Different Ways To Use Your Pressure Washer
Take a good, hard look around the outside of your house. Now, be honest…how grimy and dull does everything look? Chances are good that if you haven’t really been all that disciplined with regular upkeep, your siding or brick is starting to look moldy and gross, bits of your driveway or patio look like they might be growing a skin, and that wood deck you installed a couple years back is starting to look like a monument to homeowner neglect. It’s likely that you didn’t even notice any of this happening. These things have a way of creeping up on you, and before you know it, you live in the weird house at the end of the block that all the neighborhood kids have developed a compelling and rich urban legend about.
The good news here is that with one tool, a hose, and a free afternoon, you have the opportunity to reverse years of inattention. That tool, ladies and gentlemen, is the noble pressure washer. Revered for its ability to take a regular garden hose and turn it into a high-pressured geyser of grime-fighting destruction, the pressure washer is your one-way ticket to homeowner bliss. With so many different ways to use your pressure washer, you can easily turn your home from looking like the set of every Scooby-Doo mystery that has ever been aired into something your HOA can finally get off your back about.
Different Ways To Use Your Pressure Washer
Clean Your Concrete
One of the best, most common ways to use your pressure washer revolves around your concrete hardscapes. These hard, porous slabs look great when they get taken care of. But shady, wet areas can quickly turn moldy and unsightly pretty quickly. Thankfully, ground-in dirt, algae, and other various forms of crud aren’t too terribly difficult to power-blast from the surface of your driveways and walkways with your pressure washer.
The problem is – and this seems a little counter-intuitive – because of the porous nature of concrete, hitting the surface with an overzealous amount of pressure can actually damage your concrete and decrease its lifespan. So, you’re going to want to grab a tip with the widest spray available. You’ll also want to set the pressure to about 3000 psi. You’ll be firing off water at a fair amount of pressure, but the stream won’t be so concentrated that you start breaking apart the surface of your concrete.
Starting at one end of your slab, you’ll want to keep the tip about a foot away from the surface, and using an even, consistent, sweeping motion, work your way across the concrete. If you’re trying to blast away oil stains, you might consider using a soap attachment and some detergent. A lower pressure setting wiil benefit you in this situation.
Clean Your Brick
Like concrete, brick and mortar can get to be pretty porous, especially as it ages. It can look really great, but as it gets older, its porous surface can degrade, inviting mold and algae to build up more quickly. Plus, the mortar joints in between the bricks can have the tendency to crack and crumble away, making washing at high pressures ill-advised.
So, about a week before you plan to go to town on the side of your house with your pressure washer, you’re going to want to patch that mortar. Patching the mortar (and giving the joints time to dry) will keep water from seeping behind the brick.
After that, you’ll want to soak the wall. Moving upward, from bottom to top, spray the wall with a layer of detergent-less water. This preps the brick for cleaning.
Then, with low pressure and another round of the ol’ bottom to top motion, you’ll apply a detergent to your brick. Make sure to use actual, specially-designed, brick detergent, as any other kind of soap will likely work against you and cause dirt to stick to your mortar. Let the detergent soak in for 10 or 15 minutes. For tough stains, use a rotary scrub brush attachment (believe it or not, this technique is easier on the brick and mortar than high-pressured water).
After that, you’ll want to use a relatively low-pressure water to rinse the detergent away. This time around, you’ll spray slowly from top to bottom. On tougher stains, move your spray in a circular motion, and definitely, keep it moving. The last thing you really want to do is to stay stationary, as that will damage the brick. Once everything is clean and dry, you should consider applying a sealant to keep acids and oils and dirt from collecting on your clean brick.
Cleaning Your Wood Fences And Decks
Another one of the ways to use your pressure washer will revolve around wood. Fences, decks, benches, and a host of other wood structures could all use a good cleaning once in a while. The thing is, wood is pretty soft in the grand scheme of things, and too much pressure will turn your flat boards into routed-out, lumpy messes.
Just like with brick, you’re going to want to use less pressure, letting the cleaner do the work. Use an actual wood detergent that’s free from bleaches. Get a hold of a brush with synthetic bristles for those stubborn spots. And, after the soap has done its job, you’ll want to be really conscientious about washing all the detergent away.
They key with wood is LOW pressure. You’ll want to set your pressure washer at or below 1500 psi. Also, you’ll want a tip with a 40° – 60° angle. Large sweeping motions, feathering techniques, and a watchful eye are all critical with pressure washing wood. You’ll generally want to work with the grain. Even despite all your diligence and care, you very well could wind up with raised fibers, gouges, and uneven spots. Of course, a quality, consistent pressure washing job is possible, but just be careful.
Of all the different ways to use your pressure washer, cleaning vinyl siding has to be pretty high up on the list for “most common uses.” The good news with vinyl siding is that you won’t have to be as careful as you will with wood. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you’ll want to dime out the pressure settings, but you’ll run less risk of permanently damaging vinyl siding.
“Less is more” still applies with vinyl, and before you start, you’ll want to inspect the siding for any damage. The main thing you’ll want to remember with vinyl siding is to keep the wand angled downward. You really don’t want to spray upward, as water can get in between where the siding overlaps, causing water damage to your walls. You can also choose to use detergent, however, you’ll want to make sure to rinse that off before it dries.
With a water spigot, hose, and some time to kill, you’ll find plenty of different ways to use your pressure washer. We looked at brick, concrete, and vinyl, but there are plenty of things you could subject to the pressure wash treatment. All-weather furniture, lawn decorations, cars and boats…the possibilities are endless. Just remember: it’s easier to use less pressure and take longer than it is to, say, add paint back after you’ve accidentally blasted it off the side of your car with too high of a pressure setting.
If you’ve got any tips to add, or can think of different ways to use your pressure washer, feel free to add them to our comments section below!