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What is SH??

Ryan Cash

UAMCC Associate Member
What is SH?
Is _____ machine good enough to start with?
What Chemicals should I use to clean _____?
What’s the best way to get customers?
Why are my fittings leaking?
How much should I charge for _____?
Why does my surface cleaner leave lines on the ground?
How do you clean _____?

There are a lot of common questions that pop up all the time online. If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you’ve certainly heard them more times than you’d like and probably tired of them.

Instead of trying to answer them over and over again as they pop up, I thought it might be best to try and just compile them in one place as an easy reference to point new contractors to.

So here we go:

What is SH?

In exterior cleaning, SH is the common term for Chlorine Bleach, or Sodium Hypochlorite. While the chemical formula is technically NaOCl, most contractors shorten the name to simply SH.

Most the time, when referring to SH, contractors are talking about 12.5% Sodium Hypochlorite, not Clorox bleach.

While it can be purchased at various different strengths, most bleach you buy from big box stores will be somewhere between 3 and 5% Sodium Hypochlorite.

So when purchasing 12.5% SH for cleaning, it’s typically 2-4X as strong as what you might buy off the shelf. Most the time it is purchased from either a pressure washing supply company, a pool supply company, or a chemical supply company.

Is _____ a good machine to start off with?

The short answer to this question is most likely, YES! However, that yes comes with a disclaimer.

IN GENERAL, there are two factors when purchasing a pressure washer, PSI and GPM.

Most the time for residential cleaning, PSI is a non-factor as long as your machine can produce at least 2000-2500 PSI. You can use the following guide to achieve the right PSI for the job you’re trying to do: Nozzle Guide

The other factor that you need to consider is GPM (Gallons per minute). GPM is what causes a machine to clean faster. While you technically could clean an entire driveway with a 1.5 GPM electric pressure washer, it would take absolutely forever!

My general rule of thumb is that for professional use, 3.5 GPM is the absolute minimum you should look at. But again, the higher the GPM the better. I cleaned for several years with a 3.5 GPM machine and still got work done.

Once you get upwards towards 5GPM, you’ll need to add in a buffer tank into your system. This makes sure that your water supply is adequate. If you can’t supply enough water to your machine, you can damage the pump.

5-8 GPM seems to be right in the sweet spot for most residential contractors.

What Chemicals should I use to clean ______?

You’ll often see guys asking, “Can I use SH to clean this stain?”.

Bleach has wrongfully become this catch-all when people want to know what chemical would be best suited for cleaning things. Here’s the truth:

Sodium Hypochlorite is good for Organic Staining. That’s it! Nothing else! Moss, Lichen, Mildew, Algae, Mold, Bacteria, Black staining on roofs (Gloeocapsa Magma). SH (Or peroxide based cleaners) work exceptionally well for these.

Degreasers are great for oil and other grime on concrete. These range from fairly mild and safe to extremely powerful and Hazmat. These work even better when used in conjunction with hot water. Some really great degreasers also have surfactants that help remove red clay stains.

Oxidation Removers are great for oxidized siding and tiger stripes on gutters. If you’ve ever run your finger across painted siding and pulled off a chalky dust, it’s likely oxidation. Window cleaners see this whenever they run their mop over old vinyl window frames and end up with chalky water on the window. These are typically safe to use on metal and aluminum without risk of damaging the finish. This typically requires spraying, brushing and a lot of rinsing. There are a lot of commercially available oxidation removers on the market and it’s best to try a few of them out until you find one that you feel works best.

Surfactants made specifically for this industry are technically not soaps but instead are labeled as detergents. They boost the effectiveness of bleach, help lift and remove stains, and can help windows dry spot free. Surfactants, when used alone, can also help remove dirt and debris staining found around homes that are non-organic.

Acids are a great tool to have but extreme caution must be taken when using them. NEVER mix an acid with SH. Generally there are two main types of acids used: Oxalic and Muriatic. Acids are generally used for rust removal around the home, wood brightening, and fleet washing. Oxalic acids tend to be “safer” while muriatic acid is stronger, more volatile and can often be used to etch concrete for refinishing.

Water! Let’s not forget the Universal Solvent! Water works wonders and should always be the go to for initial stain removal. Hot water is more effective than cold water. Just don’t forget, WATER IS A CLEANING CHEMICAL!

