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Which Soft Wash Machine Should I Be Using? Air, Booster, Gas Pump, or 12 Volt Soft Wash System.

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

One of the hottest talked items in the Pressure Washing Industry right now is Softwashing, AKA Soft wash, Soft washing, Softwash, Low Pressure Cleaning, etc.

What the heck does it mean?

The general term everyone is referring to is the applying of water mixed with chemicals at a low pressure. This allows the chemicals to do all the work for you. You would use a system to apply low pressure chemicals to help you clean quicker and more efficiently.

When using a soft wash system on your build, your pressure washer basically becomes a glorified rinsing gun. Most guys us a low pressure rinse tip on their pressure washer to just rinse the chemicals while the soft wash system applies the chemicals to the roof or building you are working on.

The question we get all the time is:

Which Soft Wash System is BETTER?

That is a loaded question. Each system you build is unique and has different requirements. MUCH DIFFERENT REQUIREMENTS.

Let's Discuss Longevity...

If you are running good strong chemicals... THEY ALL DIE, THEY ALL FAIL, THEY ALL WILL LEAVE YOU HANGING.

This is why you have to plan for the down time in your build process. Having replacement parts and back ups are important to keep your business moving forward. The last thing you want to do is pull all your hoses out and get on a roof, only to find your pump is seized up....

What Kind Of Problems Do These Units Have?

All soft wash units struggle to move the chemicals long term without having issues and breaking down. ESPECIALLY when using good SH. Florida Washers know what we are talking about here.

  • Air Diaphram Pumps have bladder issues long term.

  • Booster Pumps burn up parts internally and need to be rebuilt often.

  • Gas Powered Pumps (P-40, AR45) Blow through parts often and spring leaks.

  • 12 Volt Pumps... Well 12v pumps just die... Sometimes out of the box...

With this all in consideration, which unit is better?

The Answer:

The unit that works best for your build and also the one you can afford to keep running while out in the field. It's important to have either extra pumps, or extra parts on demand when you decide on a soft wash system for your build out. Down time in a commercial rig is never a good thing.

Let's go over each of the options above and discuss the things needed to run each one before we move any further.

12 Volt Soft Wash Pumps

A 12v System is pretty easy to setup and add to your trailer or skid build. It can provide a good amount of chemical flow ranging usually from 4gpm to 7gpm. These pumps are on demand pumps. When you pull the trigger on your soft wash gun the pump runs and when you let off the trigger it stops.

These units need a Battery to operate. This means if you don't have a machine with a rectifier, or electric start then your pump will kill the battery and need to be recharged at night. We recommend a deep cycle marine grade battery to run your unit.

Most people wire a on/off with the pump and connect it to a battery.

A 12v Soft Wash system can be easily set up and plumbed to a mixing system or blending manifold.

Air Diaphragm

(Pictured. Yamada Air Diaphragm Pump. Not pictured, the air compressor needed to run it. Link: L&H Industrial Yamada)

Air Diaphragm pumps are a fantastic low pressure soft wash pump application. They take up a small amount of space (the pump does anyway) and they usually offer a large flow of chemical. Did we mention you need an air compressor capable of around 80-100psi constant to keep one of these bad boys rolling? That is a space factor and limiting issue for most builds and is something to consider when looking into a Air soft wash option.

Most guys running air pump set ups are running around 10gpm of flow.

That much flow is something you have to consider greatly when making a build! You need to have the proper tanks and proper set up in place to be able to handle the amount of flow needed to run one of these larger pumps.

Air Diaphragm is known for having bladder issues or losing its prime over time. They will fail just like all other soft wash systems over time. Most guys buy a back up pump and keep it available when the time is needed.

Electric / Gas Powered Booster Pump

(Pictured. Goulds 1HP Booster Pump Set Up)

Electric and Gas Powered Booster Pumps have an amazing ability to move large amounts of liquid very fast. These pumps take up a relatively small amount of space, but like the air pump, require a power source, either an attached motor, or a generator to run the pump.

These pumps offer 8-12gpm of flow and can make quick work of a lot of jobs that require soft washing.

The issue with these pumps are electronics, space, and rebuilds. These pumps internals get hot over time and wear down with chemical and friction. This causes the pump to lose pressure over time and will result in needing to be rebuilt. Not an issue, but will require taking it apart and replacing all the stages inside the pump (17 on average). These pumps also require a more than average learning curve. They need to be primed often and require knowing more of how the unit runs than a simple plug and play option.

Gas Roof Pump Or Ag Pump

The Gas Powered pump such as the P40 or the AR45 driven by a gas powered motor has been a huge recent hot shot in the industry. These units are high volume and flow and can really make quick work of any type of soft washing application.

These units are fast and can move 10-12gpm with ease.

The downfall of these units is cost and parts. They have a larger up front cost to get into similar to the booster and the air system. These units are not a quick jump and build. The tanks needed to supply these units and hose is much different of that of a standard softwash system.

The biggest issue is replacing parts. These units spring leaks and require keeping parts on demand at all times. Failure to fix these leaks will result in pressure loss and also damage all your surrounding equipment as its usually spraying a fine mist of HOT CHEMICAL all over your equipment.


What About Cost Per Value?

This is a great question we get in the shop. In our honest opinion, the 12v Soft Wash System has the most value long term for MOST trailer or skid builds. (notice we said most... YOU big guys... We are looking at you. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEED.)

The 12v pump is usually between $200-$300 and in most cases lasts for about 6 months before leaving you stranded... This means that you have a huge potential to make your money back before ever having to invest back into the system. This is why the value is so hard to beat on a 12 Volt Soft Wash Pump System. You can easily keep a back up pump with you and swap it out and immediately keep working.

What we have seen as a shop is that the larger units are much faster at cleaning but have their problems. Gas Powered, Air, Booster, etc. These units move more volumes of chemicals so they can potentially clean much faster than a 12v soft wash system can. This is why a lot of big commercial rigs use these systems.

However, with the big boy systems come with big boy problems.

If your larger system goes down in the field, it needs a repair in order to keep working. This usually means you are going to be pulling off the job and ordering parts online or calling us looking for parts! The hardest thing this year has been that the parts are not always readily available. If you have a system that you have paid over $2,000 for and it goes down... You need to be able to get it back up and running as soon as possible. For most smaller rigs this is very hurtful. This is why we often recommend a 12v system to most people that are newer to the Soft Wash World.

If you need any help with building out your soft wash build give us a call at 941-216-3710 or start a chat here on our website anytime.

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