Pressure washing is a quick and effective to clean your home’s exterior, if done so correctly. If you just want to clean your home without having to paint it, you must take care not to damage the paint or caulk by using too much pressure.
Many pressure washers can produce more than 3,000 lbs. of pressure per square inch (psi) just at the tip, which is powerful enough to gouge siding, erode cement and cut through skin and muscle.
Pressure washer safety tips
• Know your machine – Whether it’s powered by electricity or gas, you should take the time to read the operation and safety manuals for the pressure washer. If you’ve rented the pressure washer from a tool rental company, ask them to show you how to operate the pressure washer safely. Familiarize yourself with how the machine operates and where the kill switch and other safety features are located.
• Wear the right gear - Always wear safety glasses, goggles or a face shield when using a pressure washer.
• Be aware of your surroundings – Water conducts electricity, so use caution when using a pressure washer around electrical service panels, meter bases, overhead wires, electrical outlets and exterior lights to prevent electrocution. Always be aware of where you are spraying and where you will spray next.
• Mufflers get hot – If you’re using a gas-powered pressure washer, always remember to avoid touching or coming in contact with the muffler. When starting the pressure washer’s engine, it’s common practice to place one hand on the engine to steady it while pulling the starter cord with the other. Many engines have mufflers located in a position that you might be tempted to place your hand on when trying to steady yourself while pulling the starter cord.
• Watch the pressure - Never use a high-pressure jet tip or narrow fan tips when pressure washing close to a home’s siding. Never direct the spray at yourself or others, as the water pressure generated by the machine is extremely dangerous. It is OK to use high-pressure tips to reach high, out-of-reach areas of the house, just be aware of what the pressurized water can do and use common sense to avoid damaging your house.
• Change tips safely - When installing or changing pressure washing nozzle tips, always point the water jet in a safe direction, such as at the ground, before pulling the trigger the first time. If the tip is not seated or locked securely, it can turn into a projectile capable of breaking windows or causing bodily injury.
• Know where the water is going - Again, always pay close attention to where you are spraying and where over spray is going. High pressure can force water under or around doors and windows, and into wall, soffit and attic vents.
• One section at a time - Thoroughly soak one area or wall at a time with the cleaning solution and allow it soak for 3 to 5 minutes. You can soak the next area down while you’re waiting for the first area to soak. Once the cleaning solution has had time to work on an area for a few minutes, rinse it down completely with clear water until all signs of soapy residue are gone. Never let the cleaning solution dry on the wall, as it will redeposit the dirt that was loosened.
• Perform an inspection - Once you’ve completed your pressure washing, inspect the entire house, especially around trim areas, doors and windows to determine if any caulk seal or paint was damaged. Allow the house to dry thoroughly before applying any new caulk or paint.
Pressure washing can be a challenge for some, so consider hiring a professional pressure washing company to complete the task for you. The benefits of a clean, attractive and well maintained home exterior can easily justify the time or investment.
About this Angie's List Expert: Tony Wood is a lifetime resident of North Carolina with more than 30 years of experience in multiple facets of the industrial, commercial and residential construction industry. For the past 23 years he has owned and operated Wood's Home Maintenance Service, providing services primarily in Johnston, Wake and Sampson counties of North Carolina.
As of January 31, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.