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How to Pressure Wash Almost Everything Around Your House

Get tips on how to power wash a variety of outdoor items including siding, decks, patios and kids' playsets. Plus, find information on buying a pressure washer, when to pressure wash and FAQs about how they work.

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Photo: MaryAnnCarter

You’d Be Surprised What You Can Clean Using a Pressure Washer

Sure, you can use a pressure washer to clean a deck, patio, swimming pool or driveway, but you can also clean kids’ toys and playsets, outdoor furniture, cushions, garbage cans, fences, cars, boats and more.

If you're not sure you want to invest in a pressure washer, rent one instead. This way you can learn how to use it and if you do decide to buy one, it'll help you determine what type you need. The key to successful pressure washing is starting out slow and working your way up to the appropriate settings.

Like many tools, a pressure washer can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Be sure to start with the lowest nozzle and work your way up to avoid damaging the surface you're cleaning. Wear goggles and closed-toe shoes and keep the kids and pets out of the way.

If you love a good before and after, then prepare to fall in love with pressure washing. It can be so satisfying!

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Photo: MaryAnnCarter

When is the Best Time to Pressure Wash?

For most of us, the best time to pressure wash is spring and fall because of the mild temperatures. You can do it in the summer, but that depends on your location. In a hot and humid climate, drying times will take a lot longer. But, if you live in a northern area with cool summers and long days, summer may be the perfect time to pressure wash.

Winter is not a great time to pressure wash. Ideally, you want to pressure wash when the temperature is above 40 degrees, and the forecast is dry and sunny. Do not pressure wash when the temperature is or is forecasted to go below freezing. Surfaces can stay wet a long time; the water will likely have worked its way into cracks and crevices that won’t quickly dry, and a freeze-thaw cycle during drying time may damage surfaces like concrete and wood. Also, water left in the pressure washer’s hoses may do damage to the machine if it freezes.

Many people pressure wash twice a year: once in the spring to clean off winter dirt and grime, and again in the fall to remove algae and mold that grew over the summer. You may find it best to wait until late fall to pressure wash so you can remove fallen leaves that have left stains as well as sap or pollen that have built up on decks, roofs, concrete and siding.

The best time of day depends on the time of year and what surface you’re washing. The sun should be your deciding factor; pressure wash when the sun can speed up your drying times. In cooler weather like early spring and late fall, the warm afternoon sun may work best for you, while in the summer, early morning, before it gets too hot may be your optimum time.

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What do PSI and GPM Mean?

When you shop for a pressure washer, there are two important acronyms to know: PSI and GPM. Pound force per square inch (PSI) measures how powerful the water spray is. Gallons per minute (GPM) measures how much water goes through the spray wand. The higher the PSI and GPM, the more forceful and heavy the machine will be. A pressure washer with 2,000 PSI and 2 GPM is considered modest power and is good for light jobs such as cleaning decks, cars or swimming pools. If you need a machine for more arduous tasks such as cleaning a driveway, stone or brick, consider a medium-duty machine with a PSI of up to 3,200 and GPM of up to 3. Higher than that is considered maximum power, pro-grade. Most household jobs do not require a pro-grade, industrial PSI or GPM. It’s too much power and can strip surface paint or worse. Also, you may also see the term cleaning unit (CU) when shopping for a pressure washer. A cleaning unit is determined by multiplying the PSI by the GPM.

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Photo: MaryAnnCarter

What are the Different Colored Nozzles?

Just about all pressure washers come with three to four nozzles, all different colors. The colors indicate the force of the spray. The most powerful nozzle will be the one with the smallest hole — limited flow equals increased velocity and power. On most machines, that will be the red nozzle. It is also called the 0-degree nozzle because the water does not fan out, it flows in a straight powerful stream. The next powerful nozzle shoots at a 15-degree angle; it is usually yellow. The green nozzle has a 25-degree angle followed by the most gentle, the white nozzle with a 40-degree angle. Most pressure washers will also come with a 65-degree angled nozzle which is used to spray soap onto your cleaning surface.

Different manufacturers mark their nozzles differently, so don't rely on the color alone. Always check the stamping on the nozzle. Just remember, the smaller the angle number, the more powerful it will be. It's always best to start with the least powerful spray (higher number) and work your way up. Don’t just blast away with the red nozzle or you may end up with a permanently damaged surface.

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