Soft Washing – Not Just For Roofs!

It’s spreading across the country like wildfire – Soft Washing is the new craze. Soft washing is cleaning something with hardly any pressure, gently yet effectively removing any dirt, grime and algae. Using similar mixes to the ones for washing roofs you can wash almost any type of siding although typically there is more water in the mix. Whether its vinyl siding, stucco, fiber cement siding or even cedar shingles the results speak for themselves.

Soft Wash Cleaning, left side cleaned the right side is not

The only time I even break out my pressure washer lately is to clean brick or to clean walkways and driveways. Now I am in the roof and house washing business so the pressure washer is seeing less and less time on the job. It may be different for other trades that do duct cleaning or have other endeavors but not for us! There is no need to risk damaging our customer’s properties when all you need is about 60 PSI and the right ingredients! This is why pressure washing contractors all across the country are adding this setup to their cleaning rigs. It in an inexpensive setup that will help any business to expand.

Soft washing is a great way to earn a living and to grow your customer base. Once you start giving amazing results the calls will start to come in. There is nothing like having a happy customer who has a huge smile across their face! Almost every customer whose home I clean or whose roof I clean is ecstatic about the results.

There are a lot of companies that are stuck in their ways and will never put down the high pressure, and that is fine. Although give yourself the opportunity to have better and longer lasting house washing results. I have seen many homes where they had hired a pressure washer in the past, and just a year later the algae has already returned! This is because they did not even kill the algae! They just used their high pressure and blasted it all over the place, whether its onto the roof, your car or just under the siding. When this happens the algae does not need to travel very far to grow again. When using the soft wash methods shown here, the algae is completely eradicated! It needs to start all over and this can take years to happen. Due to this you can offer warranties that the others can’t and feel safe to do so.

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Do Roof Algae Resistant Shingles Still Require Cleaning?

Roof algae are a country-wide issue. In case you didn’t notice, algae were not an issue on asphalt shingles 30 years ago. At a certain point along the road the shingle manufacturers decided that adding Limestone as a filler in their shingles was the best choice. What they did not foresee however was that there is a type of algae that loves to eat the stuff! Not only that, but once coupled with warm weather and a little humidity it is off to the races. The chart below shows areas that can be especially bad for roof mold and algae growth however don’t assume your safe if you live in a state considered mild growth, it only means the problem is less severe, not gone altogether.

Algae Growth Chart USA

Now that the roofing companies have witnessed the error of their ways, they have taken action! Most quality shingles that are being produced these days are algae resistant (AR). The key word you need to take notice of here is “resistant”. They are not algae proof and they may never be, if they could do it then they would. The common length of algae resistance is said (by the manufacturer) to be 10 years although the shingle that they are selling is supposed to be a 30 year shingle. The math is easy to do, and the customer is the one that is left with at least 20 years of algae issues! I have even witnessed many roofs that are only a few years old (algae resistant shingles) and are already showing those dark streaks. Mother Nature is putting up quite the fight, and there is only one thing that you can do about it. That one thing is to either clean your own roof or hire a roof cleaning professional. Roof cleaning is very important and if it is not done and done right, you will literally shave years off your roof’s life span, and pay for a new roof needlessly.

Roof Algae and the roof cleaning it necessitates is going to be existent for a long time to come. As long as it is, we will be here to provide you with the most up-to-date methods and techniques for battling algae!

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Why Roof Pressure Washing Should Be Low Pressure Washing

In this article I am going to talk to more about how much pressure is adequate to properly clean a roof and why high powered roof pressure washing is never a good idea. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but in this case we don’t want to skin the cat, we just want to give it a good shampoo! Make sure that if you decide to hire a professional roof cleaner that he is using very low pressure!

