Safe Chemicals to Use for Soft Washing | Roof Cleaning Guide

May 2, 2023

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The chemicals used to soft wash a roof are not the same as the detergents used for indoor household cleaning, window washing, and other maintenance tasks. Chemicals and cleansers used during a soft wash power washing need to dissolve thick dirt and grime so that you can rinse away debris without using high pressure. However, those soft wash chemicals must also be safe for roofing materials!

The chemicals used to soft wash a roof typically include sodium hypochlorite, a chlorine compound used as a bleaching agent or disinfectant. Homeowners attempting soft-wash roof cleaning on their own might also use diluted household bleach along with a small amount of tri-sodium phosphate and other surfactants.

Knowing the best chemicals used to soft wash a roof, along with the proper tools and techniques to use and mistakes to avoid, ensures a thorough yet safe roof cleaning job. You might also note some differences between standard pressure washing and soft wash systems, so you can rent or purchase the right equipment for your home.

Remember that you can also discuss questions you have with a power washing contractor near you and rely on their services for anything outside your area of expertise. Doing so will keep your home’s roof and other exterior surfaces and materials clean and pristine, in good condition, and damage-free!

What Is a Soft Wash System?

Before discussing the chemicals used to soft wash a roof, it’s good to know just what is a soft wash system and how it differs from standard power and pressure washing! First, note that the term “pressure washing” refers to any system that uses pressurized water; if you were to attach a spray nozzle to your garden hose, that would technically be a pressure washing system.

Pressurized water is measured in pound-force per square inch or PSI. To give you an idea of how much force is created with pressure washing systems, a car wash might operate at around 1800 PSI, and you might use 3000 PSI to wash asphalt and concrete. Soft wash systems use less than 500 PSI, which is just slightly stronger than that garden hose nozzle!

The term “power washing” refers to using hot water in your pressurized system; power washing equipment will have a heating coil that heats water as it’s sprayed. Power washing is an excellent choice for oily and greasy stains and residues, as hot water helps dissolves oil-based materials. However, hot water isn’t typically needed for other exterior cleaning and can also damage wood fences and decks!

What Chemicals Are Used for Soft Washing?

For some cleaning jobs, high-pressure washing is all that’s needed to remove dirt, mud, dust, sand, and other such debris. Even with cleansers, you might pressure wash your home’s siding or brick or spray down the driveway and pool deck and see instant results!

In other cases, however, high-pressure washing is ineffective or potentially damaging. Pressurized spray can split and chip wood decks and fences, shatter window glass, peel old paint, and dislodge roofing shingles and tiles while leaving behind mold, mildew, and other contaminants. To clean these surfaces and residues thoroughly, specialty chemicals and low-pressure rinsing is a much better option!

Sodium hypochlorite is a favorite choice for many power washing contractors, as its chlorine base and light surfactants help dissolve thick dirt, mud, dust, and other debris. A chlorine base also kills mold, moss, mildew, algae, and pollen but won’t damage wood, stucco, asphalt, concrete, glass, asphalt shingles, and clay tiles.

As sodium hypochlorite dissolves thick dirt and grime, a low-pressure rinse is all that’s needed to remove that debris, much like rinsing off your driveway with your garden hose! A soft wash system is an excellent choice for roofs, especially as high-pressure washing can strip granules off asphalt shingles, crack clay tiles, bend flashing, and loosen shingles and other materials. Soft wash power washing also means little to no splashing and splattering, for a complete clean and no mess!

How Do You Make Homemade House Wash?

Your best choice for ensuring a thorough, safe house wash is to call a power washing contractor near you, but if you want to tackle this job on your own, you can make up your own homemade house wash. You’ll need some standard liquid dish soap, chlorine bleach, borax, and tri-sodium phosphate. Bleach and borax are often sold along with laundry supplies, and tri-sodium phosphate is typically available at a pool supply store or the paint or outdoor sections of your local home improvement store.

