Power washing is too much pressure!

April 30, 2008 at 1:09 pm 27 comments

By our favorite South Austin contributor–Patti P.

I have a really hard time aiming a leaf blower in the right direction.  My last attempt sent leaves blowing backwards up against our window screens.  And, yep, the windows were wide open.  While the dogs on the inside got a kick out of snuffing up & identifying all the lovely leaf particles plastered on the screens (“Yo, Dusty, Rikki the spaniel left her calling card on our lawn-woo hoo!” ) I aimed the blower toward the sky and yelped for help. 

So when I recently entertained the idea of renting a power washer to scrub the exterior of our home, my husband replied (and with kindness), “are you nuts?”  Hmmm, no, not nuts but we both know I am dyslexic (right is left, back is forward, off is on and up is down…) so being armed with a power washer kicking out water at 2500 PSI (pounds per square inch) would definitely be a little too much pressure for my cross-wired noggin. 

But since I’ve already researched quite a bit about power washing, I shall pass some good tidbits on to you–the DIY’er who is without directional challenges and a possesses a phlethora of common sense.

Why power wash your home? Well, why exfoliate your face?  According to power washing experts, grit on the exterior of your home can “grind away like sandpaper in the wind & rain”.  Ouch.   So whether your goal is to rid your house of cobwebs, bird doo, mold & mildew to give it a face lift and make sparkling ready for sale or just performing regular maintenance, power washing sounds like a must-do.

Planning on doing it yourself? Some important tips:

1.You can use a power washer on houses made of stone, granite, bricks, steel, aluminum and vinyl…but be especially careful if using on wood-sided homes.  Be sure your wood is wood and a hard wood at that.  Cedar can be too soft, and fiber board would surely look like swiss cheese after a few well aimed water shots.  If your house is sided with horizontal slats, don’t spray the water under the slats–you’ll end up lifting them right up (and maybe off!). If your house is hard wood and painted, be very very careful to move the hose along the house; don’t hold the spray gun at one point for extended periods–this is how contractors REMOVE paint from homes for repainting!  Have lead paint?  Call in a professional for safe removal.

2. Use a power washer that sprays between 1800-2500 PSI (again, pounds per square inch).  You can go a little lower than 1800, but lower than 1200 won’t do the trick and higher than 2500 has potential to blast holes in your house.  To give you an idea of the pressure behind these pounds, your average garden hose flows at 60 PSI.

3. You’ll experience some recoil from the water pressure so you’ll need your feet planted firmly on the terra. Don’t ever stand on a ladder using the power washer.  I’m serious.

4. Power washers filled with clear water (and not mixed with chemical cleaners) will still do a good job of cleaning your house.  You certainly would not want to drench your lawn & shrubs around the house with any chemical cleaner coming out of the power washer.  Even using just clear water, you may want to put some plastic cloths over any tender plants near your foundation…(but you know here in Texas not to be planting right up to your foundation, don’t you?).  Another “Don’t”: never put bleach in the power washer–it can damage parts of the washer.

5. In Austin, you have to use a cold water power washer.  Because we live on Aquifer recharge zones (natural underground water resources: see Edwardsaquifer.org)  hot water power washers are reportedly illegal–the hot water releases too much dirt into the sewer systems.  Using a hot water power washer in Austin is reportedly a fineable offense at the tune of $10,000 fine to the contractor (if you hired someone to do it) and another $10,000 fine to you–the hiree or homeowner.   Hint: if you are dead set on using hot water in your power washer in Austin, you can ONLY use hot water with a filtration system (that removes the dirt before the drainage heads for the sewers).  You’d have to be really compulsive though as filtratrion systems cost about $4,000.  And you’d have to be really hard hearted to let hot water pour down on your plants & shrubs.  So hot water in Austin is only for the compulsive and cold hearted and deep pocketed.

6. Never point the power washing wand (it’s not Darth Vader time) at a person or animal.  Again, I’m deadly serious.  (Notice how I switch from puns to severity?  It’s not intended to make your head spin, and I sincerely hope you can keep up…)

7. DO NOT operate the power washer close to overhead power lines–stay at least 10 feet away, and have a buddy with you to ensure you are clear of power lines at all times.  I lost a high school buddy who tried working alone after school–he died instantly when his machinery touched a low power line.

