Power Washing is the use of high pressure water to remove loose paint, mold, algae, dirt, grime, and other contaminants that may be sticking to the outside surface of your property. Power washing is great for surfaces such as driveways, patios, sidewalks, and walkways. Soft washing is good for roofs, siding, decks, and other surfaces that may not be able to tolerate high pressure. More on soft washing later.

The terms “power washing” and “pressure washing” are usually used interchangeably. Sometimes even the pros do it without understanding that there is a difference. Both use high pressure water but power washing uses heated water while pressure washing does not. 

The surface that you’re cleaning is going to determine what method you use to get it clean. As usual, heated water cleans better but it’s not always necessary. Also, some things should be cleaned with added chemicals like baking soda, vinegar, and other commercial power washing detergents. 

Whatever method you use, there are several things that you need to know BEFORE you start power washing. 

Know when to power wash vs pressure wash vs soft wash

A good steam cleaning around the house is definitely a nice thought. Who wouldn’t want things squeaky clean? Power Washing is very effective on the most stubborn and hard to clean surfaces. But it’s not really the best option for everything. Power washing can be very harsh on certain surfaces. 

Pressure washing is good for most surfaces that can withstand the power behind power washing but don’t need the heat. Driveways, patios, sidewalks, and stone porches are great surfaces for pressure washing.

Soft washing is more for surfaces that need a gentle touch. Soft washing uses a pressure that can be compared to the pressure that comes out of a garden hose. This is a method that needs an appropriate chemical to do the heavy lifting while the soft water stream washes everything away. 

Know the difference in residential professional cleaning chemicals

Not all surfaces are the same and not all cleaning solutions are the same. It’s important to know what chemical is good for what surface so that you can indeed clean it instead of destroying it. The three types of chemicals used in the washing process are cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants. Cleaners remove dirt and other contaminants. Sanitizers kill most bacteria in 30 seconds or less and disinfectants kill all organisms within 30 minutes. 

Every surface is different so if you’re not a professional, stick with cleaners that are premixed and designed to clean certain surfaces. That way you’ll know exactly what to use for what surface you’re trying to clean. You can technically get anything clean with just pressure and water but added cleaners make things easier.

Know what to clean with pressure and what not to

Just like on the inside of your home, the outside can be just as complicated as far as knowing what to clean and what not to clean. 

Things not to wash:

Sandstone – This surface is too soft to power wash. You’ll end up just spraying grooves into it or wash it away altogether.

Painted surfaces – Pressure washers are good at removing paint… but they’re not good at cleaning surfaces that you want the paint to stay on.  

Aged surfaces – As things age, their surfaces get weaker. They also may have dry rot that would destroy it under the pressure of a pressure washer.

Stained wood – Just like painted surfaces, stain doesn’t really stand a chance under pressure. Unless you’re looking to strip and restain, keep the pressure away from these surfaces.

Power washers are dangerous

It may seem that the small stream of water that comes out of the nozzle isn’t very dangerous to humans but many people underestimate the power of the psi coming out. The pressure is enough to send debris flying and cause major damage to skin.

Safety tips:

  • Cover all outdoor electrical outlets. These should never get wet
  • Spraying another person could injure or kill them
  • Use property safety equipment such as gloves and goggles. If available, a full face shield is preferrable. 
  • Stay 5-6 feet away from whatever surface you’re cleaning.
  • Start with the lowest setting possible and increase the pressure as needed.
  • Make sure you know how to use each piece of power washing equipment that you’re going to use. 

Power/pressure/soft washing is a great way to keep the outside of your home clean. If you’ve never used a sprayer before, make sure you learn all you can about the equipment, surfaces to be cleaned,