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Power Washing Guide

As the days become mild and the time to enjoy the outdoors arrives, many people take a closer look at their deck, patio, driveway and pathways, or their home’s exterior and realize that they look dingy and something needs to be done.

Often, the weathered surfaces are considered aged and in need of replacement or at least repainting. However, in many cases, just a good cleaning can revive them and no repainting is required. The most common problems are dirt and mildew and they can be effectively eliminated with power washing. If you do need to repaint, pressure washing is an excellent surface preparation.

Power washing tools

First, let’s talk about the equipment you need. The most important is, obviously, a power washing machine.

There are electric and gas pressure washers. The former cost less and are lighter. But they are less powerful and more suitable for smaller, lighter jobs. Gasoline models are more powerful and suitable for tougher jobs. Specifically, cleaning your house exterior will take several times longer with an electric power washer. However, gas powered machines are costlier, noisier, less portable and need to be refueled.

Let’s explain the difference in effectiveness. The effectiveness is expressed in cleaning units which are pressure power PSI (pound per square inch) multiplied by flow rate GPM (gallons per minute). The bigger this number is, the more suitable for tough jobs the power washer is; which means it can tackle dirtier surfaces and clean quicker. Most often the PSI and GPM are listed as characteristics of different models. Typical electrical pressure washer boasts about 1200 psi at 1,5 GPM, while typical homeowner grade gas unit will deliver 2000 – 3000 PSI at about 2 GPM. Professional models deliver even more than that.

You can rent a power washer or buy your own to use over and over again. They are not very expensive and it might make sense to buy one. However, keep in mind that it will need to be stored somewhere and it will need to be maintained.

Pressure washer pushes water out of a tip on its wand. The diameter of the tip is important and greatly influences the effectiveness and the end result. Some basic washers only have one tip and might have a couple of settings for it. More serious machines have a set for various purposes. Generally speaking, the smaller the diameter is, the more forceful the water stream will be. The tips are universally color-coded. Yellow nozzles spray at a fan pattern of 15 degrees, green at 25 degrees, and white at 40 degrees. The black 60-degree tip is used for applying soap. Green and white are general purpose tips and are also used for rinsing off soap. Reserve the red nozzle (0 degrees) for unusual applications like stripping off hardened mud.

Another useful tool is an extension wand. Its use is recommended because pressure washing from the ladder is not safe. Gutter extension is a convenient way to clean gutters. Bruch attachment is not necessary and is mostly useful for jobs such as car cleaning.

Very often people are wondering whether or not to use soap. Soap significantly improves the end result – the surface will be cleaner and might not need another wash longer. Application of soap makes for a more tedious project but is worth it.

Use soap specifically designed for power washing and match it to the type of surface being cleaned. We will talk more about using soap later on.

Other tools you will need:

  • a 3/4″ diameter garden hose with standard couplings.
  • a bucket for mixing soap;
  • safety glasses and ear muffs;
  • optional: plastic sheets, garden sprayer, bleach, brushes, rubber boots, etc.

Let’s take a break for now. We will continue with the detailed step-by-step guide of the power washing process in the next article. Stay tuned.

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