Selecting the Right Detergent for Your Pressure Washer

Cleaning Buildings with a Pressure Washer Billy Goat

How can you get your Billy Goat power washer to clean effectively? By using the right cleaning chemicals. Which chemicals work best? That depends on what you’re cleaning and where. Here’s what you need to know to find the right soap or detergent for the job.

What Not to Use in Your Pressure Washer

CAT and AR pumps are not designed to handle strong acids and bases including muriatic acid and bleach.

Only use cleaning agents formulated specifically for pressure washers. Other cleaners may be too thick to be drawn through the detergent system, they may foam excessively, or they may be ineffective when applied under pressure.

How Do Cleaning Chemicals Work?

Soaps and detergents are molecules that have one end that attaches to dirt and another that attaches to water. When applied, they latch onto dirt, creating a structure called a “micelle.” The water-bonding ends are facing out from this micelle, allowing the dirt to be removed by being rinsed off.

What’s the Difference Between a Soap and a Detergent?

A soap is a natural product made by reacting fats and oils with a salt. Soaps are always biodegradable, but they can react with calcium in hard water. This creates calcium carbonate, which can leave a film on the surface being cleaned.

Detergents are purely chemical derived and can be formulated for specific types of dirt or to work with different surfaces. Due to their chemical makeup, they don’t react with hard water. These chemicals may or may not be biodegradable.

Most cleaning chemicals designed for pressure washers use some combination of soap and detergent.

What Else Goes into a Cleaner?

Along with soaps and detergents, other chemicals are added to improve performance:

— Vinegar is good for cleaning flat surfaces and acts as a chemical polish for brass and bronze.
— Ammonia cleans glass and stainless steel.
— Citric acid removes stains from concrete and wood.
— Surfactants and other chemicals let the detergent stick to the surface being cleaned so it can react with the dirt.

Do I Need a Specialty Cleaner?

If it’s available, it will do the job better. The active ingredients will bond better with the type of dirt being removed, while other ingredients help the cleaning chemicals reach the dirt, whether it’s on a slick surface or embedded in a porous material.

Should I Get a Residential or Professional Formula?

The main difference between residential and professional chemicals are how they’re packaged. Residential formulas are pre-diluted so they can be used directly by the pressure washer. Professional formulas are full strength and need to be mixed with water to get the right cleaning power and flow to work with the pressure washer.

All residential chemicals should be safe for plants and pets, but some professional chemicals may not
When in doubt, check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and the product label.

Does it Need to Be Biodegradable?

Storm drains connect directly to waterways, so many cities and towns have laws restricting the use of non-biodegradable cleaning chemicals when they can reach these drains. Even if you aren’t required to use them, biodegradable cleaners are always a good choice for the environment.

Getting Better Performance from Your Detergent

If you aren’t using the low-pressure soap tip and the detergent inlet hose isn’t fully submerged in the detergent, your pressure washer will only spray water. Check these areas when your pressure washer doesn’t seem to be applying any detergent.

Pre-clean the surface you’re working on. By blasting away thick surface accumulation, you’ll let the detergent reach the stains directly.

Check the label for any mention of a dwell time. Most cleaning chemicals work best if they’re allowed to soak in for a few minutes.

Applying soap from the bottom up will reduce streaking.

Get the Parts You Need for Your Pressure Washer doesn’t sell cleaning chemicals, but we do have everything you need to maintain and repair your Billy Goat pressure washer. We’re a certified dealer for Billy Goat as well as the manufacturers they work with to build their pumps including AR, CAT, Honda and Briggs & Stratton. Our search engine can show you parts that fit your specific model as well as factory diagrams and descriptions so you can see exactly what you’re ordering. We ship across the U.S. and Canada.

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