3 Pressure Washer Uses for Outdoor Cleaning
Passion for pressure washers
Ask my family and they'll claim that I like to clean. The truth is, I like things to be clean, but I don't necessarily like to clean - see the difference? But when it comes to my pressure washer it's a whole different story. Using a pressure washer is both fun and satisfying. On top of it, it's a versatile appliance in that there are several uses for a pressure washer, especially for outdoor cleaning projects.
Change the amount of pressure by turning nozzle on wand
Pressure washers are a must-have for homeowners!
Let's face it, your home is most likely your largest investment and regular cleaning and maintenance go a long way to protecting its value.
In the past, I've always rented a pressure washer for outdoor cleaning and home improvement projects, like cleaning my aggregate concrete patio, but this year I bought a power washer of my own. There was quite a selection of pressure washers to choose from, but the $99 electric 1400 PSI (pounds per square inch) model that I bought is perfect.
I have several outdoor cleaning projects to tackle, but the first order of business is to clean the patio. It was not power washed last year, and the amount of ground-in dirt is astounding.
The pressure washer I selected was practically ready to use out-of-the-box. Within minutes of opening it, I attached the garden hose, plugged it in, and powered it up! I opted to not use any detergents since the high pressure of the water alone is sufficient to clean the patio. And it's so easy to use; simply by turning the nozzle at the end of the wand, both the size of the water stream and pressure are adjusted.
Tips for power washing a concrete patio:
- Begin with a large fan of water to loosen up dirt and debris across the entire surface or a large section
- Adjust the nozzle to a higher pressure stream and work on smaller sections, working from the middle towards the edge
- Finish, by using a bigger stream, and in a large sweeping motion go over the entire surface pushing off any remaining loose dirt
"Before and After" cleaning the concrete patioClick thumbnail to view full-size
The results of power washing are amazing
Cleaning my patio with an incredibly high pressure water stream certainly produced amazing results, almost restoring its original beauty. The stones, once covered in a couple year's worth of mother nature's dirt and grime, now glimmer again.
- Decks, patios and sidewalks
- Lawn furniture
- Flower pots and gardening tools
- Lawnmowers and other outdoor equipment
- Paint removal
Outdoor cleaning projects where a pressure washer makes the job easier
Besides cleaning patios, pressure washers make other types of outdoor cleaning jobs a snap. It is important to adjust the nozzle or tip depending on the type of surface.
Generally, a wider spray angle (less psi) should be used on softer surfaces like wood. Additionally, always use a continuous sweeping motion. Surfaces can be damaged quickly if too much pressure is applied.
Be sure and read all manufacturer instructions before using a power washer.
"Before and After" sealing the drivewayClick thumbnail to view full-size
Clean driveway before having it sealed
If you live in an area of the country where asphalt/tar driveways are the norm, then you know that it's a good idea to seal them regularly. With the abuse that our driveway takes each year from weather extremes and the scraping of shovels and snow plows, we seal our driveway once a year.
In order to get a good seal, ensure that the driveway is clear of debris and as clean as possible before applying the tar. If it isn't then the tar will stick to the dirt and flake away. The best way to clean the driveway is with a pressure washer, leaving enough time for it to dry thoroughly before applying the tar.
"Before and After" painting the mailbox postClick thumbnail to view full-size
Remove old paint before new paint job
Before adding a fresh coat of paint to any surface it is always best to prepare the surface by removing any pealing or chipping paint. Oftentimes, sandpaper is used, but on exterior surfaces, such as a mailbox post, a power washer is the perfect tool for the job. In a matter of minutes old paint can be effortlessly taken off.
Just be sure to let the surface dry completely before adding the new coat of paint.
Rent vs Owning
Pressure washers are available to rent at most big-box hardware stores. The Home Depot in my neighborhood rents both gas and electric powered pressure washers. The electric one can be rented for $24 per hour or $35 per day.
Deciding whether to rent or own will vary depending on how much time is needed to get the job done, whether or not it will be used each year, and if you have a place to store it.
Rental pressure washers may be overkill for most home-owners. They are usually industrial strength and are extremely heavy and bulky. If you have many small projects that will be done each year it may be worth buying a low-cost pressure washer.
Electric vs Gas powered
For simple home maintenance projects I would highly recommend an electric power washer instead of one that uses gasoline. It's easy enough to keep the electric cord out of the way during use and is better to not have to deal with the fumes from a gas engine.
PSI (pounds per square inch)
When selecting a pressure washer, PSI is a factor that should be considered. My newly purchased power washer is the lowest PSI available at Home Depot, 1400 PSI. It works great. If I had a model with a higher PSI, perhaps I could have done the patio cleaning job more quickly, but since I now own it, I don't anticipate letting as much dirt build up in the future. For most homeowners the lower PSI and lower-priced models should be adequate.
The price of the power washers spans a wide range, from $99 at the lowest to $799 at the highest. Obviously, the higher-priced models have a much higher PSI and may be better for industrial purposes or for pressure washer businesses.
To use detergent or not
Most pressure washers include a reservoir to place detergent or degreasers. Detergents are available for different types of surfaces, including siding, decks and fences; and concrete and driveways. Using a detergent is not required though to get a good result; oftentimes the high pressure alone is enough to lift up dirt and grime. However, it may be necessary for some grease and other stubborn stains.
If a chemical detergent is used it should be applied at a low pressure and precautions should be taken to protect the eyes and skin.
Expert advice from Home Depot
Precautions when using a pressure washer
Pressure washers can be extremely dangerous if they are not used properly. Damage can happen extremely fast so please be sure to read the owner's manual and follow precautions such as:
- Always wear eye protection
- Wear gloves and long pants and sleeves if using detergent
- Remove loose objects before beginning
- Use the correct pressure strength (by adjusting nozzle on wand or wand tips) for the type of surface
- Do not use while standing on a ladder
- Do not ever point at a person or pet
The following 30-second video showcases how powerful a pressure washer can be, and how quickly damage can occur.
Watch how quickly a pressure washer can slice a watermelon
Results are rewarding
As much fun as it is to power wash outdoors, it's even better to sit back and relax and enjoy the results.
Not only can you cross an outddoor cleaning task off your list, but you can rest assured that by maintaining your home's exterior you are protecting one of your biggest investments.
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