Different Ways to Make Your Own Pressure Washer Detergent

Making stuff at home always fascinated me. I make my own lotion, my own blankets, my own compost and many different crafts, so why not make my own pressure washer detergent too, I figured. 

You can make your own pressure washer detergent using common household cleaning agents. For general purpose pressure washing, you can mix together 1 gallon of water, ⅓ cup phosphate free laundry detergent (powder), ⅔ cup household cleaner and (optional) 1 cup vinegar.

Whether you are looking for ways to be more eco friendly or save money, I have a recipe, tip or trick that can help you do just that. 

Detergent Recipe for Concrete Surfaces

This recipe for concrete detergent is environmentally friendly and pretty easy to make. Borax can be found in the laundry detergent aisle of your local grocery store. 

If you have bad stains such as oil or grease on your driveway, you may want to pretreat with this recipe before you pressure wash the area to be sure that all of the stains are removed. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • ½ cup of Borax
  • ½ cup of washing soda
  • 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap

First mix the dry ingredients together. It is best to let the dry ingredients to sit, mixed, overnight. The next morning add in wet ingredients and mix slowly. 

If you wanted to make this solution stronger, you could either double all the ingredients except the water or add half as much water. 

For stains that are not grease related, such as from spilling juice or other organic stains that are being persistent, you can add a quart of bleach to this mixture as well. Just be sure to mix them in a well ventilated area if you do. 

If you add bleach to this recipe, it is no longer a “green” recipe. 

Detergent Recipe for Wood Deck and Flooring

This detergent will help you clean a deck or other kind of outdoor flooring with a pressure washer. 

What You Need:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • ⅓ cup powdered laundry detergent
  • ⅔ cup all purpose household cleaner
  • 1 quart of bleach

Start by mixing the powdered or dry ingredients together first. Once the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed together, then add in the wet or liquid ingredients. 

Keeping in mind that the water will dilute this mix, so if you need it stronger, reduce the amount of water used. Also, mix this is a well ventilated area as bleach can have chemical reactions that can put off some harsh fumes. 

Mainly because of the bleach, I would not consider this one to be an environmentally friendly or “green” detergent, but it would be very helpful in removing mildew.

Eco Friendly Detergent Recipes

Eco friendly recipes are preferred for homeowners with pets, nearby gardens or children because they are less likely to cause damage or injury to anyone or anything. Consider the following recipes if you are looking for a more environmentally friendly option.

For general purpose use

This all purpose cleaner is safe to use on most surfaces, and is made from readily available ingredients as long as you already use a phosphate free laundry detergent.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 gallon of water
  • ⅓ cup phosphate free laundry detergent (powder)
  • ⅔ cup household cleaner
  • (optional) 1 cup vinegar

Mix dry ingredients first, then slowly add the wet ones.

This is a good recipe to use on things like patio furniture since it will not damage or otherwise harm plants. It is not non-toxic, but it will break down easily in soil so is environmentally friendly.  

For cars

The next recipe is both green and safe for your car. Remember to use low pressure when washing your car so as not to damage or break anything, like your mirrors or windows. 

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup phosphate free laundry detergent (powder)
  • 1 gallon hot water

Mix slowly to limit the suds. 

Make sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all of the soap afterward. 

Why Make Your Own Detergent

Some people may wonder what the point is of making their own pressure washer detergent when they can easily buy it at the store. From cost to wanting to be sure they are eco friendly, there are actually a variety of reasons for it, and I will try to address just a few of them here.

Cost

It may be cheaper, in the long run to make your own as you already have the ingredients around your home. You don’t have to order it online or go to the store. You can just take a few household ingredients and mixed in the right proportions can give you a less costly alternative. 

Some of the recipes, in their current portions, may be more dilute than the store bought ones. Reducing the water in the recipes will increase the strength of the different recipes. 

Allergies

You may have issues with allergies. Like with me, I love the scent of certain things, but some of the more popular brands also include chemicals that do nothing to enhance the scent, but they do give me a severe migraine. While I do love those fruity scents, it’s not worth the pain, so I make my own to avoid the headaches, in my case, literally.

