Soft Washing vs. Pressure Washing

soft washing gutters on a roof

It’s shocking how dirty the outside of your house 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 your house an unkempt, uncared for look, even though you invest a lot of time and maintenance into it.

Some materials, like dirt, don’t do much harm, but algae and mold can be harmful to both your health and your house. They create allergens that can affect your family, and some of them, like algae, can even grow underneath vinyl or roofing and enter your house.

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


All of the following surfaces need to be cleaned from time to time:

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

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

As the names imply, one method is much gentler than the other one, but there’s more to it than that. Let’s cover the features of each method to help you determine which is the right choice for your house.


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 lighter spray is generated from a nozzle with a wider spray setting, only slightly more powerful than your standard backyard lawn hose.

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

Because chemicals, not water pressure, are key to cleaning the surfaces, no powerful water pressure is required. This means that soft washing can be used for delicate surfaces that would otherwise be damaged 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 in the process, if there is plant or animal life that can be impacted by the runoff, and if the solution itself is strong enough to damage surfaces over time.

Soft washing offers the distinct advantage of getting into cracks to eliminate even unseen organisms, meaning that its results can last much longer than standard power washing.


Pressure washing has long been the standard for cleaning exterior surfaces. It is highly effective and efficient, which is why many home and business owners prefer it over soft washing.

This cleaning system uses water only, no chemicals, to clean off stains and mold from exterior surfaces. The use of chemical-free water is a major advantage to property owners that don’t want to use cleaning chemicals, whether for the environment’s sake or to avoid zoning violations.

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

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

One negative about power washing is that the water is sometimes too powerful and can harm the surfaces of your home you’re attempting to clean. Pressure washing is strong enough to put deep grooves into wood and plastic, and it can get into cracks, breaking off chunks of stone or brick.


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

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

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

It eliminates organisms that are present on the surface, and it stops future growth for much longer than power washing can.

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

Pressure washing is considered the best choice for severe stains, and hard surfaces like asphalt, brick and stone. Pressure washing is the recommended process for commercial surfaces. A local pressure washing company in Arlington might use a mix of chemicals and water pressure to eliminate difficult stains, but they should tell you if they are going to be spraying chemicals during your consultation.

It can also be used on siding too (and has been for decades) so long as it is done correctly. Powerful water pressure can break off fragile or smaller pieces of the vinyl. A local company that does power washing often are going to know how to protect these areas, but a DIYer could 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 will likely ruin these materials and cause you to replace your home’s roof much sooner than expected.

Choosing between soft washing or power washing is best left for a professional pressure washing company. Which method is right for your house? Give Arlington Power Washing a call at 703-783-6447 and we’ll send an experienced technician over to take a look!

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