Other Specialty Chemicals If you do a specific search for an other specialty stains (Efforesence, Concrete Splatter, Paint/Graffiti, Asphalt stains) you should be able to find some specifics for those as well.

What is the Best way to get customers?

This one is going to be tricky. There are numerous ways that work differently in each part of the country. The general rule of thumb is that if what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else! Below are a few good examples of things to try:

  • Yard Signs -- placed in front of home you’re cleaning- Ask customer to toss in the trash after a week
  • Road Signs -- Be knowledgeable of local/county guidelines about where these can go
  • Social Media – Join local community groups and neighborhood communities (Don’t go overboard and annoy potential customers)
  • Door Knocking – Beware of neighborhood/local rules. Be polite, Don’t walk in the grass, dress nice in a company shirt, have a business card and a flyer, DON’T LINGER!
  • Door Hangers – Drop these off at the homes surrounding the house you’re working on BEFORE you start your work. That’ll give them an opportunity to see the flyer, see you working, and stop by for a quote.
  • SEO – Start a blog! Post on your website, GET REVIEWS! POST FREQUENTLY!! You want to be the number one result when someone local to you searches, “Pressure Washing near me”
  • Community Events – Set up a booth a the local fair or community day. Offer a “fair special” for anyone who books on the spot. Hand out your cards to everyone.
  • Truck Wrap/Stickers/Magnets – Make your vehicle a rolling billboard for your company. The key things to have on your labeling: Company name, your services and your phone number! Generate a QR code to slap on your truck so passersby can grab your website quickly. Removal business card magnets can be all over your truck as well for a customer to grab when they walk by. Make it EASY for them!
  • REFERRALS – By and far the most effective way to get customers. Pre-qualified, informed referrals will be your best customers. ALWAYS ask for a referral!

Why are my fittings leaking?

The number question I hear about leaks typically originate from quick connects on hoses/spray guns. Inside the female side of the connector there is a small rubber (or viton) o-ring. Occasionally these will crack, blow out, or simply go missing. With no o-ring, your quick connects will spray water everywhere. Carry a bag of spare o-rings (typically 3/8 for hose connections and 1/4 for sprayer tips.

Next on the list for leaks is missing plumbers tape/pipe dope on screw fittings. Anything that screws together should be taped or treated with some sort of leak prevention before connected.

Finally, Air Leaks. Typically, this is just part of the game we all play. You may have air leaks caused by improper tightening of hose clamps (either too loose, or overtightened. The more connections, the more likely you are to have an air leak. Check all fittings (especially plastics) for cracks. Trace back air bubbles through hoses and find anywhere that air could be introduced into the lines (This will usually display as loss of spray distance or pressure at the spray gun).

How much should I charge for ____________?

This is a question that’s hard to answer directly. Every region will have different pricing and every market will allow different ceilings for price.

Most of the time, when this question is asked, people have not done a lot of market research or understand what goes into their overhead. Keep in mind that it will cost a new company much less to perform a job than a larger company with multiple trucks and staff.

HOWEVER, general pricing averages do exist! Here’s a good place to start for figuring out what people are charging on average: Pricing Guide

In addition to that, Think of any specialty cleaning (like oxidation removal) as restoration work, not general cleaning. Jobs like this are typically charged 2-3X the rate for a normal cleaning.

Why does my surface cleaner leave lines on the ground?

This could be one of a few things.

The first thing to always check is the spray nozzles. Are they Damaged? Clogged? Worn?

If you’re getting uneven cleaning, replace the tips first. Stick with 25 degree tips that are properly fitted to your machine.

If you are still getting poor results, first slow down. Walk half speed and see if that helps.

From there, try pre-treating or post-treating with SH. A Good post treatment of 3% SH will typically even out any lap lines made from the surface cleaner by killing off any staining left over from organics.

How do I clean _____?

There are many different surfaces that need to be cleaned in this industry. Here are some cleaning guides for some of the most common substrates:

  1. Asphalt Roofs
  2. Concrete
  3. New Concrete
  4. Gutters
  5. Mossy Roofs
  6. Composite Decks
  7. Metal Roofs
  8. Alucobond (Car Dealerships)