Avoid damage to siding and plants while getting your home’s exterior shining clean, with this guide to using pressure washers and hoses.
If you want to give your home more curb appeal, one great way to start is by giving the exterior a thorough cleaning. An exterior that sparkles in the sun can make a world of difference. But if you’re about to reach for a pressure washer, stop right there. Not all surfaces can handle the intense spray of a pressure washer; some, like brick, can be damaged by the wrong tools. Here you’ll find out which method is best for your home, along with more know-how you’ll need to get the job done right.
When to pressure wash. Vinyl or wood siding, or a hybrid material, is typically strong enough to withstand pressure washing. But before you head to the home improvement store, consider just how dirty your house is. It’s best to start with the lightest, gentlest cleaning method that is effective and work your way up from there.
Don’t reach for the pressure washer unless you have some serious grime to contend with — a light layer of dirt and road dust can be easily cleaned using a plain old garden hose. If your home has sturdy siding and needs more power than a garden hose can muster, a pressure washer can be heaven sent.
Get prepared to pressure wash. If you own your home and plan to use a pressure washer at least once each year, it could be worth it to buy your own. They are not cheap … but they are not cheap to rent, either. If you cannot reach the upper floors of your home on a ladder, consider hiring a pro to do the job. If you are doing it yourself, follow these steps:
Soap or no soap? Water alone is enough to get most exteriors clean. If you have mold or mildew, use a specialty house cleaner designed to kill mildew in the pressure washer’s detergent compartment.
Choose the right nozzle. Pressure washer nozzles are measured in degrees — those that shoot water in a very narrow area have the strongest spray (zero is the strongest) and should be used very cautiously. For most homes a nozzle with a 40-degree spray should suffice, so start there and work your way down to a 25-degree nozzle if necessary.
Secure windows, doors and pets. Make sure dogs (who could be curious about the spray) and children are inside, and close all the windows and doors before getting started. Also put on a pair of safety goggles to protect your eyes from dirt and debris.
Pressure washing safety. Treat your pressure washer with respect and common sense, the same as you would any other power tool — because it is potentially just as dangerous. The spray that comes out of the tip of the power washer is so concentrated, it can slice through skin, so keep children and pets away while you are working, and never direct the pressure washer at a person.
Alix Flamm is an interior designer working in the Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Tustin, of Orange County, California.