  • To make a homemade house wash, start with a 5-gallon bucket and fill it halfway with warm water.
  • Stir the water, and while it’s swirling, add one gallon of liquid chlorine bleach.
  • Continue to stir while you add two cups of tri-sodium phosphate.
  • Keep stirring, and add one cup of borax.
  • Once these materials are mixed thoroughly, add 1/4 cup liquid dish detergent. Continue to stir until the mixture is somewhat thick and well-blended.
  • If the mixture doesn’t thicken, add a few more squirts of dish soap and continue mixing.

This blend should make about 5 gallons of house wash. While the amount of cleaner needed will depend on the overall condition of your home’s roof, most homeowners will use about 1 gallon of cleaner for every 100 square feet of roof space.

How Often Should You Power Wash a Roof?

Most homeowners find that power washing a roof every other year is typically sufficient for removing dirt, dust, soot, and other debris. However, you’ll want to adjust this schedule as needed to ensure your home’s roof is always clean and pristine, and in good repair! For instance, if you live near a busy airport, highway, or marina, your home’s exterior is likely to be covered in layers of soot and air pollution residues and would probably benefit from annual roof washing.

Homes near a beach or desert are also typically covered in layers of sand, silt, and gritty debris that etches and scratches, shingles, tiles, and other roofing materials. High winds and strong storms also deposit lots of dirt, dust, and other such residues onto roofs. Production facilities, refineries, and other businesses that produce smoke also mean thick dirt, soot, and pollution on a home’s roof and exterior walls!

In all these cases, annual roof washing is often recommended to remove those unsightly layers of dirt, dust, and grime. If you notice mold, mildew, moss, algae, and other residues growing along the home’s walls and roof, it’s also time for more regular cleaning to kill their roots and spores and keep a home protected.

Regular roof and outside power washing are also great ways of improving your home’s curb appeal and ensuring it looks its best. If you entertain often throughout the summer months, for example, schedule power washing before opening the back deck or having friends and family over for the holidays, or before putting your home on the real estate market!

Can You Rent a Soft Wash Power Washer?

One challenge to renting a soft wash power washer is that many pressure washing systems available to everyday consumers start at around 1400 PSI, which is often too much pressure for cleaning a roof safely! If you cannot find a 500 PSI soft wash pressure washer to rent, you might choose a spray nozzle that lowers the water pressure even more.

Pressure washing nozzles are numbered and color-coded to signify the stream of water they create. A red, zero-degree nozzle produces a narrow, strong water stream, while a white, 40-degree nozzle and a black “soap” nozzle offer the widest stream possible.

Using a white or black nozzle helps reduce water pressure while also providing a wider cleaning path, making quicker work of cleaning a home’s roof. A black soap nozzle also means less risk of clogging the pressure washing wand and hose with cleanser as you work! Even with these larger nozzles, it is still possible to strip shingle granules and damage a roof during cleaning, so consider calling a pressure washing contractor near you if you cannot find soft wash equipment to rent.

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3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When You Soft Wash a Roof

If you do decide to soft wash your home’s roof, consider three common mistakes to avoid along the way. One is to allow the cleanser or detergent to dry before rinsing it away. Dried detergent often leaves behind unsightly streaks and marks as well as a sticky residue that attracts even more dirt than before.

Another mistake to avoid is washing the roof upwards or spraying the water underneath tiles and shingles. This is a surefire way to loosen those pieces and lose them during the next storm! If you must remove mold, algae, and other debris between shingles and tiles, use more cleanser and wash the spot repeatedly rather than trying to use more pressure.

The last common mistake to avoid is trying to clean your home’s roof so quickly that you end up creating a mess along exterior walls and other surfaces! Work with your pressure washing equipment slowly so that the water runs to the home’s gutters rather than splashing and splattering all over the roof, walls, windows, and your beautiful lawn and landscaping. Taking your time also ensures a thorough job and a beautifully clean roof.

A Word From Our Power Washers

West Hartford Power Washers is proud to present this information to our readers and especially proud of the work offered by our residential pressure washing contractors. If you’re still wondering about the chemicals used to soft wash a roof, if pressure washing is right for your home’s roof or any other questions, give us a call! We’re also happy to provide a FREE quote for roof washing, exterior wall washing, gutter cleaning, window washing, and all other home pressure washing in the West Hartford area.

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