Pressure washing - not for the faint of heart

There are few things worse than deciding to pressure wash the house or the deck and using too much pressure on old wood. You will end up cleaning more of the yard than you originally intended, and could even end up replacing shingles and deck boards, along with scaring the heck out of yourself when you realize how powerful the little wand actually is.

When you decide to clean you deck or pressure wash the house before painting, remember that in order to use the pressure washer correctly, you need to understand how it works. You will be working with the four elements, kind of like earth, air, fire, and water.

The first element in pressure washing is pressure, or air. Too much pressure on an old deck will cause the wood to fly away in splinters, and that's not good. Test a small area of the deck to make sure that you are using enough pressure to get the job done, but not so much that you're causing more harm than good.

The next element is water, or water flow rate, to be exact. If you are using a cold water pressure washer, you will need to compensate for the lack of heat, and increase the water flow. If you are using hot water in your pressure washer, follow the directions for adding the chemicals or you won't emulsify the dirt (Earth element) correctly and it will simply stick to the area you are trying to clean. This is particularly true if you are pressure washing grease from concrete. As a typical rule of thumb, hot water (this is where the fire element comes in) pressure washers work better.

After you've read the directions and tested your corners of the area you wish to pressure wash, you will need a few tips to get you through the process:

  • Wear proper body protection. Accidentally moving your arm too fast and pressure washing your eye is very, very bad.
  • Read the directions. The instrument may look simple, but if you stand too close, you will damage whatever you are trying to clean, and if you stand too far back, it won't be so effective.
  • It sounds obvious, but work from the top down; else you will run gook all over the area that you just cleaned, forcing you to go back over. Work smart, not hard when pressure washing.
  • Never aim the nozzle directly at the area you are cleaning. The pressure washer wand should be slightly angled so as to push the dirt off, not blast it into the material. Stucco and brick will make a really horrid mess if hit straight on with a pressure washer.
  • Never, never aim the nozzle at windows or screen doors. The pressure is enough to break glass and tear the screen door off of its frame. You can use the washer to clean screen doors if you have a special light setting and can stand aside from the door.
  • And finally, please don't try to change nozzles or refill the detergent tank while the pressure washer is still turned on.