Spring is the time to get outside and power wash your home. Who wouldn’t love a fresh, clean-looking driveway this summer? After a long winter of dirt and storms, your roof, siding, patio, or deck could probably use some cleaning. But while anyone can rent a pressure washer at your local home improvement store, you may want to educate yourself before you start blasting your home. Pressure washers can pack a punch, and if you misuse them, you can damage your property. You can avoid damaging your home with a pressure washer if you follow these important tips.
How Powerful is a Pressure Washer
The term power washer is often used interchangeably with the term pressure washer. However, the two are different, but probably not in the way you thought. Both pressure washers and power washers use water under extreme pressure to blast dirt and grime from surfaces. But power washers have an extra component, a heating element. A power washer adds the cleaning ability of very hot water, making it ideal for especially tough stains. However, for home use, you can usually stick with a pressure washer. A pressure washer still works great for cleaning cement, bricks, siding, and decks.
A pressure washer delivers water at a very high PSI (pounds per square inch). TO get an idea of how powerful the stream form a pressure washer is, we’ll compare it to your garden hose. A typical garden hose sprays at a maximum of 40 to 70 PSI. A hand car washing spray wand can produce 1000 to 1500 PSI. A low-end pressure washer ranges from 1500 to 1900 PSI. And a heavy-duty professional pressure washer can blast up to 3200 PSI. At that kind of pressure, the stream from a power washer can cut you or even rip your skin right off. For home use, you shouldn’t be using much more than 1500 PSI on most surfaces.
It Starts With the Right Pressure
Choosing the right pressure for your surfaces is the most critical factor in avoiding damage to your property. The hardest surfaces, such as concrete and brick, can take the highest pressure. However, some surfaces you would think are hard, such as paving stones, can actually be cracked by too high pressure. On any surface, test your spray first in an inconspicuous spot.
Wooden decks need less pressure than the hardest surfaces. Although a wood deck is pretty solid, if the pressure is too high, it can damage the surface. Pressure washing a deck at too high pressure can leave scratches, rip off paint, and even penetrate the wood’s finish. Start in a spot that doesn’t show and turn the pressure up slowly. Only use as much pressure as it takes to clean the wood, and turn the pressure down immediately if you notice any damage.
For siding, the material will help determine the pressure necessary. Wood siding should be treated the same as a wooden deck. Aluminum siding can take more pressure, but even aluminum can be dented by too much pressure. Vinyl siding may have some gaps between sections. Spraying pressurized water at a gap can force water behind the siding where it can cause rot and leaks. Always spray siding in the same direction as the grain, and never spray into a gap.
The Right Distance
The right distance is just as important as the correct pressure. Even if you are using a safe level of pressure, holding the sprayer to close to a surface can scratch, damage, or even crack some materials. Concrete can take the hardest beating, but even concrete can become stained by incorrect pressure washing. As a general rule, start with your power washer at least two feet from the surface you are cleaning. You can slowly move the washer closer if you feel you need a little more cleaning power. However, never spray from closer than 12 inches, or you could risk damaging a surface.
The Right Technique for Pressure Washing
Pressure washing as not quite as complicated as the perfect golf swing, but there is still some technique. When pressure washing, you need to grip the pressure washer properly and use it the right way to get the best cleaning and avoid damaging your property.
To start, grip the pressure washer firmly with two hands. If you’ve been using a pressure washer for some time, you may find a more comfortable or even one-handed grip, but to start always use two hands. You can get a side grip attachment for even more control.
In addition to the PSI on the washer, which nozzle you choose has a substantial effect on the pressure of the water being sprayed. Luckily, pressure washer nozzles are universally color coded to indicate the degrees, and subsequent pressure, of the spray.
- Red - Zero degrees. The most powerful spray. Suitable for tough stains on concrete, but can easily damage most surfaces and injure someone it hits.
- Yellow - 15 degrees. This is what you need for cleaning concrete, but it’s too much for most other surfaces.
- Green - 25 degrees. This is a good nozzle for most surfaces around your home. You can use it to wash your car or freshen up your patio or deck.
- White - 40 degrees. This is the right nozzle for vinyl siding to avoid damaging the material. Can even be gentle enough for glass windows.
- Black - 65 degrees. There’s not a lot of pressure with this nozzle. It’s good for just wetting a surface but won’t take off dirt or stains.
When to Avoid a Pressure Washer
There are certain surfaces on which you should avoid using a pressure washer. Perhaps the most common error with power washers is people who try to pressure wash an asphalt shingle roof. Asphalt shingle is soft, and each shingle is covered in a layer of gravelly material that protects the shingle from damaging UV rays. Spraying too hard can knock off the protective material. Also, pressurized water can easily work its way underneath your shingle and soak the underlayment, which takes a long time to dry. You shingles function to keep water out, to spraying water under them is no good for your home.
A pressure washer can be a useful tool for gutter cleaning. You can blast gutter-clogging leaves, debris, and scum right out of your gutters. But be careful not to use too much pressure. A high-pressure spray can damage your gutters or even knock them off your roof.
Professional Pressure Washing
If you’re ready for a pressure wash of your home, you may be considering renting a washer and doing it yourself. While you may save some money, the potential for damage is considerable. If you want to wash sensitive parts of your home like a wooden deck or any type of siding, you may want to think again. Also, if you are cleaning heavily soiled or stained concrete, like on your driveway, you may need a more high-powered industrial power washer.
For all of these reasons, you may want to consider professional pressure washing. A reliable and skilled TrustDALE certified pressure washing company can safely clean all your surfaces.