With so many soaps and detergents, knowing exactly which one to use in your pressure washer can be a challenge, which is why I’ve put together this article to cover precisely what the best pressure washer soap or best pressure washer detergents are.
Why is it a challenge? Well, there is no one size fits all pressure washer soap, sure there are multi-purpose but they aren’t the Holy Grail.
You may even be asking what kind of soap can I use in my pressure washer? A valid question.
Soap or detergent? Does it matter? Will one work better than the other in my pressure washer?
What about pressure washers with Upstream versus Downstream injectors? Will that affect which soap or pressure washer detergent to buy?
If your head is spinning, don’t worry, in my buying guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about pressure washer soaps and detergents, I’ll also show you my favorite products on the market, hopefully helping you find yours.
In hurry? Here’s a list of my favorite Soaps, detergents and snow foam for all your pressure washing needs. If you’re doing a job that’s not on the list, leave a comment at the bottom and I’ll let you know what I would use.
Boats, Cars, Motorcycles, and RVs: Karcher Car Wash & Wax Soap for Pressure Washers.
Concrete Surfaces: Simple Green Concrete and drive cleaner
Wooden Decks and Fences: Krud Kutter Deck & Fence
House Siding: Krud Kutter House & Siding
Multipurpose Cleaner: Simple Green Heavy-Duty Cleaner
Snow Foam: Bilt Hamber Auto Foam - I love this!
- Best Pressure Washer Soaps Reviews
- 1. Karcher Car Wash & Wax Soap for Pressure Washers
- 2. Sun Joe SPX-FCS1G-CRM Premium Car Wash Soap & Cleaner
- 3. Krud Kutter House & Siding Pressure Washer Cleaner
- 4. Briggs & Stratton 6826 Multi-Purpose Cleaner for Pressure Washers
- 5. Simple Green Pro HD Heavy-Duty Cleaner
- 6. Chemical Guys Super Suds Car Wash Soap and Shampoo
- 7. AR Annovi Reverberi ARCTW04 Pressure Washer Detergent
- 8. Simple Green 18202 Concrete and drive cleaner
- 9. Krud Kutter DF01 Blue Pressure Washer Concentrate Deck & Fence
- 10. Bilt Hamber Auto Foam
- What Is the Difference Between Soaps and Detergents?
- When Should You Use Soap and When Should You Use Detergent when Pressure Washing?
- Is It Easier to Pressure Wash Surfaces with Soapy Solutions?
- Soaps Include Specific Chemicals for Different Applications
- What is the best cleaner to use in a pressure washer?
- What Kind of Soap to Use in Your Pressure Washer for Specific Surfaces?
- The Difference Between Consumer and Commercial Soaps
- Using DIY Soap Mixtures for Your Pressure Washer
- Upstream Delivery Versus Downstream Injectors
- How to Choose the Right Soap for Your Cleaning Task
- Do Pressure Washers Need Special Soap?
- Soaps and Detergents Have a Purpose
- Pressure Washer Soap vs. Detergent
- Pressure Washer Soap Buying Guide
- How Do Pressure Washers Use Soap?
- Pressure Washer Soap Usage Tips and Tricks
- FAQ About Pressure Washer Soaps
- Best Pressure Washer Soap Comparison Chart
- Wrap Up
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Best Pressure Washer Soaps Reviews
- The Archer promise: cleaner. Quicker
- Combine Archer vehicle wash and wax with your pressure washer to create the perfect car wash system
- Highly concentrated, makes up to 5 gallons of ready to use detergent from one quart of concentrate
Karcher is a huge, very widely known and loved brand within the pressure washing sector, so it should come as no surprise that one of their specialized soaps has ended up on this list.
Here we have Karcher’s vehicle car wash that’s been specially formulated to not only make your car sparkle and shine but also leaves it protected as well.
Protected how? Well, this car wash comes with the addition of car wax. Don’t get too excited the wax included in this wash isn’t going to give you the all-round protection of authentic carnauba car wax, but the added wax will definitely get you through those times between waxes, and it will give your car a bit of extra shine which will make your vehicle look great.
This car wash comes in various sizes, you can get it in 1 quart (32 fl oz) or a 1 gallon (128 fl oz) bottle. I love the quart bottle, it’s a truly innovative design, you can pour the liquid in two ways, “freehand”, or through an incredibly accurate pouring mechanism with volume labels.
This feature makes measuring and diluting this product a breeze.
From the smaller 1 quart bottle, you can make up to 5 gallons of usable soap, 5 gallons from 32 fl oz! This is an incredibly concentrated product.
It’s made in the USA and is a very eco-friendly product.
- Car wash soap with added car wax for protection and shine
- Very concentrated formula – 32 ounces makes up to 5 gallons of usable product
- Can’t be used for other purposes because of the included wax
- CONCENTRATE: Pressure washer concentrate formula
- SAFE: Biodegradable, safe on metal surfaces
- DEEP CLEANING: Removes dirt and grime, yet safe for wax and sealants
Believe it or not, the smell can be a huge factor when it comes to car wash. This car wash soap from Sun Joe smells so tasty.
Once again we have a massive name in the pressure washing industry offering a soap, this is Sun Joe’s premium vehicle soap.
You can get this soap in three scents, all with have matching colors. The scents are Coconut, Orange and vanilla combo, and pineapple.
You can pick your personal favorite. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the coconut scent.
Sun Joe knew exactly what they were doing with this concentrated formula. And it’s concentrated! You only need to add 0.2 fl oz of product to a gallon of water to create 1 gallon of usable product, which creates incredibly rich suds.
While this product is designed to cut through the grime and grease, it won’t chew through your car wax or sealant, this makes it an excellent choice for washing your car between waxes.
However there is an added bonus, while this soap is ideal for cars and metal surfaces, you can also use it to clean wood and brick without causing any damage.
- Ideal for cars, but can be used on many other surfaces as well
- Doesn’t strip car wax and sealant but removes dirt and grim
- Comes in three amazing smells (Coconut, Orange and Vanilla, Pineapple)
- The formula dries relatively quickly, so be ready to rinse quickly
- Cleans Mold and Mildew
- Safe For Use Around Children and Pets
With Krud Kutter being such a well-known brand, it’s not surprised to find them on this list.