  1. Pressure Washers and Power Washers produce far too much pressure for any type of roofing system. Some of these units produce 3000 PSI or more! This is enough pressure to not only remove granules from your shingles but also to cut your shingles in half. The average garden hose puts about 40-80 PSI which is all that you need to properly and effectively clean your roof. 3000 PSI is overkill and an unacceptable cleaning method for your roofing system whether it is an asphalt roof, tile roof, cedar roof or even a metal roof. You may say to yourself “I think that the wooden and metal roofs can take the pressure”. The fact is that you may hire the most talented pressure washer in the world and he may make your roof look amazing with his high pressure methods. Although, a Pressure Washer will not kill the algae, it will only blow it all over the place, such as on your siding, car and your neighbor’s home. It will even push the algae deeper in the pores of your roofing system, which for obvious reasons is a “no go”!
  2. Pressure Washing accessories still produce far too much pressure! Another tool out there is a “Pitch Witch” and is a “No Go”. It is a device that is on wheels and travels up and down your roof. It has three nozzles so instead of 3000 PSI it puts out about 1000 PSI, which is still way too much pressure. On top of that it is not killing any of the algae, so you can be sure that your algae will grow back very quickly. This is sometimes called a “gitter” along with many other names, so you must be sure to ask for a Soft Wash Roof Cleaning method! The picture below is of the infamous “Pitch Witch”

What this all boils down to is remembering one thing, to only allow the pressure of a garden hose on your roof!

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Roof Cleaning Equipment – The Basics

We’ve already gone into great detail about the chemicals, products, and solutions involved with roof stain removal, but aspiring contractors often ask us for advice regarding the actual tools of the trade.  So, we decided to put together a basic list of roof cleaning equipment that will help to get you up and running.  This isn’t meant to be totally comprehensive.  Ultimately, you’ll need to make your own decisions about which supplies are beneficial and which ones are superfluous.

First and foremost, you’ll need a trailer to haul your gear.  We’ve seen several examples where a roof cleaner successfully jammed all of his equipment into the bed of a pickup, but life will be a lot easier if you can afford a trailer.  Affixed to the trailer (or truck) should be a ladder rack and a few extension ladders.  A moonlighter rack will usually suffice if you can’t afford a full-size.

Roof Cleaning TankYou should have at least one large poly tank strapped down to the trailer.  If you’re just starting out then a 100 or 125-gallon tank should do the trick.  These can be found at Tractor Supply, but if you want to save a few dollars then consider purchasing online. You’ll run through an average of 60 gallons of chemical solution per job, so a tank of this size should be able to get you through two jobs before a refill.

Next, you’ll need to purchase a pump to transfer fluid from the tank up to the roof surface.  We recommend the Delavan PowerFLO 5800 Series.  It can push up to 5.3 gpm at 60 psi. This little beauty will need to be powered by a deep cycle marine battery, which, like the tank, can also be found at Tractor Supply.  The pump itself will most likely need to be purchased from an online retailer.  Ideally, you would have two pumps in case one gives out in the middle of a job.

Roof Cleaning Chemical TubingNow, as for the transfer of the roof cleaning chemicals, you need to find two 100′ pieces of clear, poly-braided tubing.  The ideal diameter would be 5/8″ for maximum flow.  Run a five foot piece from the tank to the pump, and the rest of the line out of the other side.  This will give you plenty of line for those hard-to-reach roof sections.  Better to have too much length than too little.  Connect the two pieces with a chemical-resistant fitting.  If you can afford a hosereel then great, but it’s not absolutely necessary in the early stages.

Roof Cleaning WandAt the end of the hose should be a poly gun assembly.  Our assembly of choice has a trigger gun, a 12″ poly lance, a 45 degree elbow, and a 1/4″ coupler to handle an assortment of tips.  Find a setup that you’re most comfortable with, but just make sure that all the materials consist of poly plastic or stainless steel.  A simple plastic gun from Home Depot will not do – the solution will eat through that stuff in no time!

Of course there are lots of other miscellaneous items that you will need to get the job done.  You’ll need a few water hoses for rinsing, a couple buckets for storage and dilution, and a large tarp in case plants need to be covered.  A ladder stand-off would also be a smart addition if you can swing it.

Last, but not least, you need to invest in safety equipment.  Let me repeat that.  YOU NEED TO INVEST IN SAFETY EQUIPMENT.  Roof cleaning is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and if you’re not prepared for the inherent risks then you are just asking for trouble.  Please take the time to read our post that is dedicated to roof cleaning safety products.

Those are the basics for setting up a roof cleaning rig, but as time goes on you will define your own style and methods that may require specialized tools and gear to make the jobs easier.  At the end of the day it’s about finding a system that works for you and is safe for everyone involved.

