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Pressure Washing Vs Soft Washing

A pressure washer cleaning a patio.
A pressure washer cleaning a patio.

In the world of exterior cleaning, two terms often stand out, pressure washing and soft washing. Both methods offer unique benefits and are used for different cleaning needs. But what exactly are they, and how do they differ? Understanding the distinction between these two cleaning methods is crucial for homeowners, business owners, and cleaning professionals alike. It ensures that the right technique is used for the job, preserving the integrity of surfaces and achieving optimal cleaning results.

In this guide, we'll delve deep into the world of pressure washing and soft washing, highlighting their key differences, benefits, and best applications. Whether you're a homeowner looking to spruce up your property or a professional seeking to expand your knowledge, this article is for you.

What is Pressure Washing?

Pressure washing, often referred to as power washing, is a cleaning method that utilises high-pressure water to remove dirt, grime, mould, and other contaminants from various surfaces. The process involves directing a stream of highly pressurised water onto the surface, effectively blasting away accumulated dirt and debris.

Common Uses and Applications

  • Cleaning concrete driveways and walkways

  • Removing mould and mildew from exterior walls

  • Cleaning wooden decks and patios

  • Restoring the appearance of brick and stone surfaces

Benefits of Pressure Washing

  1. Effective Cleaning: The high-pressure water can tackle even the most stubborn stains, making it an excellent choice for surfaces with heavy dirt accumulation.

  2. Versatility: Pressure washing can be used on a wide range of surfaces, from concrete to wood, making it a go-to method for various cleaning projects.

  3. Eco-friendly: When used without cleaning chemicals, pressure washing is an environmentally friendly cleaning method as it only uses water.

Equipment Used: The primary equipment used in pressure washing is the pressure washer. These machines come in various sizes and power levels, suitable for different tasks. The pressure washer takes water from a source, pressurises it using a pump, and then releases it through a nozzle at high speeds.

What is Soft Washing?

Soft washing stands in contrast to the high-pressure methods of traditional pressure washing. It is a cleaning technique that relies more on the cleaning power of specialised solutions than on brute force. Soft washing involves applying a mixture of water, cleaning solutions, and sometimes mildewcides, algaecides, and surfactants to the surface to be cleaned.

Soft Washing Method

The soft washing method begins with the application of a cleaning solution to the target area. This solution is allowed to dwell on the surface, breaking down dirt, algae, mould, and other contaminants. After a suitable dwell time, the surface is rinsed with low pressure, ensuring that the cleaning agents and the dislodged dirt are washed away without causing any damage.

Benefits of Soft Washing

  1. Gentle on Surfaces: Soft washing is ideal for delicate surfaces where high pressure could cause damage, such as painted surfaces, vinyl siding, and asphalt shingles.

  2. Deep Cleaning: The cleaning solutions used in soft washing can penetrate nooks and crannies, offering a deeper clean than pressure washing alone.

  3. Long-Lasting Results: By killing mould, algae, and bacteria at the source, soft washing can provide longer-lasting cleanliness compared to pressure washing.

Equipment and Cleaning Solutions Used

Soft washing equipment is specially designed to deliver cleaning solutions at lower pressures than traditional pressure washers. The equipment often includes a tank for the cleaning solution, a pump, and hoses with special nozzles designed for soft washing. The cleaning solutions used vary based on the job but often include detergents, bleach (sodium hypochlorite), and other agents to tackle specific contaminants.

Key Differences Between Pressure Washing and Soft Washing

While both pressure washing and soft washing aim to clean and rejuvenate surfaces, they have distinct methods, applications, and results. Here's a breakdown of their key differences:

Cleaning Mechanism

  • Pressure Washing: Relies primarily on the force of highly pressurised water to dislodge and remove dirt and contaminants.

  • Soft Washing: Uses a combination of specialised cleaning solutions and low pressure to clean surfaces. The solutions break down the dirt, which is then gently rinsed away.

Pressure Levels

  • Pressure Washing: Utilises high pressure, which can range from 1,300 to 5,000 psi (pounds per square inch) or more.

  • Soft Washing: Operates at significantly lower pressures, often below 500 psi, ensuring delicate surfaces are not damaged.


  • Pressure Washing: Ideal for hard, resilient surfaces like concrete, brick, and stone. It's commonly used for driveways, sidewalks, and patios.

  • Soft Washing: Best suited for more delicate surfaces, such as vinyl siding, wood panel siding, asphalt shingles, and painted surfaces. It's a preferred method for cleaning home exteriors, roofs, and wooden decks.

