Soft Washing vs. Pressure Washing

soft washing gutters on a roof

It’s amazing just how dirty the outside of your home can get throughout a year. Some of the most typical stains include dirt or mud splatter, algae, mold and mildew. These stains will give any home an unkempt, uncared for appearance, regardless of if you invest a lot of time, money and maintenance into it.

Some materials, like dirt, don’t do much harm, but algae and mildew can be damaging to both your health and your home. These contaminants produce allergens and bacteria that can impact your family, and some, like algae, can grow underneath vinyl or roofing material and enter into your home.

As a professional power washing company in Grand Rapids, we recommend that you have your home’s exterior cleaned once every 12 months. Spring is typically the most popular time to do an intense home washing, but you can do it any time so long as the weather permits.


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

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

Pressure washing used to be the only option to thoroughly clean vinyl, brick and painted surfaces. Now, homeowners have a second option for exterior home cleaning: soft washing.

As the names imply, one method is a lot gentler than the other, but there’s more to it than just that. Let’s review the features of each method to help you judge which is the right choice for your home.


The soft wash method 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 created from a nozzle with a wider spray setting, only slightly more powerful than your typical backyard lawn hose.

Soft washing uses detergent, bleach and water in combination to remove organic matter and debris from your home, roof and other outdoor surfaces. The mixture used in a soft washing system can include algaecides and residual inhibitors which will prevent further growth of these organisms in the future.

Because chemicals, not water pressure, are responsible for cleaning the surfaces, no powerful water is necessary. This means that soft washing can be used for more delicate surfaces that could otherwise be harmed by higher pressure washing.

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

Soft washing provides the distinct advantage of reaching into cracks to kill unseen bacteria, meaning that its results can last longer than power washing.


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

This particular cleaning method uses water only, no chemicals, to clean off stains and organisms from exterior surfaces. The use of plain water is a big advantage to property owners who don’t want to use chemicals, either for the environment’s sake or to avoid zoning violations.

The pressure washing process can be used on many different materials. Home owners often prefer power washing for cleaning their driveway, patio, decks, walkways and patio furniture because it is quick, more efficient and cost-effective.

Pressure washing uses anywhere from 1300 to 3100 PSI water pressure with water being sprayed out of a tiny nozzle for maximum power. Both organic and inorganic materials are blasted from your home’s surface, prohibiting their growth and renewing the appearance of your home.

One negative about power washing is that the water can sometimes be too powerful and lead to damaging the surfaces of your home you want to clean. Pressure washing is powerful enough to put grooves in wood and plastic, and it can push 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 are good for your home’s exterior, including sidewalks, driveways and more. Both cleaning systems can be performed by a professional company – and honestly, are more effectively done when left to the experts.

Soft washing is perfect for outdoor toys, gardening equipment, shingle roofs, decks, gutters, patios and painted surfaces because it is less likely to damage plastic and wood. It’s also a safe and smart choice for vinyl siding.

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

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

Pressure washing is the recommended choice for severe stains, and hard surfaces like asphalt, brick and stone. Pressure washing is the preferred choice for commercial surfaces. A professional pressure washing company in Grand Rapids may use a mixture of detergents and water pressure to get rid of tough stains, but they should tell you if they will be spraying chemicals after your estimate.

It can be used on siding as well (and has been for decades) so long as it is done carefully. Powerful water pressure can break weak or small pieces of the vinyl. A local service that does power washing all the time are going to know how to protect fragile pieces, but a first-timer can do a lot of damage.

Your home’s roof is off limits for power washing if you have slate, tile or asphalt shingles. The pressure of the water could ruin these materials and require you to replace your roof a lot sooner than expected.

Choosing between soft washing or power washing is best left for a professional pressure washing company. Which process is right for your home? Give CWC Grand Rapids Pressure Wash a call at 616-344-0068 and we will send a trained technician over to take a look!

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