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September 19, 2020

Clear-Cut Comparison: Power Washing vs. Pressure Washing

Knowing the difference between power washing and pressure washing is the first step in deciding which is right for your property! Homeowners would also do well to note some added details about soft wash systems, and when these are recommended over standard pressure washing processes.

What IS the difference between power washing and pressure washing?

The difference between power washing and pressure washing is that pressure washing refers to any washing that uses pressurized water. Power washing, however, uses hot water and is best for greasy, oily stains. Soft wash systems use special detergents that only require low-pressure rinsing.

While the terms power washing and pressure washing are often used interchangeably, a homeowner should understand their differences and know when to use power washing, standard pressure washing, and soft wash systems. It’s also good to know why your pressure washing contractor might be recommending one service over another! This information will ensure your property is always clean, pristine, in good condition, and protected from damage through the years. So, let's dive in together!

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Weighing Your Options: Power Washing, Pressure Washing, & Soft Washing

While there aren’t many differences between power washing and pressure washing, you might note some added details about this work including when it’s needed and why it’s so beneficial!

Power Washing Explained by the Pros:

  • Pressure washing uses any pressurized water for cleaning or rinsing. If you attach a spray nozzle to your home’s garden hose and use that to wash outside walls or an exterior deck, you technically pressure washing your property!
  • Water coming from your home’s outside water line is typically lukewarm or even somewhat cool. This water is then safe for most applications.

How Does Power Washing Differ?

  • Power washing uses heated water, typically run through specialty equipment that works similar to your home’s water heater.
  • Hot water is not generally safe for wood fences and decks and might also loosen or damage adhesives such as caulk and grout along window frames. Hot water can also damage roof shingles while also causing dangerous splatter. However, hot water does dissolve grease and oil better than lukewarm water.
  • For this reason, power washing is most often used on driveways and garage floors and potentially around patios with outdoor kitchens where grease stains are common.

So, What's the Deal with Soft Wash?

  • Soft wash systems start with the application of specialty detergents, designed to dissolve thick dirt, mud, dust, and other such residues.
  • Once dissolved, those debris only need a light-pressure rinse for cleaning. Soft wash systems usually use water at a pressure just slightly stronger than that garden hose with a nozzle.
  • Since soft wash systems use light pressure, they’re an excellent choice for roofs, gutters, windows, wood surfaces, and other areas prone to damage with high-pressure washing.
  • Soft wash systems are an especially eco-friendly choice for outside cleaning, as their detergents help break down and dissolve thick dirt and grime, as said. That low-pressure rinsing used for soft wash systems then uses very little water while still offering a thorough, effective clean.

Which Parts of My Home Can I Pressure Wash?

Now that you know a bit more about the difference between power washing and pressure washing, you might note what you can pressure wash around the property and why this work is so vital, and when soft wash systems are a better option!

  • Exterior house washing removes layers of dirt, mud, sand, silt, mold, and other debris, protecting brick from softening and etching while also reducing the risk of interior water damage. Your home also looks better instantly when you invest in exterior pressure washing.
  • Roof washing is also vital for a home, to remove storm debris, drying soot and air pollution residues, and damaging algae and mold. Soft wash systems are recommended for roofs in order to avoid damaging shingles, tiles, and flashing.
  • Professional gutter cleaning removes layers of “gunk,” ensuring gutters stay clog free. As with roofs, soft wash systems are best for gutters, to avoid pulling them away from their connectors and creating messy splatter.
  • Pressure washing also removes dirt, mud, and developing mold from wood decks and fences and provides a clean foundation for fresh paint, stain, or sealant.
  • Power washing removes oil stains and other greasy residues from driveways and garage floors, as said. Pressure washing also cleans away sand, silt, dust, and other debris, which tends to get ground into patio pavers.
  • Soft wash systems provide an excellent cleaning solution for exterior window glass, removing layers of sand, silt, dust, and gritty debris. Windows are then protected from etching and scratching while your home looks better from the inside and outside!

Is It Bad to Power Wash a House?

