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The Basics of Pressure Washing

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.

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Building a Pressure Washing Trailer

building a pressure washing trailerThe power washing trailer is a heavy duty piece of equipment that can be extremely useful for a landscaping crew or company, as well as a valuable piece of maintenance equipment for a wide array of other businesses or companies responsible for their own maintenance and upkeep.  While this tool is definitely more commercial minded and heavier duty than even the most Hank Hill type of handyman would need, it is one that finds plenty of popularity among the right crews.

Before you rush to buy or build your own power washing trailers, there’s a lot to consider.  This is a heavy duty piece of equipment, and you can imagine the price tag that comes along with words like “industrial” or “heavy duty.”  Many of these trailers will come with price tags in the many thousands of dollars, which also leads many people to start asking questions about how to build a power washing trailer themselves.  It is certainly possible, assuming you know enough about mechanics and engineering to get all the pieces functioning together the way they need to, but there’s no guarantee you could make one that would be as effective as companies that specialize in building pressure washing trailers.  In fact, the odds would definitely be stacked against you on that one.

That being said, if you need a customized power washer to get a special job done, the good news is that there are companies that actually specialize in customizing pressure washing trailers so you can basically fill out the specs and get the actual trailer you need without having to worry about pressurizing the water, welding, or doing the work yourself and wondering if it will work after that or not.

This is a viable option for many individuals who find themselves needing a pressure washing trailer for special jobs and don’t want some generic “one size fits all” type of set up that really doesn’t help them out.  These customization jobs often start with details like whether you want a single or double tandem axel trailer, and move to the size of the water tank, the type of pressure washer used, and going to all the extra details from hoses and everything else.  Many companies start with 100 gallon tanks and move up to 500.  Some go by exact amounts (100 gallons, 200 gallons, etc) while other companies choose to go with slightly staggered amounts like 230 gallons, 330 gallons, and so on.

While many people fall for the bigger is better line of thinking, make sure you actually need a top of the line fully powerful and large tank power washer.  It may be tempting to go for 500 gallons and the strongest spray you can get, but don’t forget many power sprayers can crack or damage pavement or a tarmac when shot directly at the area being cleaned.  Besides, it’s a waste of money for you to go all out on a full sized pressure washing trailer when something middle of the line is more than enough to handle your needs.

Finally, if you do decide you want to build your own pressure washing trailer, make sure you have mechanical engineering professionals or assistance from people who know how to put those machines together so they work properly – you don’t want to dump hundreds or even thousands of dollars into a guess.


Make Homemade Pressure Washer Detergent

homemade pressure washing detergentPressure washer solution is available from many of the major home repair or home maintenance based stores, but it can be extremely expensive.  While the idea of a pressure washer is appealing for a wide variety of reasons, the idea of paying an arm and a leg for those benefits is something that’s not going to click for a lot of consumers.  If you have some major allergy issues around your home with pollen, mold, and other things sticking around you understand how having that pressure washer can really help you clean up the area.  They do wonders on grimy bathrooms, as well.  However, if you want to save yourself money you might want to look at making your own homemade pressure washer solution as opposed to spending an arm and a leg for what the big box stores are likely to ask you for.

Homemade pressure washer detergent can be just as effective as the really expensive brand name versions you find on Amazon or other similar stores.  If you know how to make a good mixture, there’s no reason you can’t spend the money to do it yourself at home.  It won’t always be cheap, but many times it will be far less expensive than what the top of the line pressure washer solutions.

One popular and simple mixture is simple green (found here) and some laundry detergent or bleach for the outdoor spraying.  Other people swear by various combinations of laundry detergent with bleach as a general good all-purpose pressure washer solution.  Another popular recipe for homemade pressure washer detergent that comes up frequently for inside the house is mixing 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent with 2/3 cup of powdered all purpose cleaner, and then mixing that with a gallon of water and one quart of liquid bleach.  This combination can be very powerful for use with a pressure washer, but make sure to always mix in an open and well ventilated area in addition to using all safety gear like goggles, rubber gloves, and disposable face masks.  Safety should always come first.

When you’re making your own homemade detergent for a pressure washer, it’s important to find a mixture that doesn’t irritate your eyes or skin and is strong enough to get the job done without lingering in the air too long.  No one likes the smell of bleach six hours after cleaning time, and your experience over time will help you learn what mixtures work best and how much to apply.  One helpful tip: when you’re mixing your pressure washer solution at home make sure to pay attention to foam or bubbles at the top.  This can cause issues with spraying, so you need to make sure those die down in the mixture before you go to work.

There are many different recipes for a wide variety of homemade pressure washer detergents and it never hurts to ask around to see if any of your friends or acquaintances has a recipe they find most useful.  Forums are another great place to get advice on this topic or to get advice on the exact quantities to mix to get a stronger or weaker version depending on what your specific ventilation and cleaning needs require.