Pressure washing is one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to keep your home looking like new. Built up dirt, grime, mildew, and mold can be removed in a fraction of the time it would take to scrub it by hand or just use a garden hose. Today’s goal with pressure washing is actually to prep this house for a fresh coat of paint. So grab some safety goggles and clothes that you don’t mind getting a little wet, because I’m gonna walk you through how to pressure wash a house the right way.
I’ll give you all the tools you need, tips, safety precautions so that by the end of this article, you’re confident to pressure wash your house and have it looking sparkly and clean like new. A pressure washer is a way to amp up your garden hose. It has a motor that increases the PSI of the water. If you think of it like cars, your garden hose is kind of like a 3-cylinder hatchback, and your pressure washer is a super fast sports car. And speaking of cars, don’t ever use a power washer to wash your car. A lot of people do that. It’s a terrible idea. It can really damage the paint.
choosing the best pressure washer
Pressure washers can clean houses, decks, patios, driveways, sheds. It’s a great tool to have to help with a variety of uses around the house. I’m gonna tell you how to pressure wash this house the right way and avoid some common mistakes. So we are using a Craftsman 3200 PSI gas-powered pressure washer for this project. There’s a lot of different options out there for pressure washers. They have some really good electric pressure washers, cordless options, and great gas options as well. If it’s a pressure washer rental then the chances are you have one of the best. For this project and our purposes, we’re going with the pretty heavy-duty gas-powered. Look at the PSI rating when choosing a pressure washer. PSI means pounds per square inch.
The higher the PSI, the greater the force of the water. A typical garden hose has about 40 PSI– not strong enough to do heavy-duty cleaning on your house, but if you take that garden hose and hook it up to a pressure washer, it can easily increase your PSI by over 50 times. This model has a PSI rating of 3200, which means it’s about 75 times more powerful than a typical garden hose. Pressure washers also use up 80% less water than a garden hose– powerful and efficient. Convenience is key with anything you purchase as a consumer. Simply put, there is a place for our gas to go. Then we have our on/off switch. Also, we have our choke for the gas and the gas fuel line for turning that on and off. This is an extra added safety feature that keeps fuel from running through. The best choice in pressure washing depends on your application. The heavy work loads are best handled with gas powered and the lightest work load is more suitable for electric power washers.
How to use a pressure washer
The first thing we need to do is put some gas in it because we’re working with a gas-powered pressure washer. With a gas-power engine, you want to be cautious of a few things. One is you don’t want to run out of gas. If you do, that can cause vapor lock, and you don’t want that. Also, it’s gonna run hot, so you want to make sure that you’re not refueling it when it’s hot. You want to allow it to cool down. So in the front of your pressure washer, there’s gonna be two hose nozzles. We’re gonna be using two hoses for this project– one is your input hose, which is the regular garden hose that you should already have, and the other is our high-powered hose that’s connected to the pressure washer.
It gets connected to the front and then also to the wand. Now you’re going to put a tip onto the end of your wand, and each tip has a different purpose, so it’s really important to make sure you know what each tip does and then know what surface you’re about to be working on. You’ll want to select the best tip that will clean without damaging your surface. Test the tips on a section of your exterior to see what works best.
Choosing the right tip for the job is extremely important. Using too much pressure can damage the surface and beyond. Pink is the low-pressure soap detergent nozzle. Use this when applying detergents for your cleaning projects. White is the 40-degree nozzle. It’s a wider fan of water, less pressure in direct spots, best for surfaces that are softer, and more prone to being damaged. Yellow is the 15-degree tip. It’s typically used for surface prep such as removing dirt, mildew, or paint and can be used on most surfaces. Red is the zero-degree tip. Be careful with this one. It delivers a very concentrated stream of water and the highest PSI. It could damage softer surfaces. This house is in the middle of a renovation, so there’s some unpainted surfaces, missing trim, but luckily, we’re not dealing with any lead paint. Don’t pressure wash your house if it’s painted with lead paint, as this can be very hazardous. If your house was painted prior to 1978, or you suspect it might have lead paint, it’s best to let a professional do an inspection and make recommendations.
It’s really important that you know what type of house material you’re dealing with as it will impact the way you pressure wash, how much pressure to use, the tips you use. Inspect your house and take note if you have a block house foundation or slab, if your siding is wood, vinyl, aluminum or brick. Remember to take note of your windows and use lower power tips for softer materials.
Pressure washing tips & Safety Advice
Before you ever start pressure washing, you want to take a good look and inspect all the surfaces of the home. We’ve looked around here and we’ve found a few things that we’re gonna need to take care of. First, there’s a pretty good rust stain out front, so we’re gonna need to give that some special attention. There’s a bit of dirt rubbed in causing mud stains. There are loose dirt and debris. Also, there’s even an area where some vines have grown up onto the house. We went around and clipped away any of the bushes or greens that were up against the house or just tied them back. Bush and plant areas can be really prone to staining, so you want to make sure that you have full access and can pressure wash there as well.
Also really important– when you’re inspecting your home, look for areas where water could possibly get in and make sure you protect those areas. We put plastic around some of our exterior lights. We wrapped up our doorbell. We put duct tape over our outlets. Also, when we’re pressure washing, we’re gonna make sure to avoid any window casings, any caulking areas, and the edges of doors. We don’t water to get into the interior of the home and cause some leaks. On every home there is an area with a lot of exterior utilities, and these are typically weather-proof. But just to be careful, we’re not really going to pressure wash anywhere in this area. We don’t really need to wrap all of these up. They are used to taking the elements. But we’re just gonna steer clear of all of this area.
If you must hit those areas be sure to secure the electrical areas with coverings like tarp, or plastic wind break material. You don’t really want all that pressurized water directly on electrical units. Don’t risk it!
