How Pressure Washers Can be Used for Soft Washing
by Bo Josetti, All Clean Power Washing
As the power washing industry continues to evolve, I believe the most significant changes that have happened over the last 10 to 15 years have occurred not only in the way we wash different surfaces, but how we get our information about the industry.
I first picked up a power washing wand almost 22 years ago when I started working for a commercial painting company. The main objective back then was to clean the wood fascia and siding with as much pressure as possible – without soap – and be as careful as I could not to do any damage. That, obviously, is no longer the accepted method of cleaning.
Since that time, I started my own painting company, which led to starting my own power washing company.
Back in those days, the primary way to get information about the industry was to pick up the phone and call someone. I often talked with an industry friend of mine and discussed different methods we had tried, different tips we had made, and so on. This was how we got our information: trial and error, then sharing our experiences with each other. I remember in 2007 he used the term “soft washing,” then described to me his process, which I realized was very similar to the process I’d come up with as well and had been using for awhile.
Today, social media has given newcomers a great advantage. Between industry Facebook groups and bulletin boards, new startup companies have the benefit of going online and reading all about this industry. There are tons of industry groups and forums where they can ask questions and get quality information from experienced professionals. But let’s be honest. There’s also a lot of BS out there from individuals claiming to be “professionals.”
To be fair, even the most experienced guys in the industry will sometimes have differing opinions on some of the processes and chemicals. One area where I see a lot of misinformation and false advertising is about soft washing. In fact, just the other day I saw an advertisement that said “beware of anyone using a power washer on your roof or siding as this will cause damage that your insurance most likely will not cover.” I’ve even had some of my competitors tell potential customers the same thing, adding things like, “If you hire someone and they show up with a power washer, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Last March, I talked with Micah Kommers of EcoClean who was invited to bid on a building at a University in his area. The school liked his bid and asked him to come do a demo. However, when Micah arrived on site with his equipment – a soft washing system that used a pressure washer – the school shut the demo down. Instead, they informed him that they would not allow pressure washers of any kind to be used on the building. They also banned the use of any kind of pump that could produce more than 300 psi, and the hose could not be rated for more than 300 psi. Obviously, they were getting misinformation from somewhere. (As a sidenote, Micah was allowed to return for a demo using equipment that met the school’s parameters. He got the job, but it cost the school a lot more money than it would have soft washing with a pressure washer.)
By now, most of us know that we’re not supposed to “power wash” a roof. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t use a power washer to soft wash just about anything. You see, you can soft wash with a “power washing machine” but you can’t power wash with a “soft wash system.”
When I refer to “soft washing,” I’m referring to the process where you are preferably using less than 500 psi for your rinsing or cleaning application. With all the newly designed tips available on today’s market, you can take a 3500 PSI power washer and drop it down to 100 psi just by changing the tip.
Most of the newer materials on the homes and buildings that we wash today actually require a soft washing process, if for no other reason but to preserve the manufacturer’s warranties. These same soft washing techniques are also very important when washing around windows, doors, and especially electrical – which, as a sidenote, is something I think we need to talk more about as an industry. While working on November’s upcoming PWNA roof cleaning certification class – and for my own company’s benefit – I’ve actually met with some of these roof and building material manufacturers’ reps to make sure our cleaning processes were not going to void the warranty for one of my largest annual contracts. And it was agreed by all that using a pressure washer to soft wash was appropriate.
The roof cleaning part of our industry does, however, generally requires a “soft wash applicator” – i.e., your designated roof cleaning pumps. The reason is not because a power washer will damage the roof if used at low pressure; it’s because a higher concentration of chemicals is needed when cleaning a roof than when cleaning siding. This same pump system should also be used for higher concentration applications on any standard house washing or building washing where your typical downstream injection mix is not strong enough.
In my opinion, no professional power washing or exterior cleaning company that cleans buildings is complete without a “soft wash system” – i.e., the equipment and accessories that allow for the use of low pressure cleaning. It is perfectly safe to use a pressure washer as your soft wash system as long as you have the correct tips and working knowledge to do the work correctly.
That being said, my advice to any and all washing companies – young and old – is to get involved in industry organizations and learn the correct methods for soft washing. Go to a convention. Participate in professional social media groups so that you can meet and network with other professionals in the industry. I guarantee you will learn new things, even if you think you already know it all. The more we all learn, the more integrity we bring to the industry.
About the Author
Bo Josetti is the co-owner of All Clean Power Washing in Ocean City, MD. Bo is also on Board of Directors of the Power Washers of North America and will be teaching the roof cleaning certification course this month at the PWNA Annual Convention. To learn more about All Clean, visit their website at www.AllCleanPowerWashing.com