How to Use a Power / Pressure Washer

How to properly use a power or pressure washer for your driveway, sidewalks, decks or siding

Any individual that has ever used a power washer will revel in the instant gratification that the process will provide. There is nothing as immediately rewarding, than to direct that high intensity spray of water against a dirty building, concrete walk, concrete drive, asphalt drive, etc. and see the instant result of the spray, as it cleans the surface. Take the local sidewalk in the front of your home and direct a power washer’s spray against that surface. The result, especially if the sidewalk is concrete, will be the immediate removal of black or brown dirt and staining that has developed on the surface of the walkway. You will immediately witness a transformation of the blackened surface to a clean grey, or even a white surface, dependent upon the type of concrete sidewalk. The use of a power washer to wash any surface will normally result in a much cleaner surface, which will shine and reflect the light in a much more positive fashion.

Listed below are several helpful suggestions and procedures, which will assist you when using a power washer and result in a more professional job.

1.) There are several different types of power or pressure washers. The two terms are used equally, in most instances, to mean the same type of equipment. A power washer consists of a hose that supplies the water, normally from the exterior hose bib of a structure, a second hose to place inside a container of cleaner if a soap or detergent is to be used, a wand that will direct the spray of water, as well as a pump that will provide pressure to the water. In addition, the majority of power washers will have several spray heads that will be capable of providing varying degrees of spray intensity as well as spray distribution.

2.) Power washers are both electrically and gasoline driven. In most instances, the power washer that is powered by electricity, will provide less pressure as well as water flow than its gasoline counterpart. An electric power washer is lighter and easier to move around, than a gasoline power washer. In general, the electric power washer is used by residential homeowners that do not require high levels of water flow or maximum water pressures. An electric power washer is somewhat restricted, due to its need to be within an electrical cord distance from an electrical outlet. A gasoline power washer is independent of any location restrictions, and can be used anywhere that it can be moved to.

3.) The gasoline power washers are available in all different sizes. They are normally identified by the horsepower of the gasoline engine. The higher the horsepower the more water the power washer is able to pump, and the higher the water pressure from the power washer nozzle. Most gasoline power washers are equipped with wheels and tires to enable easy movement around the site.

4.) The discharge hoses of power washers are in many cases a standard length. If additional hoses are required they can be purchased from the local hardware or builder supply stores. These pressure hoses are expensive, but will offer a longer reach for the power washer. The additional length of hose is especially convenient when the power washer is used for cleaning of siding or the removal of paint on large and high facades.

5.) The nozzles of a power washer are the last mechanical device to influence the discharge of the water from the power washer. If the nozzle is a long slit within the tip of the nozzle, the resultant discharge of the water will be in a flat and linear fashion. This type of nozzle is excellent for washing of decks or larger surfaces, such as driveways. If the nozzle is simply a hole in the tip of the nozzle, then the entire water stream will be directed through that hole. Depending upon the size of this hole, the power of the actual stream of water can be engineered to be extremely powerful. Water is used to cut stone and concrete in some special applications.

6.) If the power washer is being used for cleaning of a concrete surface, the spray nozzle can be selected to provide substantial pressure and intensity. Concrete is a hard substance and will need to be power washed with substantial pressure and water flow. However, as with all types of power washing, the pressure and the type of nozzle being used must be carefully selected. If the pressure is too high and the intensity too tightly directed, the resultant stream of high pressure water can damage a concrete surface. The high intensity of the water can spall the surface of the concrete, which means peel the top layer of concrete off of the surface, or the water will actually gouge the surface of the concrete. It is always best to use the minimum pressure as well as the minimum water usage, which will provide the required result. If the surface is simply covered with mud, a very low pressure and minimum volume can be used to remove the mud. If the surface is heavily stained by oil or mold, then the need for additional pressure and water will be required. Start from the lowest and work up.

7.) If the power washer is being used to clean wood or a vinyl surface, such as a siding material, the lowest settings for pressure and water consumption should be used. Work up from these minimum settings, until the desired cleaning is achieved. Always be cognizant of any damage that the power washer is doing to the surface you are cleaning. Ease into the operation and be extremely careful of the first few passes with the power washer. Immediately decrease the pressure of the water if any damage is being identified.

8.) When power washing any surface, always wear shoes, the heavier the better. Sandals and even sneakers are not recommended. A good heavy work shoe, or boot is recommended, due to the damage that the spray of water can have on your feet. Obviously do not clean your boots or shoes with the power washer. Even the limited, lower settings for pressure and water usage can damage the shoes, boots and especially your feet.

