Great homeowners routinely wash their homes to maintain and protect their property value.
Pressure washing is a tried-and-true method of removing unwanted dirt, grime, and stains from various surfaces. It is particularly effective for areas that are hard to reach, too large, or inconvenient to clean by hand.
Step-by-step, we’ll walk you through the process of using a pressure washer, the best practices to do it safely and effectively, and avoiding common mishaps.
At JCS Refresh, we will assist you with everything from the right tools to prepare, what you should wear, and answers to common questions homeowners ask.
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How to use a pressure washer
Gas pressure washers are the most potent models, with PSI ratings ranging from 2,500 to 4,000 and flow rates ranging from 2.5 to 4.0 GPM (gallons per minute).
To start a gas-powered pressure washer, first you need to know how to hook up the pressure washer.
You’ll see two connections in your unit: the first one connects the pressure washer to your water supply, and the second connection goes to the spray gun.
1. Hook up your pressure washer
Check that your pressure washer is on a flat surface and that the water filter is clear of debris.
Then, connect the garden hose to the machine and the other end to your water supply.
2. Hook the other connection to your spray gun
Slide the plug on the bottom of the gun onto the opposite end of the hose and ensure the collar snaps into position.
3. Select the correct nozzle
Select the nozzle best suited to your project. Typically, there are four types of nozzles to choose from.
The 40° and 25° nozzle tips have the lightest pressures and are commonly used for gentle and delicate cleaning.
The 15° adds more pressure for heavy stripping, and the 0° has the highest pressure and is used for the toughest stains.
The chemical (or soap) tip, which is typically the black nozzle, is used for soaps and chemicals.
4. Attach the correct nozzle tip
Pull the collar on the end of the gun and the wand assembly to install.
Next, attach the nozzle and release the collar, making sure it snaps into place and secures the nozzle.
5. Turn on the water
The pressure washer and hose will fill with water, so it’s important to purge the system of excess air before starting the unit.
6. Unlock the trigger
Squeeze the trigger gun to let the air out. Check the oil and fuel levels before starting your washer.
7. Start the pressure washer
To begin, make sure the fuel valve is in the open position.
Next, move the throttle to the left or full throttle. Then, switch the engine to the ON position.
Finally, squeeze the trigger to release pressure while holding the gun firmly in your hand and pointing it in a safe direction.
If it’s the first time starting your pressure washer for the day, engage the choke, then pull on the starter cord. On the other hand, if it’s already been used and the engine is warmed up, you shouldn’t need to engage the choke.
Note: Remember that gas pressure washers vary in make and model depending on the brand, so it’s best to read the instructions manual that came with your unit.
After cleaning, here’s how to turn off your pressure washer.
8. Turn off the unit
After cleaning, turn the switch on your motor to the off position.
9. Squeeze the trigger gun
Squeezing the gun’s trigger will release any built-up pressure in the system.
10. Turn off your water supply
Disconnect the high-pressure hose from the washer and gun.
Next, disconnect the gun and remove as much water as possible from the hoses, remove the nozzle from the wand, and return it to the unit holder.
Depending on the material and condition, cleaning each surface will take the most time. You can wash by yourself if you only have a few areas to clean, but larger projects may require the assistance of another person.
How to use an electric pressure washer
Despite being less powerful than gas models, electric pressure washers are safer and still effective at cleaning most surfaces. Moreover, they are cost-effective, require less maintenance, can be used indoors (at your own risk), and are quieter than gas models.
However, before buying, remember that electric models aren’t as portable and can only be used near a power source.
The steps for using a gas-powered or electric pressure washer are similar to the ones above, with a few more steps added because the unit will need to be plugged in.
Here’s what to do after turning on the water:
1. Plug the unit into an electrical outlet
Some newer models will have the GFCI–or ground fault circuit interrupter.
This helpful feature senses electric shock and cuts off the power before a person is injured. Make sure this is turned on.
2. Turn the switch on the motor to ON
You are now ready to use your pressure washer.
3. Turn off the unit and squeeze the trigger
After cleaning, turn off the motor and unplug the unit from the outlet.
4. Squeeze the gun’s trigger
Squeezing the gun’s trigger will release any built-up pressure in the system.
5. Turn off your water supply
Disconnect the high-pressure hose from the washer and gun.
Next, disconnect the gun and remove as much water as possible from the hoses, remove the gun’s nozzle, and return it to the unit holder.
As with anything, always ensure you have the right tools.
