Can You Use Dish Soap in a Pressure Washer?

Pressure washers are amazing cleaning machines, but they can’t (always) do their job without a good cleaner. There are plenty of DIY cleaners out there to use with your pressure washer, including some that use dish soap.

But, can you use dish soap in a pressure washer? You can use dish soap in a pressure washer as long as you properly dilute it with water, but it may not be as effective at cleaning surfaces as other soaps or detergents meant specifically for pressure washers.

If you are bummed that dish soap isn’t going to solve all of your outdoor cleaning woes, don’t be. Dish soap can be a decent option, but take heart in the fact that there are better and stronger options to make your cleaning jobs easier.

Why You Might Not Want to Use Dish Soap in Your Pressure Washer

In a pinch, dish detergents can get the job done in most cases, but the wide variety of pressure washing detergents available for purchase are out there for a reason, and it isn’t just to make money. They actually work! Different surfaces require different types of detergents to get the best clean.

Using dish soap in your pressure washer is convenient and safe because dish detergents are non-toxic and biodegradable, but there are some real disadvantages to using it in your pressure washer, including:

  • It doesn’t work as well as some other cleaners
  • It can get overly soapy and sudsy
  • It might not be cost-effective
  • It may leave a residue or a film on some surfaces
  • It isn’t great for cars
  • If used improperly, it could gum up or damage tubing or other parts of your pressure washer

How to Use Dish Soap in Your Pressure Washer

If you still want to go ahead and try dish soap or your next pressure washing project, here’s how to do it:

  1. Use a dish detergent that has a degreaser like Dawn Dish Detergent. 
  2. Mix 3 ounces (or 1/3 cup) of the dish detergent with 1 gallon of water. You can eyeball it, but you don’t want too much detergent because it will make your mixture too soapy and sudsy.
  3. Make sure the soap is completely mixed in with the water to ensure that the soap does not damage your pump.
  4. Spray the mixture on to the surface you want to clean, let it sit for a little while, but don’t let it dry, then come back and rinse it away.
  5. Be sure to rinse all the soap and residue away.

If you are worried about damaging your pressure washer, you can always apply the soap separately with a bucket of soapy water and a brush or a sprayer.

Cleaning Your Roof With Dish Soap?

Many pressure washer wielding homeowners and pressure washing professionals swear by the power of dish soap when it comes to cleaning a roof.

  • Mix 8 ounces of dish soap with 2 gallons of water and spray it over the roof. Some recommend also mixing in a cup of chlorine bleach as well. This increases the power of the cleaner but also makes it more hazardous. If you can avoid the use of bleach, please do.
  • It is best not to use your pressure washer to apply the soap, especially if you use the bleach. Use a spray bottle and apply the detergent mixture. 
  • Allow the soap to sit. Some homeowners will then allow the rain to wash away the soap, but we recommend using a light power setting on your pressure washer and rinsing away the soap thoroughly.

Other DIY Cleaners for Pressure Washers

So, dish soap isn’t, perhaps, the best of cleaners to use around your house. So what do people use for soap in their pressure washer? We have some ideas to share with you:

Just waterSometimes, water is all you need, especially if you have a hot water pressure washer. Test the area you want to clean and see if water does the job. If it does, you just saved yourself some money, and you didn’t put more chemicals into the environment.
VinegarMix 3 parts vinegar and 7 parts water, or about a cup and half per gallon of water. Vinegar has disinfectant and deodorizing properties. To cut the smell of the vinegar, you can add a little essential oil.
Laundry detergentMix ½ cup of laundry detergent into 1 gallon of water. Laundry detergent is stronger than dish soap and does a much better job. Use phosphate-free laundry detergent for an eco-friendly option.
Multipurpose cleanerMany household multipurpose cleaners can be used with your pressure washer. Mix about 1 ounce of cleaner per 1 cup of water or about 2 cups per gallon. You can increase the amount for a heavy duty job or decrease for a lighter duty job.
Don’t use bleachCaustic cleaners like bleach should be avoided as they can cause damage to your pressure washer, and if you’re not careful, they could lead to injury (like if a wind picks up and that fine mist spray back in your eyes.) If you want to clean with bleach, apply it separately

Why Not Use a Specialty Cleaner?

While many of these DIY options, including dish soap, will clean surfaces when used with your pressure washer, for cleaning jobs you routinely do around your house, it might be best to get a specialty cleaner. Here are some reasons why:

Reason #1: Pressure Washer Cleaners are Specialized

Pressure washer cleaners allow you to use the right tool for the job at hand. They come in a wide variety including:

  • Vehicle cleaners
  • Concrete cleaners
  • Deck and fence cleaners
  • Siding cleaners
  • Mold cleaners
  • Multipurpose cleaners

A multipurpose pressure washer cleaner is guaranteed not to gum up the workings of your pressure washer and can handle most jobs, and the specialty cleaners will help you handle routine house maintenance efficiently.

Reason #2: Pressure Washer Cleaners Are Not Expensive

You might think that using a little Dawn will save you some money, but honestly, pressure washer cleaners aren’t as expensive as you might think.

A gallon of Krud Kutter House and Siding, for example, costs less than $10. A gallon worth of Dawn can easily cost double that. 

You do need to use slightly more pressure washer cleaner than Dawn, but nowhere near double the amount. Additionally, you may end up using more cleaner and taking more time when you’re using Dawn over a pressure washer cleaner because it just doesn’t work as well.

For a job that you do regularly, it is definitely worth getting a specialty cleaner. For a one time job, you might not want to invest in a full bottle that you’ll only use once.

Reason #3: You’re Less Likely to Damage Your Belongings

Somethings you’re want to pressure washer might be more sensitive to certain substances over others. For example, you don’t just want to spray any old cleaner on your car. It could cause build-up or damage your paint job. 

So, the DIY methods like using dish soap may not be worth it in this case.

Final Thoughts

You can use dish soap in your pressure washer as long as you mix the soap completely in the water and don’t use too much of it, but the real question is whether you should. If you’re in a pinch, go ahead and give it a try, but in the long term, you may want to consider some of your other options. 

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