Like their Deck and Fence cleaner below, they’ve created a specialized product just for your House & Siding with their Krud Kutter House and siding pressure washer concentrate.
I don’t see a lot of products that are specifically designed for house siding, so this is a bit of breath of fresh air.
When you apply this to your siding, leave it to dwell for 5-10 minutes, this a light brush and a rinse, and the moss and mold will gone. This specially designed formula just dissolves moss, mold, algae, and grime.
After the rinse, your siding will look fantastic, with any unsightly moss or mold having totally disappeared.
This is an environmentally friendly cleaner, it can be used on a wide range of surfaces such as exterior siding, roofing, gutters, stucco, brick and cement block, masonry, walkways, and walls.
It contains sporex, which is a unique additive which removes tough stains and gray weathering on wood.
It’s also incredibly cost-effective, a 1-gallon bottle will make up to 20 gallons of soap usable product, giving you a cleaning area of around 5800 sq ft.
It’s bleach-free and contains anti-corrosive agents that safeguard your pressure washer pump and parts, so it’s safe for use in your pressure washer.
Add around 8 fl oz of the concentrate to 1 gallon of water.
- Covers a wide range of external surfaces
- Bleach free, and an environmentally friendly cleaner
- Will cover 5800 sq ft of external surfaces
- Needs to dwell for a while which could be a problem on hot or windy days
Here’s a quick video showing you how to wash your house siding, you can also see my guide on the vinyl cleaners for more info.
- Cleaning solution for pressure washers
- Perfect for removing dirt, mold and mildew from multiple types of surfaces
- Cleaning solution breaks down the grime on siding, patios and more
If you are after a good, strong detergent that can be used on virtually any surface around your home and yard. Then this may be it.
Now don’t just take my word for it, Briggs and Stratton is a well-known company in the pressure washer industry, and they have many fans that swear by their products.
This detergent comes in a handy 1-gallon bottle with a handle for easy pouring. This pressure washer detergent can be used on almost any surface. It can tackle dirt and grime and even kill mildew, which is amazing.
This isn’t the most eco-friendly product out there, so you should take care when disposing of the soap. The concentrated formula is quite potent, so you only need 8 fl oz of the concentrated detergent per gallon of water.
It’s safe to run this pressure washer detergent through your pressure washer pump. Actually, it’s one of the recommended products for Briggs and Stratton power washers.
- Incredibly strong – it will kill mildew, mold, and algae, making it a cracking product for your yard
- It’s a multi-purpose product which can be used on nearly any surface
- As a detergent, it’s not very eco-friendly
Simple Green is a well-known brand when it comes to cleaning solutions, and with the Pro HD Heavy-Duty cleaner really shows why.
This is a fantastic degreasing product for breaking down tough grease and grime. It’ll even remove stains on metal, plastics, sealed wood, painted surfaces, concrete, carpets, and more.
Yup, you can use this in your carpet cleaner!
This is a cost-effective concentrated cleaner that you can custom dilute for your needs, it’s safe for use in your pressure washer.
It’s a non-corrosive and bio-degradable formula is fantastic for removing grease and grime. It’s perfect for both residential and commercial use, where dirt, grime, and paint overspray are common.
It’s Safe for appliances including stovetops, ovens, grills, range hoods, vents, BBQs, and more, I personally use it to keep my BBQ clean.
It’s not often you come across a cleaner that can be used inside and out and across so many surfaces.
I used it recently to clean the engine bay in my wife’s car, it had oil built up around the engine, once I was done, and you’d have thought the engine was brand new.
While you can custom dilute it for your needs, the recommended dilution for most jobs is to mix 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water.
- It’s an incredible cleaner than can be used inside and out
- Non-corrosive and bio-degradable
- Non-corrosive to metals and non-degrading to plastics
- This is a non-corrosive cleaner without bleach, so if you have really tough stains, this won’t completely clean them.
- Extreme suds all purpose super foaming shampoo
- Removes grime and dirt safely without stripping wax or sealants
- Very easy to use in and out of the sun
While Chemical Guys isn’t a well-known brand in the pressure washer business, but if you ask any professional car detailed and they’ll know the name straight away.
This is a car wash that can be used both by hand and with a pressure washer.
The Maxi Suds II car wash shampoo from Chemical guys comes in three amazing scents: Cherry, strawberry margarita, and grape.
And in a similar form, it also comes in three different sizes to suit all your needs. You can get it in a small squirt bottle of 16 fl oz, a half-gallon (64 fl oz) bottle, and a 1 gallon (128 fl oz) bottle.
Regardless of how you use the product, whether by hand or in your pressure washer, it will create amazing rich suds that smell amazing.
This product is powerful enough to tackle dirt, grime, bird droppings, and remove tree sap without stripping your car wax or sealant.
This soap also contains water softeners, though it’s still not wise to let it dry onto your car; otherwise, you are likely to get streaks and spots.
This is another well-concentrated product, you only need to use 0.2 fl oz per gallon of water, meaning even the small bottle will last quite a long time.
- Comes in three different sizes and three beautiful smells -- Cherry, strawberry margarita and grape
- Contains water softeners making it suitable for hard water as well so no soap scum
- Some customers experienced spotting when washing on a hot day, so be mindful of it drying quickly
- 1: 30 concentration - make up to 30 gallons!
- Specifically designed for washing cars and trucks
- Safe for use on all vehicle surfaces including rubber, paint, glass, plastics and vinyl
AR Annovi Reverberi is a company that everyone knows within the pressure washing business, and it’s known well.
This is a car and truck wash detergent that AR Annovi Reverberi has produced. It’ll tackle all of your tough, dirty spots.
First off, this is a very concentrated product, a one-gallon bottle of this detergent will make up to 30 gallons of usable foamy solution.
That works out to roughly 4.2 fl oz of product per gallon of water. One of the things that makes this product special is that you can use it on any surface on your vehicle, it won’t cause damage, and it will leave all your surfaces sparkling and clean, that includes your glass, windscreen, plastics, vinyl and rubber, yup your paint and tires will love this!
This is a non-corrosive and non-toxic detergent but is powerful enough to tackle even tough stains like bird droppings and tree sap. Caked on dirt is a thing of the past!
While this is a non-toxic detergent, it’s still a detergent, so you should be aware that this isn’t the most eco-friendly choice, so you should keep kids and pets away when you are spraying this product.