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Roof Algae Cleaning Myths Debunked

There’s a lot of false information about roof algae cleaning floating around right now, and I guess this is to be expected because it’s still a relatively new industry and most homeowners still aren’t that familiar with it.  But I’m tired of seeing all the confusion and decided that it’s time to set the record straight.  It’s time to blast some common roof cleaning myths out of the water once and for all.  So, without further ado, I give you the top ten myths about roof stain removal.

Myth #1:  Black roof stains are caused by tar, acid, dirt, or jet fuel. Roof stains are caused by a hardy type of blue-green algae called Gloeocapsa Magma.  All it takes is for one algae spore to land on your shingles and take hold and then it’s off to the races.  The algae will continue to multiply and spread, its growth fed by the limestone filler in the shingles and moisture.

Myth #2:  Algae on roof shingles is really a signal that it’s time for a new roof. Simply the presence of algae stains does not necessarily equate with needing a new roof.  In many cases all a roof needs is a good professional cleaning to restore its original look and health.  You might notice that roofers don’t like roof cleaners very much, and this is because we keep them honest.  If a roofer tells you that you need a whole new roof just because of some algae staining tell him to take a walk and look up your local non-pressure roof cleaning company instead.  You’ll save a huge amount of money.

Roof Algae CleaningMyth #3:  Roof algae removal will have no real impact on a home’s curb appeal. Most people are shocked when they see how much better their home looks after a roof cleaning.  I think this is because most homeowners have gotten so used to seeing the stains on their roof that they’ve completely forgotten how good it once looked.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve cleaned the roof of a house that had been on the market for months with virtually no activity and within days of the cleaning it finally started getting serious offers.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that no matter how beautiful your landscaping, no matter how clean your windows, no matter how precise the painted trim, if your roof is covered in filthy algae stains then it will still ruin your curb appeal, if not in your eyes then in the eyes of your family, friends, neighbors, and potential buyers.

Myth #4:  Roof algae is only a cosmetic issue so it can be ignored for now. If not cleaned off and kept at bay roof algae has the ability to shave years off the life of your shingles.  It’s important to remember that roof algae is a living organism that needs food to continue to grow.  Guess what the favorite food of roof algae is?  That’s right – your shingles!  Shingle makers now use limestone filler in the manufacturing process which the algae just loves to chew on.  This will result in premature loss of shingle granules and general deterioration.  Shingle granules are vital to the health of your roof and home because they work to deflect UV rays and heat away from your roof surface.  If they are gone or covered with algae then you will have a hotter attic and higher AC bills.  You’ll also have to replace the roof a lot sooner, and with the average new roof these days topping $10,000 it’s just a no-brainer to keep your shingles clean and functional for a fraction of the cost.

Myth #5:  The best way to go about removing roof algae is with high pressure. I’ve beaten this one to death on this site but it bears repeating that, next to positioning your home in the path of a tornado, power washing your roof to remove algae stains is the worst thing you could possibly do to it.  Just because your concrete, deck, and brick siding were pressure cleaned doesn’t mean you should do it to your shingles.  Don’t you have any idea how flimsy and fragile your shingles are?  Don’t you realize how many thousand or tens of thousands of shingle granules will pop right off with the use of a power washing wand?  It just always blows my mind that people think this is a good idea.  Yes, blasting your roof with 2000 PSI will remove some of the stains, but if it removes some of your actual roof in the process then what the heck is the point?  If you bought a roof algae remover and somewhere in the instructions it says that you should walk up on your roof with a power washing wand in hand and unleash hell on your shingles then it’s safe to say that you purchased the wrong product.

Myth #6:  Chemical roof cleaning will damage shingles, gutters, and landscaping. If you’re using the right chemicals with the proper procedures and rinsing techniques then you have nothing to fear.  I’ve cleaned hundreds of roofs with non-pressure chemical methods and have never once seen a situation where we caused damage to someone’s home.  I also only clean roofs with a helper present who’s sole responsibility is to rinse the heck out of the grass, bushes, and perimeter landscaping so that there’s absolutely no chance of plant damage.  We usually do such a good job of rinsing that homeowners notice that their landscaping actually looks especially healthy and vibrant in the days following the cleaning.  ARMA (the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association) and GAF (North America’s largest shingle maker) both recommend that shingles be cleaned with non-pressure, chemical methods, and any home inspector worth his salt would also concur.

