Pressure Washing Soaps, Detergents, & Chemicals
Pressure washing with the right soaps, detergents, and chemicals can make a huge difference when cleaning your outdoor surfaces.
Whether you’re trying to remove dirt or algae stains from brick walls and concrete driveways, get rid of mildew buildup on decks and patios, or want your windows to sparkle like new again, pressure washing with the added cleaning power of soap, detergent, or another cleaning chemical can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to do it.
This comprehensive guide will share everything you need to know about choosing a suitable soap, detergent, or other cleaning chemical for your pressure washing job.
So, if you’re ready for spotless results every time – let’s dive in!
Soaps, detergents, and chemicals are all commonly used in pressure washing, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Soaps are generally milder and less likely to damage surfaces, but they are not as effective at removing heavy dirt and grime. Detergents are stronger and more effective at cleaning but can be harsher on surfaces. Chemicals such as bleach, ammonia, and acid cleaners are powerful cleaning agents for specific tasks, such as removing mold, mildew, and heavy grease.
When choosing a cleaning solution for pressure washing, it’s important to consider the type of surface you will be cleaning and the amount of dirt and grime you need to remove. It’s also important to read the instructions and warning labels on cleaning products to ensure proper dilution and use and to follow safety precautions when handling chemicals.
- Types of Pressure Wash Soaps, Detergents, & Chemicals
- How Do You Use Cleaning Products With a Pressure Washer?
- Residential vs. Commercial Pressure Washer Chemicals: What’s the Difference?
- How to Use Soaps, Detergents & Chemicals Safely While Pressure Washing
- The Alternatives to Using Chemicals for Pressure Washing
- Frequently Asked Questions
- In Summary
Types of Pressure Wash Soaps, Detergents, & Chemicals
Common Pressure Washing Cleaning Products
Various cleaning products can be used in pressure washing, depending on the type of surface you’re cleaning and the level of cleaning needed.
When choosing a cleaning solution for pressure washing, it’s important to consider the type of surface you will be cleaning and the amount of dirt and grime you need to remove.
It’s also important to read the instructions and warning labels on cleaning products to ensure proper dilution and use and to follow safety precautions when handling chemicals.
We advise checking the compatibility of a particular cleaning product with your pressure washer, as not all products will be compatible with all machines.
Here are some common types of cleaning products often used with a pressure washer:
Common Pressure Washing Cleaning Chemicals
Considering how many products are available that you can potentially use with a pressure washer, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is an even wider range of chemicals used to formulate these products, either in isolation or various mixtures, depending on their required usage.
Here are some of the common types of chemicals used in pressure washer cleaning products:
Soap vs. Detergent: What’s the Difference?
Both soap and detergent are substances used to clean, but they are made from different compounds and have slightly different properties.
Let’s look at each one in turn:
Soaps are substances used to cleanse and remove dirt and oils from surfaces.
In the case of pressure washers, soaps are typically mixed with water in the pressure washer’s detergent tank, which is then applied to the cleaning surface after it exits the pressure washer’s nozzle.
There are many different types of pressure-washing soap to choose from; each formulated for specific cleaning tasks. For example, there are soaps specifically designed for removing dirt and grime from surfaces and those recommended for removing mildew, algae, and other stains. Pressure-washing soaps are also available for delicate surfaces, such as those that are painted or easily scratched.
Manufacturing soap involves combining fats or oils with an alkali; the most common alkali for soap is sodium hydroxide. A chemical reaction occurs between the alkali and the fats, referred to as saponification, resulting in soap and glycerin creation.
Soap is typically biodegradable and less harmful to the environment than other cleaning products, such as synthetic detergents, given that soap is made using natural ingredients and breaks down easily in the environment.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that some commercially produced soaps may contain synthetic ingredients or additives, and, in these cases, the soap won’t fully biodegrade.
It’s also worth noting that the minerals present in hard water can react with soap and leave a film or residue on surfaces you’re cleaning, which is why some people recommend using a water softener in areas with hard water to help prevent this problem.
It is vital to use the appropriate soap for the surface and stain you want to remove. Always check the product label and consult the pressure washer’s manual before using any pressure washing soap, as improper use could lead to damage or surfaces that aren’t sufficiently clean.
A detergent is a cleaning product that also removes dirt and grime from surfaces.
