What is the difference between Pressure Washing, Power Washing and Soft Washing?

Is there a difference between Pressure Washing, Power Washing and Soft Washing?

When it comes to exterior cleaning, you may have heard several different terms in how cleaning contractors identify what it is they do.  You may hear companies call themselves a Pressure Washing company; while others will call themselves a Power Washing company.  Others will even call themselves a Soft Washing company.

So what are the difference in these terms?  

Many folks in this business seem to have an opinion on what makes these categories what they are… some people say the only difference between pressure washing and power washing is the use of hot water; some people say that soft washing is when you use a soap tip on a pressure washer (this puts out the water at a lower PSI); and some people say that when you apply chemicals to a surface and clean them off that that is pressure washing.

All of those are incorrect.

Turns out there actually is an official, defined industry standard of the definitions of these different cleaning practices.  Roughly five years ago, an organization called CETA (Cleaning Equipment Trade Association) officially changed and clarified the definition of pressure washing, power washing and soft washing.  

So what are the differences between pressure washing, power washing and soft washing?  Well, it’s not as complicated as you might think.  Let’s dive right in.

Pressure Washing

Pressure washing is simply the use of pressure generated water from a pressure washer to clean a surface.  It doesn’t matter if it’s 600 psi or 4500 psi; if you are using only pressurized water, without the aid of detergents or surfactants, then you are pressure washing.

The problem with this kind of cleaning method is that it doesn’t really address the problem. The mildew and algae and other growths are organic. Pressure washing is essentially like thinking you’re killing a weed by cutting off the visible top portion. You’re not killing it, you only trimmed it back. So because pressure washing didn’t kill the growth; it will grow back thicker and faster than you think.

Power Washing

Power washing is the use of a pressure washer, with the aid of chemicals, to clean a surface.  So this is what you see more often than not in our industry.  A cleaning contractor will show up to a job and use what’s called a downstream injector to pull soap and use the pressure washer to apply the soap to the surface they are cleaning.  Then, using the same pressure washer (minus the soap) they will then rinse the surface with water.  In most cases, cleaning contractors are using a lower PSI to both apply and rinse the soap, and they may call this process ‘soft washing’; but it’s not, it’s power washing.

For most applications, this is a superior method of cleaning over pressure washing because it utilizes chemicals to actually kill the organic growth on the surfaces. And don’t let the word chemicals scare you. A properly trained exterior cleaner has been trained to use the right chemicals at the correct ratios to be safe for your home and surrounding vegetation. In fact, all the soaps that we use at Carolina Wash Pros are bio-degradable and water based.

Soft Washing

Soft washing is the use of an agricultural type pump to apply and rinse cleaning chemicals.  Soft washing does not utilize a pressure washing machine.  These types of agricultural pumps are typically powered with 12v or 24v batteries.  They’re nearly silent in their operation and generally are only capable of up to 60-100 PSI.   When soft washing with these pumps, the cleaning contractor is using a chemical mixture to emulsify the organic matter on a surface, then using water to safely rinse off that organic matter.

As described in the power washing section, the right chemicals are safe and helpful for proper cleaning. In addition to using safe chemicals and detergents, soft washing uses a pump that is physically impossible to harm your surfaces. It’s a high volume, low pressure (about the same as a garden hose) pump. Rather than using potentially high pressure, soft washing lets the soaps do all the work. To use the weed example; this is going to actually kill the weed, the organic growth, and will provide a deeper, longer lasting clean.

Do these terms matter?

So does it matter that some contractors use these terms incorrectly?  No…. and yes.  It’s not wrong for a contractor to call themselves a pressure washing company (such as A1 Pressure Washing) and then they utilize soft washing or power washing as a method of cleaning.  That happens all the time.  In fact our company, Carolina Wash Pros, utilizes all three methods of cleaning.  Every substrate requires a different cleaning method to safely and efficiently maximize the cleaning effectiveness.  (We’ll be posting another post about what exactly is growing on your house and why soft washing is usually the most effective cleaning method)

When it does matter is when a contractor just doesn’t really know, but is selling you a buzzword without knowing the process behind the word.  So they may believe that they are safely cleaning your home, when in reality, they are harming the siding or window seals or paint on your home or business.  It’s all about being properly educated and trained to safely clean your property; and in turn, being able to appropriately explain that knowledge to you, the client.

At Carolina Wash Pros, we want to partner with you and help educate you on the best cleaning methods for your specific home or business.  Every house or business is different: different stains, different substrates, etc., and so the solution needs to be custom fit for your project.  We have the right training and equipment to correctly identify the problem (algae, rust, oxidation, etc) and then offer the right solution to get the job done in an efficient and cost effective manner.

The difference between Pressure Washing, Power Washing and Soft Washing is all in the amount of pressure, the type of pump and the use of chemicals.

So, is Carolina Wash Pros the premier pressure washing company in Greensboro, Winston Salem, Clemmons, High Point, Summerfield and Lexington?  Yes.

Is Carolina Wash Pros the best power washing company in the entire Piedmont Triad?  Yes.

Is Carolina Wash Pros the most experienced soft washing company in Piedmont Triad?  Yes.  

We have hundreds of projects in our portfolio where we have safely utilized all three of these cleaning methods.

So if you’re in need of any of these exterior cleaning services, or just have additional questions about the cleaning process in general, please drop us a line by clicking the “request a quote” button below, or call us at (336) 303-8334.

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