A lot of what we talk about with customers and clients is soft washing, or the method of using low pressure and a proprietary solution to "treat" or clean siding. Across the Midwest, this usually involves combating mildew, mold, and algae. But we still use cleaners - degreasers, in fact - to help remove dirt, mud, grease, and pollution from various surfaces. How do these work?
What is a cleaner?
First, let's look at the distinction between a cleaner and a degreaser. All degreasers are a type of cleaner, but not all cleaners are considered degreasers. Most of the degreasers used in the exterior cleaning industry are alkaline degreasers, which will be important to remember later.
All cleaners and degreasers work about the same way, on the molecular level. In layman's terms, a cleaner molecule has one side that is hydrophobic, and one that is hydrophilic. The hydrophobic end is drawn toward the contaminant, and the hydrophilic end is drawn toward the water. Basically, one end latches onto the dirt or grease, and the other pulls it to the water.
Household, basic cleaners tend to have a neutral pH, or are mildly acidic or mildly alkaline. Neutral pH is 7, with anything below 7 being acidic and anything above 7 being alkaline. The more extreme the soiling, the higher alkalinity helps break down the molecules so they can be removed from the surface. Drastic differences in pH causes more molecular turmoil, aiding in loosening contaminants from a surface.
Degreasers function like cleaners, but are formulated to tackle heavy soiling. Heavy duty degreasers tend to be highly alkaline, and fall somewhere between 10 and 13 on the pH scale. Since soils tend to be neutral or more acidic, the wide discrepancy between pH values helps breakdown and remove the grease and dirt.
Power Washing and Degreasers
How do we use degreasers? While high pressure is enough to blast a surface clean, degreasers help lift soiling out of porous surfaces like concrete, and allow for the surface cleaner to work faster. Degreasers can be used to help remove oil stains from driveways, foot traffic from entry ways, and dumpster grease around restaurants.
We also use a degreaser in our soft washing mixes for house siding cleaning. The little bit of degreaser helps remove atmospheric pollution, dirt, and cobwebs.
For restaurant cleaning such as dumpster pads and entry ways, a good caustic degreaser is useful for breaking up the animal fats found in food grease. We use a industrial caustic degreaser that reacts with the animal fats and draws the grease to the water, allow it to wash free.
It's best to find power washing services if you don't want to do the work yourself. Our Agent Clean technicians are trained, insured, and experts in their field. You can also find a location near you.
Benefits of Power Washing
Dirt is everywhere, and for home owners it’s a nuisance. For cleaners, it’s a dream. Power washing is the chosen method for cleaning dirt, grime, pollution, and oil off of hard surfaces like concrete. There are several benefits to hiring a power washing service.
This is one of the easiest benefits to notice - curb appeal! Blasting away the dirt build up is an easy way to make your home look better. Rain easily distributes mud onto walkways and patios, and over time the mud dries and just cakes onto the concrete. Surface cleaners and pressure wands make short work of dirt build up.
Grease and grime from shoes also builds up over time. You notice this especially on well-worn walking paths and entry ways. The black discoloration can be cleaned up to make your entry way look new.
Mold is another element that can build up in concrete. Mold grows into the pores of the concrete, and the longer it is left untreated or uncleaned, the harder it is to eradicate. Mold also retains moisture and becomes slick when wet. This makes it a slipping hazard during and after rainfall. Be careful when walking on concrete overgrown with mold.
Soft Washing and Sealing
While power washing is an option to remove mold, we recommend having the concrete treated with a soft washing method. Soft washing uses low pressure and a cleaning solution as opposed to high pressure water. The soft washing solution contains a small percentage of sodium hypochlorite, or essentially chlorine, that kills the mold and releases its bond on the concrete. Light pressure is then used to rinse the mold away. This method is ideal because it kills the mold and helps prevent regrowth. Since mold is spore-based, simply blasting off sends spores into the air, which resettle on the concrete and begin growing again. Soft washing is more reliable at stopping the mold from returning.
