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What Kind of Soap Should I Use In My Pressure Washer?

There are many options for soaps and detergents to use in your pressure washer. It’s important to understand the difference between them and how they each work in your machine. The important thing to keep in mind when deciding which cleaning product to use is what you will be using it for. You will need to use a different cleaning agent depending on the toughness of the stain and the surface you are trying to clean (and sometimes the machine you choose).

To successfully use soaps and detergents with a pressure washer you must use them properly. The key is to use detergents and soaps like a dishwasher does. Dishwashers combine water, soaps, and pressures to tackle stains and grime.

It is helpful to have hot water to activate the cleaning agents, but pressure, water, and soaps/detergents will get the job done just as well without hot water.


Technically soap is considered to be a natural detergent.

Made with naturally occurring, raw fats, and plant and animal oils combined with salts to produce a dissolving agent. Because pressure washer soaps are more natural cleaning products, they are biodegradable and can enter water systems without worry.

Soaps are more effective with lighter cleaning tasks because it can dissolve and break down grime, dirt, and stains. However, the one complication that soaps can pose is that they can bond with untreated water and create blockages....especially in electric pressure washers which typically don't have as much power as their gas counterparts.


Detergents are man-made cleaning chemicals that are not biodegradable. This means that the water and chemical detergent mixture should not be allowed down regular drains and should be properly disposed of.

Besides the environmental threat of using synthetic detergents, there are no issues with using detergents with untreated water. There is not an issue with creating a blockage in the pressure washing system.

Using Soap

Soap is a great cleaning agent for lighter cleaning jobs, but not so great for tougher grime stains. If a task cannot be handled with water pressure alone, then adding soap can be an easy solution to start tackling the stain.

There are many surfaces that soap and water in a pressure washer can be used on surfaces including vehicles, boats, driveways, and patios. Because soaps are biodegradable cleaning agents, they offer safe outdoor cleaning options and can be used without worry of chemical contamination.

Using Detergent

Detergent is a more intense cleaning agent than soap, and because of this, it can do damage to some surfaces.

Though, it is a great cleaning agent to use for siding, windows, concrete, wood, and vehicles. If detergents are used for cleaning vehicles and other painted surfaces, the mixture must be diluted enough not to damage the paint.

The benefits of using detergents instead of soaps is that detergents can be used with untreated water without forming blockages, doesn’t leave behind residue, and can tackle tougher stains. Because detergents are not biodegradable cleaning agents, they should be processed and dealt with accordingly.

Soaps and detergents are two great cleaning agents on their own, but when combined, they are an even more effective cleaning solution.

Deciding which cleaning agent to use starts with figuring out if you need to use soap, detergents, or both. After that, you can start looking through the various options for each based on what you are planning to clean.

There are so many product options out there that could be listed, but it’s easiest to decide what you’re doing, then go to your local home improvement store and select from those options.

Pressure washing is an effective cleaning method, but sometimes pressurized water is not enough to get the job done. Adding soaps and/or detergents is necessary to get the job done.

About the author

Mark Kelly

Hi, I'm Mark the owner of Yard Care Gurus. I love to be outside working on my lawn, planning my next project. I created this website to help people like you find the best products for yard care and great advice. Thanks for stopping by!

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