Detergents are similar to soaps in that they are a mixture of chemicals, but they are formulated differently and have different properties.
The essential ingredients in detergents are surfactants, which lower the surface tension of a liquid allowing it to penetrate and remove dirt and grime more effectively. Detergents also include additional enzymes and bleaches, which boost their cleaning power.
Pressure-washing detergents come in many forms, such as powders, liquids, and gels. As with soaps, mixing occurs with water in the pressure washer’s detergent tank, which is then applied to the cleaning surface after it exits the pressure washer’s nozzle.
Detergents are more effective than soap at cleaning in hard water because the ingredients in detergents can react with the minerals to keep them from forming a scummy residue.
Whereas soaps are typically biodegradable and safer for the environment, detergents are synthetic cleaning agents that usually aren’t biodegradable and can harm the environment.
How Do You Use Cleaning Products With a Pressure Washer?
There are various methods for adding cleaning chemicals to your pressure-washing process.
It’s important to consider the type of surface and the level of cleaning needed when deciding which method to use.
Let’s look at each method in more detail:
Some pressure washers require a separate detergent bottle attached to the nozzle of the pressure washer gun to apply cleaning products, while others come with an onboard detergent tank, providing more convenience and ease of use.
Here’s how to add chemicals to a pressure washer in both cases:
In certain situations, applying the cleaning solution directly to the surface you’re cleaning may be more effective than using the detergent bottle or tank on your pressure washer. You can typically do this by pouring the diluted solution from a bucket, although using a garden sprayer may be more effective.
Applying pressure washer cleaning chemicals directly to the ground can effectively clean large pavement or concrete areas, such as driveways, sidewalks, and patios.
However, it’s important to be cautious when using this method, as applying cleaning chemicals directly to the ground can be dangerous, and it can potentially damage the surface or the surrounding environment if not done correctly.
Here’s how to add pressure washer cleaning chemicals directly to the ground:
It’s important to note that different cleaning solutions may have different instructions for use. Always be mindful of the environmental impact, too, ensuring you follow local regulations regarding the disposal of used cleaning solutions.
Residential vs. Commercial Pressure Washer Chemicals: What’s the Difference?
Residential and commercial pressure washer chemicals differ in their strength and intended use.
Residential pressure washer chemicals are typically suitable for mild to moderate dirt and grime, with these chemicals being safe for use on various surfaces, including wood, brick, concrete, and vinyl. They’re often less concentrated and less caustic than commercial-grade chemicals, making them less likely to damage surfaces or harm plants and landscaping. They’re also generally safe, easy to handle and come in various formulas to clean surfaces like decks, patios, driveways, etc.
Commercial pressure washer chemicals, on the other hand, are intended for heavy-duty cleaning tasks such as removing oil and grease from industrial equipment, graffiti from buildings, and heavy staining from concrete. These chemicals are usually much more concentrated than residential-grade chemicals. They typically contain powerful degreasers and caustic agents that can quickly break down and remove tough dirt and grime. They are also typically more expensive than residential-grade chemicals.
It is very important to read the label and use the appropriate pressure washer chemical for the task at hand. Improper use of chemicals can damage surfaces and cause injury to yourself or others around you while you’re pressure washing. Always wear suitable protective gear to reduce the risk of using pressure-washing chemicals.
How to Use Soaps, Detergents & Chemicals Safely While Pressure Washing
Pressure washing involves using a high-pressure stream of water to clean surfaces. Sometimes, soaps, detergents, or chemicals are added to the washer’s detergent tank to help boost cleaning power.
It’s essential to use these soaps, detergents, and chemicals safely when pressure washing to avoid potential hazards to yourself, others, and the environment.
Some pressure washer cleaning solutions will be more dangerous and potentially harmful than others, so it’s vital to follow the specific safety advice for whichever cleaning product you use.
Here are some general guidelines for using soaps, detergents, and chemicals safely while pressure washing:
The Alternatives to Using Chemicals for Pressure Washing
There’s no denying the benefits of using soap, detergents, and other chemicals when tackling the toughest pressure-washing jobs, but other options are available that will enable you to achieve a similar result without using harsh chemicals.
These alternatives may be a good option for anyone looking for a more environmentally friendly or natural option:
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I Use Bleach in My Pressure Washer?
