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Soft Washing

What is Soft Washing?

The dingy stains you see around your property’s exterior surfaces are more than just an aesthetic concern. Stains actually indicate your home is infected with microorganisms, bacteria, mold, mildew, algae, and  fungi.  Garden variety soil and environmental debris are food for these pests, which grow to encompass more of your home, without proper treatment. Most of the organisms on your roof thrive there because your roof is warmer and wetter than the overall environment, especially on the North and West facing sides of your home. Traditional pressure washing, or power washing, can only remove the surface growth from this infection. Providing only a short-term solution. 

Is your roof looking dingy and discolored, with black streaks and moss spreading all over it?

Those black streaks and stains are Gleocapsa Magma bacteria. Commonly called mildew, Gleocapsa Magma grows on wood, concrete, siding, aluminum, among other surfaces. Each individual streak is one colony of algae. Over time, these streaks grow together creating a super colony.

Organisms like this will use construction materials as nutrition, breaking them down, and as a result creating a more inviting environment for larger more destructive organisms. For example, shingles contain a limestone filler that is attractive to algae, mildew and bacteria, which can use this limestone as a source of nutrition.

If left untreated, these organisms will create waste products, including acids, that penetrate the surface more deeply. Almost all forms of Algae, Mildew, Fungus and Lichen have a filament root system. Once that root system is attached to the roof or building surface the “roots” start to break down that surface, creating cracks and fissures. 

Have your shingles started to curl up?

Filament root systems are the cause of shingle curling.  Because the shingle is attached in the back, the front ends of the shingle flare and roll. This is because the shingle is widened more in the front than the back.

Although shingle roofs vary  in rating, color and style and price, all are made of similar materials. No matter what type of rating or color you choose, roofs are a big investment, and require maintenance like any other building surface.

There are four main areas for shingle deterioration caused by algae and fungus.

  1. Algae and fungal filament root systems cause decomposition due to cracks and fissures.

  2. Algae and fungus consume the phosphates present in limestone shingles.

  3. Acidic waste created by the algae and fungus metabolizes limestone fillers.

  4. The darkening of the shingles from algae streaking, causes the roof to absorb heat. This excess heat dries the shingles and ages the petroleum in them.

With the spread of Gleocapsa Magma, premature roof failures are all too common. In Washington, it is not unusual to see a 20 year, 3 tab, shingle roof fail before it reaches its 10th year. This means home and building owners are only getting 50% of their money’s worth on a new roof. Roof cleaning is an important part of any building or home maintenance plan. All types of roofs, not just shingles, can gain valuable years of service from the proper maintenance plan. Roofs made from tile, slate, shake, membrane or metal can lose as much as 50% of their lifespan from infestation of microorganisms.

Cleaning products, when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, can be effective against this type of biological growth. Sanitizing agents, such as bleach, work well in combination with surface acting agents, to ensure they permeate into the colony’s roof system.

The weedkiller brand Round Up has done a good  job of educating the public about home weed control. They have taught that if you pull a weed and you do not get the root, the old weed grows back. This simple concept applies to algae and fungus removal, as well. Using a cleaning process that only tackles the surface will leave behind remnants of the old “plant” and the algae will simply grow back. Pressure washing leaves behind the root system, as well as, blasting the spores of the algae and fungus deeper into the surface fissures in the building materials.

Pressure washing is unsafe for roof cleaning and flat concrete.

Pressure washing should never be used for direct cleaning of a shingle roof’s surface. The water pressure at the spray gun nozzle should not exceed 150 psi, to avoid blasting away the surface of the shingles. Power washing will prematurely age roofs and other surfaces, especially if bacterial colonies have started to infiltrate, as the pressure will hasten the roofs decomposition. 

Poured driveways and other flat concrete is made by tapping stone aggregate to the bottom of the slab. This keeps the small rocks away from the visible surface. Then the concrete finisher adds a broom stroke to the concrete  to create an aesthetically pleasing, non-skid surface.  When flat poured concrete is frequently pressure washed, the broom stroke erodes away along with layers of the concrete. The stones that were tapped down to the bottom of the slab become exposed. At Lakeview ProWash we use official SoftWash equipment and all technicians have been trained to use chemicals to make the job easier and reduce high pressure erosion.

Algae, mold, mildew, and bacteria are the #1 source of suffering for people afflicted with airborne allergies. Often roof infestations are to blame. If your HVAC has an air intake on your flat deck roof, it could be the source of contamination in your home. Sick Building Syndrome is a  condition where algae and molds spread throughout the home. Once that happens, any moist warm area will begin to produce colonies. Your home and surroundings need to be protected from the health issues caused by mildew, algae, fungus and bacteria. With every humid day, the fungus on your roof spreads spores to your sidewalks, driveways, decks, walls and more. These spores then attach to these additional surfaces, and grow new colonies. These colonies are then transported into your home by foot traffic, pets and air circulation.

You can stop the spread of contamination by focusing on your roof. Then move on the other  outside areas in your home. Decks, drives, and exterior walls all need to be maintained. Look around to ensure your home and surroundings are free from unwanted moisture and fungus.