What Kind of Soap Can I Use in My Pressure Washer?

Got a pressure washer? We've got advice. We can share what soap to use for pressure washers

The dirt on what soap is best for pressure washers

Pressure washers are able to provide some of the deepest, most thorough cleans, and they manage to do it on some of the trickiest surfaces, including fences, porches, and driveways. Almost any home can benefit from the use of a pressure washer, and if you’ve gotten your hands on one, there’s definitely no reason why you shouldn’t be putting it to use on your vehicles, driveway, house siding, outdoor furniture, decks, and more.

If you find that a simple pressure wash isn’t doing the trick with just water, you can also add soap to your pressure water to help eliminate bacteria and provide an even more intense clean to your home. However, don’t just grab the closest soap bottle around and dump it in. Pressure washers work best when the proper soap type is used, and you follow the basic pressure washer dos and don'ts.

Soap vs Detergent When Pressure Washing

One of the most important distinctions you can make when using a pressure washer is knowing the difference between soap and detergent. These two cleaning liquids should never be used interchangeably, and they actually can have consequences if used under the wrong circumstances.

While soap is considered to be a kind of detergent, it’s significant to note that soap is made out of natural products like plants and animal fats. These raw products are then melded together with salts to produce the end product that we know as soap.

Soap should never be used with hard water. Despite being natural and biodegradable, when soap is used in conjunction with hard water, it can form a calcium carbonate solid that will leave a surface residue. While soap can be safely washed down storm drains, you don’t want to use it with hard water inside of your pressure washer.

Alternatively, detergents are made from chemicals, and they are specially formulated to be used with surfaces such as concrete and wood. For this reason, detergent is actually ideal when using a pressure washer.

Detergent Type May Vary Depending on the Surface

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to detergent, and depending on the type of surface that you’re trying to clean, you may very well need to use a different kind of detergent than you would for another surface. For example, while a car cleaning might require a certain kind of automotive detergent, a pressure wash of your wooden deck may call for a citric acid cleanser.

It’s important to be aware that you shouldn’t use the same type of detergent on every surface. Changing out the detergent in a pressure washer is easy enough, and if you want the best clean possible, it will require that you stick to the specifics that your project is calling for. While many hardware stores will sell multipurpose detergent for pressure washers, always be sure to carefully read the label before using it on a surface.

Karcher Automotive Detergent, Sun Joe House and Deck Cleaner, Oil Eater Original, and Home Armor E-Z House Wash are just a few examples of pressure washer detergents that are made with a specific purpose in mind.

How to Use Detergent with a Pressure Washer

Once you’ve determined the kind of detergent that you want to use with your pressure washer, the next step is inputting it into the pressure washer itself. With most pressure washers, the detergent can be poured into the machine in one of two places: before the pump or after the pump.

If the detergent is inserted before the pump, it will flow upstream, while if the detergent is inserted after the pump, it will flow downstream. Because not all chemicals can be safely allowed through the pump, the downstream insertion will give you more options in terms of what detergents you can use.

Always Check to See If the Detergent Is Non-Toxic

If you’re working around plants, animals, or children, you’ll want to be sure that the detergent you’re using with your pressure washer is non-toxic. While most store-bought brands are non-toxic, there are some pressure washer detergents that contain harmful chemicals that can be either poisonous to humans and animals, or harmful to natural landscapes.

Whether you own a pressure washer or rent one, using the right soap or detergent will ensure the best results, every time.

Resources — Crafted Garage, Pressure Washr, Pressure Washer Power