Soft Washing Your Florida Home
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
What is Soft Washing?
Soft washing is a common method for cleaning your homes exterior by using low pressure and specialized solutions to safely remove organic stains like mildew, bacteria, and algae from your home's roof and other exterior surfaces. This can be a very effective and efficient method of cleaning if done properly. However, there are some risks if you aren’t familiar with the necessary chemical mixtures.
What chemicals are used in soft washing?
Sodium Hypochlorite, more commonly known as bleach or chlorine, is often the main ingredient in the soft wash mixture. The chlorine or bleach is then mixed with water and other surfactants to help the product stick to the surface being cleaned.
How much of the chemical to put in your soft wash mix? I have found different people use slightly different mixtures that are just based on personal preference. Once you are comfortable with the mix rates, you can tweak them depending on what type of job you are doing. If you are cleaning a roof or home that is extremely dirty and has years of mold and algae build-up, then you can make your mix a bit more concentrated. You do need to be careful when using sodium hypochlorite around plants and animals as the chemical has harmful effects. Too strong of a mix and you can certainly kill or “burn” any plants and landscaping around the home. Too light of a mix and the solution will not be strong enough to clean and remove all the algae built up on the area you wish to clean.
How strong of a mixture should I use for soft washing?
To fully answer the question of how much chemicals to use, there isn’t necessarily only one mix rate. Keep in mind for our business we have high quality equipment enabling us to be as efficient as possible. We need to be doing multiple jobs a day to keep our business running. That may or may not be the case for you. If it is, you will want to find what works best for you when cleaning the different areas around a customer’s home. If you are a homeowner who does some DIY pressure cleaning once a year, it won’t be as crucial to have the perfect mix, but helpful none the less. I would recommend starting at a low mix ratio and working your way up in concentration of chemical gradually until you get the desired effect if you aren’t familiar with using these chemicals around your home or business. In this heat, I think we all would want to get the job done as quick as possible. So, I will explain some of the different methods for soft washing and pressure washing with chemical “down streaming”.
How does soft washing work?
First, an actual “soft wash” will pumps your mixture straight from your chemical mixing tank. We have a 100-gallon chemical tank with a 7 gpm pump that feeds a chemical hose and sprayer which holds different nozzle tips for different job requirements. This is what we use for roofs, for pretreating more stubborn areas around the home, and sometimes pavers. I usually keep this mix at about 50 water/50 chlorine. That is plenty concentrated to effectively clean a roof or get the stubborn areas that need a little something extra, but will not kill plants if they are properly protected.
You want to use a nozzle with a wide and fanned out pattern, so you can evenly spray the mixture over as much surface area as possible, but without too much run off. This can cause streaking and if the home does not have gutters, then all that mixture is running off the edge of the roof and down on to your landscaping all around your home. If your mix is too strong or you don’t have someone spraying plants below with water, then they will most likely die or become badly browned. I usually spray down all the plants with water before starting then have someone follow me around from the ground hosing down any plants getting dripped on with a standard garden hose. In short, this method works extremely well, but you can truly cause damage to your property if you are inexperienced in dealing with the chemicals.
What is down streaming?
Down streaming is one of my favorite techniques. This works by dropping a smaller suction line in the top of the chemical tank that connects after the pump to the pressure hose. You want to make sure you set it up after your pump because you don’t want the chemical running through your pump. It will dramatically decrease the life of the pump because of the corrosion caused by the bleach. What this does is inject a 20% mix into the water you are spraying while pressure washing. Basically, the hose injects 20% of whatever your mix already is. So, if you have a 50/50 mix in your chemical tank and you are down streaming through your pressure system then 20% of that already 50/50 mix is all the chemical that would be applied. With this setup, only 10% of your over all spray is made up of the chemical. The reason I prefer down streaming is that I can make my mix a bit heavier if I need to, but I know that this low level will not kill any plants. If I get a couple spots that need a heavier solution, I get my soft wash system and hit those specific areas lightly and don’t have to worry about harming the landscapes.
How to soft wash
More than likely you will still need to go around and touch up a few areas after the initial cleaning. What we do is start out by going around the entire house (some commercial work you might need to break up into sections at a time depending on the size of the job) and evenly covering all the areas that need to be cleaned. By the time we go around the home the first time, the chlorine mix will have had time to break up the algae and grime. Now, we go back around with normal water without the added mixture and rinse as well as touch up any spots that still need a little more attention. Even these spots should come up fairly easily if the chemical didn’t already do the job by itself. On this pass, I switch to a nozzle with a bit more pressure to help get wash off any leftover debris. You want to be careful not to use too much pressure here because you can damage some areas if you aren’t careful. Things like windows, electrical outlets, fixtures, soffits, and painted areas should get special care to prevent damage to your home or business.
In conclusion, a good pressure washing, and/or soft wash cleaning can make a tremendous difference in the appearance of your property, but it can cause a lot of damage and cost a lot of money to fix if you do not have the right knowledge and experience necessary for the job to be completed safely and effectively. As always, the pros at Dykes Pressure Cleaning are happy to take care of it for you! Give us a call anytime at 386-847-3626 for your free estimate.