Home & Garden

Mastering Pressure Washing: Essential Tips for Effective Cleaning

You may not notice it over time, but dirt and grime accumulate on all your home’s exterior surfaces. Not to mention, grass and moss can grow between tiles or on surfaces themselves. Such dirt can go unnoticed for many years as the accumulation happens slowly over time, and you can’t see the direct colour change.

The weather conditions are the factor that causes the changes and the dirt accumulation, and it doesn’t matter on which part of the world you live in. It just happens. To fix your home exterior and enhance its curb appeal is simple enough – pressure washing. 

Sounds easy enough, right? Hold up. There’s a caveat.

Pressure washing isn’t simple and can even be dangerous for some surfaces. Do your research and be extra careful, or simply hire professionals to do it for you. And if you’re looking for a self-help post, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, you’ll find:

  • The different kinds of pressure washers.
  • The type of power washer you’ll need for your job.
  • Which type of nozzle you should use.
  • General power washing safety tips.
  • How to clean specific surfaces.

Ready to get started on your own pressure-washing project? Keep reading to learn about effective pressure-washing techniques.

Gas or Electric Pressure Washer?

A pump is used by pressure washers to raise the water’s pressure. Electric and gas-powered pressure washers are the two varieties available. Like anything else, both kinds have advantages and disadvantages.

Gas Pressure Washers

Gas-powered pressure washers are more powerful than electric ones, so naturally, you may not want to start with one. Such machines are great for experienced cleaners, but for a beginner, an electrical one might be easier to use and navigate. 

Pros of Gas Pressure Washers

  • They provide higher PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) and GPM (gallons of water per minute). They clean faster and more efficiently than electric models, and you’ll have more options.
  • Gas pressure washers are cordless, you’re not bound by a power outlet.

Cons of Gas Pressure Washers

  • Gasoline engines require consistent maintenance. They need a change of oil, and proper fuel additives if you plan to store the machine for an extended time period.
  • Gasoline engines are louder than electric engines. Plus, they produce bad emissions. 

Electric Pressure Washers

Electric washers can be more convenient than their gas-powered peers in some circumstances. For smaller projects and for beginners, it might be ideal to start with the electric option. Plus, you don’t have to worry about gas fumes.

Pros of Electric Pressure Washers

  • No harmful chemicals are produced by the electric machine. 
  • Almost no maintenance – no oil changes, no gas refills. 
  • Much easier to work with for people with less strength and experience.
  • Perfect for small jobs.

Cons of Electric Pressure Washers

  • Not as powerful as their gas-powered counterparts. 
  • Not suitable for large or heavily dirty areas, you may not see the desired results.
  • Slower and needs recharging or to be constantly plugged into a power outlet. 
  • Not as portable and not suitable for large premises. 

What Size Pressure Washer is Best?

Another thing to consider after you decide on the type of engine is the size of the pressure washer. A small engine won’t produce as high pressure as a bigger one, of course. The gallon-per-minute output is the factor to keep an eye on when you’re looking for a machine.

Pressure washer engines are generally categorised in four ways.

Light-Duty Pressure Washers

If you’re looking to regularly clean small surfaces that are lightly dirty, a small light-duty pressure washer that produces water pressure levels under 2,000 PSI should suffice. This type of machine would work fine for your patio, a small deck or occasional outdoor furniture.

Medium-Duty Pressure Washers

The ones that generate between 2,000 and 2,800 PSI are regarded as medium-duty washers. If your patio, driveway, fence, etc. are mildly greasy, this machine will help you clean them. 

Heavy-Duty Pressure Washers

Purchasing a heavy-duty washer is something you should think about if you need to clean a larger or dirtier area. Between 2,900 and 3,300 PSI are the pressure levels they produce. Check them out; they are appropriate for heavy-duty tasks.

Professional Pressure Washers

These power washers produce water pressure levels of 3,300 PSI and higher. If you need to efficiently clean the entire exterior of your home and fencing, you should consider investing in a professional-grade washer. They can remove deep filth and moss. 

Which Nozzle is Best for Your Job?

The other main component to take into account is the nozzle of the machine. While the engine determines the power, the nozzle fixes the right angle of the water stream. This is important because it will make cleaning easier or harder. A wrong-angle spray can even be detrimental to some surfaces. A narrow-angle spray is more powerful than a large-angle spray.

Nozzle Color Coding

Luckily, pressure washer nozzles are universally colour-coded.

  • Red Nozzles – A red tip is the narrowest angle—zero degrees. This tip creates a water stream that can do a lot of damage, so be careful. Don’t use a red-tipped nozzle up close on any surface.
  • Yellow Nozzles – Yellow tips create a spray with a 15-degree angle. Reach for this nozzle when you need to pressure wash concrete around your house.
  • Green Nozzles – A green tip produces a 25-degree spray. This works well for all-purpose household pressure washing. This nozzle is suitable for washing your car or clean the mildew that’s accumulated on patio furniture or deck.
  • White Nozzles – Perhaps the most user-friendly nozzle, a white tip produces a 40-degree spray. Use the white tip if you’re planning an exterior home cleaning day. A white-tipped nozzle is suitable for windows and siding.
  • Black Nozzles – Producing a spray angle of 65 degrees, a black nozzle is the gentlest. In fact, this spray is so light that it typically won’t remove dirt or stains. Instead, use this nozzle when you just need to wet a surface.

Specialised Nozzles & Attachments

Check out what are the types of attachments available on the market and think of which one you need. You may also get more than one if you’re looking to clean different surfaces. 

