Power Washing vs. Softwashing – A Basic Primer

There is a lot of confusing terminology that gets used in the pressure washing industry, but we find that the most confusing distinction for customers is the difference between “power washing service” (used interchangeably with “pressure washing service”) and “softwashing service”. Both services utilize commercial pressure washing equipment, however they differ in several ways, which we discuss in this post.

Means for Cleaning

Power washing uses only the force of pressurized water to clean surfaces. This is done by holding the tip of the pressure washing wand very close to the surface to be cleaned. There are several different kinds of tips that vary the breadth and force of the pressure stream, so it can be tailored to the needs of the job.

Softwashing does not rely so much on water pressure, but the application and rinsing of a chemical mixture. In a typical softwashing process the technician will:

  • Pre-wet the surface to be cleaned and surrounding areas
  • Gently apply the softwashing cleaning mixture (example: sodium hypochlorite + surfactant diluted with water) and allow to dwell for 5-10 minutes
  • Thoroughly rinse off the surface and surrounding areas, paying special attention to landscaping features around the home to make sure the cleaning agents are washed away completely


Both softwashing and power washing services make use of the same commercial pressure washing equipment: a water tank / intake, motor, water pump, and pressure washing hose & wand.

Further, softwashing uses a chemical tank and an injector tube to bring chemical cleaning agents into the downstream water flow during the “soaping” portion of the service.

Surfaces to Be Cleaned

Pressure washing is effective for surfaces that are durable and porous. Surfaces must be able to withstand the force of the water. Also, porous surfaces tend to absorb dirt and mold more deeply, making chemical applications a less effective solution. Examples of substrates appropriate for power washing include:

  • Brick
  • Exposed aggregate
  • Concrete
  • Stone and pavers
  • Asphalt

Most of the hardscapes around your home can be washed with some degree of pressure.

Softwashing works for surfaces that are more delicate and non-porous. Most of the vertical surfaces comprising your home are best cleaned with softwashing, including:

  • Painted wood
  • Vinyl siding and trim
  • Aluminum siding and trim
  • Hardie plank siding and trim



When Softwashing is feasible, the use of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) tends to do a better job of killing organics like mold and algae and keeping them at bay for many months into the future. Pressure washing, while very effective at cleaning up the appearance of hardscapes, tends not to kill pesky organics at their source, which may increase the necessary frequency for patio and sidewalk power washing services, as compared with whole home softwashing.

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