Environmental Cleaning. What exactly are we proposing?

Tony Shelton

BS Detector, Esquire
There seems to be a disconnect between those who have been following the environmental issues and those who simply choose to follow the words of an "icon" in the industry, thought of by some as an authority on the subject simply because he says he is.

Hopefully this post will clear some things up.

First, YES, there are some pressure washing applications where using vacuum equipment may be the only viable option. The customers in those particular situations KNOW they will pay more and have the funds to do it. For example, my son has a large grease spill account. Sometimes these spills are 500 gallons or more and spread out over entire parking lots. There is no possible way to adequately clean up a spill like that without vacuuming up the water, filtering it and finding a suitable ONSITE spot to discard the treated water that is leftover. It's an expensive job and the people who hire him are more than willing and able to pay for it. If their profits didn't allow for expenses like that they would simply have to go out of business, but the grease reclaim business is profitable and spills are just part of the budget.

After filtering, what remains is sludge. This sludge is dried out, bagged, and placed in the landfill. This is an environmentally responsible and legal way of dry disposal.

There are quite a few power washing scenarios where this type of cleaning is the feasible option.

Second, there are hundreds of pressure washing applications where using vacuum equipment is not only the most expensive option, but it is DETRIMENTAL to the environment. For example, a great bulk of powerwashing work never leaves the property and the runoff goes right into the ground. That is the same ground that has been described by environmentalists as the BEST filtration in the world. It is the same ground that buffer areas, detainment ponds an other man made structures that are mandated by stormwater authorities all over the country use as best management practices. This ground filtration covers most house washes, roof washes, deck refinishing and other residential work. It also includes most building washes and a lot of the commercial sidewalk cleaning. This runoff never leaves the property and is NOT under the authority of the EPA. Period. No one in this market has the budget to include reclamation and the high costs involved. The market is already tight. People are on unemployment all over the country. They will not pay $500 for a $250 house wash. They will simply do it themselves and take their chances. If that wasn't the case there would be NO need for exemptions in the law for private individuals washing their cars on the lawn, they would all just simply take them to the car wash where reclaim is mandated. But we all know that isn't what happens. They do it themselves.

Third, there are the recurring jobs of cleaning sidewalks and structures at commercial buildings. These are recurring jobs, sometimes as often as weekly. They have to be done or we become a nasty third world country.

* First, these jobs "produce" NO pollution. We take pollution that would normally be taken off the property during rain events, dry clean the area, clean, then direct the runoff through on-ground filtration that produces runoff MUCH cleaner than what would have ran off during a rainstorm.

* Second, the jobs, when done frequently, can require zero chemicals or soaps. Hot water and pressure can be enough to clean the areas frequently.

* Third, filtered runoff can be easily and inexpensively handled via landscape discharge OR simply allowing the discharge to go into built in systems like retention or detention ponds to let nature deal with it just like it is is designed to. There is absolutely zero need for added power equipment to responsibly deal with this type of runoff. We are already reducing pollution by dry cleaning in advance and on-ground filtration is just an added bonus to the MS4.

These frequent jobs are usually done for companies that are on a shoe-string budget in the first place. Grocery stores for example work on profit margins as low as 1-2% in some cases.

Anyone advocating adding more cost to the way our business is done has no understanding of how the economics of business works or they just simply despise the industry and want to get rid of the "bottom 25%" which Robert says includes most pressure washers, in favor of the big money makers for equipment manufacturers who sell mostly to municipalities. I don't understand how anyone could hate the fine men and women who make up this industry enough to sell false information to run them out of business just to make more of the almighty dollar for themselves.

We can provide a much needed function for the public at a price they can afford, or we can become a third world country. There is no in between.

Please post any questions or concerns you have.


New member
Well said Tony there is a time and place for on the fly recovery and its not everyday washing. It is usually for extreme circumstances (grease trap overflow) or when water needs to be extracted. Not washing houses and buildings or roofs.

Juan Juarez

New member
This is a must read thread.

Thanks tony i remember i was freaking out a while back because i had no way to buy a 2500$ reclaim and 1500$ filtration unit, but then i came across a few threads that you and others on this forum had started and it really helped put me back in place and better understand my city's bmp. I still have tons of research, but just wanted to say thanks for shedding light on this topic.


New member
Thank You Tony. This is very helpful information. Pressure Washing Institute is the greatest resource of helpful information and great people. thanks again!