Pressure Washing: What To Clean – and What Not To
Whether you're a beginner or a "master of the wand," it's important to understand what to clean – and what not to clean – with a pressure washer. Preventing costly damages while pressure washing can be easy, as long as you follow a few basic rules and know which surfaces to avoid.
The pressure washing process is a quick and satisfying way to get rid of built-up gunk, grime, and stains. It can be an exhilarating feeling to utilize the high-intensity power of a pressure washer to clean algae-covered walkways, stripping old paint from a deck, cleaning stains from driveway spills, and other DIY jobs that can significantly improve the visual appeal of your home. But once you get going with the machine, the ease of use means you may find yourself tempted to turn that cleaning power on other items around the house.
This is, to put it mildly, a bad idea.
Misuse of a pressure washer can result in damaged wood, gouges in concrete or stone, and more. That high-powered stream of water can be significantly misused, and should always be handled with care. Make sure you're following proper care and instructions - click here to learn about proper pressure washing technique, the difference between various types of pressure washers, which nozzle tip to use for which job (very important!), and more.
Your choice of cleaning product is also important – and no, water doesn't work just as well as an actual cleaning agent. It's best to use a cleaner that's safe for multiple surfaces without diminishing performance.
Simple Green Oxy Solve Total Outdoor Cleaner lifts dirt and stains from mold, mildew, moss, and algae from outdoor surfaces such as wood, plastic, concrete, and more. The fast-acting cleaner uses peroxide to brighten and renew surfaces without bleach.
Simple Green's Oxy Solve Total Outdoor pressure washer concentrate is ideal for cleaning wood, composite, vinyl, metal, fabric, plastic, concrete, stone, brick, asphalt, and other outdoor surfaces, with a fast-acting foam that cleans using the power of peroxide. The biodegradable* formula meets the rigorous criteria of the U.S. EPA's Safer Choice Program and will not harm surrounding plants, lawns, pets, or wildlife.
Here's an easy guide to what you should - and shouldn't - pressure wash around your home.
Not every decking material is ideal for pressure washing, but most decks are made from either hardwood or composite. Be aware that composite tends to be softer than natural wood and therefore can be etched more easily. Once it has been damaged, other issues such as chipping, sun damage, and mold staining of the interior plastic can arise. Regardless of your decking material, check the terms of your deck's warranty before using a pressure washer to clean it. Your best bet is generally a 25° (green) nozzle, which creates a 25-degree wide sheet of water spray at the nozzle, delivering less surface pressure to lift dirt and grime without harming surfaces beneath. Follow these directions for cleaning your deck with a pressure washer.
Do you enjoy having your roof tiles in place on your roof, as opposed to the neighbor's yard? Are you looking to launch yourself off a ladder, like one of those aquatic jetpack stuntmen? Then you should definitely not haul the pressure washer up to the roof. A catastrophe of damage and messes waiting to happen, pressure washing your roof is a dangerous idea that should never be attempted. Unless you'd like to see your shingles shooting off the roof like lethal frisbees, you're far better off avoiding the high-pressure power of a pressure washer. Instead, you should use a pump sprayer and a scrubber (if needed) to clear any accumulation of moss, algae, or discoloration on your roof.
If your siding is made of vinyl, aluminum, or fiber cement, you can safely pressure wash the surface without damaging the material (assuming you're using proper technique, of course). Even Stucco can be pressure washed with delicate care - the material's fragility and tendency to crumble makes proper cleaning technique an important part of stucco maintenance.
In addition to being exposed to the elements, dirt, pollen and pollution can wreak havoc on home siding, resulting in a weathered, dingy look if it's not properly cleaned. Follow these simple cleaning steps to remove dirt, grime, and stains from algae, mold, and mildew, and keep the best look and longest lifespan for your siding.
However, be advised: if your house was built before 1978, you should have the exterior paint tested by an EPA-licensed lead-remediation specialist before beginning work on pressure washing your siding. If there's lead content in the paint (which was outlawed in 1978), it's unlikely to ever break down and biodegrade, as it contains this heavy metal.
Your pressure washer is not at all like the pressure hose at the car wash, which is specifically designed for cleaning dirt, brake dust, and residue from vehicles without damaging the surface. If you fire up the machine at home and aim the wand at your vehicle, your poor car's paint could easily be chipped, nicked or damaged. In addition to looking bad, you're setting yourself up for serious rust issues once the surface has been penetrated. Use this method instead to get your car sparkling clean.
Concrete Walkways, Sidewalks, and Driveway: Yes
Concrete is pretty low-maintenance when it comes to outdoor surfaces, but from time to time you'll have to deal with an accumulation of dirt, moss, and possible staining. Despite its tough exterior, unsealed concrete is porous and easily absorbs soils and liquids, which can lead to tough-to-remove stains on your sidewalk, walkway or driveway. But with proper equipment and technique, you'll be able to safely remove dirt and stains as well as discoloration from weathering, mildew stains, and deeply-embedded dirt buildup, and protect the area from damage. Follow these directions for cleaning and maintaining your concrete walkways, sidewalks, and driveway.
* Biodegradable formula: This formula decomposes into elements found in nature within six months after disposal into a typical sanitary sewer or septic system.