It may be possible to be allergic to one brand and not a different brand of the same thing. Sometimes it’s just not worth taking the risk when it comes to your health or the health of your family, especially when it comes to allergies. 

Transparency 

Some companies do not want to be fully transparent on their ingredients. Sometimes we just like to know what we are exposing our children and families to.

For example, there was a big controversy about many companies using dihydrogen monoxide. Everyone was freaking out cause dihydrogen monoxide was being used in both weed killer and ice cream.

However, dihydrogen monoxide is the technical name for water, but because it was listed differently, people were freaking out about it. That is like using a loophole to transparency. The same may hold true for other ingredients, and being able to make your own allows you to know exactly what is in your detergent. 

Homesteaders

Some people are trying to get closer to nature and are trying to not just go green, but be as self sufficient as possible too. They grow their own food, raise animals, and are making all of their own cleaning products. While homesteaders may still have to buy some things at the store, they do try to limit what they buy as it also helps to limit their waste. 

Homesteaders are usually off the grid and are trying to remove themselves from capitalism as much as they can, and part of that means limiting trips to the store and how much they purchase. By making extra uses for things they do buy, it can also help to limit their waste and increase how much they can control what they put into their bodies and into their environment. 

Measurements

In my research I noticed a number of places that will mix measurements. One recipe would use Imperial measurements (which is what it used in the US) and another, on the same site, would use metric (pretty much the rest of the world) so because I live in the US, I did convert all the recipes to Imperial (cups, pints, quarts, gallons).

Household Items That Can Be Used

There are a number of things that are common around more households or available at your local grocery store that can be used as detergent for a pressure washer including dish detergent, vinegar, bleach, and even just plain old water.

These items can be very convenient to use if you find yourself in a tight spot because you would probably not need to run out to the store to buy any of these things. 

Dish detergent

Dish detergent can be used for a simple pressure washer detergent. Just be careful using dish detergent as it can damage fragile surfaces, and it can create a lot of foam if used in excess. You may end up with more foam that you are looking for. 

For mold and mildew, you can use either vinegar or bleach, but since neither of these will work in cleaning dirt very well, they both have limited uses. 

Vinegar

Vinegar is safe for use around plants and won’t damage most things (electronics aside, but that has more to do with the water than the vinegar). It will kill mold and mildew, but won’t prevent its return. It is also safe to use when cleaning windows as long as you use a very low pressure. You may need to wipe the windows after to avoid streaking.

Bleach

Bleach will kill mold and mildew and prevent its return, but you do have to be careful around porous surfaces unless you like the splattered bleach effect. Using bleach in a pressure washer will atomize it, or turn it into a mist. Like bleach droplets could sporadically bleach anything it touches or lands on.

You should take extra safety precautions and wear extra safety gear when working with bleach. Face masks, gloves, and safety glasses will help keep you protected.

Water

This may sound a bit strange (or not, depending on your familiarity with a pressure washer), but using just plain washer can oftentimes clean a lot of things without having to add any chemicals at all. Sometimes just the pressure of the water can remove dirt and grime, and that is the safest and cheapest option available 

Washing soda

No, washing soda is not the same as baking soda, and it is not something that can sometimes be difficult to find at the grocery store, but luckily it is fairly simple to make your own right in your own home. 

Washing soda is a water soluble salt that can be used to clean a variety of different surfaces when it is dissolved in water.

Making washing soda

Even though washing soda and baking soda should not be confused, baking soda is the main ingredient in washing soda, and it can be used in a variety of eco friendly pressure washing detergents.

Materials needed

Items you need to make washing soda:

  • Baking soda
  • Cookie sheet
  • Oven
  • Spatula or spoon

The difference between baking soda and washing soda is not actually that much. Basically, it’s the difference between a sodium molecule and a hydrogen one. 