- Very Strong product designed specifically for cars and trucks
- Can be used on any surface found on a car or truck – it won’t leave your rubber or glass dirty or discolored
- As a detergent, it’s not eco or pet-friendly, keep pets away and plants covered
Over time your concrete driveway and paths get dirty. I tend to give these a good clean once a year. But I have found that not every product is suitable for dealing with complex chemicals that are used in asphalt sealers. This is why Simple Green has created this specialized product.
Let me start off with this, it’s one of the most affordable products I’ve come across. This concentrated formula is designed to get rid of oil, grease, and grime from all your paved surfaces.
It’s non-corrosive and doesn’t cause any degrading to your paving or asphalt. If you spray your lawn and plants with fresh water before you use this product, then if you accidentally spray your plants or lawn, it will cause no harm to your greenery, though do make sure to rinse your plants and lawn after use.
This ensures that you’ll have the landscape you can genuinely be proud of.
This formula is not too hard, but it will get your concrete surfaces clean. It can be used in a wide range of dilution ratios, but for most uses, you’ll want to use 1 measure of Simple Green with 10 measures of water.
- Incredibly affordable product
- Non-corrosive, non-degrading, and doesn’t kill plants or lawn
- Should only be used on paved surfaces – not a multi-purpose product
This video by Zep will show you how to clean concrete driveways.
- Deck and fence cleaner
- Effectively removes stains and discoloration
- Contains Sporex which removes mold, mildew, algae spores and stains from wood, decks,
Krud Kutter is a brand that everyone has heard of. So it’s not a surprise that it’s made it onto this list. This is their specialized deck and fence cleaner, and it’s good, which isn’t a surprise seeing as it’s been produced by this superstar manufacturer of cleaning products.
There aren’t a lot of products that have been specifically designed for wood. This is where Kurd Kutter has broken the model with this Deck and Fence Cleaner, it’s an ideal pick for those looking to clean natural or sensitive materials.
You may look at your fence or wooden garden furniture and thing that it’s time to get rid and replace them thanks to the amount of mildew, algae, and fungi build-up, but this product is the solution to that problem. It will quickly and easily bring those surfaces back to life, removing all that built up yuck.
If your deck is made of composite materials, this product is still the right choice for you.
This water-based cleaner is mild, non-flammable, non-abrasive, and non-toxic while still doing a great job on dirt. It’ll even tackle oily and greasy stains. The 1-gallon bottle will last a very long time, as you only need 12 fl oz to make a gallon of ready to use soapy solution.
- Great for wooden and composite surfaces like decks, fences, garden furniture, and patios
- Can remove mold, mildew, and fungus, but it’s still a biodegradable, safe product
- Only for wood and composite materials
I’m breaking from the mold with this one! This isn’t your typical pressure washer cleaner. It’s also not really a pressure washer soap.
This product by Bilt Hamber is an “Auto Foam” or rather a “Snow Foam”; it’s made with biodegradable compounds that are non-caustic.
It’s designed for use on cars, and this is a product I’ve used for years, it was recommended to me by a car detailer I use, and I love it.
It’s incredibly tough on dirt and grime, but entirely harmless for the paint of your car, it’s designed to be used with a pressure washer foam lance/foam cannon.
This Snow Foam is designed to be sprayed onto your car, left to dwell for a few minutes, and then rinsed off. It lifts dirt, grease, and grime, so when you come in with your hand wash, your chances of introducing micro scratches are drastically reduced.
This is a product with a dilution ratio of 1:100 that’s right 1 gallon of product to 100 gallons of water, but that will depend entirely on how dirty your car is.
I then mix 5 fl oz to quart gallon of water in the foam lance bottle (150ml snow foam to 1litre of water) for a standard clean.
If the car is filthy, then I may go 8 fl oz.
This is a product you would use in addition to something like the Karcher car wash soap, but for me, it’s worth doing, which is why I do.
- Smells fantastic
- Does a fantastic job as a pre-wash snow foam, it lifts all the loose dirt particles and softens engrained dirt so it can be rinsed away
- Reduces micro scratches in the paintwork
- It won’t fully clean your vehicle, it’s a pre-wash
What Is the Difference Between Soaps and Detergents?
When you start shopping around for soaps, one of the first things you’ll notice is that some products are labeled as soaps and others as detergents.
The label is not just part of the marketing.
Detergents contain synthetic chemicals for specific uses, such as killing mold or helping to dissolve grease.
The “synthetic chemicals are often harsher” compared to the ingredients commonly found in soaps.
Soaps are detergents that contain natural ingredients such as oils and fats. These substances are combined with an alkaline solution using a cold or hot process.
With the cold process, the alkaline solution is cooled before combining it with the oils and fats.
The ingredients are mixed just above room temperature until they thicken. With the hot process, the alkaline solution and the oils are combined and then heated.
Due to the natural ingredients, soaps are biodegradable. You can wash the runoff into the gutters. You’re also less likely to need to protect plant life from the soap while many detergents can kill grass, plants, and vegetables.
When Should You Use Soap and When Should You Use Detergent when Pressure Washing?
Eco-friendly and biodegradable products are highly sought-after, and because soap has natural ingredients, it can get washed down storm drains.
However, when using soap with untreated water such as rainwater, calcium-carbon solid forms at the surface.
If you pressure wash with detergent, you won’t face that problem. Additionally, detergents have been known to be more active on surfaces like concrete and wood.
That is why many people have combined natural soap and synthetic detergent to create a cleaning agent.
Is Pressure Washing with Soaps and Detergent Harmful to Pets or Gardens?
No one wants to use detergent soaps that cause damage to the environment, or that could potentially harm pets and gardens.
The majority of pressure washer detergents purchased at the store are environmental, human, and pet-friendly and the label should always tell you if it is biodegradable.
However, some professionals may use chemicals that aren’t as safe and should advise you of any risks ahead of time.
Is It Easier to Pressure Wash Surfaces with Soapy Solutions?
Think about any time you’ve ever baked something that sticks to the sides of the baking dish, such as the cheese after cooking lasagna.
When you try cleaning it with just cold water, the experience is going to be exhausting, and you won’t get the results you are looking for.
Once you add soap and warm water into the mix, you see that the process starts to get easier. So, to get the maximum clean from your pressure washer, it’s best to use detergent, soap, and high-pressure water. In that way, the surface gets cleaned quickly.
