Breaking Down the 5 Types of Pressure Washer Detergents



Pressure washers can remove the toughest dirt, oil, and grime from nearly any surface. Regardless of if you are cleaning a fleet of vehicles or removing the dirt and mold from the siding and deck of your home, choosing the right detergent is important to achieve the optimal results.

Choosing the detergent that is tailored to your project will make your job easier, more efficient, and give you the best results overall. Even more important, choosing the wrong pressure washer detergent can actually lead to devastating damage to your machine and the surface you are cleaning. 

To ensure you understand the right type of pressure washer detergent to use, our team at NorTex Sales & Service in Dallas has compiled this guide.

are you using the right detergent?

Maybe you are getting results from your current detergent, but you aren't sure if they are the best that they can be. If you are unsure, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are you cleaning? Are you cleaning your house, deck, car, or garage? Or are you cleaning something more substantial, like an oil rig or vehicles at a construction site? By determining what you are cleaning, it will help you decide which cleaner will do the best job for your project.
  •  Are you removing stains, oil, mildew? Some detergents remove grease and oil better than others while some offer protection against mildew. Transportation
  • What kind of surface are you cleaning? You may need a detergent that is easy on painted surfaces or one that cleans better on more porous surfaces such as wood. 
  •  Are you using hard water? Hard water can affect the type and amount of detergent you use.  
  • How large is your project? Determine the size so that you can calculate how much detergent you should purchase.

Using the wrong detergent can actually damage your potential projects as well as limit the cleaning quality. It may not only take longer to complete, but you could also end up using additional products.

For example, if you are using a standard soap for your cleaning project, and you have hard water, the oil and grime that you may be trying to remove may actually become harder and more difficult to remove.  

If you are a DIYer, be aware of the difference in concentration between commercial and residential products. Commercial products not only carry a higher concentration, therefore requiring additional dilution, but they are also usually sold in larger quantities and bigger containers.

You can find commercial-grade cleaners in smaller quantities, but you just need to pay attention to the dilution instructions. Many of the products sold for residential use are pre-made, so no dilution is required, but you will pay for the convenience.  

There are five categories of detergent to use with your pressure washer. In addition to the questions above, get familiar with your pressure washer. If you are renting one, have an expert discuss its operation and requirements before purchasing detergent.

five categories of detergent

1. All-Purpose Cleaner Detergent

These are the cleaners that you find in gallon jugs in most hardware and home improvement stores. They are fine for most residential projects and will remove dirt and grime from most surfaces.

They are relatively inexpensive and are well suited for the DIYer who has many surfaces to clean. The price per gallon may be more than the concentrate because they come pre-mixed and ready to use, but you will have less to store.

2. Degreaser

These cleaners are used for just what you would expect: removing grease, oil, and grime. Use a degreaser when cleaning oil stains from the garage floor or driveway, cleaning an automobile engine, or for any use where there is oily or greasy buildup.


They work best with hot water pressure washers as the hot water and productive detergent combine to wash the toughest build-up away.

3. Vehicle Detergent

As you can imagine, these detergents are specifically designed for use on your automobiles, boats, campers, as well as commercial transportation fleets. Because they are made to be safe on paint and trim, you can use this type of detergent with confidence that you are not damaging the exterior of these vehicles.  

If you are specifically using for boats, look for detergents that help in cleaning algae. If you need specific cleaners for over-the-road vehicles, look for those that specify that they are good for removing road tar or film. 

4. Residential Deck and House Detergent

Multi-purpose deck and house detergent is made to handle large surfaces and is formulated for your specific type of siding, decking, or even fencing. Some will even offer protection from the elements and help preserve the paint or stain. Though not as harsh as degreasers or vehicle detergents, they work well on dirt that is ingrained into the wood.

5. Specialized Solutions

If you have a special need that does not fit into any of the other categories, you may have to look beyond the multipurpose formulations and go to something that is more specialized for your project. Pay special attention to the uses and applications and use that information to determine if you need something more specific and specialized.

find your perfect pressure washer detergent

To increase your productivity and decrease the time spent on your job, choosing the correct detergent is a must. In addition to becoming familiar with your power washer itself, it is important to also be familiar with the types of detergents available to fit your particular project.

If you are a professional, or even if you are a somewhat experienced DIYer, consider renting a professional unit for your job. An expert can walk you through the machine’s operation and safety and help you determine the detergent that is right for your application.  

NorTex Sales & Service make it easier to understand which pressure washer and detergent are right for your job. Contact us or stop by one of our three locations in Dallas, Kilgore, and Odessa to get started on your project!

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