9.) When power washing any surface, wear safety goggles, or a full face screen. The high level of water pressure will cause the dirt and debris being cleaned off the surface, to spray and splatter all over. Your eyes are extremely important to you, and they should be kept safe from the spray from the power washer. You will be amazed at the resultant debris spray that occurs when you are power washing. In most cases, you will have to return to these areas and clean off all adjacent surfaces of the dirt and grime that the power washing splashed onto them.

10.) The wearing of ear protection is also recommended. The power washer will generate a high pitched sound from the water exiting the nozzle, and the gasoline power washers will produce the loud sound of the gasoline engine revving up. Both eye and ear protection is highly recommended.

11.) The wearing of long sleeves and long pants is also recommended. The spray can be quite intense, as it bounces off the surface being cleaned, and will not only cause the operator to get wet, it could also harm the skin. It is a good idea to keep all skin areas covered.

12.) Rubber gloves and even a full rain suit are recommended. The power washing procedure will spray water all over the place including back towards you, and if getting wet is not your idea of fun, be prepared for a full drenching, so dress accordingly.

13.) When you are power washing a vertical surface, it is recommended that the procedure start from the top, and work down the vertical surface. In this manner the wash water will flow down the vertical surface, until you reach the bottom.

14.) When power washing a horizontal surface, it is best to prepare for the flow of water on the surface. The procedure of power washing uses substantial water, and it must flow somewhere. Try to anticipate where the water will flow, and move the power washing operation in that direction. For example, if the top of the driveway is higher than the street elevation, then to start at the top of the driveway and move downward, is the sensible method of power washing. Stay in back of the flow of water if possible.

15.) If the use of a detergent is necessary, make sure that the detergent or cleaner is compatible to the surface being cleaned. Read the instructions on the label. In many instances, a better job of deck cleaning is achieved, if a special formulation of deck cleaning soap or detergent is used. Do not over use the product, and use it in accordance with the instructions. In many cases the external application of a soapy liquid, by use of a hand brush or broom will produce the desired effect.

16.) Power washers can be purchased or rented. If you are a homeowner and have minimal areas that require periodic power washing, the purchase of an inexpensive electric power washer probably makes the most sense. However, if you have large areas of that will require infrequent periodic power washing, then the renting of a gasoline power washer is recommended for the first time. If the results of the initial rental makes you understand the need to power wash on a continuous basis, or enough times to make a purchase more sensible than renting, then you should purchase a power washer. As with any piece of equipment, having too much power is better than not enough. You can always control the output to a lower discharge and reduced pressure if necessary; however, you cannot increase either, if the piece of equipment is too small, or under powered. What will occur, if you actually purchase a power washer, is that you will use the power washer for many more cleaning applications, than if you had to rent one each time.

17.) Power washers are pieces of equipment which will last for as long as you maintain them. There are no substantial moving parts that can fail, and the infrequent use of the power washer allows it to function for many years.

Power or pressure washing is a very popular method of washing and maintaining a number of items around the home and business. The cleaning of carpets can be performed, on a warm summer day, by taking the carpets outside and placing them on the deck. The use of a mild pressure with plenty of water flow will clean the carpets, and if placed on a deck, the opening between the deck boards will allow the water to drain out of the carpets. A few hours of sunshine, and your carpets will be ready to be taken back inside.

Other washing activities can include:
a.) Washing vehicles, the spray is capable of removing the entire stubborn salt residue from either the beach or the roadways.
b.) Washing home siding and trim. The ability of a power washer to spray the surfaces of trim and siding will remove any mold or dirt build up, that has accumulated on the siding surfaces.
c.) Deck cleaning. The use of a power washer is indispensable when it comes to cleaning and maintaining your decks and patios.
d.) Exterior surfaces of masonry, concrete or asphalt can be power washed to remove dirt and mold.
e.) The removal of old exterior grout or mortar from bricks, blocks or stones can be accomplished with a power washer that is adjusted for a strong concentrated flow of water out or the nozzle. The ability to cut through, and remove masonry grout and mortar is a very useful application, if a repointing project is anticipated.
f.) The cleaning of old cracks in the asphalt of the driveway, prior to the application of a sealer is also a good use for a power washer. It is very important to ensure that any cracks and openings that have occurred on either concrete or asphalt surfaces are thoroughly cleaned prior to filling. The power washer will do the trick.
g.) Special cleaning of planting beds, planting pots, or any other vessel that is used for the display of plants, shrubs or trees, can be cleaned out with a power washer.
h.) The springtime cleaning of all lawn furniture, picnic tables and other exterior furnishings is easily performed by a power washer.
The use of a power washer around the home is almost unlimited. In addition, the actual application and use of the equipment is a fun method of cleaning some very difficult surfaces.

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