Soaps Include Specific Chemicals for Different Applications
You may need to use a specific type of soap based on the surface that you’re cleaning.
Most general soaps are designed to help remove dirt and debris. There are also sanitizing soaps that help kill bacteria and disinfectants that help kill all organisms. You can even find soaps designed for rust removal.
The most commonly used chemicals and ingredients in soaps and detergents include:
- Vinegar: Used to clean counters, windows, and produce. Also used to shine surfaces such as brass handles and bronze heirlooms.
- Citric Acid: Used for concrete driveways, wooden patio cleaning, and stain removals.
- Oxalic Acid: Used for removing rust and other cleaning purposes.
- Bleach: Created from a mix of sodium hypochlorite and sodium hydroxide, it is used to remove stains and also as a very aggressive disinfecting agent and sanitizer to kill bacteria.
- Sodium Hypochlorite: Powerful stain remover and disinfectant
- Sodium Hydroxide: Used to help dissolve grease and fats, and also helps to clean glass and steel surfaces.
- Ammonia: Commonly used glass and stainless steel cleaner
- Potassium Hydroxide: Typically used to turn soap soft or into liquid.
Each of these ingredients has its own use. For example, oxalic acid is often used for helping to eliminate rust while citric acid is commonly used for cleaning wood surfaces.
Using a cleaner with oxalic acid may harm a wooden deck while the citric acid may not work well on metal surfaces.
Ammonia is commonly used for cleaning stainless steel and glass. However, it may also be harmful to the environment and your plants when used outdoors.
The same is true with bleach and petroleum.
What is the best cleaner to use in a pressure washer?
This question is asked a lot, and there is no single best cleaner. It really comes down to the job at hand which is why I’ve put together the list below of the best pressure washer detergents and best pressure washer soaps for the various jobs.
If you want to purchase the best cleaner to cover the majority of surfaces. Then you should look for one of the best multipurpose cleaners, as mentioned below I personally love the Simple Green Heavy-Duty Multipurpose Cleaner.
Which is why I’ve chosen it as the best vinyl siding cleaner for pressure washers.
What Kind of Soap to Use in Your Pressure Washer for Specific Surfaces?
It all depends on the job, I’ve gone over a broad range of soaps and detergents to narrow down the specific detergent I’d use for the specific job.
- Boats, Cars, Motorcycles, and RV: Purchase a one-gallon bottle of Karcher Car Wash & Wax Soap for Pressure Washers. You can mix one cup of the detergent with ten cups of water, and get approximately 20 washes out of the bottle.
- Concrete Surfaces: The Simple Green Concrete and drive cleaner solution is perfect for any concrete area. You can purchase it in a one-gallon jug, and it’s quite affordable. The solution removes dirt, oil, grease, and grime.
- Wooden Decks and Fences: Krud Kutter Deck & Fence is a solution created for the sole purpose of cleaning decks and fences. It is free of ammonia and bleach and contains an ingredient that works to remove molds, mildew, moss, and even algae from wood.
- House Siding: Krud Kutter House & Siding is eco-friendly and biodegradable. It’s formulated to clean the siding of your home, and even slow the return of molds and mildew.
- Multipurpose Cleaner: Without a doubt, Simple Green Heavy-Duty Cleaner is one of the best multipurpose pressure washer detergents. It has incredibly high reviews and can be used to pressure wash cars, all types of surfaces, floors, awnings, and more. It’s also eco-friendly and biodegradable, so it’s safe to wash your driveway.
- Snow Foam: This is my favorite snow foam Bilt Hamber Auto Foam, it creates a nice thick foam that sticks to your vehicle and easily lifts dirt off of your car, boat, etc. I’ve tried many different snow foams and I keep coming back to this one, oh and it smells really nice as well!
The Difference Between Consumer and Commercial Soaps
The main difference between consumer and commercial soaps or detergents is the concentration.
Consumer products often come pre-mixed while professionals tend to buy concentrated formulas in bulk.
I know that you still need to mix most consumer soaps with water. However, commercial soaps require even more water to get the right concentration. They are also often sold in large tubs, barrels, or containers.
Unless you plan on washing the house of every friend, family member, and neighbor, you shouldn’t need to buy bulk commercial soaps for household cleaning projects.
There are also many consumer products that feature commercial-grade formulas. This eliminates the need to buy commercial concentrate soaps and detergents for general household cleaning.
Using DIY Soap Mixtures for Your Pressure Washer
To save money, it can be tempting to prepare your own soap mixture using common household cleaners. Vinegar solutions and bleach are the two items that are most often recommended.
I strongly advise against “using bleach in your pressure washer” unless you purchase a detergent that includes bleach as an ingredient.
Before researching the different types of soaps, I used bleach to help kill mold growth on my siding. While it worked great, I eventually noticed that it corroded the nozzle and I had to buy a new washer. Besides destroying my washer, “bleach may also be bad for the environment”.
Vinegar is one of the few household ingredients that you may use with your pressure washer.
Use three parts vinegar to seven parts of water to create a potent solution for killing mildew and mold.
The vinegar is also safe for your plants so you don’t need to worry about covering your garden before spraying.
For almost every other type of cleaning project, I suggest that you stick with soaps and detergents designed specifically for pressure washers.
You can easily find a soap with the right combination of ingredients for the surfaces that you want to clean without worrying about damaging your power washer.
Upstream Delivery Versus Downstream Injectors
With pressure washers, there are two primary ways to add soaps or detergents — upstream and downstream delivery systems.
With upstream, the “chemicals are added before reaching the pump” while downstream injectors add the chemicals after the pump.
Which system should you use? This is a hot topic in the pressure washing industry. Some people swear that upstream is the only way to go while others claim that downstream is the best solution.
With an upstream delivery system, the chemicals pass through several components including the pump.
The use of an upstream delivery system allows for more pressure and slightly higher temperatures. However, there are a couple of drawbacks.
As the chemicals need to pass through the pump, the abrasiveness of the chemicals may eventually damage the components. As I stated, using household bleach can quickly damage these parts.
With a downstream injector, chemicals are drawn into the system and do not run through the pump.
This allows you to use chemicals that may be too harsh for the pump. Some people also find downstream injectors easier to use.
