Pressure washing is a fast and effective way to remove dirt, mold and grime from many surfaces around your home. Choosing the right cleaning solution, nozzle selection and pressure is important to avoid damage.
You can make your own cleaning solution, but this process is time-consuming and requires multiple ingredients that are not all easily available in one place. Instead, consider buying a ready-made pressure washer soap or detergent.
Identify Your Surfaces
Pressure washers can blast away dirt, grime and other built-up contaminants on a wide range of outdoor surfaces in less time than the old brush and soapy water routine. They’re great for getting rid of tough-to-clean soils like grease, oil, tar and gum. They can also be used to clean outdoor furniture, wood or Trex decking and concrete paths and patios. But it’s important to be mindful of what kind of pressure you’re using and how far you’re shooting the water nozzle from your surfaces. Too much pressure can damage the surface you’re cleaning and cause etching, pitting or cracking.
Every pressure washer has a PSI rating and a GPM (gallons per minute) rating, which indicate how much force the machine delivers in terms of water flow and power. While PSI gets the most attention, both are critical to how well your pressure washer performs.
The GPM determines how quickly your machine will be able to rinse and clear the area, while the PSI determines how hard the water is hitting the surface. While higher PSI can help to scrub away stubborn or stuck-on messes, too much PSI can damage the surface you’re cleaning, especially when it’s in contact with sensitive materials like vinyl siding, glass windows, or soft woods.
When shopping for a new pressure washer, make sure you look for one with a lower PSI rating and consider whether you need a gas or electric model. In general, electric models tend to be less expensive than their gas counterparts and are more portable. But keep in mind that if you plan on doing a lot of heavy lifting, a gas-powered model may be worth the investment to save your back.
If you’re not familiar with how different PSI settings affect the power and spray of your pressure washer, it’s a good idea to start by testing your equipment in an inconspicuous spot first. Also, remember to always keep the nozzle of your pressure washer several inches from your surfaces so that you don’t accidentally damage them with too much pressure.
Select the Right Detergent
There are many different detergents on the market, and it’s important to select one that will work for the specific soil you’re trying to clean. There are also different forms of detergent – liquid, powder or single dose detergent pods (also known as laundry pacs). Liquid detergent works well on food, grease and oil soils and can be used as a stain pretreat. Liquid detergent is also a great choice for cold water settings as it dissolves more quickly than powder, and can be used to rinse the surface after cleaning. Single dose detergent pods are easy and convenient to use, have minimal packaging and don’t require a measuring cup.
For industrial use, we offer a full line of high-quality, environmentally-friendly pressure washing chemicals for the cleaning of asphalt, concrete, dirt, dust, mold, mildew, oil, mud and other soils. These products are low foaming, non-toxic and biodegradable. They are especially effective on oil stains, fuel stains, asphalt stains, rust, mildew and many other common contaminants found on equipment, vehicles and warehouse surfaces. They can even help remove rust, scale and corrosion from aluminum tanks and trailers. They are safe for use with all types of power washers. Choosing the correct detergent for your needs will make the cleaning process easier and faster while saving you money and reducing the amount of water required.
Select the Right Nozzle
When it comes to nozzle selection, knowing your equipment and needs is important. Having the right nozzle will ensure you can operate at a pressure (PSI) that is adequate for your cleaning needs without damaging the surface being cleaned. The nozzle you select should also match up with the gallons per minute (gpm) delivered by your pressure washer and the hose length you’ll be using.
Nozzles are available in a variety of sizes and angles. They are color coded to indicate the pressure and spray pattern they produce.
For instance, a Red 0deg nozzle gives you the highest pressure rating. This is a great choice for getting into hard to reach areas like soffits and can help remove super-tough stains on metal and concrete. Be careful, however, if you use this nozzle too close to any surface. It can cause damage to paint, brittle vinyl siding and may even carve initials into soft asphalt surfaces.
A Green 25deg nozzle is an excellent general purpose choice for spraying vinyl, wood and stucco surfaces. It can also be used to remove stains from concrete driveways, decks or walkways. You must be careful when using this nozzle, however, as too much pressure can damage doors seals or crack windows and brittle vinyl siding.
Another type of nozzle is a Soap nozzle, which typically works alongside your detergent delivery system to provide a foaming action for washing surfaces like vehicles or boats. You can find these nozzles for many popular brand pressure washers that are designed to deliver both water and detergent through their wand.
When you’re ready to choose a nozzle for your next job, start with the largest size possible and move in small increments as you test the surface being cleaned. This will ensure you don’t damage the surface and allow you to make adjustments as necessary. If you notice any signs of damage, stop immediately and either move the nozzle closer or switch to a different nozzle size. By following these simple tips, you can ensure your cleaning job is successful and that you’re making the most of your investment in a quality power washer.
Know Your Limitations
Pressure washing is not a perfect solution for every home maintenance task. For example, painted surfaces do not stand up well to the heat and pressure of a power washer, especially if you’re using a very high psi setting. Additionally, some stains (like rust or those caused by acorns, fertilizer, or oil) are permanent and can’t be removed using a pressure washer. In these cases, it may make more sense to hire a professional cleaning service for the job.
A professional cleaner will know how to use a variety of detergents to tackle different types of dirt. They’ll also understand how much pressure to apply and which nozzle to select. And most importantly, they’ll know how to handle a power washer safely. They’ll use a ladder to reach hard-to-reach spots and will keep the spray hose pointed away from living things (like plants) or any objects that could be damaged by the high-pressure water stream.
You can get some of the same results by renting a gas or electric power washer and doing it yourself, but only if you know what you’re doing. Before you start, do a survey of your property and note any cracks or holes in the surface that will need to be repaired before you wash it. You should also check for any items like bird feeders, toys, or lawn furniture that could be displaced by the blast of water.
Once you’ve surveyed the property, determine which areas of it need a cleaning and what kind of cleaning they need. For example, if your driveway is covered in black tar from a car accident, you’ll want to wash it with a stronger solution and higher psi than if your wood deck needs to be cleaned.
Shop your local Ace Hardware for all the power washing tools and supplies you need to restore outdoor surfaces and boost your home’s curb appeal. We carry a wide selection of gas and electric power washers in a range of PSIs, as well as nozzles, wands, surface cleaners, detergents, and accessories. Whenever possible, look for parts and accessories that are created by the same manufacturer as your washer to ensure a better fit and a quality product that lasts for years.