When it comes time to clean up the outside of the home, scrub the deck, or wash down the fence, most DIYers resort to using a pressure washer to physically remove any debris. However, pressure washers can do damage to more fragile areas of the home, like windows, and pressure washing is not an effective deterrent against mold, mildew, and algae growth.
Instead of resorting to the brute force of pressure washing to try and get the job done, you could soft wash the roof, siding, deck, fence, paving stones, and driveway without the risk of damage. Once the home has been treated with a soft wash solution, the surface will be protected against mold, mildew, algae, and more. Soft washing also removes leaves, dirt, and other debris at a surface level. Keep reading to learn more about how soft washing works and when it's the best option for cleaning the exterior of your home.
Soft Washing and How it Works
The process of soft washing is relatively straightforward. You begin by preparing the yard and any plants that you want to keep safe. Soft washing involves the use of a powerful chlorine cleaner and surfactant, so you will want to overwater the plants and put a neutralizing agent on the leaves to keep the plants protected while you work. Prepare the soft washing solution by mixing water, chlorine bleach, and the surfactant to ensure that the solution will cling to the treated surface.
Load the solution into a backpack sprayer and begin treating the target surface. You can use soft washing to clean dirt and debris from the siding, the roof, or even the driveway, but the real benefit is the fungicidal treatment that kills mold, mildew, moss, and algae. Due to the inclusion of a surfactant, the solution clings to the treated surface and continues to function as a deterrent even after the soft washing is complete.
Soft Washing vs. Pressure Washing
There are many similarities between soft washing and pressure washing, including the terms used to describe these home maintenance tasks, but there are also significant differences that make soft washing more effective for cleaning biological debris, like mold, mildew, moss, and algae.
Uses a low-pressure spray of water, chlorine bleach, and surfactant to eliminate mold, mildew, moss, and algae
Fungicidal effects remain active after soft washing, acting as a deterrent against regrowth
Not powerful enough to damage the home
Effective method for cleaning the roof without risk of damage
Not the best option for physically cleaning the exterior of the home
Uses high-pressure mixture of soap and water to physically blast away dirt, dust, and debris
Can remove mold and mildew, but they begin to grow back almost immediately after pressure washing
Hazardous to fragile parts of the home, like windows, lights, and gutters
Powerful spray can cause damage to roofing tiles
Significantly better at cleaning away physical debris
When to Soft Wash Your Home
If you have never soft-washed your home before, then you may not know when it's better to soft wash than it is to pressure wash or when the opposite is true. Pressure washing is one of the best ways to remove tough, stuck-on physical debris, like chipped or peeling paint. If your home is covered in mud from a recent storm or you want to restain the deck, then a pressure washer is the right choice. The powerful spray of water blasts away physical debris, leaving your home clean. You can also change the tip on the pressure washer nozzle as needed to ensure the water pressure is appropriate for the surface you're cleaning, though in some cases, even the weakest pressure washer strength is still too much.
While pressure washing is ideal for physical debris, soft washing is intended to kill any biological growth with a powerful chemical formula. It can be used on the driveway to kill moss, the siding to remove algae, or even on the roof and in the gutters to get rid of mold and mildew. Additionally, soft washing is a better option for more fragile surfaces and items, like windows and lights. So, if your home has issues with biological infestations like moss or algae, soft washing is the right option to sanitize and protect the exterior of the home.
Cost of Soft Washing
When it comes time to decide whether to take on this project yourself or hire a professional cleaning service to soft wash your home, cost is an important factor to consider. On average, you can expect to pay about $275 to $400 (or $55 to $80 per hour) to have your home soft-washed by professionals. You could purchase the components and prepare the mixture yourself for about $50, but you would also need to purchase a sprayer in order to apply the soft wash solution. An inexpensive backpack sprayer will cost about $50 to $100, though it's advised to spend a little more for a premium model that won't need to be replaced every year.
Keep in mind that you would also need to purchase a neutralizing agent to protect your vegetation, but in total the cost of materials works out to about the cost of a single professional cleaning. So, if you have the time and you want to save some money, this is a task that most DIYers can handle.
Chlorine bleach is a powerful cleaning agent with hazardous fumes. Make sure to only use bleach in a well-ventilated space. It's also advised to wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, safety gloves, safety glasses, and breathing protection while you work.
"Working With Household (Chlorine) Bleach." OSH Answers Fact Sheets, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety