Soft Washing vs. Pressure Washing

soft washing gutters on a roof

It’s amazing how dirty the exterior of your home can get during a year. Some of the most typical stains include dirt or mud splatter, algae, mold and mildew. These things can give your home an unkempt, messy look, regardless of if you invest a lot of time, money and maintenance into it.

Some materials, like dirt or mud, are harmless, but algae and mildew can be damaging to your health and your home. They produce allergens and bacteria that can affect your family, and some, like algae, can grow directly underneath vinyl or roofing and enter into your home.

As a professional pressure washing company in Birmingham, we recommend that you have your home’s exterior cleaned once every 12 months. Spring is the most common time to do an extreme home exterior washing, but you can really do it any time throughout the year so long as the weather permits.


All of the following surfaces need to be cleaned from time to time:

• Vinyl siding
• Rock and stone
• Brick
• Concrete and asphalt

Pressure washing used to be the only method to thoroughly clean vinyl, brick and painted surfaces. Now, homeowners have another option for exterior home cleaning: soft washing.

As the names imply, one method is a lot gentler than the other one, but there’s a little more to it than that. Let’s look at the features of each to help you determine which one is the right choice for your home.


The soft wash method uses less pressure than a typical pressure washer, hence the name. The maximum water pressure used in a soft washing system is 500 PSI. This lighter spray is created from a nozzle with a wider spray setting, only a little more powerful than a backyard lawn hose.

Soft washing uses a mixture of detergent, bleach and water in some combination to remove organic matter and debris from your home, roof and other outdoor surfaces. The mixture used in a soft washing process can include algaecides and residual inhibitors which will stop further growth of these types of organisms in the future.

Because chemicals, not pressure, are responsible for cleaning the exterior surfaces, no powerful water is necessary. This means that soft washing can be used for more delicate surfaces that could otherwise be damaged by more powerful pressure washing.

The soft wash solution is sometimes washed off, but not always. This just depends on the type of solution is used, if there is plant or animal life that might be impacted by the runoff, and if the chemicals are powerful enough to damage surfaces over time.

Soft washing offers the distinct advantage of getting into cracks and crevices to eliminate unseen bacteria, meaning that its effects can last much longer than traditional pressure washing.


Pressure washing has long been the standard for cleaning exterior surfaces. It is highly effective and quick, which is why a lot of home and business owners prefer it over soft washing.

This cleaning method uses water only, there are no chemicals, to eliminate stains and mildew from exterior surfaces. The use of chemical-free water is a big plus to property owners who don’t want to use chemicals, whether for the sake of the environment or to avoid zoning violations.

It can be used on several different materials. Home owners frequently prefer pressure washing for cleaning their driveway, porches, decks, sidewalks and outdoor furniture because it is quick, more efficient and affordable.

Pressure washing needs somewhere from 1300 to 3100 PSI water pressure with water sprayed out from a small nozzle for the most power. Both organic and inorganic materials are blasted from your home’s exterior surface, prohibiting their growth and renewing the curb appeal of your home.

One drawback to pressure washing is that the water can sometimes be too powerful and can harm the surfaces of your home you want to clean. Pressure washing is powerful enough to put grooves in wood and plastic, and it can push into cracks, breaking off chunks of brick or stone.


The real question for most homeowners is, “Is pressure washing or soft washing better?”

Both soft washing and pressure washing are good choices for your home’s exterior, including sidewalks, driveways and more. Both cleaning systems can be performed by a professional company – and truthfully, are more effectively done when left to the pros.

Soft washing is excellent for outdoor toys, gardening equipment, shingle roofs, decks, gutters, patios and painted surfaces because it is less likely to damage wood and plastic. It’s also a safe choice for vinyl siding.

It kills organisms that are present on the exterior surface, and it prevents future growth for much longer than pressure washing can.

A disadvantage of soft washing is that it can kill plants under the surface that you’re cleaning. Remember to spray them with water before spraying the soft wash chemicals on your home or roof, and it probably won’t be a problem.

Pressure washing is the preferred choice for severe stains, and harder surfaces like concrete, stone and brick. Pressure washing is the preferred choice for commercial properties. A local pressure washing company in Birmingham may use a mix of detergents and water pressure to remove problematic stains, but they should tell you if they will be using chemicals during your consultation.

It can also be used for siding as well (and has been for several years) so long as it is done safely. Powerful water pressure can damage fragile or small pieces of the vinyl. A local service that does pressure washing all the time are going to know how to protect these pieces, but a first-timer could do a lot of damage.

Your home’s roof is off limits for pressure washing if you have slate, tile or asphalt shingles. The pressure of the water might damage these materials and cause you to replace your roof far faster than expected.

Deciding between soft washing or pressure washing is best left for a pressure washing company. Which method is right for your home? Give Birmingham Pressure Wash Co. a call at 205-272-6858 and we will send an experienced technician over to take a look!