What is Soft Washing?
Soft washing is a cleaning technique that combines low water pressure and a mixture made up of bleach, surfactant, and water, to safely and effectively clean exterior areas that have built up with organic staining such as dirt or algae growth.
What is the difference between Soft washing and Pressure Washing?
While soft washing and pressure washing seem similar in theory they are different. Pressure washing is going to utilize high pressure to blast away at the surface of what you are cleaning. Soft washing utilizes the strength of your chemical mix to loosen what’s on the surface. Once your chemicals have dwelled you simply rinse the area with a light pressure
Why should I Soft Wash?
Soft Washing is a great technique to use in lots of applications. While it is extremely effective in cleaning exterior surfaces it is also much more safe on many types of surfaces such as:
- Vinyl Siding
- Stucco siding
- Plank or shake siding
- Window Screens
- Painted surfaces
Soft washing also provides some long term benefits. When using this method surfaces typically stay cleaner for longer because you are destroying the root of the issue which is killing the bacteria that causes your house to turn green!
Why we Soft Wash
We use the method for many reasons, including those mentioned above. We have found the ability to clean hard to get to surfaces all from the comfort of the ground to be not only easier, but effective and safe.
Using soft wash techniques you can ditch the ladders and scaffolding and clean from the ground, with the correct equipment you can effectively clean areas anywhere from 2-3 stories tall!
The results are long lasting, ultimately providing a better experience for both us and the homeowner. When your home is clean you are happy, and so are we!
How do I Soft Wash?
Now that you know what Soft washing is, here’s how it’s done!
It all starts with your chemicals when you begin to soft wash. The chemicals are what is doing the work, so it is important to get this right!
We strive for a mixture that has a content of 1% Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach). We use about 2oz of surfactant for every 5 gallons of water and bleach in our mix. Surfactant is used for a couple things, it gets into the grooves of siding and loosens dirt and staining. It also is used to create suds that help your chemical mix stick to what you are cleaning. Since you cannot see just bleach mixed with water it is helpful to know it is drawing your chemicals!
We have found this to be very effective in normal house washing conditions. Though you may need a stronger mix depending on what you are cleaning. It is important to know what your equipment is capable of. We are able to do this through a downstream injector, which draws your mixture from a separate tank and mixes it with your water when you are spraying. A lot of homeowners pressure washers have an injector built in, it is important you know its draw rate and test ahead of time.
If your pressure washer does not have a chemical injector built in there are nozzles that attach to most wands that can draw chemicals as well. This may require diluting your chemical mix ahead of time.
Prepare the area you intend to clean
Keep in mind before you start cleaning that you are using water and bleach which can be harmful to different things in their own ways.
It is important if you are cleaning your house that you tape off any electrical or cable boxes. You should tape over any locks, key pads, or electronic doorbells as well.
Make sure any doors or windows are closed tightly in the area, do not just assume. We have ran into multiple instances where a window or door was left open because we did not double check
You also want to move anything you would not want bleach to get on. Outdoor furniture, decorations, flags, flower pots, etc. Bleach is very corrosive and damaging so it is important you do not get it on anything it is not meant for.
You also need to do a good rinsing of any plants or grass around the area just before you start, bleach is harmful to plants, to find out more info on that, check out this article we wrote about how to avoid killing your plants!
Apply your chemicals
Once you have properly prepared the area you are wanting to clean you are ready to start washing!
Again, make sure and do a thorough rinse of any plants or grass before applying your chemicals, this step is extremely important.
It can sometimes be helpful to quickly rinse off the area you are about to clean as well, though it is not necessary. We recommend rinsing windows ahead of time however to avoid chemicals drying and leaving spots on them.
Once you are ready to start you want to either turn your switch to your chemical mixture, if you are using an attachment make sure it is attached at this point. Make sure you are using a low pressure 25 degree spray nozzle.
Standing a comfortable distance from the house you want to start applying your chemicals. Some recommend going from the bottom to top, others have recommended top to bottom. We prefer going top to bottom to avoid any excess soap and water from getting behind your siding, but use what works for you! You want to do this in even and straight passes, going from edge to edge of what you are cleaning, working from the top all the way down to the bottom to ensure a thorough coating.
If you have sprayed windows with chemicals at this time we recommend immediately rinsing with water only to avoid spots
Let your chemicals dwell
At this point your chemicals are on and ready to get to work! How long does this take?
We typically let the chemicals dwell anywhere from 5-10 minutes. DO NOT let them dry, this can ruin your siding or the surface you are cleaning if you do. It is important to give the chemicals time to work but not too long! If you are cleaning something especially dirty you may have to do more than one round of chemicals.
If you are cleaning some type of mold or algae growth you should be able to see it discolor as the chemicals work, this is the bleach working to kill off that growth.
Time to Rinse!
Once your chemicals have done their job it’s time to rinse! We like to again rinse from top to bottom to avoid water getting underneath anything. You want the water to sort of rain down onto your siding, again we are not trying to use pressure to get this surface clean. You want to work steadily, from top to bottom, side to side. The amount of water you get on the house is the important factor here. We use an 8gpm (Gallons Per Minute) pressure washer so we are able to get a lot of water on the house in an efficient manner. It is important to thoroughly rinse to get all the chemicals off the house
Some houses may require extra rinsing or a small amount of extra pressure to get stubborn stains off. Using another coat of chemicals once you have rinsed can sometimes be helpful to get whatever is leftover off completely. Every situation is going to require a slightly different approach.
When should I do this?
Homeowners typically start seeing green growth in the spring when the rest of our yard turns green.
This is an ideal time to wash as the temperatures are optimal for the chemicals to work, not to mention working with water in the cold is no fun! This can be done almost anytime of the year however, ideally if it’s above 45 degrees it can be done.
If you are unsure about doing this yourself, hiring a professional company to do it for you is going to be a great option. They will already have the tools, knowledge, and experience to take care of this for you