Soft Washing vs. Pressure Washing

soft washing gutters on a roof

It’s surprising just how dirty the siding, wood or brick of your home can get over the course of a year. Some of the most typical stains include dirt or mud splatter, algae, mold and mildew. These things will give any home an unkempt, uncared for look, even though you invest time, money and care into it.

Some of these materials, like dirt or mud, don’t do much harm, but algae and mildew can be damaging to both your health and your home. These contaminants create allergens and bacteria that can affect your family, and some, like algae, can grow underneath vinyl or roofing and enter into your home.

As a professional power washing company in Norfolk, we recommend you have your home’s exterior cleaned once every 12 months. Spring is typically the most common time to do an extreme home washing, but you can do it any time throughout the year 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

Pressure washing used to be the only option to thoroughly clean vinyl, brick and painted home surfaces. Now in 2021, homeowners have a second option for exterior home cleaning: soft washing.

Like the names imply, one method is a lot gentler than the other one, but there’s a little more to it than just that. Let’s review the features of each to help you decide which one is the right choice for your home.


The soft wash system uses much less power than a typical pressure washer, hence the name. The maximum water pressure used in a soft washing system is 500 PSI. This lower spray is generated from a nozzle with a wider spray setting, only slightly more powerful than your standard backyard hose.

Soft washing uses detergent, bleach and water in 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 also include algaecides and residual inhibitors which will prevent further growth of these organisms in the future.

Because chemicals, not pressure, are key to cleaning the surfaces, no powerful water pressure is required. This means that soft washing can be used for fragile surfaces that might otherwise be harmed by harsher pressure washing.

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

Soft washing provides the distinct advantage of getting into cracks to kill unseen organisms, meaning that its effects can last a lot longer than power washing.


Pressure washing has always been the gold standard for cleaning home exterior surfaces. It is highly effective and quick, which is why a lot of home and business owners still prefer it over soft washing.

This particular cleaning system uses water only, no chemicals, to clean off stains and mold from home exterior surfaces. The use of plain water is a major plus to home owners who don’t want to use cleaning chemicals, either 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 owners prefer power washing for cleaning their driveway, porches, decks, walkways and outdoor furniture because it is quick, efficient and affordable.

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

One negative about 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 pieces of stone or brick.


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

Both soft washing and pressure washing methods are good choices for your home’s exterior, including sidewalks, driveways and more. Both of these cleaning systems can be performed by a professional – and truthfully, are more correctly done when left to the pros.

Soft washing is perfect for outdoor play sets, yard equipment, roof shingles, decks, gutters, patios and painted surfaces because it is unlikely to damage wood and plastic. It’s also a safe choice for vinyl siding.

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

A problem with soft washing is that it can kill plant life underneath the surface you’re cleaning. Remember to spray them with water before putting the soft wash chemicals on your home or roof, and it shouldn’t be an issue.

Pressure washing is considered the recommended method for difficult stains, and harder surfaces like concrete, brick and stone. Pressure washing is the recommended method for commercial properties. A local pressure washing company in Norfolk might use a mixture of detergents and water pressure to clean offf problematic stains, but they should tell you if they are going to be using chemicals during your estimate.

It can be used on siding as well (and has been for several years) as long as it is done safely. Powerful water pressure can break off fragile or smaller pieces of vinyl. A company that does power washing often are going to know how to protect vulnerable pieces, but a amateur might do a lot of damage.

Your home’s roof is definitely off limits for power washing if you have slate, tile or asphalt shingles. The high pressure of the water can damage these materials and cause you to replace your roof a lot faster than expected.

Choosing between soft washing or power washing is best left for a professional pressure washing company. Which process is right for your home? Give Norfolk Pressure Washing a call at 757-210-6544 and we’ll send a trained technician over to take a look!

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