Cleaning Solutions

  • Pressure Washing: Often uses water alone, though sometimes detergents are also used for specific tasks.

  • Soft Washing: Relies heavily on cleaning solutions, which can include detergents, bleach (sodium hypochlorite), and other specialised chemicals to address specific contaminants.

Duration of Cleanliness

  • Pressure Washing: Provides immediate results, but surfaces may become dirty again relatively quickly, especially in areas prone to mould and algae.

  • Soft Washing: Offers longer-lasting results as the cleaning solutions can kill mould, algae, and bacteria at their source, preventing rapid regrowth.


  • Pressure Washing: Uses pressure washers that can deliver water at high velocities.

  • Soft Washing: Employs equipment designed to spray cleaning solutions at low pressures, often with specialised nozzles for even application.

Pros and Cons of Each Method

Both pressure washing and soft washing have their own set of advantages and potential drawbacks. Here's a closer look at the pros and cons of each method.

Pressure Washing


  1. Powerful Cleaning: The high-pressure water can effectively tackle heavy dirt, grime, and stains, making it ideal for surfaces with significant build up.

  2. Versatility: Suitable for a wide range of surfaces, including concrete, brick, and stone.

  3. Immediate Results: Offers quick and visible results, especially on surfaces with noticeable dirt.

  4. Eco-Friendly Option: When used without detergents or chemicals, it's an environmentally friendly cleaning method.


  1. Potential for Damage: The high pressure can damage delicate surfaces, strip paint, or cause etching on certain materials.

  2. Shorter Clean Duration: Surfaces may become dirty again relatively quickly, especially in damp or shaded areas prone to mould and algae growth.

  3. Water Usage: Can use a significant amount of water, especially for larger cleaning projects.

Soft Washing


  1. Gentle Cleaning: The low-pressure method ensures that delicate surfaces are not damaged during the cleaning process.

  2. Deep and Thorough Clean: The cleaning solutions can penetrate nooks and crannies, offering a deeper clean than pressure washing alone.

  3. Long-Lasting Results: By addressing the root cause of dirt and growth (like algae and mould), soft washing can provide a longer-lasting clean.

  4. Variety of Applications: Ideal for a range of surfaces, including home exteriors, roofs, and wooden structures.


  1. Chemical Use: Relies on chemicals, which might not be suitable for all environments or users.

  2. Potential for Plant Damage: If not properly rinsed, some cleaning solutions can harm plants and grass surrounding the cleaning area.

  3. Longer Process: The need for the cleaning solution to dwell on the surface can make the process longer than pressure washing.

When to Use: Pressure Washing vs Soft Washing

Selecting the right cleaning method is crucial for achieving optimal results without causing damage. Here's a guide on when to opt for pressure washing and when to choose soft washing:

Pressure Washing

Ideal for:

  1. Hard, Resilient Surfaces: Concrete driveways, walkways, brick walls, and stone patios can withstand the force of high-pressure water.

  2. Heavy Dirt Accumulation: For surfaces with significant dirt, grime, or moss build up, pressure washing can be highly effective.

  3. Quick Cleaning Needs: If you're preparing for an event or need immediate results, pressure washing offers a rapid solution.

  4. Surfaces Away from Plants: If you're cleaning an area where there's no risk of harming plants, pressure washing can be a good choice.

Soft Washing

Ideal for:

  1. Delicate Surfaces: Vinyl siding, render, wood panel siding, painted surfaces and asphalt shingles can benefit from the gentler approach of soft washing.

  2. Areas Prone to Mould and Algae: Soft washing solutions can kill mould, algae, and bacteria, making it ideal for shaded or damp areas where these organisms thrive.

  3. Surfaces Close to Plants: If you're cleaning near a garden or landscaped area, soft washing (with proper precautions) can be safer for plants.

  4. Older or Historic Buildings: The gentle nature of soft washing can preserve the integrity of older structures, ensuring they're cleaned without causing damage.

Factors to Consider

  • Type of Dirt: Stubborn stains like oil might benefit from pressure washing, while organic growth like mould or algae can be addressed with soft washing.

  • Surface Material: Delicate or fragile surfaces, such as painted surfaces or wood, might be damaged by high pressure and are better suited for soft washing.

  • Environmental Concerns: If you're looking to minimise water usage or avoid chemicals, consider these factors when choosing a method.

Professional Services and Recommendations

While DIY cleaning can be tempting, there are undeniable benefits to hiring professionals, especially when it comes to pressure washing and soft washing. Here's why you might consider turning to the experts:

  1. Expertise and Experience: Soft washing services and Professional power washers and have the knowledge and experience to determine the best cleaning method for different surfaces. They can assess the type of dirt and the material of the surface to provide optimal cleaning without causing damage.

