Soft Washing vs. Pressure Washing

soft washing gutters on a roof

It’s shocking how dirty the exterior of your home can get over the course of a year. Some of the most common stains include dirt or mud splatter, algae, mold and mildew. These things can give any home an unkempt, messy look, even though you invest time and care into it.

Some materials, like dirt or mud, are harmless, but algae and mold can be harmful to your health and your home. They produce allergens that can impact your family, and some of them, like algae, can grow directly underneath vinyl or roofing material and enter your home.

As a professional power washing service in Bethesda, we recommend you have your home’s exterior cleaned once a year. The spring season is the most common time of the year to do an intense home exterior washing, but you can really do it any time as long as the weather permits.


All of the following home surfaces need to be power washed 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 siding, brick and painted home surfaces. Now in 2021, homeowners in Bethesda have a second option for exterior home cleaning: soft washing.

As the names suggest, one method is much gentler than the other, but there’s a little more to it than that. Let’s review the features of each method to help you decide which is best for your home.


The soft wash process 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 option, only a little more powerful than a standard backyard garden hose.

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

Because chemicals, not water pressure, are responsible for cleaning the exterior surfaces, no powerful water pressure is needed. This means that soft washing should be used for delicate surfaces that would otherwise be harmed by more powerful pressure washing equipment.

The soft wash chemicals are sometimes cleaned off, but not all of the time. This just depends on the type of chemicals are used, if there is plant or animal life that could be affected by the runoff, and if the solution itself is strong enough to damage surfaces over time.

Soft washing offers the advantage of reaching into cracks and crevices to kill unseen bacteria, meaning that its impact can last much longer than power washing.


Pressure washing has always been the gold standard for cleaning home exterior surfaces. It is extremely effective and fast, which is why most home and business owners prefer it.

This particular cleaning process uses water only, no chemicals, to get rid of stains and mildew from home exterior surfaces. The use of chemical-free water is a significant plus to home owners that don’t want to use chemicals, whether for the sake of the environment or to avoid zoning violations.

The pressure washing process can be used on a lot of different materials. Home and business owners choose power washing for cleaning their driveway, porches, decks, sidewalks and outdoor furniture because it is fast, efficient and cost-effective.

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

One drawback to power washing is that the water can sometimes be too powerful and can harm the surfaces you’re attempting to clean. Pressure washing is strong enough to cut deep grooves into wood and plastic, and it can push into cracks, breaking off chunks of stone or brick.


The obvious question for most homeowners is, “Which one should I choose?”

Both soft washing and pressure washing are good choices 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 great for outdoor play equipment, gardening equipment, roof shingles, decks, gutters, patios and painted surfaces because it is unlikely to damage plastic and wood. It’s also a safe choice for vinyl siding.

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

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

Pressure washing is considered the recommended method for severe stains, and hard surfaces like asphalt, brick and stone. Pressure washing is the preferred choice for commercial properties. A local pressure washing service in Bethesda may use a mix of detergents and water pressure to get rid of tough stains, but they should let you know if they will be using chemicals during your consultation.

It can also be used for siding too (and has been for several years) as long as it is done carefully. High water pressure can break weak or small pieces of the vinyl. A local service that does power washing often are going to know how to protect vulnerable pieces, but a amateur could do a lot of damage.

Your home’s roof is off limits for power washing if there are slate, tile or asphalt shingles. The pressure of the water can ruin these materials and require you to replace your home’s roof far faster than expected.

Deciding between pressure washing or soft washing is best left for a professional pressure washing service. Which method is right for your home? Give Bethesda Pressure Washing a call at 301-215-2990 and we’ll send a trained technician over to take a look!

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