Myth #7:  It’s only necessary to clean the sections of the roof that have visible stains. Just because you can’t see algae stains on certain parts of the roof doesn’t mean that it’s not already there and beginning to develop.  Keep in mind that in its early stages roof algae is completely invisible to the naked eye.  It’s not until the more advanced stages that it actually turns black and becomes visible.  So if you can see algae on even one section of your roof that means that it’s probably already taking hold on your entire roof.  I always try to explain this to my customers but occasionally I still get people who don’t believe it and demand that I only do a spot-clean to remove visible stains.  I reluctantly oblige their demands but am never surprised when I drive by a year later to see the untreated areas now completely covered in black algae!  Then they usually call me back with the standard, “You were right.  Can you please come back and clean the whole roof as you originally recommended?”

Myth #8:  Ambient temperature has no effect on the effectiveness of a roof algae cleaner. If you’re using the correct chemical mixture then it will be most effective when the temperature is above 50 degrees.  Below 50 and the power of the solution drops off rapidly.  If you absolutely must have the roof cleaned on a day when it’s right around 50 or a little bit lower just keep in mind that the chemicals will need to sit for a little bit longer on the roof to be effective.  So instead of giving it five minutes to kill the algae give it 15.  Then reapply if necessary.  On the flip side, if it’s an extremely hot day you may find that your chemical is
evaporating before it even has a chance to kill the algae.  In this situation you can simply soak the roof with water to cool it down before applying the chemicals.

Myth #9:  Roof cleaning is an easy DIY project that any homeowner can do in an afternoon. There’s nothing easy or quick about roof cleaning.  In fact, if you approach it with a cavalier attitude you run a good chance of injuring yourself.  If you want to have any chance of cleaning your roof safely and effectively then you need to set out a clear plan of attack, have safety procedures in place, and, above all, take your time.  Rushing through a roof cleaning only leads to trouble.  Unless you’re one of these guys that absolutely has to do every home improvement job on his own I would highly recommend that you just find a qualified, non-pressure roof cleaning company in your area.  Either you can hire somebody who has the equipment and experience to clean your roof in a few hours or you can spend an entire weekend doing it yourself and risking your life.  Your choice.

Myth #10:  Roof cleaning companies tend to overprice their work and take advantage of consumers. I guess I’m always a little disappointed when I tell someone that it will cost $300-$500 to clean their roof and they give me attitude and insinuate that I’m somehow ripping them off.  I think people hear that word “cleaning” and they think it should be cheap like carpet cleaning or house cleaning.  Think about it.  Does a carpet cleaner spend three hours at your house sweating his butt off and getting sunburned?  No.  Does a carpet cleaner run the possibility of paralysis or death by simply doing his job?  No.  Does a carpet cleaner spend $100 on chemicals for every single job?  No.  Can a carpet cleaner offer you a guarantee that the treated surface will stay clean for years to come?  No.  There’s so much more that goes into a professional roof cleaning than for any other kind of residential cleaning service that it’s really not even fair to lump them into the same category.  As a matter of fact, I actually think that most roof cleaning companies come in too low with their prices when you consider all the variables involved.  I also challenge you to name me one other home improvement service that can instantly transform a home’s curb appeal in a single afternoon for under $500.  Can’t be done.  And when you consider that it not only makes your home more beautiful but also extends the life of your expensive roof by a matter of years I think that having a roof cleaned is one of the smartest and most cost-effective things that a homeowner could possibly do to protect their biggest investment.

So now that I’ve cleared the air and educated you about the myths that surround the roof cleaning industry I hope you’ll take these words of advice to heart because they represent the straightest talk about this topic that you’re going to find.  I’m not here to serve up a load of BS just because I’m trying to sell a product.  I’m telling you like it is because there are too many lies flying around.  Either you can buy into one of the myths and be disappointed with the results or you can clean your shingles the right way and be satisfied with your new-looking, beautiful home that is free of roof algae.

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