  2. Advanced Equipment: Professionals use commercial-grade equipment that can be more effective and efficient than typical consumer-grade machines. Whether it's a high-powered pressure washer or a specialised soft washing system, they have the tools to get the job done right.

  3. Safety: Handling high-pressure equipment or dealing with cleaning chemicals can pose risks. Professionals are trained to handle these tools safely, reducing the risk of injury or damage to your property.

  4. Eco-Friendly Options: Many professional cleaning services offer eco-friendly cleaning solutions. If you have environmental concerns, they can provide options that are both effective and environmentally responsible.

  5. Time-Saving: Hiring a professional can save you time and effort. Instead of spending hours or even days on a cleaning project, professionals can often complete the job in a fraction of the time.

Recommendations for DIY Enthusiasts:

  1. Safety First: Always wear protective gear, including gloves, safety glasses, and closed-toe shoes. Ensure the area is clear of pets and children.

  2. Test a Small Area: Before cleaning a large surface, test a small, inconspicuous area to ensure the method won't cause damage.

  3. Follow Manufacturer's Instructions: If using a pressure washer or soft washing equipment, always follow the manufacturer's guidelines.

  4. Be Mindful of Plants: If using cleaning solutions, protect nearby plants by rinsing them before and after the cleaning process.

  5. Seek Expert Advice: If unsure about the best cleaning method for a particular surface, consider consulting with pressure washing companies for guidance or a free estimate.


The debate between pressure washing and soft washing is not about which method is superior, but rather about selecting the right tool for the job. Both methods offer unique advantages, and understanding their applications can make all the difference in achieving a clean, refreshed, and undamaged surface.

Pressure washing, with its powerful stream of water, is a go-to for hard surfaces with stubborn grime. On the other hand, soft washing, with its gentle approach and effective cleaning solutions, is perfect for delicate surfaces and areas prone to organic growth.

For homeowners and business owners, the key lies in assessing the specific needs of the cleaning project. Consider the type of dirt, the material of the surface, and the surrounding environment. And when in doubt, turning to professionals can provide both peace of mind and impeccable results.

In the ever-evolving world of exterior cleaning, staying informed and making educated choices will ensure your property not only looks its best but also stands the test of time. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or someone seeking professional services, remember that knowledge is power, or in this case, the perfect balance between pressure and soft washing.

In conclusion, whether you're looking to rejuvenate your home's exterior, clean a driveway, or tackle mould and algae growth, understanding the nuances of pressure washing and soft washing is crucial. By choosing the right method and considering professional services, you can ensure your property looks its best while preserving its integrity.

Thank you for joining us on this comprehensive journey into the world of pressure washing vs soft washing. We hope this guide has shed light on their key differences and applications, empowering you to make the best decisions for your cleaning needs. Until next time, happy cleaning!


What's the main difference between pressure washing and soft washing?

The primary difference lies in the cleaning mechanism. Pressure washing uses high-pressure water to blast away dirt, while soft washing relies on cleaning solutions combined with low pressure to clean surfaces.

Can I use pressure washing on my home's exterior?

While pressure washing can be used on certain parts of a home's exterior, it's essential to be cautious. High pressure can damage delicate surfaces like vinyl siding or painted areas. Soft washing is often recommended for these surfaces.

Is soft washing eco-friendly?

Soft washing uses cleaning solutions, some of which might contain chemicals. However, many professional services offer eco-friendly options that are both effective and environmentally responsible.

How often should I clean my driveway using pressure washing?

It depends on the amount of traffic and exposure to dirt. Typically, driveways can benefit from pressure washing once a year to maintain a clean appearance.

Can soft washing remove mould and algae?

Yes, soft washing is especially effective in removing organic growth like mould and algae. The cleaning solutions used can kill these organisms at their source, providing longer-lasting cleanliness.

Is pressure washing suitable for wooden decks?

Pressure washing can be used on wooden decks, but it's essential to use a lower pressure setting to avoid damaging the wood. Soft washing can also be an effective method for cleaning wooden decks without the risk of damage.

Are there surfaces where neither method is recommended?

Both methods are versatile, but it's crucial to assess the material and condition of the surface. For instance, historical or aged structures might require specialised cleaning methods such as steam cleaning to prevent damage.

Can I soft wash my roof?

Yes, soft washing is often the recommended method for cleaning roofs, especially asphalt shingles. It can effectively remove mould, algae, and dirt without the risk of damaging the shingles.


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