Using a pressure washing service or your own power washer to clean the siding on your house is one of the most satisfying experiences you can have. Getting to see the immediate results and the stark contrast between the areas you’ve sprayed and the ones you haven’t give a sense of accomplishment as you literally watch your house transform. Pressure washers can be dangerous, however, with their high power beam of water being capable of potentially doing serious damage to fingers and legs. With that in mind let’s take a look at how to safely operate pressure washers to their full potential.
Electric vs. Gas Pressure Washers
When looking for power washers for sale or rent there are a few things to keep in mind. Pressure washers work by using a strong pump that can take the water coming from a garden hose and push it through a spray nozzle at over 1000 pounds per square inch, or PSI. The higher the pressure that a power washer is rated for the deeper it will be able to clean. For most applications around the home pressures between 1300 and 2400psi are typically best. Lower pressures might be insufficient to clean things like old siding while higher pressure sprayers can do damage to what they’re cleaning if the user isn’t careful and can cause serious damage.
There are two types of pressure washers, gas and electric. Electric models typically operate at around 1400psi and require around a gallon and a half of water per minute to operate properly. Electric models are typically lighter and more convenient to use, making them ideal for applications like washing cars or grills.
The more common design of pressure washer is gas powered. These are substantially heavier, louder, and more powerful. Some models can deliver upwards of 3000psi, which as mentioned can actually damage many surfaces if you’re not careful. Gasoline operated power washers can require as much as 3 gallons per minute or more and are ideal for big jobs that require ample power such as decks and siding.
Types of Nozzles
Most pressure washers come with several nozzles that can be attached to the end of the spray wand to change the spray pressure and pattern. The most common assortments of tips change how wide of an angle the fan of water coming out forms. The wider the fan is the more area you’ll be able to cover more quickly, but the water will come out with less pressure.
The widest fan tips are typically intended for more delicate surfaces that need gentler attention or using detergent. Somewhere in the middle is usually best for most applications, with a good balance of a decently wide spray pattern, but still enough pressure to really clean dingy surfaces. The narrowest nozzles should be used with care, as their extremely high pressure can be great for getting a deep clean on a surface but it can also very easily damage things.
How to Start a Pressure Washer
How to Use the Pressure Washer
When pressure washing something it’s always best to try and find an inconspicuous spot first on which you can test a patch of whatever you are spraying and make sure that the jet of water won’t have an undesirable or damaging effect. Start with the wand several feet away from whatever you are spraying and move closer slowly until you find the right distance to clean the surface without damaging it.
If you’re spraying siding it’s important to lay down tarps as you spray to catch paint chips that come off. The tarps can also help to protect plants around your home. If your house was built before 1977 any paint chips you collect could very likely contain lead, so they have to be taken to a proper hazardous disposal site.
Hold the wand at a 45-degree angle to the surface you’re cleaning. Holding it directly perpendicular to the surface can actually drive dirt further into the material. Finally, it’s never advised to spray any windows or glass. The high-pressure water stream can very easily break windows.
Pressure Washers and Detergents
Some pressure washers have a reservoir that can be filled with special pressure washer detergents that can be combined with special attachments to help further the cleaning capabilities of your machine. Some models of power washers come with a special brush head that can be used with detergent to help clean cars and siding, while others simply rely on a low-pressure wide fan nozzle.
The best method to use with detergents is to first spray off the surface with plain water, then apply a layer of water with detergent mixed in, and finally spray the surface down one last time with clean water. It’s important, however, never to use bleach or ordinary detergents that aren’t labeled for power washer use as these can damage the machine.
After finishing your work be sure to hold down the trigger on the spray wand and purge as much water as possible from the system before storing it. It’s best to protect power washers from the elements as much as possible. This means if you have a shed or garage it’s much better to keep the machine in there if possible to keep it out of the sun and rain. This will ensure you get many more years out of your sprayer.
Also, when winter comes it’s important to winterize your unit. This can be done by filling the pump and hosing with RV antifreeze. This will prevent water from freezing and thawing repeatedly inside the sprayer which can cause substantial damage to the machine and decrease it’s lifespan significantly.