How to Choose the Right Soap for Your Cleaning Task
When choosing a cleaner for your pressure washer, you need to consider a few details, including:
- Soap or detergent
- The delivery system
- The type of surface
- The setting
First, consider the type of surface and the setting. If you’re cleaning a vehicle in your driveway, you likely want a soap for your pressure washer.
The soap can run off into the gutter and is likely to be more effective at removing dirt and grime.
If you’re cleaning siding, you may want soap or detergent. For general cleaning, a soap may offer the right option as the excess water and chemicals may not hurt surrounding plant life.
When you need to blast mold and mildew on the side of the house, a detergent may be needed. Keep in mind that you may need to cover flower or garden beds and try to minimize runoff into the ground and sewer.
The type of solution you choose may also depend on the delivery system.
If you use a downstream injector, you have more options. With an upstream delivery system, harsh chemicals may damage the internal components such as the seals on the pump.
You should also look at the intended use of the product.
Most soaps and detergents are designed for cleaning specific surfaces or tackling certain issues, such as removing buildup from siding or safely cleaning a wood deck.
Another consideration is whether the soap uses biodegradable ingredients. A biodegradable soap is suitable for use outdoors and may not cause harm to the environment. These products are also less likely to damage your plants and grass or pose a health risk to your pets.
Do Pressure Washers Need Special Soap?
No matter how well you clean something, it will always get dirty again. Birds seem to hone in on my car after I’ve cleaned it for example.
Every so often, you are going to need to wash your car, pool, patio, and house siding. Now you may attempt this with just plain old water and a pressure washer, but what do you do when the dirt and gunk proves too much? Well, you add soap.
Not just any soap, don’t be reaching under your kitchen cabinet, reaching for a bottle of good ole dish washing soap. There are many reasons not to use dish soap as I’ve covered below, but for now, dish soap is designed to be used with a sponge, but to use under 1500 PSI or more of pure pressure.
While dish washing soap, clothes detergent, or any other multi-purpose soap, may not state that it can’t be used in a pressure washer, it’s often the case that these soaps and detergents just don’t perform under high pressure, that foam you normally get only doesn’t appear when blasted from a pressure wand.
Add to that that these chemicals can cause severe damage to your pump, soap nozzle, and dispenser. This damage can end up being beyond repair.
The ingredients used are not designed for use in a pressure washer, and they can react with the sensitive materials of your washer in a number of ways and not for the better. For example, your pump seals will degrade at a far more rapid pace.
So I highly advise that you should under no circumstance use dish soap or any other detergent that you have around your home in your pressure washer unless it’s specifically labeled and intended for use with your pressure washer.
Otherwise, on your head, be it! You’re taking the life of your pressure washer and the surfaces you are cleaning into your own hands.
Soaps and Detergents Have a Purpose
Ok, so you’re going to use soap or detergent, which is designed for use in a pressure washer, but not all soaps and detergents are made equal…
When you are shopping for a soap or detergent you should look out for the purpose of the product, as you’ll see in this article, some products are better suited for cleaning cars while others are perfect for cleaning the vinyl siding of your home, other for concreter and some are multi-purpose cleaning agents and can handle all surfaces.
I recommend getting a specialized product for every surface you want to clean with your pressure washer, though I realize this isn’t the most economical approach, it is the one which will ensure the best results, but should that not fit in with your budget, a multi-purpose solution will cover most bases, you can then consider which surfaces would benefit best from specialized products ( I high suggest specialized products for your car)
Pressure Washer Soap vs. Detergent
There’s a big difference between pressure washer soaps and detergents and really does matter which one you get.
1. The ingredient list
The difference between a pressure washer detergent and soap is like comparing apples to oranges, or freshly squeezed orange juice to sunny delight.
While they serve the same purpose, they are definitely not the same thing.
The main difference you’ll find between soaps and detergents is in the ingredients list. In general, soaps will use more natural ingredients such as vegetable oils and animal fats.
While detergents will contain more man-made synthetic, refined components such as petroleum or coal hydrocarbons.
I think it’s safe to say that soap is in general milder and much better suited for regular, gentle cleaning. But if you are cleaning with mold or caked-on grease, then you’ll find a detergent a much better choice.
2. Soap and Hard Water May Create Unwanted Build-up
Believe it or not, but the water you use matters too. If you use untreated water, or more specifically, hard water, then you should avoid using soaps.
Soap shouldn’t be used with hard water.
Hard water contains calcium and magnesium “particles that react with the soap to create scum“.
This scum or calcium residue clings to surfaces and is difficult to clean, effectively making your cleaning efforts a complete waste of time.
With a chemical detergent, the water doesn’t matter, as detergents have the power to soften water, making cleaning with them effective, regardless of the hardness of your water.
However, the detergents have their own drawbacks.
Detergents should not be run off into the ground or the sewer system. Unlike soaps, the chemicals in detergent take a long time to break down and can cause damage to wildlife.
Generally, soaps are designed for dealing with dirt and grime, while detergents are often made for sanitizing, disinfecting, and for specific cleaning jobs, such as removing grease or oil.
3. Ecological concerns
While you can use detergents with any kind of water that you have access to, detergents are incredibly harsh.
Detergent residue or runoff is a huge ecological concern when it comes to rivers and lakes, so you should do your best to ensure that you don’t allow detergent water to run into the drains.
Not only will detergents affect the water quality in your local bodies of water, but detergent residue in rivers and lakes, even in the smallest concentrations, can kill fish eggs and destroy the protective layer that fishes need to protect themselves from parasites reducing the local fish supply.
With that in mind, you should take care of your own skin, so wear protective clothing, as detergents can cause skin and eye irritation in some individuals.
On the other hand, soaps due to their natural ingredients don’t have this concern. Soaps are biodegradable and much milder to your and the surrounding wildlife. As such, washing the runoff into the drains isn’t much of a concern.
If you are using soap in your yard, you don’t have to worry about plant life being affected by overspray or runoff. With detergents, you have to cover grass and plants to protect them from overspray.
Look, don’t be put off of detergents. They are an amazing weapon to have in your arsenal. If you’ve got caked-on dirt, grease, or mold, detergents will deal with these. Just use detergents with caution and in moderation.
Soaps are a much better choice when it comes to general and regular cleaning, which are excellent for washing your car with.
