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Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers – Is It Recommended or Is There a Better Alternative?

Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers

Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers – Is It Recommended or Is There a Better Alternative?

Pressure washing for 18 wheelers is big business. According to industry data, there are around 3.91 million class 8 trucks in the US. There’s no missing the 18-wheelers on the highway. These massive tractor-trailer units are used for transporting heavy cargo, such as machinery and equipment, groceries, gasoline and other hazardous materials, in fact, almost any domestic and industrial goods and supplies. Statistics reveal that commercial trucks transport around 10.8 billion tons of products across the country each year.

Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers – The Pros and Cons

Cleaning 18 wheelers is a massive job in more ways than one. Firstly, there is the sheer physical size of these vehicles. They can measure around 80 ft in length and weigh up to 80,000 lbs. Secondly, it is time-consuming to wash something that size. Therefore, industrial grade pressure washers are usually the go-to piece of equipment for the job.

Pressure washing for 18 wheelers is the popular option because it prioritizes speed and convenience. Semi-truck detailing helps to fuel demand in the pressure washer market. Research shows that this market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 4% during the period 2019-2025. But does pressure washing achieve the best results when cleaning huge trucks and does it negatively impact the environment? Is there a better, greener alternative? Take a look at the pros and cons of pressure washing for 18 wheelers while also exploring other methods, such as steam cleaning.

The Pros of Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers

High Pressure Jets of Water Quickly Dislodge Road Dirt and Grime

Fast cleaning is the main advantage of using pressure washing for 18 wheelers, especially when you need to get back on the road to deliver your cargo. You can simply use a lightweight sprayer to direct pressurized jets of soap and water at the dirty areas on huge tractor-trailer units, such as an 18 wheeler. The extreme power of pressure washing equipment makes short work of tough cleaning jobs.

Pressure Washing Is Ideal for Cleaning High-Sided Vehicles

Cleaning longer, heavier and higher vehicles like an 18-wheeler is challenging work. For example, the standard height of an 18 wheeler is around 13.5 feet. High-velocity sprays of water and soap solutions can enable you to access the high sides of these vehicles. Pressure washer accessories include extension hoses and telescopic lances to give you even further reach and control.

Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers Reduces Manual Labor

Using high-pressure washer equipment to clean an 18 wheeler can reduce the number of detailers required for the job. This cuts down on labor costs. These savings can then be passed on to the customers who are looking for competitive semi truck detailing prices.

The Cons of Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers

Excess Water Consumption of Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers

The downside of pressure washing is water consumption. Industrial pressure washing equipment is continually refined and improved to increase water efficiency but it is still hard to pressure-wash an entire 18-wheeler without using a lot of water. For example, a powerful 25 horsepower pressure washer operating at 3000 psi uses 10 gallons of water per minute.

You can’t wash a vehicle this size in 5 minutes. It will take considerably longer and will use more water to get the best results. There is also the issue of all that waste water. Chemical runoff can seriously damage the environment. For a greener alternative, see the pros of steam cleaning below.

Pressure Washing Lacks the Sanitization Properties of Steam Cleaning

A quick walkabout around your 18 wheeler with a pressure washer in hand will certainly remove large areas of visible dirt and road salt. However, it won’t achieve the same levels of sanitization that steam cleaning can achieve. The high temperature of steam is perfect for sterilization purposes and truck detailing in general.

Be Mindful of Chemicals Used in Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers

Do you know what kind of chemicals and cleaning agents are being used when pressure washing 18 wheelers? Commercial pressure washing can use highly concentrated detergents that are not always biodegradable. However, you can reduce the amount of detergent you use with a hot water pressure washer. High-pressure hot water is very fast and effective at removing grease, road dirt and grime. However, while this might cut back on your cleaning time and detergent usage, hot water pressure washing greatly increases your energy costs. This also has a negative impact on the environment.

Pressure Washing for 18 Wheelers Not Suitable for Interior Cleaning

Pressure washing for 18 wheelers is all about cleaning the exterior of your cab and trailer. If you want your carpets, upholstery, windows, dashboard, door handles and general truck living/sleeping space cleaned and sanitized, you will need to explore alternative methods for interior cleaning for semi-trucks.

The Pros of Steam Cleaning 18 Wheelers

Superior Sanitized Clean

The intense heat of steam is very effective at breaking down dirt and grime on the outside of your 18 wheeler. Furthermore, nothing beats steam when you want to sanitize the interior of your truck. The inside of your cab will readily pick up dirt and germs from prolonged time on the road. Consequently, if you want to sanitize the cabin interior, steam cleaning is the way to go.

Steam Cleaning Uses Water-Saving Technology

Why should you steam clean your truck? Four gallons of water is the answer! If you are interested in a greener alternative to pressure washing for 18 wheelers, steam cleaning technology is a highly water-efficient way to clean an 18 wheeler. Instead of using around 8-10 gallons of water per minute (GPM) when cleaning with a pressure washer, go green with a steam cleaner.

No Waste Water Generated

Steam cleaning your 18-wheeler eliminates the problem of waste water disposal. There is no toxic waste or high volumes of waste water when you use a steam cleaner and biodegradable cleaning products to clean the exterior and interior of your truck.

Suitable for Engine Cleaning

It is not advisable to turn a pressure washer on your truck engine. Directing powerful jets of water at a huge and complex 6-cylinder engine is just asking for trouble. Truck engine steam cleaning is considered to be a much safer and effective alternative. Your 18 wheeler engine is designed to go 1,000,000 miles before it needs a revamp. Therefore, regular maintenance will help to prolong its life. Steam is a gentle but effective way to cut through grease and grime build-up and restore engine shine.

The Cons of Steam Cleaning 18 Wheelers

Extra Cost of Steam Cleaning

As with most high-quality services, you tend to have to pay a little extra to achieve superior results. This is the case with steam cleaning. It is also a more time-consuming process than pressure washing for 18 wheelers, see below. This will be reflected in the price. Also, if high-quality truck detailing products are used in addition to steam cleaning, it will further bump up the cost of cleaning your 18-wheeler.

Time Factor

Steam cleaning requires a much more thorough approach to detailing your 18 wheeler, especially if a professional detailer is committed to getting the best results. Therefore, it is generally a longer process to carry out a sanitized clean with steam compared to a speedy exterior clean with a pressure washer. So, if you prioritize speed over higher levels of cleanliness, stick with pressure washing.


Industrial pressure washers pump out high velocity jets of soap and water. This will significantly reduce the wash time of your 18 wheeler. The latest equipment gives you more choice than ever. There is a range of types and designs with different water flow rate and power output to help you achieve the best results. However, while pressure washing for 18 wheelers shifts the dirt it won’t achieve a sanitized clean. This method also uses a lot of water.

If you are looking for a greener alternative to pressure washing, steam cleaning your 18 wheeler is much better for the environment. It uses less water. It achieves a deeper clean. The powerful combination of the high heat and pressure of steam is highly effective at breaking down dirt and sanitizing your truck. Cleaning a huge vehicle is a big job but it is made a whole lot easier with a little help from the professionals. Schedule an appointment with DetailXPerts to have your 18-wheeler truck professionally detailed using the latest technology and equipment in steam cleaning.

Before you go, take a moment to connect with DetailXPerts on Pinterest and view more tips within our Truck Detailing, Cleaning, and Maintenance board.


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