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Can You Use Dish Soap in a Pressure Washer? | What to Know

Pressure washers are known for their ability to tear through stains, spills, and discoloration that almost anything else couldn’t. That being said, some things are even too tough for pressure washers. Dish soap can cut through grime and oil, so it would only make sense to consider using it with a pressure washer.

Dish soap is very similar to most pressure washer detergents, so it can be used in a pressure washer. Not only that, but it also increases the grime-cutting power of your pressure washer. After a thorough cleaning, the surface that you’re spraying will look as good as new.

By the way, here is a cleaning detergent from Amazon that is specifically made for pressure washers. I recommend picking some up for future use.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information about pressure washers:

  • Different types of soap to use with pressure washers
  • How to make your own pressure washer detergent
  • The best cleaners to use with your machine
Power Washer with Dish Soap
My pressure washer

What Kind of Soap Can I Use in My Pressure Washer?

Using detergent or soap in a pressure washer will drastically increase its cleaning power. Unfortunately, not all soaps can be used for this purpose. You’ll have to find the correct type of soap; Otherwise, you could run into a variety of problems.

Fortunately, there are plenty of soaps that you can use. For example, you can use dish soap, as mentioned above. You can also use detergent or cleaner made specifically for pressure washers, like this kind found on Amazon. Either way, you’ll get a powerful combination by using something that’s meant for a heavy-duty purpose.

If you try to use whatever soap is available nearby, you might run into a few problems. While almost anything can work, there are a handful of problems to consider before you reach for hand soap, bar soap, or dense detergent.

Here are a few issues that could occur if you don’t use the proper kind of soap in your pressure washer:

  • If you use soap that’s too thick, it can ball or gum. Basically, this means that it’ll bunch together and form balls of soap that can clog the machine. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes too hard to remove. You’ll have to throw it away or spend hours removing all of the old soap.
  • Weak, thin soap won’t do anything. When a pressure washer propels water, it does so at such high speeds that hand soap would get disintegrated during the process. It’s practically useless, so you’d be wasting money if you tried. This principle applies to bar soap as well.
  • Soap that’s too dense or thick can cause the opposite effect. Rather than doing nothing and getting dispersed too thinly, dense detergent and soap can coagulate into a mess. It can reduce the speed and pressure of the machine, making it too slow to do anything useful.

As you can see, using an incorrect cleaner isn’t something that you want to try. Not only will it prove ineffective, but it can end up ruining your pressure washer. These costly mistakes only make everything worse. Instead, settle for dish soap, detergent, or pressure washer cleaner to get the job done.

How Do I Make My Own Pressure Washer Detergent?

Making DIY pressure washer detergent at home can save you time from running to the store as well as money from the high prices that most companies charge. The good news is that most of the recommended items for this recipe are found around the house, so you won’t have to buy too many other products before you get started.

Without further ado, here is the recipe to make your own pressure washer detergent:

  1. Start by pouring one gallon of water into a 5-gallon bucket (Amazon Listing). You can get these buckets at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Amazon, and many other popular chain hardware stores.
  2. Add ½ cup of borax (Amazon) and ½ cup of washing soda to the bucket. Mix it thoroughly until both of them are completely mixed into the water. Don’t let chunks sit around, or they will clog up your pressure washer.
  3. Mix in one tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Again, stir the solution until everything has dissolved all the way through. Dawn dish soap will do just fine.
  4. Pour the solution into your pressure washer, start it up, and begin working on the task at hand.

The recipe above is designed for cleaning concrete, but it can be used for all sorts of applications. If you’re trying to create a cleaning solution for your pressure washer, this recipe is perfect. It doesn’t use too many ingredients, none of them can harm your pressure washer, and they’re not too harsh for most surfaces.

However, if you’re worried about it being too abrasive or corrosive for the material that you’re using it on, feel free to reduce the amount of borax and washing soda. You can cut them both down to ¼ of a cup each, or leave them out altogether. Remember that dish soap is a great alternative if you’re in a pinch.

What’s the Best Cleaner to Use in a Pressure Washer?

Getting the right type of pressure washer cleaner from the store can be frustrating. There are countless different choices, so how are you supposed to know which one is truly the best for your situation? Fortunately, you can reduce your options down based on the surface that you’re cleaning.

The Best Pressure Washer Cleaner for Concrete

If you’re only cleaning off concrete, then you’re better off using the DIY formula mentioned above. It’s strong enough to cut through almost anything, and you’ll save tons of money. That being said, if you really want to buy something premade, here is my favorite cleaner found on Amazon. It’s designed for the toughness of concrete, as well as many other materials.

The Best Pressure Washer Cleaner for Automobiles

Cleaning a car with a pressure washer can be a bit troubling. Some people don’t even want to consider doing it since pressure washers are known to be very powerful and possibly dangerous on automobile paint. Fortunately, most pressure washers have switched to dial down the intensity. You can combine it with Karcher Car Wash for the perfect 1-2 punch.

The Best Pressure Washer Cleaner for Fences and Decks

When you’re trying to clean off your fence or deck, you can’t use any cleaning method. The porous nature of wood causes it to bubble and crack if you use anything wrong. The good news is that your pressure washer combined excellently with a good all-purpose cleaner is best.

Don’t think that you need a type that claims to be specifically for fences or decks, it’s just an advertising ploy. Just use the all-purpose stuff, fill the tank with the recommended amount, and start cleaning away.

Note: Regardless of which type of pressure washer fluid you use, make sure you don’t forget to run clean water through the tank when you’re done; Otherwise, you’ll end up with a sticky mess when you start it up the next time. The old solution can also cause clogs that take hours to remove with water, and they can back up your pressure washer.


There are several different types of pressure washer cleaners to get the job done. You can choose based on the surface you’re cleaning, or make your own solution at home. Some people prefer the DIY route for saving time and money, while others enjoy the convenience of premade pressure washer cleaner.

Pressure washer cleaner, soap, and detergent are all wonderful solutions to remove anything from a plethora of surfaces. Before you reach for hand soap or bar soap, always refer to the DIY recipe in this article. Remember that diluted dish soap is more than enough, but weak soap won’t do anything for you.

In case you’re curious about what pressure washer I recommend, I currently own the A-iPower APW2700. So far, it’s worked very well for me.

For more, check out Can I Use an Expandable Hose With a Pressure Washer?