Whether or not you can use bleach in your pressure washer depends on the specific unit.
Some manufacturers don’t recommend using bleach as it could damage the pressure washer’s seals and other internal components. You can still use bleach in these cases, but instead of adding it to your pressure washer’s detergent tank, you can spray it wherever you’re cleaning using a garden sprayer or other spray bottle, which helps boost the cleaning power without risking damage to your pressure washer.
Always use bleach safely, as it is a hazardous substance that can cause injury to yourself or others and damage the surface you’re cleaning if not diluted sufficiently. Adequately diluting the bleach is arguably more critical in cases where you can add bleach directly to the detergent tank, as using too high a concentration could damage your pressure washer, as discussed above.
2. Is Ammonia Safe to Use for Pressure Washing?
Ammonia is a strong alkaline compound that effectively removes dirt, grime, and stains from various surfaces.
It can be hazardous, however, and typically requires special handling, transportation, and disposal. Because of this, you should follow certain safety precautions when using ammonia, such as wearing protective gear, including gloves, goggles, and a mask.
It’s worth noting that ammonia is particularly effective at cleaning glass and stainless steel. While it is possible to pressure wash these surfaces using sufficiently diluted ammonia, we don’t recommend using high-pressure water from a pressure washer on glass or stainless steel. The risk of breaking the glass or marring the appearance of the stainless steel is too high in these cases.
3. Can I Use Disinfectants in a Pressure Washer?
Yes, it is possible to use disinfectants in a pressure washer, provided the pressure washer has a detachable foam cannon or a chemical injector, which would allow you to mix the disinfectant with water and create a foam or spray solution to apply to surfaces.
It’s important to note that many disinfectants have different instructions and mixing ratios. It’s important to follow mixing instructions and ratios to ensure you get the most benefit from whichever disinfectant you’re using for pressure washing.
4. Can I Use Acid Cleaners and Descalers in a Pressure Washer?
Yes, you can typically use acid cleaners and descalers in pressure washers. These solutions are best suited to cleaning heavily soiled or greasy surfaces, such as engines, concrete surfaces, and heavy equipment.
Acid cleaners and descalers are highly corrosive, and you should take special precautions when using them, including wearing protective gear and neutralizing the acid after use.
It’s important always to read the instructions and warning labels before using any cleaning products containing acids. Never use these cleaning solutions on delicate surfaces sensitive to acid, for example, aluminum or painted materials.
5. Can You Use Any Soap in a Pressure Washer?
We don’t recommend using ordinary soap in your pressure washer.
You should use a soap specifically formulated for pressure washers, as these will be compatible with the high-pressure water stream emitted from the pressure washer’s nozzle without causing damage to the machine.
6. Can You Use Any Detergent in a Pressure Washer?
As with soap, we don’t advise using regular detergent in your pressure washer.
Instead, we recommend choosing a pressure-washing detergent specifically designed for pressure washers. The benefit of these pressure washer-specific detergents is that they’re compatible with the machine’s high-pressure output, improving its ability to remove dirt and stains while protecting against damage to the pressure washer’s internal components.
In conclusion, using soaps, detergents, and chemicals can make pressure washing quicker and easier by helping to remove tough dirt, grime, and stains versus cleaning with water alone.
We recommend choosing the right cleaning products for the job, as depending on the surface you’re cleaning or the type of dirt and stains you’re removing, there is likely a specific pressure washer soap, detergent, or chemical available.
We advise checking the compatibility of a particular cleaning product with your pressure washer, as not all soaps, detergents, and chemicals will be compatible with all machines.
It’s also crucial to use pressure washer cleaning products safely and responsibly, following label instructions and taking proper precautions to avoid accidents and protect your health and the environment.
As discussed in this article, natural and eco-friendly cleaning products compatible with pressure washers are available, formulated from plant-based or mineral ingredients instead of harmful, synthetic compounds and chemicals.
While eco-friendly solutions are generally safer for the environment, they usually aren’t as effective for removing dirt and stains, given that they aren’t as powerful as some chemical cleaners, requiring more elbow grease when tackling tougher dirt and stains.
Using an appropriate pressure-washing soap, detergent, or chemical can make your pressure washing a breeze and help ensure that your surfaces will look their best for years to come.