While their milder chemical contents may not work wonders on that deeply engrained dirt, they’re much safer for you, your pets, and the environment. s
Pressure Washer Soap Buying Guide
While soaps aren’t complex in their design, picking the right product for your dirty surfaces and your pressure washer, isn’t as easy as it may seem, it’s not a case of grabbing any old pressure washer soap off of the rack at the hardware store.
Which is why I’ve decided to put together this buying guide, I’ll cover everything you need to consider before purchasing a pressure washer soap, so let’s get into it!
Soaps are made for different purposes, while it may seem like they essentially do the same job, removing dirt from a surface. You shouldn’t take choosing your soap lightly. Chemicals react in different ways, so a soap that’s been formulated to clean metal may cause plastics to lose their flexibility, become brittle or discolor.
These days you can find soaps on the market that have been specially designed for almost any material out there. Those there are four main categories that I want to point out.
- Car Soaps – These are designed to work on many different metal and plastic surfaces
- Soaps for plastics – such as the specialized soaps for cleaning the vinyl siding of your home.
- Soaps designed for concrete driveways and paths – These can also be used on stone or brick masonry, they work incredibly well with surface cleaners
- Multi-purpose cleaners – These are mild enough to work on almost any surface, from wood and brick to plastics and metal.
Getting a specialized soap for each and every surface is expensive, which is why I recommend getting a good multi-purpose cleaner and only buying specialized soaps for surfaces that you feel need it, for me that’s my car, I have specialized car soap and snow foam, in the long run, I save money by not taking the car to the car wash.
While you can use a multi-purpose cleaner on your car of vinyl siding, it’s not something I recommend often doing. This is due to the fact that the multi-purpose cleaner might strip your car wax or affect your car’s protective clear coating, which will lead to rust.
A strong or harsh multi-purpose cleaner may cause discoloration in your vinyl siding if used too often, you can usually get away with using a multi-purpose cleaner on these surfaces once or twice, but make sure you get specialized soaps for the long run and rewax your car after using one!
So, get a specialized soap if you can, but if you can’t, your multi-purpose cleaner will get the job done.
2. Concentrated or Diluted Formula
Wondering whether you should get a concentrated or diluted formula? Is the effort worth it, well you need to consider money versus convenience.
A concentrated product is your budget-friendly option, yes you need to dilute it yourself, but that’s just pouring a bit of the product into a bucket and adding water before you can use the soap. Concentrated soaps and detergents usually come in large bottles of a half-gallon or more. Once you add the appropriate amount of water to the half-gallon, it will produce much more product. Some have a 10:1 ration, so for 1 gallon of concentrated product, you create 10 gallons diluted ready to use product.
This makes the concentrated product very economical and a bottle can and should last you quite a long time through many uses. Do bear in mind that you will need a separate container to mix the concentrated product in. I use an old windscreen washer fluid tub.
However, some people just don’t get on with concentrated products, plus if you don’t like the product and you’ve bought a concentrated version, well, you are pretty much stuck with it.
This is where diluted products shine, you get to test out the product before jumping in with a concentrated version, plus if you don’t want to deal with dilution ratios, these are a great choice.
Diluted products usually come in smaller spray bottles. They can also come in bottles that have a specialized adapter so they can be attached directly to your pressure washer hose, which is a really handy feature.
This means that as soon as you open them, they are ready to go, so they are the quick option. Plus, the pressure washer adapter option is great if you don’t own a pressure washer with a detergent tank, soap injector, or foam cannon dispenser.
Though they come at a much steeper price when you consider the volume or usable product you get.
Even though soap cleans many things with ease that are next to impossible to remove with water alone, soap is not magic (ok it might be?).
In fact, the way soap works aren’t all that hard to understand. The key to a successful wash is in the lather, the bubbles grab and carry dirt away from the surface.
Soap and detergents that create high-quality and rich suds are the key to an effective cleaning product that doesn’t require a whole bunch of elbow grease. This is one of the reasons why I suggest that you get a specialized product designed for use in your pressure washer, regular dish soap for example such as dawn, simply is unable to create good rich suds, when blasted out of a pressure washer wand at high pressure.
A pressure washer soap, on the other hand, will create a rich lather that will dwell on the surface penetrating deep into the dirt before lifting it off and carrying it away.
This means you won’t have to scrub the surface to remove the dirt, which means if you are cleaning your car, you get a scratch-free car as all those dirt particles are removed so if you decide to come in with a lambswool mitt for a really good clean, that mitt doesn’t get full of dirt and essentially become sandpaper.
The same goes for cleaning your pool, wheelbarrow, boat, and vinyl siding.
Some soaps will contain additives which serve to nourish the surface that you are cleaning. That’s especially true for special purpose soaps.
For example, some car soaps come with added car wax, which has the ability to bond with your car’s outer coating, bonding with it, so it stays on long after you’ve rinsed the suds away.
While this is fantastic news for your car, this is a soap that you shouldn’t use on other surfaces, such as your concrete driveway.
Make sure that the additives in your soap are appropriate for the surfaces you intend to clean them with.
5. Pet and Eco-Friendly
In the past, it was rather difficult to find soaps and detergents that were “eco-friendly” thankfully that’s no longer true today.
Some of the most effective pressure washer soaps on the market today are very pet and eco-friendly.
I’ve mentioned above (Pressure washer soap Vs. Detergent) that soaps are a natural-based alternative to the harsher detergents.
I advise only opting for a detergent where you have a touch case of mold or caked-on grease. The reason for this is while they are effective at dealing with these types of dirt, they are harmful to your skin, eyes, lungs, and the plant and animal life in your yard and local water supply.
The biggest concern with detergents is that when the product does down the drain, it mixes with the local bodies of water and causes serious harm to the. aquatic life
Soaps are, for the most part, more eco-friendly, but not all soaps are made the same or are equal in that regard.
If you want to ensure that you are preserving the environment then you want to look for special certifications on the label of your product, you want a product that marked with “non-toxic”, “EPA Safer Choice” or “biodegradable” this will ensure that you are doing your part to help keep your local rivers and lakes clean and full of life.
How Do Pressure Washers Use Soap?
Soaps and detergents that have been designed for use with a pressure washer, when these products are blasted through the pressure washer, they foam up and create rich suds which remove dirt.
The reason these soaps need to go through the pressure washer is that these specialized soaps are designed to foam up under high pressure.
