March 18, 2017 2 Comments
There are many species of wood included under umbrella terms such as oak and pine. And the density of the wood can vary dramatically, even though we may call it by the same name.
This varying density influences the ability of wood to absorb softwash chemicals. The denser the wood the less chemical will be absorbed.
Because there are so many varieties of wood – and so many sub-species within each variety – it is impossible to know all the effects that different chemicals will have on "wood".
For example, Pitch Pine is extremely dense, which makes the wood hard and heavy, whereas Scots Pine is the opposite – yet they are both called "Pine".
Only a company specialising solely in timber treatment could build up such an experiential database. And even then treating a test patch before soft washing the entire surface would be highly recommended.
We've found substantial differences in the effect of treating wooden sheds, fences, decking, garden furniture and cladding because, even though on a cursory first glance they may look similar, the wood used in their construction may be quite different.
So the rule, as always, is treat a small, out of the way test patch first. Get your customer's approval of the result they can see on the test patch, and their permission to continue, before soft washing the entire wood surface.
Quick tip: Scroll to the foot of this page if you are looking for information on how to soft wash outdoor wooden garden furniture.
When treating light green algae on easily accessible timber structures such as decking, fences and wooden sheds – many soft washing contractors will lightly pressure wash and then treat the wood with Benz Bio Cleanze.
This provides the customer with an excellent result and is an acceptable approach to soft washing many wooden structures.
Imagine trying to do that on the property below, in which you can see Ben soft washing cedar tiles, which are badly contaminated by green and black algae, with Bio Cleanze:
It would likely not be financially viable to pressure wash this building prior to soft washing because of the extra time it would take and the need to use a cherry picker or similar high reach equipment. There's also the risk of damaging the tiles (shingles) by pressure washing to be considered.
We treated the cedar tiles on this job with Bio Cleanze at 30:1 (we used this relatively high concentration because of the severity of the infestation). We first concentrated the spray on the flat "face" of the tile to kill the worst of the green and black algae.
The following day we sprayed it again, this time concentrating on spraying up into the lapped joints.
By treating twice, allowing 24 hours for the algae to partially break down between treatments, we gave Bio Cleanze the best chance of doing a good job in the time available.
An even better approach would be to wait seven days before applying the second treatment, although the logistics of a contract (travel time, access, and so on) may preclude this.
As with the soft washing business in general, the principles are simple but the permutations of chemical-material compatibility, accessibility, the expectations of our customers and their wilingness to pay, can be complex.
Quick tip: Be aware that pressure washing any wooden building, or timber structure such as decking, can sometimes cause an unsightly "striping" effect.
This can be particularly apparent around hand rails, gate panels, etc. Striping is usually due the operator using excessive pressure. Skilful use of the pressure washer is therefore called for. We emphasise the use of light pressure washing, carried out with skill and care.
Pressure washing before treating with Bio Cleanze will take longer than just applying the chemical. So every contractor must weigh up the equation of time, cost, need, and quality of result.
There's no hard and fast rule and ultimately we all learn the way that suits us, and each particular contract, through practical experience.
On large cladding jobs, such as the property in the above photo, large fences, etc, pressure washing prior to soft washing with Bio Cleanze will probably not be the most effective approach.
This is because of the increased labour costs and the potential for causing damage (striping and physical damage to the tiles/shingles). And so it's often a better approach to use pure soft washing methods.
Our experience suggests that, in general, treating with Bio Cleanze is usually the best way to soft wash wooden structures such as decking, fences, sheds and cladding that are contaminated by green algae.
Simply spray and leave the algae to die and fade away over time through natural weathering.
Offer your customer "Clean & Maintain" annual treatments to keep their property permanently clean – and give you a nice source of repeat business.
We've found that, generally, first giving the surface that will be walked on a light pressure wash removes the worst of the heavy algae and produces the best final result.
Pressure washing will remove the majority of heavy green algae from the decking surface. This means that Bio Cleanze has less organic growth to kill. And therefore there will be more unused chemical left to provide long-term residual biocidal protection against re-colonisation.Quick tip: A sales point for annual maintenance treatments of any wooden walkways, e.g. timber decking and timber jetties, is that of health and safety. Timber covered in green algae can be very slippery and presents a very real safety hazard.
In the photo of a test area below you can see the effect on cedar wood tiles that were colonised by green algae, after only three days following a treatment of Benz Bio Cleanze at 30:1
As when treating with Bio Cleanze, we've found that, generally, first giving very heavy contamination a light pressure wash removes the worst of the heavy green or black algae and produces the best final result. Alternatively, be prepared to give the surface two chemical treatments.
Quick tip: If there's only light algae contamination a single treatment with Lightning Cleanze may be sufficient by itself.
There are several reasons why, in general, we do not recommend using a sodium hypochlorite product as a first choice to soft wash wood:
An exception where Benz Lightning Cleanze can be the best choice is when soft washing timber wall cladding, including cedar tiles (shingles): Timber wall cladding often turns very black and it may be impossible to to restore the surface effectively using Bio Cleanze alone.
Also, it may be too expensive or impractical to carefully pressure wash. Fortunately, treating with Lightning Cleanze at 10:1 usually produces a dramatically fast result. So treating timber with Lightning Cleanze can be the most effective approach for some contracts. Then maintain ongoing with Bio Cleanze.
Quick tip: We recommend thoroughly rinsing the surface immediately before applying Lightning Cleanze and immediately after it has done it's work to minimise chlorine damage to the wood.
