Soft Washing vs. Pressure Washing

soft washing gutters on a roof

It is amazing just how dirty the siding, wood or brick of your home can get throughout the course of a year. Some of the most common stains include mud or dirt, algae, mold and mildew. These things will give any home an unkempt, uncared for appearance, regardless of if you invest a lot of time and maintenance into it.

Some of these materials, like dirt, don’t do much harm, but algae and mildew can be destructive to your health and to your home. They produce allergens that can affect your family, and some, like algae, can grow underneath vinyl or roofing and enter into your home.

As a professional power washing service in Federal Way, we recommend you have your home’s exterior cleaned once a year. Spring is the most popular time to do an extreme home exterior washing, but you can really do it any time throughout the year so long as the weather permits.


All of the following home surfaces need to be power washed from time to time:

• Vinyl siding
• Rock and stone
• Brick
• Concrete and asphalt

Power washing used to be the only way to properly clean vinyl siding, brick and painted home surfaces. Now, homeowners have another option for exterior home cleaning: soft washing.

As the names suggest, one method is much gentler than the other one, but there’s more to it than just that. Let’s review the features of each to help you determine which one is best for your home.


The soft wash system uses less power than a typical pressure washer, hence the name. The maximum water pressure in a soft washing system is 500 PSI. This lower spray is generated from a nozzle with a wider spray option, only a little more powerful than a backyard lawn hose.

Soft washing uses soap, bleach and water in combination to get rid of organic matter from your home, roof and other outdoor surfaces. The cleaning mixture used in a soft washing system can include algaecides and residual inhibitors to help stop further growth of these organisms in the future.

Because chemicals, not pressure, are key to cleaning the exterior surfaces, no powerful water pressure is necessary. This means that soft washing can be used for fragile surfaces that would otherwise be damaged by harsher pressure washing equipment.

The soft wash solution is sometimes washed off, but not always. This just depends on what type of solution is used, if there’s plant or animal life that might be impacted by the solution runoff, and if the solution itself is powerful enough to harm surfaces over time.

Soft washing provides the advantage of reaching down into cracks to kill unseen bacteria, meaning that its effects can last much longer than standard power washing.


Pressure washing has always been the gold standard for cleaning home exterior surfaces. It is highly effective and quick, which is why most home and business owners still prefer it over soft washing.

This cleaning system uses water only, there are no chemicals, to eliminate stains and organisms from home exterior surfaces. The use of chemical-free water is a significant plus to home and business owners that don’t want to use cleaning chemicals, either for the environment’s sake or to avoid zoning violations.

It can be used on a lot of different materials. Home owners often prefer power washing for cleaning their driveway, porches, decks, walkways and patio furniture because it is fast, efficient and cost-effective.

Pressure washing requires somewhere from 1300 to 3100 PSI water pressure with water sprayed out from a tiny nozzle for maximum power. Both organic and inorganic stains are sprayed from your home’s exterior surface, preventing their growth and restoring the curb appeal of your home.

One drawback to power washing is that the water is sometimes too powerful and can damage the surfaces of your home you’re attempting to clean. Pressure washing is powerful enough to cut grooves into wood and plastic, and it can get into cracks, breaking off pieces of stone or brick.


The obvious question for homeowners is, “Is pressure washing or soft washing better?”

Both soft washing and pressure washing methods are good for your home’s exterior, as well as sidewalks, driveways and more. Both of these cleaning systems can be done by a professional – and honestly, are more effectively done when left to the experts.

Soft washing is excellent for outdoor toys, yard tools, shingle roofs, decks, gutters, patios and painted surfaces because it is less likely to harm plastic and wood. It’s also a safe choice for vinyl siding.

It kills organisms currently present on the exterior surface, and it stops future growth for much longer than power washing can.

A disadvantage of soft washing is that it can kill plants underneath the surface you’re cleaning. Remember to spray them down with water right before putting the soft wash solution on your home or roof, and it shouldn’t be a problem.

Pressure washing is the recommended method for difficult stains, and hard surfaces like concrete, brick and stone. Pressure washing is the recommended method for commercial properties. A local pressure washing service in Federal Way may use a mixture of detergents and water pressure to remove problematic stains, but they should let you know if they are going to be using chemicals during your estimate.

It can be used for siding as well (and has been for several years) so long as it is done carefully. Powerful water pressure can break fragile or smaller pieces of vinyl. A service that does power washing often will know how to protect fragile pieces, but a DIYer might do a lot of harm.

Your home’s roof is off limits for power washing if there are slate, tile or asphalt shingles. The pressure of the water can damage these materials and cause you to replace your roof far sooner than expected.

Choosing between soft washing or power washing is best left for a professional pressure washing service. Which process is right for your home? Give Federal Way Pressure Washing a call at 253-243-0013 and we will send an experienced technician over to take a look!

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