Before learning how to use a power washer, especially if you're thinking about starting a pressure washing business, it is important to understand how one works. Understanding how pressure washing works will help minimize unintended damage caused to the area you are trying to pressure wash.
There are four main elements to pressure washing (regardless of what type of machine or power/pressure washer you are using). The elements are pressure, heat, cleaning solutions (pressure washer soap), and water flow rate. Remove just one of these four elements and the characteristics of the washing elements have now changed. It is important to keep this in mind, especially when doing work on materials that may be affected differently by any of the four elements. Getting the right adjustments between these four elements is critical in getting the best possible results while using your pressure washer.
For example, if you are using a pressure washer that does not have heat, then you will need to compensate with different cleaning agents and water pressure to get the best results. Likewise, with pressure washers that do not allow for cleaning agents or have varying degrees of available pressure, you have to compensate in the other element areas such as heat.
While you learn how a power washing systems work, it is good to remember that certain detergents can emulsify the dirt better at different temperatures. This can be especially true when washing surfaces containing grease or oil from hard surfaces such as pressure washing concrete. Making hot water power washers perfect for tough jobs like these.
Most people generally get a pressure washing and start spraying. Not taking into account the different elements involved and proper usage of pressure washing equipment. Many times, and I have have learned from experience, this can permanently damage the very surface you are trying to clean. It really pays to know what you are doing and avoid mistakes.
Power or Pressure washing home siding
Cleaning is not the only thing you can use your power washer for, but it is a great habit to get into for any home improvement enthusiast. Another good application is for prep work. Pressure washers work great for peeling off chipped paint or preparing old wood to be re-painted.
Most siding materials such as vinyl, masonry, and metal can be safely washed using your washer yourself. Or if you prefer, using a pressure washing service. Whether or not you use a professional power wash service is up to you but can save you a lot of time and headache if you don't know what you're doing. If you do decide to power wash the siding yourself, remember it is not recommended to wash wood siding with a pressure washer, the high velocity can ruin softer wood services. Take my word for it, I've seen many soft wood services like decking get ruined by pressure washing to close and at too high of pressure. With that said, removing old paint with your washer is the firs step to getting a new paint job to stick well and last for years.
Also be careful if you suspect your home is covered with lead based paint (usually paint used prior to 1978). If you're not sure, contact your local EPA at 800-424-LEAD.
Always start with the nozzle farther away then you think is a good distance. It's easier to move closer if its not getting the job done then to ruin your siding. A good rule of thumb is 3 feet, then you can adjust until you get the right distance for the job. Always avoid spraying less than a foot (12 inches) away from any service. The high pressure can dig into the service and ruin most wood. Also, when spraying siding, always spray downward or with the siding to avoid water going up under the siding.
Here's a good video from Tim Carter at Ask The Builder on pressure washing your roof, most rules apply to siding as well:
If you're thinking about buying a washer, be sure to check out our tips on pressure washer reviews ; there's some good tips in there are getting the pressure or power washer that's right for your needs and being satisfied with your power washer purchase.