably wondering which surfaces must be soft washed and which surfaces can be pressure washed. We will show you which surfaces can be soft washed, and which can be pressure washed, as well as how to start doing both for yourself.
Vinyl is a hard yet somewhat brittle surface when exposed to high pressure. Most residential pressure washers’ pressure rating is too high for vinyl, and risks oxidizing the coating, or worse, cracking it. Vinyl should be soft washed in most cases. You can use a pressure washer to clean vinyl, but you should keep your distance in all cases.
Brick is one of the most time-tested building materials known to man. Due to its sturdiness, brick can be pressure washed within a certain range of common residential PSI ratings. Important to note: the mortar joints holding bricks together can be blown out or cracked if too much pressure is applied, so be careful not to get too close.
Stucco is a common surface in different regions and rarer in others. Stucco is a tricky material to clean because if it is painted, it must be soft washed. Pressure washing painted surfaces risk chipping the paint off. Non-painted stucco can be pressure washed by most pressure washers under 2500 PSI.
Nothing compares to a beautifully stained deck or rustic log cabin. Although elegant, wood surfaces are very susceptible to high pressure damage. Wood should always be soft washed with the appropriate chemicals to prevent furring and degradation of the wood fibers. Pro tip: to agitate the grime on wood surfaces, using a brush or scouring pad to remove thick layers of mold and algae.
Cement board, sometimes called cement plank or Hardie board, is a mixture of cement and other materials pressed into a board shape. Cement board should always be soft washed to prevent acceleration of the paint oxidation process. Applying too much pressure to cement board causes unsightly streaks to show up.
Concrete is usually the most resilient surface on residential properties. Concrete can be effectively pressure washed up to about 3000 PSI, but with certain precautions. Concrete laid within 3 years should be lightly pressure washed at less than 1000 PSI. Too much pressure can leave you with unsightly streaks and color differences in your concrete.
Shingles are one of the most delicate parts of your home’s maintenance schedule. Roofs should always be soft washed to prevent damaging the shingles and construction underneath them. Ripping a shingle off with a pressure washer opens an entire spectrum of issues including hiring a roof company to fix it and water getting under your roofing surfaces.
Cleaning metal surfaces can be tricky for a variety of reasons. For one, metal is simply an umbrella term to describe a set of materials varying in toughness. Some pressure washers can dent or blow holes through aluminum, while a steel frame would be otherwise unshaken. To further complicate the matter, some surfaces, such as galvanized metal, are metals with protective coatings; high pressure can damage some of these coatings. Due to these differences, some surfaces can be soft washed while others can be pressure washed. It is best to contact a professional cleaning company if you are unsure of which option to pursue.
How to Soft Wash on Your Own
Now that we have discussed which materials should be soft washed and which should be pressure washed, we will show you two ways to get started in soft washing your delicate surfaces. We always recommend non-professionals wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and read the product info and safety data sheet (SDS) for any chemicals they choose to use. Always perform a test spot on an inconspicuous area of the surface you wish to clean.
Method 1) Pump Sprayer
For this method, you are only going to need three items: a pump sprayer, garden hose, and your chemical(s) of choice. If you are unsure about which chemicals to use on different surfaces, check out our other pressure washing tips before making your informed decision.
First, rinse any nearby plants to prevent chemical damage to the root system and leaves. Second, starting generously applying your chemical mixture to the surface you would like to clean, being mindful of any overspray onto plants. Let the chemicals dwell until you notice the algae, mold, etc. is starting to melt away. Finally, rinse down your surfaces and your landscaping with your garden hose to remove all of the chemicals. Repeat this process if needed. Below is an example of a soft wash project we performed in Ladson, SC.
Method 2) Soft Wash System
Another option to soft wash your home is to buy a semi-professional soft wash system. The most popular option for homeowners is the NorthStar system. This is one of the only well-known ready-to-go soft wash kits for DIYers. It operates at 4.0 gallons per minute, which is below the standard 5.5 gallons per minute provided by residential water spigots.
The process is the same as with the pump sprayer: pre-soak plants with water, apply chemicals, and rinse thoroughly. You can wash much faster with this system than with a pump sprayer, and you can reach second story heights with it. The only caveat is that it can be heavy to haul around, and you have to perform routine maintenance on the soft wash system periodically.
In this article, we outlined the surfaces you can soft wash and the surfaces you can pressure wash. Some hard surfaces that can be pressure washed may need soft washed if they have protective coatings, paint, or are older constructions. Below is a bulleted list to help you remember the next time you embark on your own cleaning:
- Cement Board
- Soft Metals
- Hard Metals
We also provided a couple options for soft washing by yourself. Although residential soft wash options are limited, 1-story and 2-story homes can be soft washed by DIY homeowners with the right equipment and chemical knowledge.
If you don’t feel comfortable performing your own pressure wash or soft wash project, or if you don’t want to spend hours learning about soft washing chemicals, our team at Mount Pleasant Pressure Washing can handle your exterior cleaning project. We are the Charleston Metropolitan’s premier luxury exterior cleaning and restoration company servicing Mount Pleasant SC and surrounding areas. With our expert chemical knowledge and state-of-the-art equipment, we can tackle just about any project. Through contacting us, you can learn within minutes if your project fits our requirements by giving us a call or using our intake form.