Soft Wash vs Pressure Wash: Determining the Best Method for You

By Tyler Kirk | Softwashing
Updated on: 4/22/2022

A professional pressure washing can achieve some really dramatic results. Watching that layer of dirt wash away is a pretty satisfying experience. Where regular cleaning and maintenance falls short, only pressure washing can take care of built-up grime.

While researching cleaning companies, you may come across services advertised as power washing, pressure washing, and soft washing. If you don't know the differences between these terms, then don't worry, you're not alone.

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

Soft washing is similar to pressure washing and power washing, however there are some key differences between these three washing methods.

Comparing Soft Washing, Pressure Washing, and Power Washing

Temperature Pressure* Good For
Soft Washing Up to 140°F 500 PSI or less
Wood, Vinyl
Pressure Washing Up to 140°F 1,500 to 4,400+ PSI
Stone, Driveways
Power Washing Up to 311°F 1,500 to 4,400+ PSI Walkways, Concrete

 

The main difference between soft washing, power washing, and pressure washing methods is the temperature of the water and PSI. With soft washing, professionals use a less powerful PSI. Power washing blasts water at a high pressure using hot water, but the water used for pressure washing is not heated. The hotter temperature used in power washing makes it easier to cut through grime and effectively clean surfaces.

What is Soft Washing?

Now, you may be thinking that soft washing has nothing to do with pressure washing. Ironically, pressure washers are used to soft wash, but they are modified to have less pressure. Soft washing is done using less than 500 PSI for rinsing or cleaning applications. The pressure washer tip is replaced with one that widens the spray, therefore dropping the point of pressure.

On top of this, soft washing utilizes special cleaning solutions to break down dirt and organisms living on surfaces. These cleaning solutions are eco-friendly and will not strip protective coatings on your home's exterior. Soft washing methods are preferred in a variety of situations over pressure washing, including on surfaces like

  • Cedar shake siding
  • Wood panel siding
  • Outdoor rooted plants
  • Stucco and coquina
  • Outdoor wood furniture
  • Screens, enclosures, and lanais
  • Vinyl siding

Pros and Cons of Soft Washing

Advantages Disadvantages
Lower pressure and less risk of damage Possible repeated applications
Eco-friendly The need for cleaning solutions
Less likely to strip protective coatings Stains due to cleaning solutions and water run-off

 

The advantages of soft washing are apparent. The downside, however, is that less pressure means that for some surfaces, it’s more challenging to get them clean. Because of this, the lower pressure is both a pro—meaning it’s good in that it doesn’t cause damage—and a con because it means that it may take longer and repeat applications to get a surface free of buildup or grime.

What is Pressure Washing?

Pressure washing is an extremely effective solution for cleaning various surfaces of the home, and unlike power washers, pressure washers don't heat up water. However, the pressure is still high enough to be dangerous.

While pressure washers with that high of a PSI may not be easily found by homeowners, products available at big box stores with a 4,000 PSI can still be dangerous. According to an article by Consumer Reports, pressure washers can cause:

  • Lacerations
  • Eye injuries
  • Punctures
  • Bruises

With that being said, special care must also be taken when pressure washing home sidings. You need to be at the correct distance to avoid wearing down vinyl sidings, wood shingles, and other types of susceptible house siding. Pressure washing is meant to clean walking surfaces, decks, stone pathways, patio furniture, and so forth. Anything that is hard, but has deep grooves that allow dirt to be embedded is a great candidate for pressure washing. If you’d like to learn more about this method, read our blog that discusses four areas of your home that need to be pressure washed.

Pros and Cons of Pressure Washing

In experienced hands… With inexperienced users…
Effective for walking surfaces Can cause injury if mishandled
Cleans deep grooves cracks well Can damage property

 

What it boils down to is that it’s a great tool, or a disastrous one, depending on who is using it. The benefits of pressure washing depend entirely on the training and experience of the person doing the pressure washing.

What Is Power Washing?

Pressure washing and power washing sound like the same thing, but there are a few distinctions. Power washing utilizes the same idea of blasting water at high pressure, only with hot water. This sets power washing apart because the hot water not only acts to sanitize surfaces, it is also superior at breaking down organic materials.

Power washing machines are usually heavier duty machines, as well. You can't acquire a professional-strength power washer, nor should you. These are extremely dangerous to you and your property without training. Additionally, power washing is mainly for outdoor cleaning of driveways, stone walls, and rough concrete. These machines are more commonly seen in commercial and industrial settings.

