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Pressure Washing vs Soft Washing Surfaces – Decision Guide

Pressure washing and Soft washing are two popular ways to clean surfaces. However each application has its own pros and cons, which makes them ideal for different applications. In this guide, we will cover the pros and cons of Pressure Washing and Soft Washing Equipment and help you determine which one will be the best for your cleaning needs. We will also cover what differentiates Soft Wash outfits from pressure washers and address other frequently asked questions.

Soft Washing

What Soft Washing is

Soft Washing is a modified version of pressure washing that relies on high volumes of water at low pressures with chemical additives to effectively clean surfaces. A Soft Wash setup usually has an operating PSI less than 700 PSI and GPM output greater than 6 GPM. This allows flooding a surface with a lot of water. The fan pattern on a soft wash unit is also wider so that the surface is not damaged. Additionally, softwash outfits are able to withstand harsh chemicals being run through the pump while a pressure washer cannot typically tolerate hard chemicals being run through the pump.

The Benefits of Soft Washing Surfaces

Since soft washing doesn’t use a lot of pressure, it is well suited for soft surfaces that can often be damaged by traditional pressure washing that uses a higher pressure to clean a surface. Additionally, the high volume of water tends to clean soft surfaces faster.
What Kind of Surfaces are Typically Soft Washed?
Usually any surface where high pressure cleaning is problematic or has the potential to cause damage. Common surfaces that are soft washed include surfaces like siding, wood panel siding, decks & fences, windows & screens, as well as shingles.

What is Required for Soft Washing

For soft washing, a high volume low psi outfit is required as well as the proper chemicals to clean the surfaces and contaminants you’re trying to remove. The soft wash gun needs a wide fan tip as well. Below are a few examples of soft wash outfits. In addition to a softwash setup, you also need the proper chemicals for the soft washing to be completed with. Chemicals required for soft washing are often determined by the type of surface you will be cleaning; siding, wood , and other surfaces have different requirements. Companies like Softwash Systems have chemicals that can be used for softwashing. 

Pressure-Pro Pro-Chem Soft Spray System : Up to 10 GPM @ Up to 300 PSI (39'' W x 65'' L x 51'' H) 100 gal. Tank Sprayer w/ UDOR Diaphragm

Pressure-Pro Pro-Chem Soft Spray System : Up to 10 GPM @ Up to 300 PSI (49'' W x 65'' L x 51'' H) 200 gal. Tank Sprayer w/ UDOR Diaphragm


Pressure Washing

In contrast to soft washing, pressure washing relies on higher psi and lower GPM outputs (usually pressures from 1000 to 10,000 PSI with GPM outputs of 1-6 GPM is typical). The pressure and GPM is used to clean a variety of surfaces from concrete to siding to pools.


Why Pressure Washing over Soft Washing

The high pressure output of pressure washing makes it ideal if you’re looking to remove stubborn dirt and grime from surfaces. If the dirt and grime is partially embedded, a softwash may not provide enough power to get the contaminant out. A traditional pressure washer can also be used to remove semi loose debris (like paint that is somewhat still attached to a surface). A traditional pressure washer can also be used for surfaces like cars, roofs, and siding, but you have to be more careful with the distance from the surface and tip you use so that you don’t damage a soft surface like siding or shingles. The other advantage to pressure washing compared to soft washing is that a pressure washer can be purchased for a few hundred dollars (though commercial/ contractor grade pressure washers will have a similar price to a softwash setup).

The Benefits of Pressure Washing

Pressure washers are readily available, soft wash outfits are not always available at local hardware stores. Additionally, pressure washers can remove stubborn deposits and dirt.

What is Required for Pressure Washing

Pressure washers require a water supply, an appropriate pressure washer based on the surfaces you want to clean, and depending on what you will be cleaning, appropriate cleaning chemicals.

Can You use a Pressure Washer and Get Softwash Results?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to softwashing vs pressure washing. At the end of the day, most pressure washers won’t produce the volume required for a true softwash process. However, you can get pretty close especially if your pressure washer has an adjustable unloader, you use a wide angle pressure washer nozzle, and use a chemical injector with your pressure washer. This will be slightly different to a true softwash because a softwash unit  will  create more foam and more water volume.

Overall Thoughts

When it comes to cleaning surfaces that could be damaged by high pressure, soft washing will be ideal as it will provide more efficient cleaning and less risk. However, since the equipment is not something you can always find locally, you can often work with a pressure washer as long as you carefully adjust the pressure you will spray at, use an appropriate tip, and realize there is slightly more risk of damaging the surface. Understanding the differences between soft washers and regular washers will help you to choose the proper cleaning equipment solution for your project.

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