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Clean siding and trim can do as much for a home’s curb appeal as fresh flowers, neatly trimmed hedges and a repainted front door. You could scrub for hours trying to remove dirt, mold and mildew, or you could do the job more quickly and easily with a pressure washer.
However, if you decide to pressure wash your home’s siding, trim, fence or other surfaces on your own, it’s important to choose the right equipment for the project, and to know the basics of good pressure washing.
Pressure washer basics
Pressure washers use powerful pumps to boost water pressure and force water through a special nozzle. The intense spray powers away dirt, grime and debris, and depending on the type and size pressure washer you choose, they can be great for both major and minor home cleaning projects. While professionals often use gas-fueled versions for home renovation projects, electric versions are affordable, convenient, and easy to use and maintain for most around-the-home applications such as siding, driveways, fences, patio furniture and vehicles.
Pressure washers use less water and complete cleaning jobs more quickly than simply scrubbing by hand. Generally, the higher the PSI (pounds of pressure per square inch) the greater a pressure washer’s cleaning power. However, PSI is not the only consideration when choosing a pressure washer.
You should also look for ease of setup and use, and availability of accessories like extensions and wands for the different projects you might want to complete with your pressure washer. In addition to affordability, look for compact storage, an integrated detergent tank and ergonomic features such as an on/off pedal switch and tall folding handles. These features make it more comfortable to use a pressure washer and more convenient to store it when you’re done.
It’s also important to understand the type of detergent the washer will use in addition to water. Some cleaners might be too harsh for certain applications. Look for biodegradable options that protect the environment and the pressure washer itself. Never use bleach with a pressure washer, as this can permanently damage the pump.
How to use a pressure washer
Pressure washers are powerful pieces of equipment, and you should always follow basic safety practices, such as using eye and face protection, and the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Be aware that using too high a pressure setting or holding the nozzle too close to surfaces could cause damage. Further, there are some things you should never do with a pressure washer, including:
– Never point the jet at people, animals, windows or the pressure washer itself.
– Never stand on a ladder when using a pressure washer. The kick from the wand could cause you to lose your balance. Instead, use an extension wand or second-story nozzle to clean overhead areas.
To clean siding on your home:
– First, place drop cloths over nearby shrubs and greenery to protect them from the spray and detergent.
– With the washer set at low pressure, apply detergent, moving from top to bottom. Don’t allow the detergent to dry on the siding. Use a brush to loosen any stubborn dirt.
– Use clean water and a higher pressure setting to rinse off detergent, again moving from top to bottom.
– Use a sweeping motion to clean, and keep the nozzle at least 6 inches from the siding.
To clean cement, brick or stone:
– Whether it’s a cement retaining wall, a brick path or a patio of stone pavers, first rinse the surface to be cleaned using fresh water.
– If you’re using detergent, apply it at a low pressure and work in smaller sections of about 25 square feet.
– Using a rotating turbo nozzle and a sweeping motion, clean by holding the nozzle 3 to 6 inches from the surface.
Before tackling any project with a pressure washer it’s a good idea to test the unit in a small, out-of-the-way spot to ensure you won’t damage the surface you want to clean.