For those into chemistry, Baking soda is NaHCO3, where washing soda is Na2CO3. Chemically, they are very similar and all the needs to change the chemical composition is just a little heat. Just as a little heat can change H2O into its separate components, Hydrogen, and Oxygen, but cool it down and the molecules bond back together. 

Steps to take

So, pretty easy, to change baking soda into washing soda, easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (or 200 degrees Celsius)
  2. Spread out the baking soda on a cookie sheet in a thin layer
  3. Bake for approximately 30 minutes
  4. Stir every 5 – 7 minutes
  5. Remove and cool

The appearance of the soda will change. It will look more dull, not as shiny and crystallized as before. It will be drier, which means it won’t want to clump as much.  It helps to compare the before and after and you will see a subtle difference.  

General Preparations Before Cleaning

Now that you have a number of recipes to use to clean with, you want to  be prepared to clean, and that means preparing any areas you plan to clean. 

For cars

Before using a pressure washer on your car, you must prepare it, just like you would prepare it if you took it to the car wash. Essentially, any precautions you would take before running your car through the car wash, you should take now like removing any easily damaged decorations.

Make sure that the engine is off and the car is parked, preferably on a flat or level surface. Soap can make the ground slippery, so be sure you are also wearing non skid shoes as well. Bare feet can slide very easily. 

Make sure your windows are up, and the engine is cooled down. Checking your fluids and refilling any at this time would be a good opportunity to get some easy car maintenance out of the way and be able to wash away any spills from your driveway before they become stains.

Patio

Make sure that there are no pets bouncing around that would accidentally get hit either with the spray from the pressure washer or chemicals, and the same goes for younger children as well. 

Clean the area first. Garbage can, ashtrays, glasses, or soda cans should be taken care of first. Anything that is fragile should be removed. Ensure that no one left electronics laying around, and small items like keys should be picked up and put away. 

Hot water

Many people overlook the advantages of plain old hot water. You can remove a lot of dirt and grime just by spraying or cleaning with hot water first. Now, being able to use a pressure washer with hot water may be an issue, but just dumping hot water on some areas that look like they may be an issue to clean may help to loosen the dirt for you, if it doesn’t clean it nearly entirely. 

So just a bucket of hot water may be enough to loosen the dirt in some areas easily. Take precautions though, plants do not like hot water, and it could damage or kill them if care is not taken. This includes flowers, gardens, or even grass in the area. 

Safety precautions

Most of these recipes should be mixed in a well ventilated area because of fumes. 

Protective wear

When mixing and using these recipes, please take personal precautions such as wearing eye protection and gloves, especially with anything that uses bleach.

Even in 100-degree heat, it might feel nice to wash things barefoot. To avoid hurting yourself with the pressure washer or the chemicals used in your detergent, wear foot wear that covers your foot. While chemical burns may be a minimal risk, it is still a risk, and it is painfully easy to hit your foot with the spray of a pressure washer, which does not feel good. 

Proper storage

Be sure to store any leftover solution in clearly marked containers out of the reach of household pets and children. Bleach can be caustic, meaning acid like, and can be very dangerous if swallowed. Contact your local poison control center if accidentally ingested. 

Environmentally friendly does not mean non-toxic. Please exercise caution around children and animals when using these recipes. While things like vinegar won’t hurt a child or animal, many of the detergent ingredients will. 

Pressure washer safety

Make sure to read the instruction manual that came with your pressure washer and follow all of the safety guidelines. Once you have experience with anything, including a pressure washer, some people tend to get a bit lax on safety, and this is when accidents happen. Always put safety first, not just that of your family, but yours as well.  

Use basic personal safety when using a pressure washer. If the pressure is high enough or you are using a small enough nozzle, you can get seriously hurt. High pressure with a small nozzle can act just like a knife and can cause injuries severe enough to send you to the hospital. 

Hazards

Be aware of electricity and other hazards. Water and electricity do not mix, at least not in a good way. So be sure to cover outlets with plastic and remove lightbulbs and any other fragile items from the area you will be cleaning. 

Make sure that any roaming pets (cats and dogs, chickens, etc.) are safely secured away from the area you are working in. 

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