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Small, cold-water surface cleaner 3,400 well-built? serviceable? Soft-wash noobie.

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hi all, I'm looking to expand my pressure washing, learn about soft-washing, and buy a better surface attachment than the 14" briggs and stratton plastic 3,400 psi-rated which broke on me after about 30 hours of use with a 3,100 psi machine, and the second one broke in about 3 hours with a 3,400 psi machine. It breaks in the center where the main assembly connects to the rim body using only screws into plastic nipples. I didn't abuse it or anything. I have to buy a 3rd one now just to finish the project (concrete patio and walkways) and I'll keep it as back-up. 

I'm hoping to find a surface cleaner that is lightweight but durable and serviceable with parts available if necessary. I know to clean and grease the assembly now and then. MAybe somethign under $250?


My current set-up is a consumer grade 3,400 psi cold water westinghouse, non-psi-adjustable, regular guns/wands, the cheap surface attachment, and a ~25 foot ~$350 aluminum telescopic wand. 


I know it's a no-no but I've done a lot of vinyl siding with just cold water, no detergent and a 15 degree yellow nozzle. I find detergent unnecessary vs just water pressure, but I know this can put lines etc in siding vs soft-washing but I've never seen it happen. To me the most important is the follow-up preventive chemical, I often use Wet and Forget afterwards which prevents mildew etc for some months/years depending on the site conditions (shade, north-facing side, ground composition of mulch/dirt/trees etc vs just open unshaded area with patios etc). 


Using only water pressure takes a while, can damage siding (I never spray anything wood or anything like that I just use the Wet and Forget, same with roofs of course I use Spray and Forget meant for Roofs but many barely seem affected and need somewhat costly constant follow-up treatments and some are so mossy I suggest just tucking zinc/copper flashing under the roof ridge to potentially solve the problem long term, I don't scrape moss balls off asphalt shingles etc either which can damage them. And I avoid all windows and sometimes I manually clean them with just windex and rags. 


Where I'm at is high-priced labor, cost of living is as high as anywhere in the country, so the higher prices for labor/total project are on the higher side of national averages when googling such things but I still see signs here and there on telephone poles etc "pressure washing starting at only $100, includes detergent", which likely is for small single story houses and doesn't include any walkways or roofs etc. 

Doing a 2 story including walkways (I don't do asphalt driveways unless I'm about to reseal them because the surface cleaner can chip them etc) can take a while and one would think it'd only cost $200, but it takes too long to use just water to do it for $200 plus the additional cost of Wet and Forget and I want to keep the price reasonable. 


I haven't looked into it but most of the soft-wash videos seems like a 2 story house can be done in only about an hour, it's basically not even high pressure, it's basically a super soaker or garden hose spraying chemicals and then rinsing, I prefer to keep it clean without using chemicals but usually Wet and Forget is necessary afterwards anyway which will also eventually leach down into the landscape etc - it is what it is, if you want the house not to look all mildew and dirty, then chemicals are necessary unless you want to powerwash it w/ only water like twice a year and potentially damage the vinyl. 

Plus the cost of Wet and Forget is pricey, like three $40 concentrated bottles per 2-story house plus a $30 bottle of roof cleaner is another ~$150 plus the labor spraying from a 3 gallon tank pump sprayer, so my price is going to be too high vs if the soft-wash detergent also prevents future mildew. 

Again, I haven't looked into soft washing tutorials but am thinking I need a new pressure washer that can adjust to lower psi?


Looking for suggestions on a new surface attachment, new psi-adjustable machine, and good tutorials for soft washing. thanks. 



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Hello Jason,

You left a lot to be unpacked here.
When we first started back in 1999, we were heavily investing in the business and broke even that first year as a result. Buying small and 'inexpensive' equipment was the first thing we avoided. While you may save on the money spent, you lose time and spend on fuel in order to replace something that is only meant for the 'Consumer' to use a couple of times a year. No where near the demand you will place on the equipment. 1st lesson: Don't compromise on your equipment. You get what you pay for and that can be costly as you have found out.

Buy a Whisper Washer (Wheels or not). These units have lasted me years with little downtime and maintenance. Buy an in-line filter for it too! Many times the unit will be left disconnected while rinsing and such which allow debris to get into the connection line and harm the swivel with the grit and worse, plug up the nozzles. All requiring more downtime to fix than the cost of the in-line filter as a one time purchase. The filter has a detachable portion for cleaning out the screen inside and easily reassembled to continue the work.

We also started out with cold units for our washing needs until we could afford a hot water unit. You will find this alone is indispensable for much of the work and makes it much easier to clean when the temps are not above 50°.

Next. Stop using direct pressure on aluminum/vinyl sided houses. Get an X-Jet or M-5 Jet for applying the soap to the exteriors and a tank brush for use on an extension pole (varied lengths - 12', 16' or 18' and 24'). Apply your soap to the siding, brush the surfaces starting from the top down and rinse as you go.
The reason I am being so forward in the instruction here is that you are doing damage by applying pressure to siding. This forces a lot of water behind the siding and can cause the sheathing behind it to swell and buckle (Don't depend on builders to always install a moisture/vapor barrier before installing the siding!!! I have many stories to support this!). The other is that when that much water gets behind the siding, you are going to have leaks either inside the house or at least behind any barrier that is there which will keep the sheathing plywood wet and lead to mold growth. Don't make a sick house!

Many 'Low-ballers' are around. These fly-by-nighters always do this road signage with rock bottom prices. Don't worry about them. They'll sort themselves out by not making any real money and losing their asses! Trust me on this. Get your pricing in line! Set yourself an hourly wage. Determine your prices based upon the supplies you need to do THAT job. How long it will take and include all the incidentals that go into your business to operate. EVERYTHING!

Labor is a challenge for everyone in the industry these days. One has to come up with a solution to meet their needs for a wage and any incentives that you can work into your pricing. Remember! Your pricing determines what you can pay your employees per job, which equates to an hourly wage they will get regularly as long as you can keep them busy.

Look me up on See Dirt Run! Inc. Facebook page and send me a message. I'll get back to you that way and be able to help with many of the other questions you have here plus a supplier that can help with your chems.

Rod & Beth

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