Pressure Washing a Driveway? Read This First

We all want to keep our driveways looking sharp, and what better way to clean the concrete than with a pressure washer? Before you get the pressure washer out, there are a few things you need to know first. Don’t go away with the idea that concrete is so tough, you can’t damage it.

If you use too much power on your concrete driveway, you’ll end up with a drive that looks like the Nazca desert at best and the cratered surface of the moon at worst. You see concrete is tough, but it’s not that tough. Once you start pressure washing, you have the potential to do some real damage.

You also have the potential for great cleaning power in a short time. As long as you use the pressure washer correctly, your concrete drive will be clean in no time, and without any damage. The first thing you need to know is nozzle power.

What Do The Coloured Nozzles Mean And When Should You Use Them?

With most pressure washers you’ll be supplied with 5 nozzles, all with different colours. They are used for different applications and using the correct nozzle will not only make the job easier and faster, but it will also prevent damage. So what are they for?

  •  Red nozzle
    The red nozzle is the most powerful nozzle, it has a 0-degree angle, which concentrates the water jet to almost a pinpoint. Use the red nozzle on really tough stains, but never concentrate on one spot as this nozzle will definitely cause damage.
  • Yellow nozzle
    The yellow nozzle is still a very powerful nozzle but not as intense as the red nozzle. It has a 15-degree spray angle and is used for heavy-duty cleaning and stripping paint. You still shouldn’t point at one spot for too long because this nozzle is powerful enough to cause damage too.
  • Green nozzle
    The green nozzle is used for general cleaning tasks, with its 25-degree angle spray, it’s powerful for most cleaning operations. But not so powerful as to cause damage, unless you concentrate the jet at one spot for too long.
  • White nozzle
    The white nozzle has a 40-degree angle spray and is used for delicate surfaces that can damage easily. It’s also the best nozzle to use for rinsing away detergents when cleaning cars etc.
  • Black nozzle
    The black nozzle is the detergent nozzle, it mixes water with the detergent and due to its 65-degree angled spray, it is the most gentle spray of the 5.

There is also the turbo nozzle, which gives the lifting ability of the green nozzle combined with the blast power of the red nozzle, it blasts as it rotates.

Some pressure washers don’t use the coloured nozzle system, they use a variable nozzle which is all 5 colour nozzles in one. You change nozzle power by twisting the nozzle to the one you need. 

Now we’ve looked at the nozzles, let’s have a quick word about safety.

How To Safely Pressure Wash A Concrete Driveway

Pressure Wash Concrete

This section is all about safety-personal safety and the safety of your house and it’s fixtures and fittings. Let’s start with personal safety, before using a pressure washer you should always:

  • Wear protective clothing
    Keep arms and legs covered, the pressurised water from a pressure washer is capable of lacerating skin. No shorts or tee shirts.
  • Keep feet covered
    Wear boots or closed in shoes, no flip flops or open toed sandals unless you want to lose a toe.
  • Protect your eyes
    Wear goggles to prevent dirt and debris damaging your eyes from the high-pressure spray.
  • Wear Gloves
    It is so easy to get injured with a pressure washer, and so easy to prevent hand injuries just by wearing some protective gloves.
  • Protect your hearing
    Some pressure washers can be extremely noisy, if you have sensitive ears, wear some ear protectors or noise resistant  earphones.
  • Be aware of any trip hazards
    Remove any pot plants, toys, tools, electric cables, or anything else you could trip on.

Now let’s think about protecting your house and your possessions. Before you start pressure washing your drive, always:

  • Protect windows and doors
    The high-pressure water that cleans your drive can force any dirt or debris up and onto windows and/or doors. If the area you’re planning to clean has a window or a door close by, cover it in plastic sheeting taped up with masking tape.
  • Think about plants
    You’ve probably spent a considerable amount of money on the plants that surround your driveway. The detergents used for cleaning drives can damage those plants and in extreme cases kill them. Cover these plants with plastic sheeting and secure using rocks, or other heavy weights to prevent the plastic blowing away.
  • Cover electronics
    Any electrical devices outdoors like intruder lights, alarm systems, outdoor power sockets, air conditioning units, meters, junction boxes etc should be covered to protect from water damage.
  • Remove the bins
    Rubbish bins and recycling bins can be a hazard when pressure washing, remember to remove them from the area you are going to clean.
  • Children and pets
    Pets and children all want to be outside on a nice day, even more so when there’s the added spectacle of a pressure washer show to watch. Be aware of where they are and move them to a safe place where no harm can come to them from the pressurised spray or the flying debris.
  • Move any vehicles
    As you’re cleaning the drive this might seem obvious, but pressure washing at the wrong power level can cause damage to the body work of a car. Make sure your vehicles and any boats are safely out of harm’s way.

The Correct Way To Pressure Wash A Driveway

We’ve covered all the basics now, we know which nozzle to use, we’ve covered personal safety, property safety and children and pets safety too. Now we need to check a couple more things and we’re ready to go.

What Is The Driveway Constructed From?

The construction of your driveway will make a huge difference into which nozzle you use and also the technique you use  for cleaning too,.Driveways are usually constructed from one of these 6 types. They are concrete, brick, cobblestone, block paving, asphalt or gravel. So what are the maximum pressures and nozzle type to be used for each surface type?

Surface material Maximum pressure and best nozzle
Concrete3000 PSi  Yellow nozzle (with care)
Brick1500 PSi  Yellow nozzle (with care)
Cobblestone1500 PSi   Green nozzle (with care) 
Block paving1500 PSi   Green nozzle (with care) 
Asphalt1500 PSi   Green nozzle (with care)
GravelNever use a pressure washer on gravel

Now let’s get into cleaning the driveway.

How To Clean A Driveway With A Pressure Washer

pressure washing floor

So now we’ve determined what material our driveway is constructed from, we can get on with cleaning it properly. Here’s our easy to follow step by step guide to pressure washing a driveway.

  1. Sweep the driveway clean
    With a yard broom clear all loose dirt and debris from the driveway.
  2. Treat any stains
    If there are any oil or grease stains on the drive, treat with an appropriate degreaser, following any instructions on the bottle.
  3. Start the pressure washer
    Start by connecting the garden hose to the pressure washer and turning the tap fully on. Then pull the trigger on the wand and allow the water to flow for at least 30 seconds, this will remove any air in the system. Then turn your pressure washer on.
  4. Add suitable pressure washer detergent
    This step is optional, but advisable. First wet the surface with the white nozzle, then fit black nozzle and apply detergent to the driveway. Allow to soak for around 15 minutes.
  5. Rinse off the drive
    Using the correct nozzle and pressure setting, rinse all the detergent away starting from the top of the drive, nearest the house, and work down towards the pavement.
  6. Seal the drive
    After the driveway is completely dry, apply a sealer to protect the drive and prevent any serious staining, weed regrowth or damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best pressure washer for driveways?

The best pressure washer for cleaning a driveway will depend on the type of material your driveway is made from. See our above guide for PSI information.

What do you spray on the driveway before pressure washing?

Before pressure washing your driveway spray a degreaser on to remove any oil or grease stains.

Should you pressure wash driveways?

You should pressure wash your driveways to keep them clean and safe.

Do I need to seal my driveway after pressure washing?

You do need to seal your driveway after pressure washing if you want to preserve your driveway.

Is it worth sealing block paving?

It is worth sealing block paving to preserve it and keep it clean and damage free.

Will a pressure washer remove concrete sealer?

A pressure washer will remove concrete sealer if it is used on high-pressure and with the red nozzle.

How long should concrete dry after washing before sealing?

After washing concrete it should be left to dry for 2 to 3 hours on a sunny day before sealing.

How long does it take to pressure wash 1000 square feet?

To pressure wash 1000 square feet should take around 30 minutes.

How long do you have to stay off a driveway after it is sealed?

After the driveway is sealed you should stay off it for at least 24 hours, longer in cool weather.

How long does concrete sealer last?

Concrete driveway sealer lasts on average between 1 to 3 years.

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