Power Washing Techniques for the Home

A power washer can be a valuable addition to the tools you have at home. It can be used for a multitude of jobs, both routine and unusual. At the same time it has to be treated with respect and care to avoid doing damage to your property. When properly used and maintained a power washer will enable you to rapidly and thoroughly do jobs that could be close to impossible to accomplish manually.

Purchasing a power washer

If you do not presently have a power washer but are in the market for one, you will find many to chose from. To make the decision easier there are a number of online sources on the Internet that can provide valuable information and things to consider. To start with you should decide what you will be most likely using your power washer for. This will help you to select the size and features of the power washer and assist in narrowing down the choices. Besides doing your own online research you should visit stores such as big box home improvement stores and lawn and garden or other establishments that sell power washers. Be prepared to ask the sales people specific questions. There are several key specifications that define the performance of pressure washers. They are:

Pressure (PSI-pounds per square inch): For typical residential applications 1500 to 2500 PSI should be sufficient. The higher the PSI the more efficient the cleaning.

Gallons per minute (GPM): A 4 GPM pressure washer is a solid choice

Cleaning Unit (CU):This is the water pressure multiplied by the water flow and an indicator of cleaning power

There are other things to take into consideration such as whether you prefer an electric or gas engine powered power washer. Electric power washers can be somewhat more convenient in that they do not need winterization as a gas power washer does. At the same time they may not develop the same pressures as a gas powered model. In addition a gas-powered model is more portable and easily moved and used in locations where access to electricity is limited or not available. Obviously a source of running water is always needed. Gas models do produce carbon monoxide thus they are not appropriate for use in confined areas such as garages. You should investigate the systems anti-shock protection when considering an electric model. You can purchase both hot water and cold-water models. The cold water models are the least expensive but may not do as good of a job on degreasing jobs.

When selecting the power washer you’ll want to hold the water distribution wand in your hand and determine how comfortable it is. With many jobs you will be holding the wand for an extended period of time and will want to make sure it is ergonomically comfortable. Most power washers will have a low-pressure nozzle setting and a soap or solvent dispenser reservoir. This enables you to spray a solvent on the work surface prior to the power-washing step. While this feature is convenient you should ask the sales person how far this spray will reach. It can be frustrating to be power washing a house and able to reach the second floor in the power-washing mode but not be able to reach it when dispensing the solvent or soap.

Also check to see if there are any restrictions on the water hose size and home water pressure required. On most washers the garden hose connection is done with quick connect fitting that is screwed on the hose. The dispensing wand is often a threaded fitting that is hand tightened. Check to see what the standard length of the hose is that connects the wand to the power washer. Twenty-five feet is probably the minimum length. Determine if you can be an extension that would increase this length to perhaps 50 feet. When power washing a house it is much more convenient to have a long hose rather then having to move the washer around continuously.

Safety considerations

Since the water and solvent or soap (if used) is coming out of the nozzle with great force you should always wear eye protection. When working close to the area being cleaned it is easy for the spray to rebound and get in your eyes or face. When using bleach or other corrosive it is likely you will get it on your skin and clothing due to reflected spray or wind blown mist. Keep this in mind when working near landscaped areas and neighbors houses. Children, bystanders or pets should not be allowed in the area when a power washer is being used. The inadvertent misdirected high-pressure spray could cause severe eye or skin damage.

When using a pressure washer wand while standing on a ladder bear in mind that the force of the water leaving the nozzle puts a significant reactive force on the wand. This instantaneous ‘kick’ backwards when you first press the wand trigger can cause you to lose balance when on a ladder so appropriate caution must always be observed.

Consider the tasks and limitations

The number of tasks that can be done with a power washer are more numerous then can be listed here and is only limited by your imagination. Obviously you have to think clearly about the possible consequences before tackling a job with a power washer. For example using a high-pressure jet stream nozzle setting when cleaning a wood deck can be detrimental. The water can quickly erode away the wood and leave a permanent etched trail anywhere the wand was pointed. Typically, for wood surfaces such as a deck or wood (or composite) house siding a fan spray nozzle setting would be more appropriate. For power washing vinyl siding you might want to select a narrower, higher-pressure fan spray. If you are reaching the second floor from the ground you can use a tightly constricted, highest pressure setting since it will disperse by the time it reaches the second floor but don’t make the mistake of lowering the nozzle to touch up an area on the first floor or you can drill a hole through the siding quickly.

Other uses of a power washer include cleaning concrete garage floors and driveways and washing cars and degreasing engines. The power washer is effective in cleaning mildew off of brick or stone patios. In addition for a non cemented patio composed of bricks or pavers it can effectively clean out vegetation in the spaces between the stones in preparation for refilling with sand or gravel. Swimming pools, yard furniture, window and screen cleaning are additional possibilities for your power washer. Typically the more you use your power washer the more applications you will think of.

The power washer can be a valuable tool for the homeowner but it needs to be treated with respect to avoid unexpected and damaging results. As with any tool always use it with caution and follow the safety guidelines. Take good care of it and it will give you many years of service.

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