Effective and Safe Pressure Washer Use
When to Use a Pressure Washer
What's the worst cleaning job you have ever taken on?
Scrubbing down a grill with 4-5 years' worth of burger and hot dog grease spattered under the hood? How about a big old oil stain on the cement floor of your garage? Or was it that wooden deck covered with a slimy mildew that made it look like it had a gruesome skin disease?
When you just want that gunk gone, and you don't even want to touch it in the process, you're looking at a job for a pressure washer.
Pressure washers are awesome machines capable of cleaning up all the above and more. But they are also potentially destructive tools that can cause unintended damage if not used with a little know how—so make you know your tool before you start.
How Pressure Washers Work
Pressure washers use an engine (gas or electric) to power a pump which forces water, at high pressure, through a small nozzle to blast away dirt, grime, and stains on all kinds of materials…including wood, concrete, asphalt, patio stone, aluminum or vinyl siding, or metal on lawn furniture, cars, trucks, and more.
Pressure washers usually come with a variety of nozzles that allow you to alter the pressure according to the task. The smaller the opening, the greater the pressure. So, you can use a very concentrated beam for a tough stain on a hard surface that can handle the pressure (like a concrete floor), or a more diffused beam to wash a surface that you want to be very careful with (like your new mid-life crisis car).
Getting the Pressure Right
Here's the "Goldilocks problem"...if the pressure isn't high enough, nothing gets truly clean. But if you use too much pressure, you can easily gouge wood, blow out chunks of grout, or flay the paint off that new car. You want the pressure to be "just right," and the only safe way to get there is by erring on the side of low pressure and working your way into the sweet spot. With a little experience, the choice of tips and how far away to stand from your target will become more and more intuitive.
Other Safety Tips
Damaging property is one level of bad, but a poorly aimed pressure washer beam can also seriously injure a person or pet and take the situation from bad to awful. And it's not just pets and people around you that could be at risk, but your own dumb self.
Example: Think twice before you go up a ladder with a pressure washer. If you are, say, cleaning the siding on your home, the force of the stream can knock you right off your ladder if you carelessly aim it directly in front of you. There may be situations where ladder use is appropriate but be on high alert going into them and think before you act.
Finally, in addition to protecting yourself, the people around you, and the surface you're washing, you ALSO want to protect the equipment you invest in. A distressingly common mistake for the first-time user is starting up the pressure washer without FIRST turning on the water supply. This will burn out the pump in a very short time, and almost certainly void your warranty. As with all power equipment, read the operator's manual before you begin and you just might avoid a multitude of mishaps.