Using soap or detergent that’s not designed for a pressure washer is not recommended. The wrong combination of chemicals could severely damage your pressure washer, and many regular soaps/detergents just cannot create quality foam when blasted at high pressure.
So we know that pressure washers can blast out rich, soft suds, but how exactly does it do this? Well, that will depend entirely on the type of system your pressure washer employs.
There are three main types of systems, the built-in soap dispenser, a soap injector, and an external soap dispenser.
Though these have different mechanisms of how the soap intake works, you can usually use these systems with the same pressure washer soap no matter the method.
1. Built-in Soap Dispenser
If you are using a typical domestic-use machine such as an electric pressure washer, then there is a high chance that it will come with a built-in soap dispenser.
The built-in soap dispenser will have a tank where you will pour your diluted soap into.
As you use the pressure washer, the pressure will mix the soap and water together and blast the mixture out of the spray wand.
Most pressure washers using this method will have the soapy solution pass through the pump of your pressure unit, meaning that using a specialized pressure washer soap product is a must if you want to ensure the life of your pressure washer pump.
You will need, in most circumstances, you will need to attach your black foaming/soap nozzle tip to your washer wand. This tip is designed to maximize suds, but also to regular the soap siphoning, which is why in most pressure washers, if you don’t attach this tip, the soap won’t be drawn into the pump.
2. Soap Injector
The soap injector works in a very similar way as the built-in soap dispenser, except unlike the built-in system where there are usually onboard tanks, you need to insert your injector tube into an external bucket which contains the diluted soap solution.
This system is quite common with gas pressure washers as these don’t usually have space to hold onboard detergent tanks.
A soap injector can be installed near the pump of your pressure washer and is basically just a siphoning tube that will feed the soap/detergent solution into the pump from an external source.
This does mean that you need to keep a bottle/bucket of diluted soap nearby, which can be a pain if you are moving around. The rest of the process is the same as the built-in soap dispenser system, where the product is pushed through the pump, pressurized, and blasted out of the spray wand, which will ensure the product is foamed up when using the black soap nozzle tip.
3. External Soap Dispenser – Foam Cannon
If you have a pressure washer that wasn’t designed to have additional chemicals pass through its pump, then an external soap dispenser is a great choice.
An external soap dispenser is also known as a foam cannon, an external dispenser is mounted onto your pressure washer wand, similar to the way you would attach an attachment to your pressure washer or nozzle tip.
A foam cannon is essentially a small bottle of soap, with a pressure washer wand adapter. As you spray water through your washer, the soap is then siphoned by the high-pressure water, creating a soapy sud mixture. This is then blasted out similar to the way as regular dispensers would.
Some foam cannons allow you to control how much water to the solution is mixed and the spray pattern.
You can find out more about pressure washers and their accessories on this site.
Pressure Washer Soap Usage Tips and Tricks
You can use your pressure washer to clean almost anything around your yard. Including your lawnmower and other yard equipment.
The exact technique you should use to wash the various surfaces will depend entirely on what you are washing, though there are a few general tips and guidelines I’ll share with you to help you get the best out of your pressure washer and soap.
The following are some things I feel you should keep in mind when you are pressure washing.
1. Know Your Equipment
When it comes to using your pressure washer for soaping, I feel one of the most important things you need to know is what type of soap dispenser it uses. I’ve covered the different types in the previous section.
If you don’t own a pressure washer with a built-in tank or siphon tube soap injector, you can use a foam cannon, which is precisely what I did with my first pressure washer, it simply attaches to the end of your washers wand.
If your pressure washer has an exposed pressure washer pump with a valve for an injector, then that’s the best option for you. But should you not be able to read your washers pump without disassembling the machine first, then just get a foam cannon!
2. Personal Safety
It may seem silly to you, but using a pressure washer can be dangerous, debris can fly, chemicals are floating in the air thanks to the water droplets ricocheting, all of this can enter your eyes, lungs, or land on your skin.
Irritation and worse can happen.
2.1. Wear appropriate clothes
When you use your pressure washer, there is going to be kickback when the pressure engages from the pressure washer wand, there will also be some kickback from the water stream, as the pressurized water hits the surface, some of it will bounce back at you. When you are applying soap, this is far less of a problem than when you’re sandblasting.
But as mentioned above, you should still be careful and wear appropriate attire.
For me, the most important part of your body to protect is your eyes, as the smallest drop of soap can cause a severe reaction, and debris can cause damage to your eyes. So I advise you to wear clear protective goggles when using your pressure washer.
They will protect a very delicate organ from debris and harsh chemicals.
Additionally, I advise you to wear water-resistant boots and clothes as well, I’ve used my pressure washer in trainers and jeans, and you’ll end up getting soaked, it’s just the nature of the game, so wear sensible clothing.
If you are sensitive to chemical fumes, then it’s worth wearing a breathing mask as well. This is especially true if you are using your pressure washer indoors, or if your pressure washer is a gas-operated pressure washer.
Some pressure washers can be quite loud, so it’s worth wearing hearing protection like earplugs or earmuffs. Personally these days, I use these Iso Tunes noise-canceling headphones to drown out the noise. As pressure washing can get quite noisy!
2.2. Don’t use ladders
I get it, the spot you need to reach is a few meters up, but never climb on a ladder when you are pressure washing. The high pressure that blasts out of your machine’s wand is no joke, it can send you flying off the ladder, which in itself can break bones, but the stream can also get into contact with your skin, which can cause serious harm.
Instead, you can purchase a pressure washer extension wand if you need to reach high-up places.
2.3. Protect your plants and pets
Detergents are serious business. While a soap will rarely do any damage to your plants or pets or the local environment. Detergents are much harsher and will often kill plants and send pets to the vets if they come into contact.
Make sure that your pets are kept away from any areas you are using a detergent until you are done, and the leftover detergent water mixture is removed from the area.
Also, cover your grass and plants with a tarp of a similar waterproof material if you have to spray detergent near them.
3. Applying Soap
When it comes to applying soap to a surface, there are some simple tips I can share. One might not seem so obvious, but if ignored, it can result in a lot of effort to clean up!
3.1. Don’t let soap dry
The most important rule when applying soap is to never let it dry onto your surface, dried on soap isn’t good for the surface and will make it much more likely to get dirty. If you are cleaning your car on a hot or windy day, soap can dry out quickly.
