HomeownerHelpful Info: Cleaning Services

Pressure Washing

Pressure Washing Educational Content

Pressure washing (also called power washing) is a specialized home exterior cleaning service. It’s an efficient way to clean siding, decks, patios, and concrete. Mildew, algae, dirt, and air pollution can gradually dull siding and concrete. Stains and discoloration are difficult to remove by hand. A pressure washer can clean a larger area in a shorter period of time than a person can do with a scrub brush and a bucket of soapy water. A pressure washer can spray a jet of water exerting up to 3,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure. For most residential jobs, this level of power isn’t necessary. Low-pressure power washing (also referred to as soft washing) is enough for most residential needs. Pressure washing pros sometimes use chemicals or solvents to remove stains and clean surfaces.

Professional pressure washing companies have specialty tools and cleaning solutions at their disposal. They are all designed to clean a variety of surfaces. High-quality equipment is important, but a knowledgeable pressure washing technician is key to a job well done. Your technician should know how to pressure wash a variety of surfaces, including wood, masonry, vinyl, and composite. Most professional pressure washing companies use gasoline-powered pressure washers. Electric pressure washers are available, but gas-powered machines offer more power. That increased power translates to more efficient cleaning. For that reason, electric machines are not as popular with the pros.

Gasoline-powered pressure washers use a small engine to create power. This means that they need periodic maintenance and oil changes. Gas pressure washers are great for cleaning large properties because they don’t need an electrical outlet. Electric power washers need less maintenance than their gas-powered counterparts. Because they’re dependent on a nearby power outlet, however, they can be less convenient.

The power of a pressure washer is measured in a couple of ways. Pounds per square inch (psi) is a measure of how much pressure the machine’s compressor can create. Gallons per minute (gpm) is a measure of how much water can flow through the pressure washer. When they’re combined, these two measurements indicate the pressure washer’s power and efficiency. The psi and gpm ratings of a pressure washer are important, but so is the operator’s nozzle choice. Nozzle size directly impacts water pressure. It also affects how much cleaning solution the tech will need to use. The pressure washer nozzle determines the angle of the water sprayed by the machine’s wand. The narrower the angle, the harder the water hits.

Most pressure washer nozzles range in spray angles from zero degrees to 65 degrees. Zero-degree nozzles spray water with enough force to gouge surfaces and strip paint. They should only be used by professionals when necessary. Pressure washer nozzles that spray water in wider angles are easier and safer to use around the house. Adjustable nozzles and wands make cleaning tight or awkward spaces easier. Professional pressure washers know which nozzle to use to clean a surface without damaging it.

Professional pressure washers typically use a standard wand and nozzle combination. Depending on the surface they’re cleaning, however, they sometimes use specialized attachments. Surface cleaners, for example, are attachments that can clean large areas more efficiently than a wand.

Many pressure washing companies also offer home services like gutter and window cleaning. A clean exterior makes a huge difference in your home’s curb appeal. Be sure to ask your pressure washing contractor about these extra services.

Pressure washing companies typically use soft-washing techniques to clean windows, gutters, and siding. A high-pressure stream of water can easily shatter a window or cause aging brick or masonry to disintegrate. Soft washing, when it’s done by an experienced power washing technician, can clean a wide variety of surfaces without damage. If your home’s siding, exterior trim, deck, or other surface was painted before 1978 and is now peeling, it should not be pressure washed.

Lead paint was banned in 1978, but paint that was used before the ban could contain lead. Power washing, even at low pressure, can release paint chips and dust into the environment. If those paint chips contain lead, they are poisonous. They should not be breathed in or ingested by humans or animals. Peeling lead paint can be removed safely, but only if specific safety and disposal procedures are followed. If your pressure washing contractor is an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Firm, they are qualified to safely handle and remove lead paint.

Most pressure washing companies offer their services year-round, barring severe weather. If you live in an area with very cold, snowy winters, however, try to schedule pressure washing services for the late spring or early summer. Most trees and flowers will have budded out by that time. Your pressure washing contractor will remove stains from fallen leaves and flowers as well as any salt and dirt residue from the winter.

Mildew thrives on concrete and home exteriors in warm, damp weather. As a result, houses in humid areas will probably need pressure washing more frequently than those in dry climates. If you live in a coastal area, schedule an annual pressure washing service to remove salt deposits. These salt deposits can cause corrosion over time, so it’s important to prevent them from building up.
The average pressure washer sprays water with enough force to do serious damage in the wrong hands. Pressure washing takes skill, experience, and knowledge of techniques and chemicals. It is not a job to DIY. Because of the potential for damage and injury, be sure that the pressure washing company you choose has plenty of experience. Also check that the company has state-required general liability and worker’s compensation insurance policies.