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Can You Use a Pressure Washer to Soft Wash?

If you’ve looked up information on how to use your pressure washer on the side of your house or your car, you’ve probably come across recommendations for “soft washing” with little explanation on what it means, and whether you need a separate piece of equipment to do it. 

You’re probably wondering if you can use a pressure washer to soft wash? Yes, you can soft wash with a pressure washer by adjusting the PSI (pound-force per square inch) either through the pressure washer itself or by using a different tip on your sprayer. It is not vastly different from regular pressure washing.

The deeper you get into researching the best ways to use your pressure washer, the more you’ll see this concept of soft washing, but there isn’t a lot of information out there about what it means. Is it different from pressure washing? And most importantly, how do you do it? We’ve got answers to all these questions in more in this article.

Can You Soft Wash With a Pressure Washer?

If you already own or have access to a pressure washer, there is really no need to buy a special soft washing pump. Here’s why:

  • Your pressure washer itself may allow for adjustments to pressure if you’re using a professional-grade pressure washer. Check your user’s manual for instructions on adjusting pressure.
  • If not, you can always adjust the pressure by swapping out the nozzle to one with less pressure.

The Difference Between Pressure Washing and Soft Washing

Manufacturers of soft washing pumps will try to tell you that soft washing is so very different from pressure washing that you need to be separate equipment and soaps for it, but the truth is, most home pressure washing tasks require soft washing. You’re probably already doing it!

The only difference is how much pressure you use to do the job, and most jobs around the home require soft washing, like:

  • Cleaning house siding, especially vinyl
  • Cleaning wood decks and other structures
  • Cleaning roofs
  • Washing your car, truck, trailer, or boat

Using high pressure on these items can cause damage from the pressure itself or from water leaking behind and into cracks and crevices. The only instances where you want to use high pressure is when you’re cleaning concrete or stone!

Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb to follow is to use the lowest pressure possible that still gets the job done. You can always target stubborn spots later with a higher pressure without using the higher pressure for the entire cleaning task.

Which Nozzle Should You Use for Soft Washing?

Many pressure washers come with a set of nozzles, but if yours did not, they won’t set you back much. This set of five Tool Daily Pressure Washer Nozzles is under $10 and comes with a red, yellow, green, white, and black nozzle.

Here is what the colors of pressure washer nozzles signify:

Copyright article owner is for this article. This post was first published on April 13, 2020.

  • Red: 0 degrees. This is the most powerful pressure washing tip you can use, and most of the time, you’ll find it completely unnecessary. The stream is narrow and targeted. 
  • Yellow: 15 degrees. The stream on this nozzle widens a bit. You might use this on concrete or stone.
  • Green: 25 degrees. The stream becomes even wider with a green nozzle. The surface area you can wash increases. This is one of the most commonly used nozzles around the house.
  • White: 40 degrees. This stream on the white nozzle is cone-shaped and soft. The white nozzle is safe to use on most surfaces.
  • Black: 65 degrees. This nozzle offers the widest and gentlest stream but may not be effective. The black nozzle is mostly used for applying soap.

The white nozzle is the best nozzle to use when soft washing because it is gentle while still being effective against dirt and grime.

What is the PSI for Soft Washing?

The PSI for soft washing is hotly debated in the pressure washing community! Some say less than 100 PSI, while others insist that less than 1,000 PSI is still soft washing.

Considering professional pressure washers can reach thousands of PSI, you can see why some might consider 1,000 PSI soft washing.

You should never put your hand in front of the pressure washer’s wand as it can cause serious injury, but some say the PSI for soft washing wouldn’t hurt your hand if you did. (But don’t try it. Really.)

We like to take the middle ground. A PSI of 500 or less would be considered soft washing. Just remember, the definition is flexible.

Tips for Soft Washing With a Pressure Washer

If your planning on using your pressure washer to soft wash, save yourself some trouble and follow these tips and tricks!

Don’t Adjust the Unloader

Many people will erroneously suggest that you adjust the unloader of your pressure washer in order to change the pressure of the washer. This is bad advice unless recommended by the manufacturer.

The primary purpose of the unloader is to redirect the flow of water back to the pump so that it doesn’t build up. It plays an essential safety role in your pressure washer, and you don’t want to go messing around with it and damaging your pressure washer, or worse, hurting yourself and others.

Use Good Detergent and Follow Directions

Because soft washing doesn’t rely as heavily on pressurized water to scrub away dirt and grime, you should use a good detergent that is meant for the task that you’re working on. Follow the directions on the detergent, which will often include an amount of time that you should allow the soap to sit on the surface.

Let the detergent do some of the heavy lifting that your high pressured water normally would.

Don’t Run Soft Wash Detergents Through Your Pressure Washer

Detergents that are meant to be run through soft wash pumps are not necessarily a good match for your pressure washer. They often contain harsh chemicals like bleach that may cause damage if run through your pressure washer’s pump. If you have a downstream injector, it will be less likely to cause damage, but still a possibility.

You can apply these detergents separately with a sprayer or with a long-handled scrub brush and then rinse it away with soft pressure.

You could also just use a standard pressure washer detergent.

You’re Still Going to Need a Ladder for House Washing

Some people believe that because they’re soft washing, they don’t need to worry at all about the angle that they spray their siding from, but that isn’t true. Pressure washing or soft washing, you should spray your siding from a downward angle or a straight-on angle to help prevent water from getting behind the siding and damaging your home.

Why? Siding is designed to keep your house from getting wet when it rains and snows, and since rain falls downward, siding isn’t as good at combatting water shooting up at it from underneath. Will it ruin your house if you do it a few times? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it is a good practice.

ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on April 13, 2020.

Do You Need a Soft Wash Pump?

If you are a professional pressure washer, then you might want to invest in a soft wash pump because you will be able to use the powerful soft wash detergents with it, and that will save you some time. If you’re the average homeowner with normal soft washing needs, you don’t need another piece of equipment to maintain. A pressure washer can do the job just fine.