6 Tips to Pressure Wash Your Home
With an array of pressure-washing equipment on the market for purchase or rental, it's easier than ever to pressure wash your house, deck or driveway. However, the job requires a certain amount of knowledge and presents dangers to the unwary.
Avoid a house-, deck- or driveway-cleaning disaster by following these tips from highly rated pressure washers:
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Choose the Correct Tool
"People talk about PSI [pounds per square inch] a lot, and that's part of the equation, but you really want to look at water flow in gallons per minute," says Steve Morgan, owner of highly rated Steve Morgan Pressure Washing in Casselberry, Fla. "A 5 GPM machine with 3,700 PSI will clean better than a 4 GPM machine at 4,000 PSI."
He also suggests making sure the washer can dispense cleaning product as well as water. "You can clean a driveway without any chemicals, but it'll take longer and won't last as long," he says. "If you use a little chlorine, though, the concrete soaks it up and keeps mold and mildew from coming back."
Elias Kessep, owner of highly rated Gables Pressure Cleaning in Nashville, Tenn., says a good consumer-grade pressure washing system should start at about $500.
Keep Safety in Mind
Pressure washers present significant danger if operated incorrectly. The high-pressure water blast can damage property and cause serious injury.
"A pressure washer, especially a newer one, can take the paint right off the house," Morgan says. "You should wear eye and ear protection."
Professionals also recommend wearing gloves, boots, and long-sleeved shirts.
When activating the sprayer, pay close attention to the direction of the nozzle. Make sure nobody's nearby, and plan ahead when moving the stream. "You have to be careful around windows, frames, doors, overhangs and screen enclosures," Kessep says. "Any of those are vulnerable to damage from the stream.
"If it's windy, be aware of what direction it's going, because it can blow the stuff right back at you," he adds.
Matt Schaltenbrand, owner of highly rated Advanced Pressure & Gutter Cleaning in Marietta, Ga., cautions DIYers to consider more than just the pressure stream. "Everything in the system, from the machine to the hoses to the gun, is under pressure," he says. "If a hose pops or the tip isn't fully clipped in, it sounds like a gunshot when it pops and it can be pretty brutal. Be very careful and cautious with the system."
Don't Overdo It
Schaltenbrand points out that not every job requires the highest pressure setting. In fact, he advises selecting a low setting when cleaning a house or deck. Different systems include varying levels of settings, and others use interchangeable nozzles to regulate pressure, so consult your manual for specifics. "You need to apply chemicals properly from the ground up, and then rinse from the top down and not let the chemical dry," he says.
Protect Your Assets
Plants and cars remain vulnerable to the pressure stream and chemical runoff. Kessep suggests covering them or rinsing them with water before, during and after the process, which will dilute most chemicals. "You want to do it at the start because dry leaves will more easily absorb chemicals than wet ones," he says.
Know the Machine's Limits
Some stains won't come out no matter how high you turn up the pressure, and you can cause damage if you try too hard. "If a driveway hasn't been sealed and it has oil spots, forget it. There's nothing you can do," Kessep says.
Morgan adds that fertilizer, rust and acorn stains also present a nearly impossible job to remove from a driveway. "Mold and mildew will come right up, but those things will always leave some kind of mark," he says.
Know Your Own Limits
You can do some basic pressure washing around your property, but when the going gets tough, call the professionals. "There's a lot of things you can get yourself into trouble with," Morgan says. "Don't take on anything too big. If you're doing a big job, it's best to call in someone with experience."
Kessep advises calling in help for any job higher than one story or one that involves the roof. "The roof can be dangerous to work on, and it's easy to damage," he says. "When it comes to houses taller than one story, we have equipment that can make it up three or four stories without needing a ladder."