Wash everything from the ground. If you can’t do the job from the ground, hire a professional.
Hire a pro rather than power washing from a ladder.
If you are starting to spend more time outside or you are preparing to sell your home, you may start to notice the layer of grime on your home or decking. To save time and energy, power washing might be a good option. Matt McMillan of Greenfield, MA has worked incontracting and construction for over 25 years and offers up some helpful tips. McMillan suggested renting a power washer instead of buying. “You don’t usually use a power washer that many times a year,” he said. Most towns and cites have hardware stores that rent power washers.
McMillan emphasized the importance of safety when operating a power washer. “It may sound foolish, but wearing safety glasses is important,” he said. He also suggested wearing gloves and never using a power washer on a ladder of any size. McMillan told the story of a friend who recently got a hose caught in the ladder he was on while power washing his home. His friend fell from the ladder and is now a paraplegic. In 1995, a San-Francisco-area painting contractor impaled himself on his pressure washer wand when he fell off a ladder. “Wash everything from the ground. If you can’t do the job from the ground, hire a professional,” said McMillan.
What can and can’t you wash with a power washer?
McMillan said that most people just want to get the layer of grime off of their home or clean off mold and mildew. “You can also use a power washer to get off loose paint or clean out cobwebs that are stuck in places you can’t really brush out,” he said.
McMillan added that a power washer can be used to clean any exterior that is wood, vinyl, concrete, or asphalt. “But no windows or shrubbery,” he said. McMillan said that it’s important to understand how powerful a power washer is, and to be especially careful with wood. “With a fine-point nozzle (on a power washer), you can basically write your name in the wood with it,” he said.
Using a power washer
McMillan said that there are usually four different sizes of nozzles for power washers. He recommends that you experiment and “work your way up” to see which size nozzle would be best for the cleaning job you are doing. “For example, if you use too strong a water stream, you can really damage vinyl,” he said.
There are a number of detergents that can be added to the water for an easier cleaning job. McMillan said that in most cases a weak solution of bleach works just fine.
Types of power washers
There are two different ways to power a power washer. One type is fueled by natural gas, propane, kerosene, etc. The advantage to fuel-powered equipment is more mobility. The downside is that they are noisier and create fumes, so you need to take care to have enough ventilation where you are using the power washer.
The second type is an electric power washer. The pluses are less noise and no fumes. However, you need an outlet and you have less mobility.
Hot vs. cold water power washers
Cold water washers are good for simple dirt-cleaning projects on decks, porches, driveways, siding, etc.
Hot water washers are better if you are trying to clean off oils or any greasy/sticky material. Keep in mind, the water in a hot water power washer can heat up to 200 degrees.
General terms relating to power washers
GPM means gallons per minute, or how much water will flow over a period of time. The greater the flow rate, the faster the cleaning time.
PSI means pounds per square inch, or the amount of pressure created per square inch. Greater PSI means greater efficiency.