Depending on your project, the equipment you may need includes:
Water supply and water inlets
Water inlets are hoses that connect your pressure washer to your water supply.
Invest in good-quality inlets equipped with filters to prevent dirt and debris from reaching the cleaning area. The price of these ranges between $15 and $35, depending on the brand.
High and low-pressure washer hoses
Pick the ones that work best with the type of surface you’re cleaning and are at least 50 feet long.
Ideally, they should be able to handle chemicals and come with portable carrying cases (not a must, but extremely handy).
You might need to purchase a separate hose for hot water if you have a power washer.
Depending on the length and quality, an excellent-quality hose could cost anywhere from $40 to $75.
You’ll want to have a 0°, 15°, 25°, 40°, and a chemical tip. These are color-coded: red, yellow, green, white, and black. Nozzles are purchased in sets, costing approximately $10.
Chemicals and soaps
Prices can vary depending on the brand and the cleaning agent type.
Five gallons of sodium hypochlorite (sh), for instance, may cost $190, ten pounds of citric acid may cost $40, and two pounds of oxalic acid may cost $15.
To learn more about using soap correctly, check out these guides:
Surface cleaners are excellent for cleaning your concrete driveways, patios, decks, sidewalks, and vertical surfaces such as garage doors, brick, and sidings.
Prices range between $60 to $100, depending on the brand.
This tool allows you to switch between two nozzles. A 40-inch dual lance can range from $80 to $130.
They are used for flushing sewers and effectively remove corrosion and mineral buildup. The price of a sewer jetter kit of 100 feet in length ranges between $50 and $65.
Even without a hose or lance, you can use this to wash your home or any other larger area. Additionally, it can sterilize chemicals which helps clean barns. The average price for this is about $190.
Telescoping extension wands
Great for cleaning second-story walls and gutters without a ladder, telescoping wands extend up to 24 feet and range from $140 to $180.
Suppose you’re using an electric pressure washer and there are no nearby outlets. In that case, you may want to consider purchasing a generator. A small conventional generator may cost $200, but large professional generators can go as much as $4,000.
Pressure washing safety
Below are some safety pointers we want you to remember.
1. Never aim the gun where you don’t intend to clean
It’s essential always to be mindful of your surroundings.
Keep your wand downward until the pressure feels comfortable, and never point it to an uncovered outlet. External damage may not be immediately apparent, but the power from a pressure washer can cause internal tissue damage.
2. Wear proper gear
Most injuries caused by pressure washers can be avoided by wearing safety gear.
3. Never use a gas-powered pressure washer indoors
We recommend using an electric pressure washer in an enclosed space.
Gas-powered pressure washers produce carbon monoxide, which is toxic to people and animals. They are suitable for outdoor use, including garages (with an open door), barns, and other structures.
4. Avoid using ladders while cleaning
Use extension wands, lances, and attachments to clean higher surfaces. Using a pressure washer from an elevated position can cause you to lose your balance and fall.
5. Use the right nozzle for the task at hand
If not used correctly, spray tip nozzles can be extremely dangerous to your property. Always use your largest spray tip first, and work your way down.
1. Driveway cleaning
Due to daily use, oil, mud, and dirt will inevitably build up in your driveway.
As the weather changes, its susceptibility to mildew and mold increases. Manual scrubbing is physically taxing and time-consuming.
Cleaning your driveway with a pressure washer is the quickest and most effective way to eliminate unsightly stains and harmful growth. In addition, it enhances your home’s curb appeal and leaves your driveway accident-free.
2. Fence cleaning
Wood and vinyl fences are naturally durable. While this is true, your fences are exterior protective barriers and are vulnerable to weather and temperature changes.
Additionally, dirt, algae, mildew, and mold can quickly colonize your fences if they aren’t regularly maintained.
With the right setting, pressure washing also tackles other types of fences, such as steel and aluminum fences. Beforehand, we recommend consulting an expert to evaluate the material of your fence.
If you plan to repaint your fence, pressure washing is the best way to prep because you don’t want dirt on it before applying a fresh coat of paint.
3. Exterior house cleaning
Cleaning outdoor spaces and exposed items in your home can be challenging.
Compared to manual cleaning, pressure washing can make surfaces up to one hundred times cleaner in a fraction of the time.
Items and areas that can typically be cleaned with a pressure washer include:
- Garage floors
- Entrance stairs and walkways
- Concrete floors
- Other outdoor areas
4. Brick cleaning
We all love good brickwork, but not when it accumulates dirt, dust, and stains.
