How To Use A Pressure Washer
If you’re reading this, you’re probably the proud owner of a brand new pressure washer, and you’re looking for some tips and hints on how to use it. The first thing you need to know is, you just opened a whole new world of cleaning fun. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as watching dirt disappear under a stream of high-powered water pressure.
Before you start getting busy with the pressure washer, here are a few words of caution that might save you a trip to the hospital. Whether you own a petrol-powered or an electric-powered pressure washer, you can still cause some serious damage to property and serious injury to yourself. Let’s have a quick look at the how and why of danger with a pressure washer.
Is Using A Pressure Washer Dangerous?
The first thing you need to know is about water pressure. Water pressure is measured in Pounds per Square inch (PSi) and pressure washers fall into 2 groups, with very different PSi values. Electric-powered pressure washers tend to be less powerful with an average PSi range of around 1000 to 2000. Gas or petrol-powered models have more power averaging at between 2000 PSi to 3000 PSi.
To put that into perspective, below is a shortlist of the PSi needed to cut through various materials. You’ll notice that these are all in the parameters of the PSi exerted by pressure washers.
|Material||PSi needed to cut through the material|
|Softwood (pine)||2,321 PSi|
|Human skin||1,160 PSi|
Now you get an idea of just how powerful a pressure washer can be, you can understand why safety precautions are necessary. So let’s look at how to use a pressure washer safely.
Safety Advice For Using A Pressure Washer
The following advice is applicable to both types of pressure washers.
- Read the users manual
You will have received a users manual with your pressure washer, read it from cover to cover and familiarise yourself with all the parts and functions of your new machine. This even applies if you’ve owned a pressure washer before because models vary on how they operate.
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE)
Always wear boots, gloves, goggles, face mask, and protect your arms and legs (no shorts or short-sleeved shirts).
- Clear any obstacles
Remove all tripping hazards such as toys, pot plants, garden furniture, children, pets, wires and hoses. Cover any electrical items like lights and vents and be sure all windows are closed.
- Put the ladder out of sight
Due to the amount of force exerted from a pressure washer you definitely don’t want to be up a ladder. Have you seen the film Ghostbusters? Do you really want that to be you, flying backwards from the top of a ladder propelled by the sheer force of the water from the pressure hose? If you need to pressure wash something high up, use a telescopic wand or lance.
- Be in full control
If you happen to spray directly at yourself, another person or a pet, you’re liable to cause a serious injury. Never under any circumstances spray a pressure washer at anyone.
- Always start with the lowest pressure
We’ve not got onto the nozzles yet but always start off with the lowest pressure you can and build-up gradually. You might not need as much power as you think to remove that dirt.
Here are a couple of safety tips that are type-specific.
For Electric-Powered Pressure Washers
never use an extension cable longer than 10 metres (30 ft) in length and be sure it has a constant rating of 13 amps. Check your handbook first, as some manufacturers say not to use an extension cable and if you do, you could void your warranty.
For Gas/Petrol Powered Pressure Washers
Never use in a confined space-that means always use outdoors and in an airy place (not shut up around bushes, or between the garage wall and the fence). Adequate ventilation is of paramount importance because petrol engines release carbon monoxide through the exhaust. This is a killer and if you experience any of the following symptoms call a doctor immediately.
- Trouble breathing
Turn the engine off and get into fresh air while you wait for medical assistance.
The Correct way To Start A Pressure Washer
To be sure of a trouble-free session with your pressure washer always follow this step by step guide to start your machine.
- Grab a broom
Sweep up all loose dirt, dust and other debris from the area you’re planning on cleaning.
- Connect the garden hose
Connect the garden hose to the water supply and connect the other end to the inlet on your pressure washer.
- Check all hoses
Check that neither the garden hose nor the power hose has any kinks or blockages.
- Add detergent
If you’re using detergent, fill the reservoir with the correct detergent(making sure it’s mixed right).
- Turn the water supply on
Turn the outdoor tap on fully.
- Allow water to flow
Without touching anything else allow the water to flow through the pressure washer for a minute or two.
- Connect the power hose
Connect the power hose to the outlet connector on the pressure washer.
- Clear the system of any air
Press the trigger on the wand to force water through to the high-pressure hose and into the wand. Forcing any air out at the same time.
- Look for leaks
Check both hoses and the pressure washer itself along with the connectors for any water leaks.
- Start the machine
For electric models plug into the socket, turn the power on and turn the machine to on. For petrol models place one foot against a wheel to steady it, pull the starter cord, once it catches adjust the choke and throttle as necessary.
- Press the trigger
Press the trigger again, your pressure washer should be operational now.
How Often Should You Pressure Wash Your House?
This question gets asked again and again, the smart answer is when it gets dirty. But the really helpful answer is to look at the averages and work it out from there. So we’ve put together this easy to follow chart for your convenience.
|Area to be cleaned||Frequency of cleaning|
|Concrete driveway||Once a year|
|Wooden decking||Once a year|
|Vinyl sidings and/or fascias||Every 2 years|
|Stone or brick patios/paths||Every 3 years|
Now let’s have a closer look at those nozzles.
Pressure Washer Nozzles Chart
|Nozzle colour||Nozzle used for|
|Red||Removing tough stains including rust, very powerful spray.|
|Yellow||Removing dirt mildew, mould, or paint,|
|Green||Cars, boats, caravans, garden furniture, decking, drives|
|White||Gentle spray best for windows and delicate surfaces|
|Black||Low-pressure nozzle used to apply soaps and detergents|
Some models also include a turbo nozzle which is like a cross between the red and the green nozzle. Used mainly for caked-on dirt and stains.
What Not To Wash With A Pressure Washer
It’s easy to get carried away with a pressure washer, suddenly everything looks dirty and in need of a spray with the pressure washer. But take care, there are a few things that should never be pressure washed these include:
- Electrical equipment
Like electricity meters and electric panels, they might be outdoors and designed to take the worst a British winter can throw at them but not the force from a pressure washer. Remember even if they do belong to the power company, if they can prove you caused the damage, you’ll be liable to pay for repairing it.
- Air conditioning unit
No matter how dirty it looks, the air conditioning unit will not withstand too much pressure or too much water.
- Lead paint
Some older properties still have some remnants of lead paint. This should only be removed by a professional. Lead paint is poisonous and dangerous, it takes an expert to deal with it safely.
- Wooden buildings
Garden sheds and outbuildings made of wood can be pressure washed, but as a newbie, you’ll probably be lacking the necessary skill levels to do so without damaging the wood and causing long-lasting problems with mould etc.
- Some roof coverings
Slates are only held in place by one copper nail. Over time this nail wears and is easily dislodged by highly-pressurised water. If you do decide to use a telescopic pole to clean the roof be extra careful depending on what your roof is made from.
Frequently Asked Questions
Always turn the water on before starting the pressure washer and squeeze the trigger to release any air in the system.
It is easy to use a pressure washer and it’s fun too. But you must exercise caution and be aware of the dangers involved in using high-powered equipment.
You should always wear a mask, goggles and gloves as well as boots while using a pressure washer for your own personal protection.
A pressure washer can cut your finger off or if you’re lucky you might get away with a severe laceration. That’s why you should always wear PPE and never aim a pressure washer at any person, animal or plant.