Pressure Washer Safety

Using a pressure washer is a fast, efficient and fun way to clean many surfaces around your home. Cars, boats, trucks and caravans all take less time to clean using a pressure washer and done properly, you can achieve that showroom clean finish using a pressure washer. But some of the worst injuries seen in A&E departments are caused by not following safety guidelines when using a pressure washer.

Skin lacerations, eye damage, fall injuries from using a pressure washer while on a ladder, and many more. A petrol-powered pressure washer can have a PSi of 4000 that’s a lot of force! In fact, just 2321 PSi is enough to cut a hole through an inch thick piece of pine wood.

The way high-pressurised water damages skin is particularly difficult to heal. This is because the water removes the skin a layer at a time and can easily reach the bone. These injuries take a long-time to heal and usually leave unsightly scars.

PSi Needed To Cut Through Different Materials

Here is a chart depicting the necessary PSi to penetrate various materials.

MaterialPSi needed to penetrate
Rubber928 PSi
Human skin1,160 PSi
Concrete1740 PSi
Glass1914 PSi
Wood (pine)2321 PSi

As you can see it only takes a relatively low-powered blast to cut through human skin (1,160 PSi) so it’s imperative you exercise extreme caution when using a pressure washer.

Safety Tips To Prevent Any Injuries While Using A Pressure Washer

pressure washing

To use your pressure washer safely you should:

  • Read the operator’s manual
    To get familiar with how your pressure washer works, and to learn any safety tips and usage instructions.
  • Wear PPE
    To prevent any injury wear boots or closed in shoes, long trousers and long-sleeved shirts, goggles, consider a face mask, and if your machine is noisy, wear ear protectors.
  • Never point the spray at anyone
    To avoid injury or damage, never point the nozzle at any person, animal or plant.
  • Keep children under control
    And never allow them to play with a pressure washer.
  • Keep your balance
    The force from the pressure washer hose can be powerful enough to knock you off your feet if you aren’t balanced.
  • Never operate a pressure washer from a ladder
    It’s hard enough keeping your balance using a pressure washer without trying to hold onto a ladder with one hand.
  • Remove any obstacles
    Before you start operating the pressure washer, remove any trip hazards these can include any toys, pot plants, tools, garden furniture etc.
  • Keep pets under control
    It’s only natural for your pets to want to spend time with you, but they can suffer from serious injury if they accidentally get caught by the high-pressurised water from a pressure washer.
  • Cover any electrical equipment
    Water and electrics don’t mix, be sure to cover any intruder lights, alarm systems, power conduits, fuse boxes, outdoor power sockets etc. with plastic sheeting and secure it with masking tape.
  • Test the surface
    Some materials are not what they seem to be, always test a small area first to be sure not to cause any damage.
  • Use the correct PSi
    Always use the lowest possible PSi and the least powerful nozzle to start with, you can always increase if necessary.
  • Sweep any dirt or debris
    Before you start the pressure washer make sure the area is free from dirt, debris and leaves etc.
  • Protect any doors or windows
    Cover any doors or windows with plastic sheeting secured with masking tape to prevent accidental damage.
  • Keep the nozzle moving
    To avoid any damage to the surface being cleaned,always keep the water moving, and never concentrate on one spot.
  • Be aware of any council regulations
    Some councils have rules in place regarding water run-off etc, check you’re not in breach of any laws or local authority rulings.
  • Cover delicate plants
    The high-pressure water power from a pressure washer can damage delicate or not so delicate plants. Protect them with cloths, fleeces, blankets etc before starting the pressure washer.
  • Soak the soil
    Around any plants to dilute any detergent run-off that might occur and cause any harm to your plants.
  • Never use a petrol-powered pressure washer in an enclosed space
    The exhaust fumes from petrol engines contain carbon monoxide. Known as the silent killer because you can’t hear it smell it or see it. The effects can be fast and fatal, always allow adequate ventilation.
  • Extension cables should have a constant 13 amp rating
    If using an extension cable with an electric pressure washer it shouldn’t be longer than 10 metres (30 ft) and have an RCD fitted and have a constant 13 amp rating.
  • Never spray water near any cables
    Electricity and water never mix well, always keep the water away from any extension cables plug sockets etc.

A Quick Look At Pressure Washer Nozzles

Most machines are supplied with 5 nozzles and these are colour coded for ease of use. They all have different functions, and it is a matter of safety that you are familiar with each nozzle and its designated usage. 

Nozzle colour and degree of jetDesignated usage
Red 0-degreeThis is the most powerful nozzle and is capable of cutting through concrete – use with extreme caution
Yellow 15-degreeAble to strip paint, grease and oils from hard surfaces – use with caution
Green 25-degreeThe most used nozzle, great for paving, metal and wood – use with some caution
White 40-degreeSafe for most surfaces including cars, aluminium and windows – use with some caution
Black 65-degreeThis is the nozzle used for applying detergents it has the widest spray making it the softest of all 5

It is very rare that you’ll need the red or the yellow nozzle, always start with the highest degree possible (lowest power) and increase if needed.

An easy way to lower the pressure is to move backwards slightly. To increase pressure move forward slightly.

Always be aware of your surroundings and any people. children, animals or plants and never use a pressure washer if you are tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Pressure washing should be fun, and as long as you are mindful, and follow these safety tips every time, it will be.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a pressure washer hurt you?

A pressure washer can hurt you, the blast from a pressure washer can cause serious injury.

Can you die from a pressure washer?

You can die from a pressure washer. With up to 4000 PSi, fatal injuries can occur.

What happens if you touch a pressure washer?

If you touch a pressure washers water spray, you can get a serious injury, sometimes leading to amputation.

How much psi can hurt you?

1000 PSi is enough to hurt and cause injury to you.

Can a pressure washer break windows?

A pressure washer can break windows if too much power is used or if the putty securing the window is loose.

At what pressure will water cut skin?

At around 1100 PSi water will cut skin.

Can a pressure washer cut your finger off?

A pressure washer can cut your finger off in severe cases.

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