8. Prepare first:

  • Cover all electrical outlets & avoid outdoor lighting fixtures–water in the fixtures could cause a short circuit and you could blast holes in glass fixtures.  Use plastic bags over your light fixtures and seal good with duct tape.
  • Take off all shutters (and watch out for spiders and wasps when removing).
  • Seal any tiny holes in the exterior of your home.
  • Notice any black spots on your exterior?  Test it first with some bleach.  If the black spot fades, then you have mold(a blasted fungus that I am becoming all too familiar with–in my nose, not my house).  In the case of correctly identified mold, you’ll have to get out goggles, repirator mask, rubber gloves, bleach/water, wear funky clothes or put a plastic garbage bag over your clothing, and grab a scrub brush.  If your test reveals that the black spot does NOT fade, then you just have dirt which can be removed with the power washer.
  • Practice BEFORE you attempt to wash the house–use the driveway (without cars & kids) as a practice ground.  Start with lowest pressure until you get the handle…

9. Ready to wash? (I so admire you!).  Make sure you pick a good day (not a windy day). Back away 3-4 feet and use a downward spray (a 15-25 degree nozzle reportedly is best).  Start power washing from the bottom and work your way up.  And, no, this is not a misprint.  I admit my cross-wired brain had to question this method for a minute.  When you wash from bottom up you eliminate all the dirty streaks that would come streaming down your house siding.  When you’re ready to rinse, THEN you wash from the top down.  If you have used any detergent in your washer (make sure it’s biodegradable and kind to people, plants & pets) you need to rinse within 10 minutes.

10. Oh, and never spray at your windows or you’ll soon be like little house on the prairie (with quaint little calico fabric pieces waving in the breeze in place of your former glass windows).

Whew!  Think you can handle the pressure? 

Best of luck to you with your power washing project.  Please be safe and use your head.  If you rent the washer, make sure you get a complete demonstration before taking it home.  Me?  I’m destined to call in the professionals.  And if you have any hesitation at all–please consult a professional.  Thanks for reading.  Patti P. 

© Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Reatly, 2008-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Entry filed under: Fix It, Smart Sellers. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

What is Green? Mandatory Austin watering restrictions start May 1

27 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Todd  |  July 22, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Great post! Very entertaining too!

  • 2. Pressure Washing  |  September 7, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    You make some good points but one I disagree with is the use of chemical cleaners. A proper detergent will emulsify dirt, kill mold spores and allow one to drop the pressure by a substantial amount thereby limiting any potential damage. A professional company will be aware of soil pH and adhere to OSHA and EPA standards for drainage and washer operation. The key to using chemicals is to prewet everything and keep all landscaping and windows wet.

  • 3. Matt  |  January 13, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Interested read.

  • 4. PeJae  |  January 15, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Patti, Gurl you are too funny, ROFLMBO (rolling on the floor laughing my buns off)big time. I will use the advice, and take heed to all warnings before beginning.

    Thank You!

  • 5. Steven  |  February 28, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Nice post… often the outside of the home is neglected with regard to cleaning. If you had mold, mildew or dirt on the inside of your home – it is likely to be cleaned up pretty quick!!
    Pressure Washing and in particular low pressure washing of a home can really help with maintenance issues. For example, regular pressure washing of a home’s exterior can increase the life span of the exterior paint. Another example is roof cleaning… many homeowners don’t know that the black streaks on their tile or shingle roof is a kind of mold and can be treated effectively using safe, low pressure cleaning methods. This can prevent costly repairs and replacement of a roof.

    The key to residential pressure washing is safe practices to prevent damage to the surfaces being washed, surrounding area and the homeowners!!

  • 6. Patti P  |  March 2, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Thanks for nice comments Steven, PeJae, Matt and all–so glad this post is resonating with folks who want to maintain value of their home(s). And Steven, thanks for tip about black streaks on shingles–my neighbor has a new roof (I call it my Copenhagen view–just needs a stork), but I just noticed a few black streaks on the north side (of course, facing my side.) I’ll have to point it out to them (nicely slid into neighborly conversation…).

  • 7. pressure washing kirland  |  March 23, 2009 at 3:43 am

    leave your pressure to professionals!
    pressure washing is laborious and it eats up much of your time. it’d be better to do other things or spend time with your family than do it alone

  • 8. Dale  |  May 27, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Do not pressure wash your roof, even at low pressure. ! Instead of being annoyed by the black streaks….just try looking in a different direction.

    Homeowners will do more damage than good by power washing. You will end up with accelerated granule loss. Those granules are there for a reason, to protect the shingle from UV light. Less granules equals faster wear on the shingle.

  • 9. properties  |  July 30, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Nice write up
    and nice pic anyway 😀

  • 10. waronyou  |  December 13, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Pressure washing is one of the most affordable and simplest ways to increase your homes value and a good way to prevent cost, time, and trouble of future repairs. Having your house, driveway, deck and roof cleaned increases the value of your home and helps protect your largest investment.

  • 11. J & M Lawn Care, Dothan Lawn Care  |  January 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    We use low pressure techniques on our homes exterior and wooden surfaces to preserve there valuable investments.

