10 Pressure Washing Tips and Tricks for Easy Cleaning

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated November 23, 2021
grey house exterior with lawn
Iriana Shiyan – stock.adobe.com

Put the pressure on—and get the grime off

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

If you’re looking for an easy way to quickly blast away all the mud and stains from your driveway, siding, and truck tires with one device, look no further than a pressure washer. Thanks to its ability to spray highly pressurized water (usually mixed with a cleaning solution) at the offending dirt or stain, a pressure washer can make your home’s exterior look brand new.

But before you start showering everything in sight, make sure you’re operating the pressure washer safely and knock out all those outside cleaning chores before lunchtime.

1. Choose the Right Tool

Pressure washers come in gas or electric models. Gas-powered washers deliver 2,000 to 2,800 PSI (pounds per square inch), compared with electric models, which put out 1,300 to 1,700 on average. Because of this, gas washers are generally considered more powerful and can clean 10 times faster than electric models. That said, gas-powered washers are noisier and require more caution and care to not damage wood or other surfaces.

While you should pay attention to PSI when choosing a pressure washer, you should also check the washer’s water flow in gallons per minute. For instance, a machine with 5 GPM and 1,700 PSI will clean better than a machine with 4 GPM and 2,000 PSI. In addition, select a washer that will dispense cleaning solutions in addition to water. A little bit of chlorine can go a long way to clean concrete and prevent mold and mildew buildup.

2. Be Safe

Pressure washers are extremely powerful machines and can be dangerous if handled incorrectly. When operating one, always wear goggles, ear protection, boots, long sleeves, and gloves. 

Before you turn the machine on, make sure no one is around and potentially in the spray’s way. Additionally, grip the machine with two hands and be careful before you make any sudden movements; a pressure washer can damage windows, doors, overhangs, and screens. If it’s a windy day, consider waiting for calmer weather; wind can direct the spray right back towards you.

3. Prep Properly

Make sure you have an adequate water supply, otherwise your pressure washer won’t be living up to its potential. To check your home’s water supply, time how long it takes to fill a 5-gallon bucket up with water—if it takes over two minutes, and you might not have a strong enough water supply for the washer. 

You should also clean your washer’s inlet filter and check that any hoses or accessories are securely connected. Clear any items and debris that might get in the way of your cleaning spree—things like toys can easily get damaged if accidentally hit.

4. Protect Your Plants

Your rose garden might not look so rosy after it’s been hit with pressurized chlorine, so watch where you spray. Additionally, consider watering your plants before, during, and after you pressure wash, so any cleaning solution that hits them is diluted (dry leaves absorb cleaning solutions much easier than wet ones).

cleaning terrace with pressure water
bubutu – stock.adobe.com

5. Patch Any Broken Bricks

If you’re planning to wash bricks, do a survey of the area and note any cracks or holes in the mortar. Repair these spots before you begin the washing process; you’ll want to let them cure for at least a week.

6. Start From a Distance

Hitting any surface with a high-pressure shock of water can be intense, so ease your way into the washing. Start by washing from 10 feet away, and move in a little closer to the surface until the pressure is just enough to loosen and remove any grime. 

7. Know Your Nozzles

There’s a reason your pressure washer comes with various nozzle tips—they handle different jobs. A wide nozzle—around 40-degrees—is excellent for general washing, and can be used on wood decks or your home’s siding. A more narrow, 25-degree nozzle, can tackle the grime on brick and concrete, while the nozzle with a 15-degree nozzle or less will dispense extremely high pressure, and should only be used to get rid of stains on metal. Nozzle tips are universally color-coded to help you select the right one.

  • Red: Zero degrees; never use this nozzle close up on any surface

  • Yellow: 15-degree angle; used to prepare surfaces for painting, staining, or resealing, or to remove mud from tires

  • Green: 25-degrees; good for masonry

  • White: 40-degrees; good for a general wash for your home’s exterior

  • Black: 65-degrees; gentle and typically only used to wet a surface, not clean it

You should always use the lowest degree you can get away with for the material and stain you’re cleaning. Apply cleaning solution from the ground up, and then rinse from the top down without letting the cleaning solution dry.

8. Adjust the Spray Angle

woman pressure washing tires
hedgehog94 – stock.adobe.c om

To get the most power out of your washer, keep the nozzle perpendicular to the surface you’re cleaning. If you need to clean a difficult-to-access spot, like high-up siding, consider investing in a nozzle wand that pivots.

9. Know Your Limits

Some stains—like those from acorns, fertilizer, oil, and rust—are forever, and there’s not a lot you can do about it with DIY pressure washing. In addition, some big or high-up jobs require more tools than you might have on hand. Rather than overdoing it and risking damage to your home (or yourself!), consider calling in a local power washer to assess the situation; the cost to pressure wash a home ranges from $100 to $650.

10. Maintain Your Machine

Store your washer indoors during the off-season to prevent any weather-related damage. You can also winterize the machine by filling the pump with undiluted RV-grade antifreeze. 

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.