soft wash

The Science Behind a Thorough Soft Wash

By Tyler Kirk | Softwashing
Updated on: 05/04/2022

Spotted some algae growing on your siding?

Don't just use a pressure washer or hire an inexperienced handyman. The pressure used with this type of cleaning can seriously damage your exterior. This requires a gentler touch in the form of soft wash chemicals.

These types of cleaning solutions are specifically designed for exteriors and include:

  • Sodium Hypochlorite. More commonly known as bleach, in the right proportions with other ingredients, it’s a gentle surfactant for your exterior.
  • Odor Masking Agents. In recent years, we’ve all had our fill of disinfectants and know that the smell isn't always pleasant. That’s why you need something to mask it.
  • Neutralizers. Special chemicals are designed to rinse runoff from your exterior; these prevent soft wash chemicals from dwelling on surfaces and causing issues later.
  • Plant Cleaner & Fertilizer. Special washes can and should be used to help reverse any damage done to your landscape. In addition to providing nourishment for plants, they also coat them with a buffering agent, providing extra protection.

Soft washing is a bit more than carefully selected chemicals, however.  To better understand the science behind a good soft wash, we have to look at the difference between the two main pressure washing types.

How Does Soft Washing Work?

Soft washing doesn't forcefully blow dirt away from a surface. Instead, certain detergents and soft wash chemical solutions are added to the water. When sprayed over the dirty surface, these detergents soak into the dirt and deteriorate it from the inside. The lower PSI doesn’t cause damage, and the chemicals used in a soft wash are safe for residential use.

Chemicals Used for Soft Washing

Professionals have a lot of options when it comes to chemicals for soft washing. From different components to make a complete solution, or all-in-one solutions for different types of surfaces, there are countless choices. We really like Soft Wash System’s line of convenient, easy-to-use chemical solutions.

As members of our community, we know how important it is to use products that are healthier. We appreciate that their products are non-hazardous, 100% biodegradable, water-based, and designed to do as little harm to the environment as possible.

Here are a few of our favorite all-in-one soft wash chemical solutions from them.

Non-Organic Staining Additive


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Stains that occur due to things like grease or oil on your driveway often need a different cleaning solution from other kinds of stains. You can increase the concentration for more soiled areas, such as an oil spill in your driveway from an oil change DIY fiasco, or less for smaller stains and spills.

Staind Wood Additive


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Wood is a softer, more porous surface than concrete. For example, dry cat food can stain a wooden deck. Soft Wash System formulates its wood wash to bring out the natural features of the wood so that you can spend time in your outdoor living space the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

Conditioning Agent


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Similar to a leave-in conditioner that you’d put in your hair, conditioning agents prevent any build-up from the soft wash chemicals used and also coat the exterior of your home or deck to prevent damage from the sun or other elements. You leave it on after everything is all said and done so that it keeps working long after the professionals leave.

Waxing Finish


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Similar to a conditioning agent, the waxing finish leaves a glossy luster behind on surfaces that are supposed to really shine, like metal roofing. While a conditioning agent is ideal for things like the wood deck, we’d use this on the siding of most homes today within our service area.

While soft washing might be a bit more expensive than ordinary pressure washing services, it’s well worth the extra investment. Curious about the process? Here are the steps that professionals take to safely soft wash your property:

1. Applying Water and Soft Water Chemicals

To get started, the water and detergents will be sprayed over your surface. This will allow it to get into all the dirty cracks and crevices. The chemical solution will start to break down any dirt it touches.

2. Then, We Have to Wait

The next part of the soft washing process is actually doing nothing at all. Called the ‘dwelling time,’ the soft wash chemical solution needs to sit on the surface for at least 5 minutes; for tougher jobs, the solution typically needs to sit for longer. The longer the solution sits, or dwells on the surface, the more it breaks down the dirt.

3. Rinsing Off the Solution

After the solution has dwelled for the appropriate amount of time, it will be washed away with ultra-low water pressure. As the solution washes away, the broken-down dirt washes away with it. One of the benefits of hiring seasoned professionals for this is that typically, they won’t need to do a second application. Because of experience, they are able to better judge how long the soft wash chemicals will need to properly break down build-up.

Benefits of Soft Washing

Because soft washing involves chemical solutions, it gets rid of more than just surface dirt. The detergents also remove the hidden bacteria underneath the dirt. What this means is that your house actually becomes healthier when you soft wash it.

The softer pressure also keeps your surfaces from breaking down and disintegrating with the dirt. In other words, a soft wash will keep your surfaces in good condition and clean them more thoroughly than a high-pressure wash.

High-pressure washes and soft washes both have advantages and disadvantages. For example, soft washes can damage plants. So getting a soft wash for a house that's surrounded by plants may not be a good decision.

Other Types of Pressure Washing

A high-pressure washer literally blows dirt off surfaces. Remember, each water drop acts as a hammer. Though this pressure wash is effective at removing dirt, it can also damage your surfaces either in an instant or over time. Even hard surfaces like asphalt can crumble under a high-pressure washer. Still, there are times when you may want to use pressure washing, such as cleaning patio pavers or getting rid of dirt and stains on your driveway.

Check out our article “Soft Wash vs Pressure Wash: What's the Difference?” to discover the key differences between soft washing, pressure washing, and power washing as well as which option is best.

For the most part, a soft wash will protect your surfaces at the same time as cleaning them. If you aren't sure what type of pressure wash you should choose, spend some time talking to an expert. They'll know what method is best for your situation.

Need more than just a soft wash? Take a look at some of our services and see how we can help you.

Lastly, it may be tempting to DIY soft wash your home since the danger of injury due to a high PSI is gone. But, keep in mind that soft wash chemicals should be handled carefully. Even though they are gentler on skin and the environment, they are still chemicals. Also, it’s a laborsome, time-consuming task, and if you’re not used to doing it like our trained professionals, it’s a real challenge.

Frequently Asked Questions about soft washing and soft wash chemicals

What makes soft wash chemicals different from other chemicals? Keep reading to find out, and to get answers to other commonly asked questions.

Are soft wash chemicals different?

With pressure washing chemicals aren’t often used, but when they are they are different. Soft washing chemicals are designed to sit on a surface and need a bit of time to work, whereas pressure washing doesn’t.

What chemicals are used in soft washing?

Bleach, conditioners, rinses, and waxes are all used in the soft wash process either as part of the cleaning solution or as a rinsing agent to condition surfaces and plant life.

How do you mix chemicals for soft wash?

This largely depends on the job. Heavily soiled areas require a higher concentration of cleaning agents, whereas lighter jobs can do with less. For most jobs we recommend one part sodium hypochlorite to six parts water.

Are soft wash chemicals safe?

When used properly, yes. It’s essential to take proper safety precautions and to protect your property where necessary when using any cleaning agent. However, mishandling these chemicals can lead to irreversible damage to plants and property.

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