    You can reach high surfaces using a x-jet or a ball valve

  • 12. Quickly Please Cleaning  |  January 27, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Quickly Please Cleaning Services are your outdoor high pressure steam cleaning specialists. We put the sparkle back into your property with our superior hard surface pressure cleaning procedures.

  • 13. Houston Pressure Washing  |  February 15, 2010 at 10:16 am

    High Class Services Uses a similar soft washing process. Some people don’t understand the concept because we still use our pressure washers. Thanks for the article.

  • 14. Europrocleaningservice  |  February 22, 2010 at 3:12 am

    Great post. Certainly love your tips. Thanks for sharing your ideas, this will surely help other people in attaining
    good cleaning procedures at home.

  • 15. nathan marler  |  March 2, 2010 at 4:33 am

    Increasing the value of your home can easily be done with a pressure washer. Especially If your home has gray, molded, and mildewed decks or fences. Pressure washing and staining them significantly increases the value and overall appearance of your home.

    Pressure washing

  • 16. Barry M  |  March 4, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Great advice on covering the electrical outlets. We have learned this the hard way a couple of times. High flow pressure washing units can really put out a lot of water that can get into places you wouldn’t think it could.

  • 17. Douglas W Simons  |  June 7, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I like it thanks for the info it is always a pleasure finding good Pressure washing content

    Pressure Washing Atlanta

  • 18. Isaac B  |  July 22, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    When you are ready to hire a professional power washer please consider not taking the lowest bid. There are many hacks in this industry. A good way to avoid hiring a hack is to ask if they do what is called “soft washing“. By using high-flow low pressure, and the correct detergents, any home can be safely & gently cleaned. Pressure washing is smart way to maintain the curb appeal and value of your home.

  • 19. Deck Restoration Guru  |  August 2, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    I agree with your entertaining posting. To many times have I arrived at a customers home only to find hundreds of cut marks in wood decks from homeowners gettting to close. I reccomend after you get the pressure washer started start cleaning concrete until you get your stroke down. (You are much less likely to damage concrete.) Then ask you moving your wand, do so, in a pendulum like motion. If you miss a spot then just go back and do the entire movement again. DO NOT rush. Enjoy

  • 20. Pressure Washing Maple Grove, MN  |  August 31, 2010 at 2:42 am

    I honestly admire the DIY’ers who tackle projects like power washing, only to realize that there is more to quality pressure washing then aiming, and pulling the trigger. I like the fact that they are the type to roll up their sleeves and “give it a go”. But I also enjoy it when they succumb to the reality, and call us up instead.

    Good read….
    Pressure Washing Maple Grove, MN

  • 21. Pressure Washer Parts  |  December 1, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Doing jobs like this yourself is a risk. Not only is having the knowhow and experience important but having the right pressure washing equipment is equally important.

  • 22. pressurewashingorlando  |  January 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Another tip for the DIY selfers . wear some kind of footwear. I see homeowners pressure washing all the time in bare feet or flip flops. Not a good idea. You can cause some severe damage to your feet with a pressure washer. http://www.washritecleaning.com

  • 23. Mark Gallison  |  January 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Great Blog. Its always great to see good advice available to the general public an proper use of a pressure washer.

  • 24. Gel Fuel  |  January 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    ‘”- I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives up to date information ,,’

  • 25. High Pressure Cleaning Sydney  |  March 18, 2011 at 2:57 am

    I would emphasise the “DO NOT operate the power washer close to overhead power lines”. This is more true now as many pressure cleaners utilise telescopic wands capable of exceeding high hard to reach areas! The longer the extension, the harder they are to control!
    High Pressure Cleaning

  • 26. yardguy  |  June 4, 2011 at 4:25 am

    What a great post. It’s so nice to hear a female perspective on pressure washing.

    One small addition, always be careful not to spray up up under siding. The pressure can lift the siding up and away from the house, sometimes tearing it off entirely. Same rule applies to room shingles. Always try to be spraying down or 90 degrees to siding. A good rule of thumb is to follow the direction of the rain. I know what you are thinking. How can I always be spraying down or at siding when I am always below it? The simple answer is the Telescoping Pressure Washer Wand.

    I slightly disagree with you regarding the pressure output. We rent a 4000 PSI Pressure Washer that has an adjustable output control so you can bring the output down to as low as 500 PSI. Having the extra power available is great once the operator has determined the correct and safe distance to maintain the nozzle from the target surface. I agree, keeping the output down is good for siding and older paint, but most people start eyeballing their sidewalks and driveways once done with exterior house washing. For these applications, the more power the better, especially if you want to get the job done in one day or weekend. Finally, the extra power is great to have at your disposal in case you want to use a Flat Surface Cleaner or Water Broom.

    Thanks again for your great article!

  • 27. Arnold Stoffer  |  November 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Safety First as always!!
    Chilliwack Pressure Washing


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© Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Reatly, 2016-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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