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Power Washer Dos and Don’ts

man power washing deck  

A valuable homeowner investment, power washers make cleaning your home’s exterior areas easy by using pressurized water to get rid of dirt, dust, and grime in no time. While the tool is very helpful, it can do more harm than good if it isn’t used properly. Follow these power washer tips for beginners and make your home shine. 

DO: Read your manual. 

After buying the washer that’s right for you, read all the manuals and materials that come with it. Most manuals will include step-by-step instructions for any setup and usage, as well as warnings and precautions for potential dangers.  

DON’T: Use a power washer to clean everything.  

It may be tempting, but your power washer shouldn’t be your go-to device to clean every dirty surface or object. This is especially true for items that already have signs of cracking or paint chipping away.

Here’s our reference guide on what you can and can’t wash: 

OK to Wash 

  • Home exteriors. Power washers are highly effective on vinyl and brick surfaces, particularly on newer homes. Proceed with caution on older brick homes, as they’re more likely to get weathered down with pressure.  

  • Wood decks. Keep settings as low as possible to remove mildew and dirt without causing any structural damage.  

  • Fencing. Often quick to get dirty, vinyl and wood fencing can be revived with a power washer.  

  • Driveways and garage floors. A blast from a power washer can loosen stains and improve curb appeal fast. 

Not OK to Wash 

  • Electrical panels and meters. Water can lead to significant damage and costly repairs.  

  • A/C unit. Another potential electrical hazard, avoid your outdoor air conditioning unit when washing.  

  • Windows. While windows can be cleaned with a power washer with the correct technique, it’s best not to take the risk.  

  • Lead paint. Particles can be toxic when sent into the air.  

Don’t forget to clean out the gutters! Here are our top gutter maintenance tips to add to your to-do list.  

DO: Wear the right gear. 

Power washing can be messy and loud, so taking the right precautions with what you wear is key. Put on goggles or sunglasses, long pants, and closed-toed shoes to prevent injuries and stop water and debris from getting into places they shouldn’t.

Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can also be useful if your machine is noisy.  

man power washing concrete stairs

DON’T: Wash at the wrong angles. 

Power washing is all in the angles. Use a wide angle as you begin to wash, so less pressure is applied to surfaces. You should also avoid aiming at objects with an upward angle, as this can cause damage and chips.

If those angles aren’t possible, make sure you’re at least perpendicular to the surface you’re trying to clean and spraying from side to side.  

DO: Ease into each wash. 

Every item that you spray with a power washer will clean in a different way. Even for the most experienced users, it’s important to start each washing session about 10 feet away from the object.

As you get a feel for how much cleaning is actually happening, move in closer until you see a good amount of unwanted residue starting to fall off without signs of wear and tear. Finding that sweet spot is a process, but once you’re there, power washing is a breeze. 

DON’T: Use on a ladder or unstable surface. 

While it’s best to try and wash objects from an upward angle, don’t do so at the risk of your own safety. As the nomenclature suggests, power washers pack a punch, and using one on a ladder can pose serious dangers.

Instead, consider purchasing a heavy-duty or extra-heavy-duty power washer that can reach those high surfaces from ground level, especially if you live in a multi-level home.

DO: Be mindful of surface sensibility. 

Different surfaces around your home may respond differently to the force of a power washer. Before using it, understand the sensitivity of the material you are cleaning.

For instance, delicate wood siding or shingles may require a gentler wash, while robust concrete or brick surfaces can handle a more robust pressure.  

Adjust the settings on your power washer accordingly, ensuring that you tailor the force to match the resilience of the specific surface.

This not only enhances the effectiveness of your cleaning but also prevents unintended damage, allowing you to achieve optimal results without compromising the integrity of your home. 

DON’T: Overlook electrical safety. 

When using a power washer, prioritize electrical safety. Avoid using indoor extension cords outdoors and always connect your power washer to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet.  

Keep the power cord away from water to reduce the risk of electric shock. By following these precautions, you ensure a safe and incident-free power washing experience for both yourself and your home. 

Power Wash Tips for a Better Backyard  

The transformative potential of power washers extends far beyond the mere removal of dirt and grime. With the right application of power wash tips, these versatile tools can breathe new life into various areas of your home, from the gleaming exterior walls to the intricate details of backyard structures like fences and decks.

By mastering the dos and don'ts of power washing, you not only enhance the effectiveness of your cleaning efforts but also safeguard your home from potential damage.

Check out our article, “5 Ways to Spruce Up Your Backyard on a Budget,” for additional tips on making sure your outdoor space stays sparkling clean and stylish.