And, assuming your customer is willing to pay a bit extra for the best possible job, after rinsing Lightning Cleanze from the surface treat the timber cladding or cedar tiles (shingles) with Bio Cleanze at 50:1 (40:1 in winter cold).
Bio Cleanze will provide valuable long-term residual biocide protection against re-colonisation by green and black algae as well as a degree of protection from wet and dry rot.
The photos below show the before and after effect of treating cedar tiles (shingles) with Benz Lightning Cleanze, which were badly colonised with black and green algae.
You'll notice that the cedar tiles (shingles) have whitened after treatment. We told the customer about this in advance, so they knew what to expect, and they were very happy with the result.
Now, having pointed out the possible shortcomings, if the use of Lightning Cleanze is indicated for a particular contract – as was the case for the property in the above photos – let's look at some ways to protect the wood.
There are a some unscrupulous contractors who use very high concentrations of sodium hypochlorite to soft wash wood/timber structures. They achieve a very fast result, get paid, and disappear.
They are giving the soft washing industry a bad name as their methods can seriously damage their customer's timber property. Using high concentrations of sodium hypochlorite in a softwash solution also carries inherent risks to the health of the operator, their customers, the general public and of course children and animals.
This is a similar situation to the way unscrupulous caustic soda dippers destroyed vast numbers of valuable old furniture during the paint stripping craze. They used too high a concentration of chemical and left the wooden furniture immersed in it for too long.
Techniques to protect timber from damage when soft washing:
Treat with Lightning Cleanze at 10:1. (not Bio Cleanze, if people will sit on treated chairs or eat at treated tables)
If the contamination is severe, give the garden furniture a very light pressure wash first.
The furniture will require regular maintenance treatments going forward if it is left outside, every 6-18 months depending upon local conditions.
Quick tip: Wood varies in density and it's response to treatment at any given ambient temperature. The algae will disappear from some wood surfaces very quickly, whereas other types of wood it may take longer to go completely.
We hope this information is helpful and sincerely wish you great success in your soft washing business,
Ben, Leo, Fiona, Stevie & Anthony
How to find answers to most soft washing questions: Simply enter a relevant "keyword" or short phrase – e.g. keyword for the above link = "how to" – into our in-site Search Engine (magnifying glass icon on the main menu).
Click here to download our Product Documentation Pack (includes Application & Dilution guides, SDS, PDS, RAMS, PPE & Mask info, COSSH, sample Contract and more)
GB (England, Scotland, Wales)
Phone: 0800 70 74 222
Ireland and other countries
Phone: 00353 214 622 978
Lines open Monday - Friday, 9am – 5pm
Please note: The above numbers are for orders only (click here for tech support)
PS: Click here to set up your "Clean & Maintain" programme. After completing an initial soft wash treatment, put your customer on a "Clean & Maintain" ongoing maintenance programme. Your customers will enjoy a permanently clean property and you will enjoy a steady stream of repeat business.
This is clearly a win-win arrangement for you and your customers.
October 29, 2021
Hi guys, another interesting artcle as always and one I have read several times before.
I have a customer with what appears to be red algae on patches of her decking boards. I will, as I always do, thoroughly soak the area first and then I was thinking of trying a test patch, with a limted dwell time to start, using Tornado Cleanze.
I’m sure that wll be OK and won’t affect the look / colour of the decking, but would be very grateful for any observations you might have.
Comments will be approved before showing up. Please revisit to read our response.
March 24, 2023
How can you explain simply what soft washing is, and why customers should employ your soft washing services?
Click the link on this page to find out ...
March 16, 2023
Limescale is calcium carbonate – the residue left behind by hard water. How do you remove limescale from window glass?
Click the link on this page to find out ...
March 10, 2023
Many softwash contractors treat a property, get paid, but then never call back to their customers. What is the more profitable alternative?
Click the link on this page to find out ...
It's a free resource for people wanting to learn about the soft washing industry, to expand an existing business, or build a new business.
Soft washing reduces, or even eliminates, the need to use high-pressure washing.
Instead, once the build up of algae, lichen, fungus and mould – the root causes of properties looking "dirty" – has been treated, the natural "self-cleansing" of sun, rain and wind removes the surface residue through time.
By educating the cleaning trade and public about soft washing we are helping develop an industry that offers sustainable treatments to clean and maintain exterior hard surfaces.
Subscribe to our free trade tips blog to download your "Professional Soft Wash Contractors Pricing Guide".
The free guide shows you – step by step – how to easily, quickly, and accurately create softwash business quotes.
This saves you time, is a highly professional approach, and increases your chances of winning new contracts.
October 29, 2021
Tornado Cleanze could be used if the colonisation is extremely severe, what we call a “rescue clean”. But not for ongoing maintenance, for which Bio Cleanze is the product of choice.
Because the concentration of sodium hypochlorite is so strong in Tornado Cleanze, any treatment will require adherence to our guidelines for pre and post drenching with fresh water to avoid damaging the wood. And the activation time should be as short as possible.
We would treat with Lightning Cleanze first (starting at 10:1 and moving to 5:1 if necessary) and only using Tornado Cleanze if the results from Lightning Cleanze indicate the need for a stronger treatment.
We’ve never come across this situation arise ourselves and so have not used Tornado Cleanze on wood. Lightning Cleanze and Bio Cleanze have always proved to produce excellent results.