Any homeowner knows that keeping the outdoor areas of the house looking clean and fresh can sometimes be a frustrating challenge. Dust, pollen, spider-webs, and more seem to be constantly finding their way into every nook-and-cranny. Walks and drives are also a real challenge as they get build-ups of dirt and sometimes even slimy algae growth. The best tool you can own to combat this challenge is a good pressure washer.
Pressure washers are nothing more than a high-power pump that takes your normal home service water pressure from a garden hose and pumps it up to increase the water pressure. It then forces that increased pressure water through a tiny nozzle to create a very high pressure blast. This pressure is measured in terms of, “psi” or pounds per square inch.
Some of the highest powered pressure washers have as much 5000 psi and can be unsafe for an untrained person to handle, but most pressure washers for sale to the residential homeowner are a little more laid-back and push between 1500 and 2500 psi. This is enough to get the job done without worrying about blowing a hole through your perfectly solid exterior wall!
Here are a few tips and tricks on how to use your pressure washer:
• For working on walls and overhangs, keep the spray nozzle in a horizontal position. This will allow you to work in a comfortable side-to-side motion as you move along the side of the house.
• Use your wrist to keep the spray pointed evenly at the house. A common mistake is to just wave the wand around wildly and this results in very uneven cleaning. By bending your wrist to keep the nozzle and wand pointed squarely at the surface you’re working on, the cleaning effect will be even.
• Be careful not to get too close and maintain an even distance. Another common mistake is to move the nozzle too close to the wall which results in streaks where some areas have been washed with more pressure than others. The pressure, and therefore cleaning force, is greatest right at the tip of the nozzle and decreases as the spray moves out and away. If the nozzle is too close, even a lower powered pressure washer could damage the surface you’re trying to clean, if too far away it won’t do much more than wet things down. Maintaining an even distance is essential to good work.
• Watch closely around windows and under overhangs. Keep in mind that the house was designed with the idea of rainwater coming from above, not pressure washer water coming from below. Be especially careful around overhangs and windows so that you don’t blow water into the house.
• Add a little bit of cleaning solvent to improve the effect of your work. Many pressure washers are equipped with what’s known as a “siphon hose”. This allows you to add a small container of solvent beside your machine that will automatically mix with the spray and increase the cleaning power. Commonly used additives are household bleach and TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) both of which help. It’s important to be careful though, too much bleach can cause streaking on a wall surface which will result in the need to repaint. The best practice when using solvents is to rinse each area with a clean water blast after the initial cleaning with solvents.
• Use attachments to make your drives and walks like new. While the regular nozzle and wand on your pressure washer will do an excellent job of cleaning driveway and walk surfaces, there are attachments you can rent or buy that make the job easier and much better. Much like a power floor scrubbing machine, these attachments have multiple heads on the bottom that move around in an orbital pattern and clean the surface without the streaking that is common when cleaning driveways with the standard wand and nozzle.
No matter what you’re cleaning, be it walls, walks, fences, or even outdoor furniture, you’ll find that your pressure washer becomes one of the most used tools you own and with proper care it is something that will last for many years. Happy washing!