The type of soap, detergent or other cleaning solution you use during pressure cleaning will determine how easy and effective your cleaning process will be. Using soap or detergent designed for pressure washing makes the process more effective, especially when you don't have hot water which also makes cleaning easier. The following are some tips to remember when choosing your detergents and soaps:
1. Soap vs. detergent
Soap is made from natural fats and oils from animals while detergent is synthetically manufactured. Therefore, pressure-washer soap can be allowed into storm drains without adverse effects. However, it cannot be used with hard water such as untreated harvested rainwater. With hard water, soap leaves a residue of calcium carbonate on the surface being cleaned. Detergents are more effective when using hard water, as they will not form the residue. Ideally, you can choose a cleaning solution that combines both synthetic detergents with soap for best results.
2. Point of introduction
You can introduce your soap upstream (before the pump) or downstream (after the pump). For the former, you must ensure that the chemical chosen is safe for the pump, but the latter allows you more choices of soap/detergent. For downstream application, you'll need a soap nozzle which siphons the cleaning solution from the holding bottle into the pressure hose.
3. Residential vs. commercial
Residential cleaning solutions are diluted and ready for use, while for commercial cleaning solutions are bought in concentrated form to be mixed at each use. The former is ideal if you only pressure-wash periodically, while the latter allows you to make savings by bulk-buying if pressure-washing is part of your daily routine, or you're cleaning a very large area. The cleaners can them mix into the right dilution before use.
4. Germ action
Soaps and detergents are divided into three main categories: cleaners which simply remove dirt but have little action against germs, sanitizers which kill almost all pathogens within a short time and disinfectants which are slow-acting germ killers (take a few minutes). Select your detergent depending on the level of cleanliness you need.
5. Environmental impact
As stated, soap is made from natural fats and oils and can be safely washed off into storm drains. However, there are certain cleaning jobs that require the use of unsafe chemicals which would endanger your plants or pets on exposure. If you're doing the cleaning yourself, carefully read the label to ensure that the chemical is safe for environmental release. If a professional is doing the cleaning, ensure that they have in place mechanisms to neutralize the unsafe chemicals or get rid of the water away from you garden or pets.