Pressure washing brick – the right way – produces a beautiful and clean facade, is less work, and does not expose you to falling debris. However, brick cleaning requires extra skill and caution.
The PSI setting is not the only thing to be mindful of when cleaning. The correct distance, pattern, and cleaning agent must be applied to ensure you aren’t causing permanent surface damage.
If you’re unsure how to do this, we recommend hiring a professional to clean for you.
5. Deck & patio cleaning
Wood decks and patios are ideal for summertime barbecues and family gatherings.
However, mold and mildew can multiply when exposed to the elements. Not to mention that constant foot traffic brings in unwanted dirt, dust, and debris from the outdoors.
Pressure washing your deck and patio keeps them looking brand new again. With this, it prolongs your wood’s life and increases your home’s value. You can also pressure wash concrete floors and tile patios near your pool.
However, keep in mind your PSI setting – too high of PSI can harm your deck.
6. BBQ, grills, and other things
A pressure washer is a quick and efficient alternative to washing large items by hand.
Other things that can be pressure washed include:
- BBQ Grills
- Garbage Cans
- Lawn Mowers
- Dog Houses
- Other power equipment
What do you wear while using a pressure washer?
Wearing protective gear while pressure washing is necessary for three reasons: preventing injuries, keeping water from entering the body, and protecting you from substance exposure.
Heavy-duty rain jacket
Look for a jacket that’s lightweight, made of PVC, waterproof, and has no zippers. We recommend wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants inside for added protection in case the pressure washer accidentally hits you.
Commercial rain pants
As with the rain jacket, you want something made of PVC that can protect your legs and keep water out.
Waterproof safety gloves
Choose rubber or latex gloves that allow your fingers to move freely without interfering with your grip. Gloves will also keep your hands dry and chemical-free.
While working, the pressure washer may hit your feet. Therefore, closed-toe shoes, preferably rubber boots, are recommended to protect your feet from accidents and to keep water and chemicals out of your feet.
You don’t want to inhale dust, mold spores, or cleaning chemicals. This can harm your respiratory system and cause allergies, so we recommend always wearing a mask.
Our eyes are sensitive. Wear protective goggles to keep chemical sprays, flying debris, and mold from getting into your eyes. For more great info, check out our tips and tricks article!
Frequently asked questions
We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions. If you have any questions, please contact us, and we will respond as soon as possible.
Can you pressure wash with a garden hose?
Yes, you can try. You can connect hose attachments to your garden hose, but we don’t recommend them because the power they provide doesn’t compare to a gas or electric pressure washer and won’t work on most surfaces.
What do the colors on pressure washer tips mean?
The color of nozzle or pressure washer tips indicates the spray angle in degrees.
Red is 0 for the toughest stains, Yellow is 15 for heavy cleaning, Green is 25 for light stripping, and White is 40 for gentle cleaning. The black nozzle delivers soap at low pressure.
Do you turn the water on before starting the pressure washer?
Yes. Before using the pressure washer, fill the hose with water to rid the system of excess air.
Is it OK to run a pressure washer without water?
No, a pressure washer requires water to cool and lubricate the pump. Without water, this can cause damage to your machine.
What should you not do when pressure washing?
There’s a lot! Do not point the nozzle at people or animals, do not pressure wash without protective gear, and do not use gas pressure washers in an enclosed space.
Do you pressure wash with hot or cold water?
Pressure washers use cold water, whereas power washers use hot water. To learn more about the similarities and differences, read our guide, power washing vs pressure washing.
What is the most common problem with pressure washers?
The most common issues with units are a lack of pressure due to a lack of water, nozzle issues, or air trapped inside the pump.
Why does my gas pressure washer keep shutting off?
If your pressure washer suddenly stops working, check the carburetor, fuel cap vent, air intake, and spark arrestor for blockages.
How long can you leave a pressure washer running without pulling the trigger?
You can leave a pressure washer running for two minutes without pulling the trigger. However, this could damage your pump if you wait any longer.
Homeowners who pressure wash their homes regularly keep their properties in pristine condition, increasing their resale value.
Attempting it on your own without proper knowledge and skill, on the other hand, increases the risk of harm to yourself, others, and your property.
Suppose you don’t have the time or resources to do it yourself and want it done by experts.
Contact us today via phone, email, or the form on the website. We’ll be happy to discuss how we can keep your property in the best shape.