can you use dish soap in a pressure washer

Can You Use Dish Soap in Your Pressure Washer? – A Complete Guide

A pressure washer is a must-have cleaning machine that requires a good cleaner to perform to the level you’d expect.

If you can’t purchase a product-specific cleaner, you’ll be happy to know that there are a lot of DIY cleaners available, and some even use dish soap as the main cleaning ingredient.

Can you add dish soap to your pressure washer without harming any of the internal parts?

You can use dish soap in your pressure washer without a problem as long as you take the time to dilute it with a mix of water and soap properly. However, this mixture may not be as effective in cleaning away the layers of grime as detergents or soaps specifically designed for your pressure washer.

We’ll explore this more in-depth, and we’ll also give you several great examples of DIY cleaners you can create to use with your pressure washer without fear of them clogging anything.

You can try them out for yourself and see which one does and doesn’t work well for your cleaning projects. Let’s dive in.

Why Should You Add Detergent to Your Pressure Washer?

Depending on the cleaning project you have ahead of you, hot water will do the trick. When you use a pressure washer to hit a surface, the hot water will remove the dirt, and it’s also usually powerful enough to remove large debris and leaves from your area.

But what happens when you have a really dirty job with several years of dirt and grime buildup?

When you need to cut through layers of filth and debris, you’ll need more cleaning power than water alone can give you. This is where a high-quality detergent comes in, and this includes dish soap.

Dish soap comes specially designed to cut through grime and grease and loosen it enough for the water to sweep it away.

It’s like trying to wash your dishes with only water and no soap. You would eventually be able to scrape all of the debris away, but it would be far more challenging and time-consuming.

This same principle applies to the use of dish soap in your pressure water. Using it will make your cleaning project easier than it would be without it, but some specially-designed detergents would be an even better choice. However, dish soap will work in a pinch if you don’t have a commercial-grade cleaner on hand.

Will Dish Soap Cause Damage to Your Pressure Washer?

The good news for you is that dish soap like Dawn, or any other type of dish soap won’t damage your pressure washer as it runs through it.

As a bonus, dish soap can also make your cleaning project much easier with it comes to removing layers of dirt and grime. There is one thing you want to keep in mind when you decide to use dish soap, and this is whether or not it can clog up your pressure washer’s system.

You can add dish soap to your pump in two ways, and how you add it depends on whether or not your pressure washer has a detergent reservoir.

If it does, you can fill this with the dish soap, and the pressure washer will add the soap to the water and mix it internally. The second way involves having a pressure washer the pulls in water from an external reservoir where you pre-mix the water and dish soap.

No matter which type of pressure washer you have, a large amount of dish soap can get into the pump and cause clogs. You can reduce the chances of this happening by ensuring you mix the dish soap and water enough to dissolve the soap into the water before it runs through the pump.

You should also run a decent amount of hot water through your pressure washer’s system when you finish using it to rinse out any soap debris to stop it from sticking to the inside of the pump.

There are harsher chemicals that can damage your pressure washer, and you want to avoid using them to keep your tool in top shape.

If your deck or siding has a layer of mold on it, you may want to fill your pressure washer with bleach to spray it. However, avoid doing this as bleach is too caustic, and it can cause major internal damage to your machine.

How Dish Soap Measures up to Specialized Cleaning Agents

How does dish soap measure up to other types of cleaners for your pressure washer? To find this out, think about what you use your pressure washer for the most.

If you want to use it for smaller projects around your home, you’ll most likely be able to get away with just dish soap and hot water.

As a bonus, you already have dish soap in your home and use it on a routine basis, so adding a small amount into your machine won’t be a huge deal.

If you want to use your pressure washer for commercial-grade cleaning projects, you’re going to want to look at something stronger than dish soap because these are usually tougher and larger cleaning projects.

If you compare dish soap side-by-side with any concentrated detergent, you’ll find that dish soap can actually be more expensive over the long run for large-scale projects.

Most concentrated cleaning agents come in a bulk size that is great for commercial-grade projects, but it can be way too much for use around the house.

For any project that requires you to use an above-average amount of detergent, you can purchase slightly smaller containers of concentrated detergent in your local home improvement store or online.

They will cost slightly more upfront, but they’ll save you money in the long run over using dish soap.

Disadvantages of Adding Dish Soap to Your Pressure Washer

Now that we’ve established that it’s a very small chance of dish soap damaging your pressure washer, we want you to understand the drawbacks of using it over specialized detergent.

Different types of surfaces require different detergents to get them really clean, so dish soap may not cut it on hard jobs.

Dish soap may be safe and convenient because it has a biodegradable and non-toxic formula, but it comes with very real disadvantages you should know about. We’ve listed them for you below.