 

Pros and Cons of Power Washing

In experienced hands… With inexperienced users…
Effective at cleaning and removing stains Can cause damage to property
Cleans harder to reach areas Hot water can result in injury

 

The only real difference between pressure washing and power washing is the heat.

Power washers can get up to about 311°F, which is well above the boiling point. If you have acrylic windows, it’s important to know that the melting point of acrylic is around 320°F which, while the window may be safe, it doesn’t account for other factors that could impact the integrity of your window if you use a power washer improperly.

How You Know it’s Time for a Wash

There are some key signs that it’s time to give the exterior of your home some attention and some of those signs may not be that obvious. The aesthetics of your home are a great reason to get your home pressure washed, but there are other signs that it’s time to call in professionals beyond things looking dingy.

You’re paying more for your power.

In some cases, the buildup on the outside of your home can impact how well temperatures are regulated, which means that your furnace, heat pump or gas fireplace has to work that much harder to make your home comfortable.

The roof is discolored and has streaks.

This is more than a cosmetic issue, though it’s certainly unsightly. Over time, algae can result in streaks or discoloration on your roof, which can cause serious damage. Repairing damage can cost significantly more than just having your roof professionally cleaned a few times a year, depending on the severity.

Your gutters are overflowing.

Gutter cleaning is often a neglected homeowner task, but it’s essential. When gutters are fully clogged and overflowing, water can’t drain from your roof. Damage to your roof and home is often a result. Pressure cleaning can remove those clogs, and regular gutter cleaning can keep it from getting worse.

The exterior of your home looks dirty.

This one goes hand in hand with the power bill. Not having your home professionally washed results in it looking dingy and dirty. Eventually, it impacts your power bill, but until then, it’s just unsightly.

Don’t DIY. Call The Professionals

Cleaning the outside of a home or business is a big job. You can easily spend a whole week trying to tackle it alone. Throw in some bad weather and the sun's unrelenting rays and you have a recipe for frustration. It’s always a good idea to prep your home before washing it, and to use a professional pressure washing service.

It's much harder to focus on what you're doing, especially if it's with something like soft washing or pressure washing. That's when mistakes are made, which can mean bad news for you or your wallet.

Take a break and let the professionals handle all the outside cleaning and detailing. At Labor Panes, we pride ourselves on being perfectionists, and we offer a wide range of services, including window washing and gutter cleaning. Contact us today to get a free quote and quick service in your area.

Frequently asked questions about soft washing and pressure washing.

Read our most commonly asked questions about these two types of home washing and which is better for your home.

Can I soft wash with a pressure washer?

Yes, you can! Pressure washers can be modified to produce a lower PSI, making them ideal for soft washing.

What does soft wash mean for pressure washing and what is a soft wash?

Soft washing includes cleaning chemicals and has a lower PSI than typical pressure washing applications, making it a viable option for surfaces damaged by a higher PSI.

How much does it cost to soft wash a house?

This depends on several factors, including the size of the home and the extent of the work. You can cut down on the cost of soft washing by regularly maintaining the exterior of your home, eliminating the need for special attention due to more build-up.

What is cheaper: soft washing or pressure washing?

This, too, depends on many factors. The size of the structure, type of job, how deep stains are and materials needed all factor into the price of either service. Homeowners can expect to pay roughly $200 for a soft wash project, or $200-300 for their annual pressure wash.

What is considered a pressure wash?

Anything from 500 PSI to over 3300 PSI is considered a pressure wash. 500 PSI and below is considered a soft wash.

How much does it cost to pressure wash?

This depends on the project. If a surface has been neglected, the project will require more time and materials and, thus, cost more. We provide a free quote so that we can provide a cost estimate before we begin working.

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Jessica B.Ocean Isle Beach, NC

Great. They showed up on time in both the fall and spring. There was no mess. I thought the gutter mess would be on my yard or deck, but that was not the case. Everything was very clean.

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Went excellent. Power washed the house and drive. Extremely professional, excellent job.

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John P.Cornelius, NC

Cleaning window inside and outside and power washing window sills and gutter cleaning. They were nice and respectful of my plants. I will definitely have them back next year.

Patricia F.Mooresville, NC

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Lynn K.Waxhaw, NC

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Ed C.Matthews, NC

They showed up on time and cleaned the windows as requested. They were very polite and nice young men.

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