A surefire way to prevent mold regrowth is to have the concrete sealed. Concrete sealer fills in the pores of the concrete and helps prevent moisture from seeping through. Not only does sealing prevent mold growth, it protects the concrete and prevents cracks due to moisture. When water gets into the concrete and freezes, it expands, then contracts when the weather is warmer. This fluctuation causes micro fractures in the surface that often become larger cracks.
What can be power washed?
Power washing is a great solution to cleaning up hard surfaces around your home. Commonly, these are patios, sidewalks, and driveways. Power washing is also useful around pools, on retaining walls, and brick steps or entryways.
Find a pressure washer near you, or find a location of one of our Agent Clean services. Our technicians are trained, licensed and insured.
If you’re looking to have your roof or siding cleaned up you’ve likely heard or seen the term “soft washing” a few times. Wondering what the fuss is about? Is it safe for your home? It can be off putting to learn that soft washing uses chemical solutions to do the cleaning instead of high pressure, but don’t worry, it’s not as bad or as dangerous as it sounds. In fact, you’re far less likely to have any damage from soft washing than you are with high pressure washing, and soft washing will get rid of mildew and those black streaks on the roof faster than traditional power washing.
Soft Washing FAQ
Q: How is soft washing different from power washing
A: Soft washing uses low pressure and a cleaning solution to gently wash siding. Power washing uses high pressure water to blast dirt, mold, and mildew from the surface and can cause physical damage to vinyl, brick, stucco, and other siding materials.
Q: What is in a soft washing solution?
A: Common soft washing solution contains mostly water and mild chlorination. The sodium hypochlorite found in the mix is what removes mold, mildew, algae, and other organic growths from the siding. Cleaning solutions often contain soap additives as well, such as surfactants and foaming agents to help the solution “cling” to the surface and work more efficiently.
Q: Will the chemicals in soft washing damage my yard or plants?
A: Soft washing contains only a small amount of sodium hypochlorite (SH), which is the compound that could cause harm to plants. Higher levels are found in roof washing mixtures, but care is taken to ensure the risk of damage is mitigated. SH damages plants by sucking nutrients from the plant and soil. The best way to prevent this is through water saturation. Plants can only absorb so much water at a time. By pre-rinsing and wetting the plants during the cleaning process, any SH that lands on the plant or on the ground is diluted to levels that are safe. Products such as Agent Halt are also used to neutralize any SH that could be harmful after the washing process.
Q: What are the benefits of soft washing over power washing?
A: While both methods can yield similar results, soft washing is overall a more efficient method of cleaning siding and roofs. When power washing a surface, full coverage is required to clean, which is time consuming due to the relatively narrow stream used when power washing. With soft washing, since the cleaning solution does the work, it allows for a wider coverage using either a misting or a wide fan spray. This means that soft washing is faster and uses less water to clean. Soft washing also eliminates mold, mildew, and algae where as power washing simply blasts the spores into the air.
Soft washing is widely considered the superior method of performing house washing services. Ask your cleaning company about the process to see if it is right for your home.
Pressure Washing Services
If you’re a homeowner, you know that taking care of one of your biggest investments is an important task. Your home is your castle, and the exterior should be as healthy as the interior. Our pressure washing services are ideal for cleaning up the hard surfaces around your home.
Concrete sidewalks and driveways are susceptible to oil stains, mold, and mildew. Agent Clean uses both soft washing and power washing methods to tackle concrete and hard surface cleaning.
If you have a concrete driveway, oil and grease will eventually stain your driveway. Whether you’re selling your home or just want to clean up the exterior, Agent Clean can get rid of the stains with ease. For oil and grease, surface cleaners and a quality degreaser is used to lift the stains the pressure wash the area.
Sidewalk Concrete Cleaning
Sidewalks often become overgrown with mold and mildew. For mold and mildew, the concrete can be soft wash treated first with a solution designed to eradicate the mold and mildew. Then a concrete sealer can be applied, filling in the porous surface of the concrete and inhibiting future growth.
Agent Clean offers a full suite of exterior cleaning options, including the best pressure washing service near you.