Some homeowners are under the mistaken impression that it’s bad to power wash a house, perhaps assuming that exterior washing leads to water damage, chipped brick, and the like. In truth, the only danger to a home is improper pressure washing techniques!

A homeowner not experienced in power washing might easily strip granules off roof shingles, chip brick and concrete, peel paint off exterior surfaces, and even shatter a window. Improper washing techniques can also mean messy splatter and ineffective cleaning, leaving behind layers of dirt and even unsightly streaks and water stains.

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However, a professional pressure washing contractor ensures a thorough, safe job for all exterior surfaces. He or she will know the right detergents or cleansers to use, if any, and how to wash surfaces carefully, removing as much dirt as possible without creating messy splatter.

Power washing companies also know how to prepare surfaces before cleaning, to protect areas you don’t need washed and to ensure rinse water runs toward the street or nearby drains. They can also inspect exterior surfaces for holes that might allow water to seep into the home’s interior, and know how to cover or avoid those areas, reducing the risk of water damage.

Note, too, that ignoring needed power washing is dangerous for a home! Dirt and other debris hold moisture against exterior surfaces, risking water damage and resultant mold growth. Storm debris makes its way under and around roof shingles and tiles, lifting them and increasing the risk of losing those materials in high winds.

Regular power washing removes those damaging debris as well as unhealthy mold, mildew, soot and smoke from an outdoor kitchen, dust, pollen, and other such irritants clinging to outdoor surfaces. Your home and property will look cleaner and you’ll enjoy better air quality as well, for a more welcoming environment.

What Should You Not Pressure Wash?

While regular pressure washing removes layers of abrasive grit and other damaging grime, this doesn’t mean it’s safe for every outdoor surface! A homeowner should never use a pressure washer on their car, as this increased pressure might scratch and etch paint or even dent a quarter panel. It’s also vital that you use extra caution when power washing painted surfaces, as improper techniques, overly warm water, and too much pressure might peel and chip that paint.

A homeowner should also avoid pressure washing vinyl siding, as soft vinyl dents more readily than brick or metal. A power washing contractor might use soft wash systems on vinyl siding and windows, to protect those materials while offering a thorough clean. It’s also easy to dent or otherwise damage exterior air conditioner housing; use a vacuum or outdoor brush to clean the fins or grille of this unit instead of a pressure washer!

It’s also vital that you keep water away from electrical objects including outdoor lights, plugs, meters, and the like. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity and a homeowner might risk electrical shock from getting too close to these items, or might damage them and risk future shock.

If your home’s roof, exterior deck, and other such surfaces are older, it’s also best to leave their care and cleaning to the pros! Older wood might be more prone to splitting, as an example, so it’s vital you choose soft wash systems for an aged deck or fence. Older windows also tend to get brittle over time, making them more prone to breakage and shattering, so call a power washing professional for window cleaning.

Related Questions:

Does Power Washing Waste Water?

Many homeowners today are worried about how their decisions for home improvement and repair affect the environment, and certainly no one wants to see a sharp increase in their water bill just to clean their home! However, it’s helpful to note that pressure washing is actually a very eco-friendly choice for your property! How so?

Note that pressurized water cleans more effectively than non-pressurized water, such as from a garden hose. Nozzles used during pressure washing also help widen that spray of water, so that you can wash away layers of dirt and grime off large exterior surfaces with minimal water usage.

What is the Average Cost of Power Washing?

Most power washing contractors charge by the square foot, and those charges are typically adjusted for the surface needing cleaning; for example, roof washing might be more expensive than driveway cleaning, as roofs are more difficult to access. However, you might expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $250 for each surface needing cleaning.

Can you Clean a House Without Pressure Washing?

Rinsing with a garden hose will remove some dirt and dust but pressure washing with high-quality cleaners and proper power washing equipment ensures a thorough clean, while also killing mold and algae and dissolving the thickest dirt and grime.

A Word From Our Power Washers:

This article was written through the collaboration of our team at Bradenton Power Washing in Bradenton, FL. If you're in need of power washing or pressure washing services, please don't hesitate with us today!

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