You want the soap suds to lift the dirt, so when you rinse, it’s carried away from the surface, if the soap dries on the dirt particles get stuck back down, and you have to start again!
If you are working on a large surface, I advise you to break it into segments, spray a smaller area with water, apply soap, rinse, move to the next segment, repeat.
Ideally, you’ll pick a mild day, but sometimes that’s just not practical.
3.2. Bottom-up VS from top-down
Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get two different responses, some professionals will claim that you should always start at the bottom and work your way up, while others will claim that you should start at the top and work your way down.
What really matters in my mind is the size of the surface.
If you are soaping a smaller surface, for example, your car, then the best approach is to start spraying the rood and then to work your way down. This way, you won’t have dirty soap from the roof, falling onto your clean hood or sides.
This only works if you don’t let the soap on the rood of your car dry out before you rinse it, if it’s hot out, you should work quickly or switch it up and work from the bottom up.
You’ll be surprised at how hot and how quickly your car gets hot when it’s sat in the sun.
If you are dealing with a large surface such as your house vinyl siding, you should break the siding down into segments and work your way from the bottom up. The reason for this is if you let the dirty suds run from the top down over a dry dirty surface, they will leave ugly streaks.
FAQ About Pressure Washer Soaps
1. Can I use dishwasher soap with a pressure washer?
Can Dish Soap Get Used in a Pressure Washer? Using dish soap in your pressure washer may sound like a natural choice, I mean it is, after all, a multi-purpose liquid, useful on all sorts of dirt and stains, I’ve been asked directly if dawn dish soap safe for pressure washers.
However, dish soap shouldn’t be used with a pressure washer, and there are three reasons for that.
Firstly, if your pressure washer has a soap injector or built-in soap dispenser, the dish soap will end up traveling through the pump of your pressure washer, which could cause irreparable damage to your pressure washer pump.
Secondly, dish soap is designed to be used with warm water, and the vast majority of pressure washers, as a rule, are designed to work solely with cold water. This will reduce the effectiveness of the dish soap, unlike a chemical that’s been designed for use with a pressure washer. Plus dish soap just won’t create a good foam when blasted at high pressures.
Third and finally, if you are planning on using dish soap on your car, you can actually cause extreme damage to the paint and rubber seals, this sort of damage can be costly to repair. Dish soap is simply just too hard to use on car paint.
If you don’t have a good layer of wax or sealant, dish soap will eat away at your car’s protective clear coat. The end results won’t be pretty and your paint will end up being exposed to the air around it and it will change color, plus you will see rust set in at an accelerated rate.
Not to mention the damage to door seals, windscreen wipers, etc.
Look, just don’t use dish soap, the money you “may” save by not purchasing a specialized product is simply not worth the damage the dish soap will do to your car.
2. Are pressure washer soaps and detergents safe for the environment?
As I’ve mentioned above, soaps and detergents are very different, so there isn’t a single, simple answer to this question.
Detergents, which feature an ingredient list based on man-made chemicals, can be quite harmful to the environment and the used water should be disposed of properly. Ideally, you would prevent used water with detergent foam from going down the drain, as it can cause significant damage to water bodies and aquatic life in your local rivers and lakes.
While on the other hand, soap is usually biodegradable, based on natural chemicals, which makes it much safer to use.
Because of this, you shouldn’t worry about the soapy water running down your drain. But there are some soaps which are more eco-friendly than others, so you should always look for products that clearly state that they are eco-friendly.
3. Can I use household bleach in a pressure washer?
No, no, no. Never do this!
IF you need to use bleach or a bleach-based solution to get rid of discoloration of mold, you should do so by spraying it directly from the spray bottle or applying it with a cloth, always wear protective gloves and eye protection, you do not want it touching your skin or getting into your eyes.
Bleach is an incredibly harsh chemical, that will damage the seals of your pressure washer pump if it runs through your washer, this will reduce the life of your pump, requiring a replacement pump.
When you use bleach, make sure to take care, you should always cover your plants with a tarp if you are spraying bleach nearby.
I also advise wearing a breathing mask when spraying bleach as you do not want to inhale this chemical. Keep your children and pets away as well.
Don’t let water that contains bleach wash away into the stormwater drain, pond, lake, or river.
I personally suggest using a heavy-duty cleaner and only opting for bleach as a last resort.
Best Pressure Washer Soap Comparison Chart
|PRODUCT NAME||VOLUME (FL OZ)||DILUTION (FL OZ PER GALLON OF SOLUTION)||PURPOSE|
|Karcher Car Wash & Wax Soap for Pressure Washers||32||6||Vehicles|
|Sun Joe SPX-FCS1G-CRM Premium Car Wash Soap & Cleaner||128||0.2||Vehicles|
|Krud Kutter House & Siding||128||4||House Siding|
|Briggs & Stratton 6826 Multi-Purpose Cleaner for Pressure Washers||128||8||Multi-purpose|
|Simple Green Heavy-Duty Cleaner||128||3||Heavy-Duty Multi-purpose|
|Chemical Guys Super Suds Car Wash Soap and Shampoo||128||0.2||Vehicles|
|AR Annovi Reverberi ARCTW04 Pressure Washer Detergent||128||4.2||Vehicles|
|Simple Green Concrete and drive cleaner||128||12||Concrete|
|Krud Kutter DF01 Blue Pressure Washer Concentrate Deck & Fence||128||12||Wood and Composite, Decks and fencing|
|Bilt Hamber Auto Foam||169||0.04 (6 fl oz per snow foam)||Snow Foam -- Vehicles|
Having your home, yard or vehicle all spick and span is an incredible feeling. Using a pressure washer makes this and many other types of cleaning faster and much easier.
But sometimes, using just water alone isn’t enough, it’s in those situations that you need to use the best pressure washer soap.
Using the right product will ensure that cleaning will be a breeze, ensuring that you don’t waste time or energy brushing and scrubbing at stains.
I truly hope that my buying guide has helped guide you through everything you need to make the best choice so that your cleaning will be easy and fun and smell good as well, I’ve listed soaps and the best pressure washer detergents on the market.
The reviews were all unbiased based on an honest and true experience, in order to ensure that you truly find the most reliable product for the job at hand.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a message in the comment box below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
Last update on 2020-02-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API