  • Some specialized cleaners give you better results
  • Dish soap can produce too many suds and soapy residue
  • Dish soap can leave a film on certain surfaces
  • It can be more expensive to use dish soap because you use more
  • Dish soap doesn’t work well for cleaning cars
  • Dish soap can clog or damage your pump, tubing, or other internal components of your pressure washer if you don’t mix it correctly

How to Properly Use Dish Soap in a Pressure Washer

If you’re in a bind and you want to try using dish soap with your pressure washer to clean your home, the process is relatively straightforward.

  • Get a dish soap that contains a degreasing agent. One good example is Dawn Dish Soap because it has a slightly higher amount of this agent.
  • Get a gallon of hot water and mix in three ounces of dish soap. It’s a good idea to measure at this point because adding too much dish soap will result in too many suds and soap.
  • Thoroughly mix the water and soap mixture to dissolve the dish soap. Doing so will reduce the chances that it damages your pressure washer’s pump or tubing.
  • Start your pressure washer and spray the dish soap and water mixture directly onto the surface you want to get clean. Let this mixture sit and cut through the grease and layers of dirt for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing it away.
  • Go back and rinse the area again an hour or two later to make sure you got rid of all of the soap residues to avoid a nasty film.

If you don’t want to take the chance that the dish soap can damage your pressure washer’s internal components, take a few minutes, and add the soap separately into a bucket of hot water. Apply it to your surface and use the pressure washer to work it into the surface.

Other DIY Cleaner Options

If you’re not sure about using dish soap, but you’re not ready to spring for a specialized cleaner, there are other DIY cleaning solutions you can try. We’ve listed several for you below.

  • Laundry Detergent – Mix one gallon of water with half of a cup of laundry detergent. Laundry detergent will out-clean dish soap because it has a stronger formula. If you want an eco-friendly option, use a phosphate-free detergent formula.
  • Multipurpose – You can use many different multipurpose cleaners in your pressure washer without breaking it. Add around two cups per gallon of water to this cleaner. For heavy-duty jobs, don’t be afraid to add the cleaner.
  • Vinegar – Mix seven parts water with three parts vinegar, or about a gallon of water with a cup and a half of vinegar. Vinegar has deodorizing and disinfectant properties, and it’s very acidic. If you can’t handle the smell of vinegar, add a few drops of essential oils to the mix.

  • Water – Sometimes, water will work well enough by itself on smaller-scale jobs. This is especially true if you use a hot water pressure washer. Test it on a small area and see if it cleans it adequately. If it does, you can use it without having to buy anything extra.

Never Use Bleach

Bleach is a caustic cleaner that you want to avoid using because it’s very easy for bleach to damage the interior of your pressure washer.

If you’re not very careful, bleach could blow back into your eyes and injure you when you use it. If you absolutely have to use bleach, apply it separately, and use the pressure washer to rinse it away while you wear eye protection.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are specialized pressure washer detergents expensive?

Most specialized pressure washer cleaners come in a concentrated form, and this allows you to get several gallons of cleaner out of a single bottle.

Dollar for dollar, specialized concentrates are cheaper than dish soap. This is especially true if you have larger projects to take on or ones that require a deeper clean.

2. Do certain pressure washer brands recommend specific detergents?

Some brands will recommend that you use specific cleaners in their pressure washers. However, you can usually get away with using dish soap. You can always contact their customer service representatives if you want to double-check before you try it.

3. Why shouldn’t you use bleach in your pressure washer?

Bleach is a very good cleaning agent because it’s very caustic, and it can actually damage your pressure washer’s internal pump and tubing system.

Even a small amount of bleach mixed with a gallon of water can be too powerful for it. Bleach can also discolor some surfaces if you leave it to sit on them and don’t rinse it well enough.

4. Will detergent kill the grass?

It depends on the detergent. Dish soap and many eco-friendly products won’t damage the grass if it happens to land on it. More specialized cleaners can if you don’t dilute them enough before you spray them around your grass.

Bottom Line

It is possible to use dish soap in a pressure washer as long as you dilute it correctly before using it. We’ve outlined why you would want to use it, disadvantages, other cleaners you can make yourself, and answered a few questions. You can use this guide to decide whether or not this is a good choice for your cleaning projects.

Can You Use Dish Soap in Your Pressure Washer

One Comment

  1. Stafford Leatham

    Hi Really enjoyed your article. I learned a lot. As a matter of fact, I just opened the box the new pressure is in. I got it online and did my home work. I am confident about it, I think I will use dawn, I have a gallon of white vinegar at my house. Wonderful stuff. My question is can I mix the dawn and vinegar, any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks, Stafford

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