This is a serious power tool, and it’s crucial to pay attention to professional safety tips. It may seem simple, but we gotta be careful because we are dealing with engines, and we are dealing with a wand that has a lot of PSI to it. So if you think of like a nail gun, you’re gonna get that same recoil. So you’re definitely gonna want to make sure you have your eye protection, and you definitely don’t want to be aiming it at anybody, and you want to be smart. The big thing is if you don’t want to stand on a ladder when you’re using this just because there is so much recoil. So there are some ways that we can resolve that, but we’ll get to that later.
How to use a pressure washer
This isn’t quite as much about safety, but guys, you’re gonna get wet. This isn’t a business casual type event. Make sure you’re wearing some old clothes that you don’t mind getting wet. For this house, it’s gonna be a two-step process. First what we’re gonna do is use the pressure washer to apply a cleaner, and then we’re gonna come back with the pressure washer, switch out the tip, and pressure wash the entire thing. The soap we’re gonna start from the bottom up, and then for the pressure washer, we’re gonna start from the top down. We’re just using a basic kind of all-purpose cleaner. This will work really well in this particular instance because we have a combination of block, wood, and brick. So it’s very all-purpose. This is actually a plant-safe cleaner, so it’s not really gonna do any damage to the bushes and trees around the house. But just to be on the safer side, we’re also gonna spritz them down with water just to make sure that they’re not absorbing too much of the cleaner from the ground.
The first tip we’re gonna be using is our soap tip, ’cause we’re gonna start with our cleaner. The first thing we want to do is turn our fuel control on, then we’re gonna pull our choke out and then put our ignition switch to on. And then we’ll give it one pull… and then you’re gonna wait for it to start, it will sound like it’s choking a little bit, now you’re gonna push the choke back in, and you’re good to go.
I’m gonna start off with soap. With this wand, there’s a safety on here and you wanna make sure that you engage the safety and then pull the trigger. When I’m applying the cleaner, I’m gonna start from the bottom and work my way up to the top. Start no less than a foot away, because you kind of want to make sure you have the right amount of pressure and see how your surface responds at first. And you’re gonna work in just nice, even back-and-forth strokes. Basically, the same application, even though we’re starting with our cleaner, as when we are actually power washing. This tip here is very low pressure, and it’s to apply the cleaner. Now, the interesting thing is if I swap this to a pressure washing tip, the soap will not come out.
I’m working from bottom up. If I work top down, we could potentially have some streaking issues. I don’t want to let the soap dry. I’m gonna switch to a pressure washing attachment, to my 40-degree, and then give it a good rinse. If you reach about as much as you can with the standard size wand, switch over to the extension wand, which actually extends to 18 feet and will allow you to get all the way at the top without using a ladder. Ladders and power washing do not go together! In order to swap between the two wands, we need to shut our water off again. Let’s drain out the pressure and then remove the soap tip, then we’ll put it onto the longer wand. Now, I’m gonna disconnect my high-pressure hose. – Then we’re just gonna put our quick connect right onto the end. Once reloaded turn the water back on. Fully soak the top then switch out tips while you have the extension wand, this is a good opportunity to use the 40 degree tip..
Has the widest fan. It’s actually the most common multipurpose tip. Our surface is still wet, so we want to get this pressure washed right away. Start at the top and work your way down. That way, any dirt that’s being knocked down isn’t falling on a clean surface. Now, with this, I should mention that we’ll start out further back, but depending on how our surface is handling the pressure and how hard the dirt is to come off, we may end up in a little bit closer for some hard-to-get areas. Sometimes you will find yourself dealing with a rust stain from, say, an old irrigation system. We don’t feel like pressure washing alone will take care of that, so if we don’t remove the rust, the new paint job will not adhere to the brick, so we’ve got to take care of this the right way. We use RustAid, it is going to help eliminate any of rust stains that have accumulated over the years.
We’re just going to apply that using a pump sprayer. Work from the bottom up. It makes sense to work all the way down and across, starting from the bottom, so that way the chemical isn’t dripping down, kind of rinsing itself off. Once this sets up for a little bit, we’ll leave it, come back, check on it, and then we’ll rinse it off. And you always want to make sure to read your specific label for safety precautions. This is a serious cleaner, so you want to make sure that you’re following their steps exactly. After it has had some time to set up, pressure wash it off. Try the 40-degree tip. It’ll do a really good job on brick and open areas. With brick, you don’t want to go too powerful. It could get in between and corrode away the mortar. So 40 will be perfect for this.
When I rinse it, I’m gonna start from the top down so that the chemicals are running down to the ground. Okay, so you can see that even though this is brick, this is coming off really nicely, and none of the brick is chipping away, so I can get a bit closer. One thing to note is that you can change the orientation of your tip, so it can spray vertically or more horizontally.
Another situation that you might encounter is when vegetation that grows up against the house and leaves mark. So what I’m gonna do first is try and just kind of bang lose anything I can with my hand. But then our process is gonna be exactly the same as over on the other side of the house. We’ll use the detergent and then power wash it off. Again, be watchful of areas around the door, I want to be really careful never to pressure wash on any window seams where there’s caulking or right around the edges of the doors.
Stay clear and take a little step back so there won’t be quite as much pressure. You want to be sure that you don’t power wash any living creatures, lizards love hanging out on houses. The job will take a couple of hours, but the house is completely pressure washed and looking so much better in the end. If you plan to paint after pressure washing your house, make sure you give it a couple days to really fully dry before moving on to that next step. Whether you are preparing to paint your home or just need to get it looking nice and clean and new, I hope that you walk away from this article feeling completely confident in knowing how to use a pressure washer and do it the right way.