Here are some popular types of pressure washer attachments.

  • Surface Cleaner – This is a spinning attachment that deep cleans the surface and eliminates a lot of deep dirt. It is large and cleans a large surface at the same time. This helps clean large sections of concrete, like a driveway. 
  • Rotary Nozzle – A rotary tip, sometimes known as a turbo nozzle, generates a spinning zero-degree spray of water. This nozzle works particularly well at removing stubborn stains and oily buildup. 
  • Pressure Washing Broom – Similar to a surface cleaner attachment, a pressure washing broom divides a single water jet into two or three jets for more power and a larger cleaning area.
  • Expandable Wand – An expandable wand will give you more reach when you need to clean surfaces up high without using a ladder.
  • Soap/Detergent Reservoir – A detergent reservoir attaches to the pressure washer and adds a cleaning solution to the jet of water. Be sure to use the right nozzle for this job. A water stream that’s too strong will force soap into the surface, which can cause damage.

How to Pressure Wash

Pressure washing is no joke, and it should be taken seriously. You need to take the time to prepare and get familiar with the types of machines, the surface types and common problems. But don’t worry, that’s why you found our post. 

Pressure Washing Safety Tips

Here are the safety tips we recommend for beginners:

  • Eye & Hearing Protection – Pressure washers are loud. Plus, the high pressure of the water means debris and water will spray back toward you. Be sure to wear eye and hearing protection.
  • Use Both Hands – Hold your machine with both hands and with all the strength you have, even if you choose to go with the low-duty option. Until you get used to the strength and vibrations of the machine, do not think about loosening your grip.
  • Don’t Get Too Close – In the beginning, keep the spray tip about 16-18 inches away from the surface you’re cleaning to minimise the risk of damage.

What You Shouldn’t Pressure Wash

You shouldn’t pressure wash old paintings. Old paint can flake off when pressure washed. Old paint may contain lead whose paint chips and dust are dangerous if inhaled or ingested. Contact a professional power washer instead.

Cleaning Wood With a Pressure Washer

You can bring back to life wooden deck or furniture by pressure washing them. 

Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Using a gas-powered pressure washer will get the job done faster than an electric one
  • A green-tipped nozzle for a 25-degree spray
  • A wood sealer of your choice that is suitable for the type of wood

We recommend you do a spot test before treating the entire surface. Most exterior surfaces are made from soft woods such as cedar and pine. They are easily damaged, so you need to be careful. That’s why you test before you treat. 

Here are our tips for getting results you’ll be proud of:

  1. Move the wand in an up-and-down motion.
  2. Try not to let the spray linger in any one place. When you’re starting, you may need to make a couple of passes over the same spot and do it gently. 
  3. Don’t stop the spray in the middle of a board, only move top to bottom.
  4. Don’t start spraying in the middle of a board.
  5. Use overlapping strokes to avoid visible lines.
  6. Leave the surfaces to fully dry and then seal the wood.

Cleaning Concrete With a Pressure Washer

Obvious stains and mildewed areas on concrete are relatively easy to spot, but everyday dirt buildup is frequently overlooked. You probably don’t realise how dirty it is and that the colour has changed over the years. 

Supplies you’ll need:

  • A high-GPM pressure washer
  • A yellow-tipped nozzle for a 15-degree spray
  • Cleaning solution specially formulated for use on concrete
  • A stiff scrubbing brush
  • Protective gear—goggles and gloves, at minimum
  • Concrete sealer
  • You’ll need a very high-pressure stream of water to clean concrete, so it’s important to protect yourself from any flying debris (including pieces of concrete) worked loose by the water.

Here’s how to pressure-wash concrete safely:

  1. Thoroughly sweep and brush off the surface before you start.
  2. If there are stains from motor oil or any other fluid, pretreat those stains by using a stiff brush and scrubbing them with a concrete cleaning solution.
  3. When you’re ready to pressure wash the surface, be sure to use the narrow spray nozzle – it has the most cleaning power.
  4. You can add soap to the pressure washer’s detergent reservoir and switch to the nozzle labelled “soap.”
  5. Particularly tough stains may need a few passes with the pressure washer. Once you’re satisfied, let the concrete dry completely before applying a sealer.

The last step isn’t necessary, but it helps keep the concrete good for the next few years.

Cleaning Siding With a Pressure Washer

Siding is prone to dulling and mildew growth, and the best way to brighten your home’s exterior is by pressure washing. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A gas-powered pressure washer
  • A green- or white-tipped nozzle
  • A soap nozzle
  • A long-handled, stiff-bristle brush
  • House exterior cleaning solution
  • To get started, take a tour of the outside of your house. Keep an eye out for loose pieces of siding, cracks, and other breaches that could admit water during the cleaning process.

These problem areas should be patched up before you pressure wash.

When you’re prepared to begin cleaning, adhere to these guidelines.

Fill the detergent reservoir of the machine and use the soaping nozzle.

You might need to pretreat severely discoloured sections in your house or use a scrub brush to remove grime.

To rinse the siding, switch to the nozzle with a green or white tip. The stronger, higher-pressure water stream produced by each of these nozzles should make it much simpler to rinse away the soap and grime and remove any stubborn stains.

You may need to wash your siding once every couple of years.

The Bottom Line

If pressure washing is too much hassle for you that’s okay! It’s a dirty job, and it’s not for everybody. If you’d rather let someone else take care of the pressure washing, contact a professional specialist for help. You can check out some tips on modernising your driveway and skip some cleaning tasks.