Is your deck, driveway or other outside surface looking dirty?
Pressure washing is a great way to get a deep clean, and many people find it to be a simple DIY weekend activity but before you fire up that pressure washer, make sure you know how to do it safely.
Pressure washing can be dangerous
Pressure washers are powerful tools and should be treated with care. If you accidentally spray yourself, the high pressure water can cut deep into your skin and cause permanent nerve damage or even require amputation.
Even injuries that appear minor can in reality be very serious. A pressure washing wound that looks like a small cut can go very deep. You can also end up with air or water trapped under your skin – not what you want at all!
If you are injured from a pressure washer, seek medical attention immediately.
Luckily, with some knowledge, you can safely pressure wash to your heart’s content. These are some general tips, but always read the manual for the specific machine you are using.
Best practices to follow for safe pressure washing
- Keep it outside. Never use a pressure washer in an enclosed space.
- Use the safety latch. Most pressure washers come with a safety latch that stops water from spraying. Make it a habit to turn this on anytime you aren’t using the sprayer.
- Never leave it unattended. If the pressure washer is on, you should be right there with it – don’t leave it running and step away.
- Hold the sprayer with two hands. This will give you more control of the direction of the spray, which is safer.
- Never point towards another person. Seems obvious, but it needs to be said! Even as a joke, never aim the sprayer – on or off – at another person.
- Check your surroundings. Be aware of any potential hazards in the area where you are cleaning. Will the ground get slippery when wet? Do you need to use a ladder? Make sure you are prepared for all possibilities.
- Adults only. Only a responsible adult should operate a pressure washer. Make sure kids are not in the area before you start spraying.
Types of spray nozzles
In general, a wider spray nozzle can do a great job with your cleaning.
It may take slightly longer, but it will be much safer. It can be tempting to use a super high-pressure nozzle, but that will open you up to the risks of injuring yourself or damaging your property.
Check out the types of nozzles available to see which one will work best for your situation.
- Red (0°) This one is used for hard to reach areas like second-story siding or small crevices. However, it is the most dangerous. So it’s best to avoid this nozzle – almost anything you need to clean can be cleaned with a wider spray.
- Yellow (15°) This is for heavy-duty cleaning, like stain removal on concrete or stripping paint.
- Green (25°) This nozzle is best for most of the basic outdoor cleaning that you might do at home: driveways, sidewalks, and decks.
- White (40°) If you need to clean siding or other more sensitive areas, this nozzle is best.
- Black (65°/low pressure) This is typically used when you need to apply a cleaning solution. The pressure isn’t enough to really clean the surface, but it will wet it and spread the cleaner as well. Then you can use a higher pressure nozzle to clean and rinse.
Dress for success
Even on a hot day, this is not a project you should do in your shorts and sandals. Make sure you have appropriate apparel before you get started.
- Cover your skin. Wear long pants and long sleeves. If you do accidentally spray yourself, you want some fabric between you and the water to minimize the injury.
- Sturdy boots. Your feet need the most protection for many of the pressure washing jobs you might do, like cleaning your deck or driveway. Be sure to wear sturdy boots that cover your ankles – no flip flops allowed
- Gloves. Protect your hands with sturdy work gloves
- Safety glasses/goggles. Pressure washing can cause dirt and debris to blow up, so make sure your eyes are protected with safety glasses.
- Ear protection. Pressure washers are pretty loud, so you may want to consider earplugs or headphones to muffle the sound.
Pressure washing basics
First time using a pressure washer? Let’s go over the basic steps to using one successfully.
1. Prepare the area
Make sure your space is ready to be cleaned. Move any other objects (patio furniture, potted plants, etc.) out of the way.
2. Rent or buy a pressure washer
If you are only interested in pressuring washing once or twice a year, renting might be the best option for you. Make sure you have any extra supplies you will need, like gas (if it’s gas powered), an extension cord (if it’s electric), and a garden hose. Depending on what you are cleaning, you may want to add an extension attachment for the sprayer.
3. Set up the pressure washer
Choose the widest spraying nozzle you can that will get the job done. Always start with the widest and work your way down. Check the manual for specifics. Make sure it is attached tightly.
Attach your garden hose. Make sure it is tight and that the hose is untangled and ready to go – you don’t want to deal with kinks in the hose once you get started.
IMPORTANT: Make sure to turn on the water before starting the engine.
Next, with the engine still off, let water run through the machine and come out of the spray gun and pull the trigger to release the pressure, keep holding until there’s a steady stream of water flowing.
Now, turn the engine on and let some water spray out for a minute to release any air that is in the system and to make sure that the pressure is good for your project.
4. Get cleaning
Area prepped? Pressure washer set up? Dressed for safety? It’s time to start washing! If you are doing a more sensitive area like siding or a roof, it’s a good idea to do a small test area just to be sure your pressure is right for the job.
“Pressure Washer is hard to pull when starting”
Answer: If you’re trying to start a gas-powered engine and it’s very hard to pull, that means there’s air in the system and you forgot to release the pressure by simply squeezing on the trigger until a steady stream of water is present.