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Power Wash Cleaning Dos and Don'ts

A weekend devoted to power wash cleaning can be a quick, inexpensive way to freshen up your exterior surfaces.

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A power washer is a versatile machine that can help restore sparkle and shine to a variety of surfaces in your home. If you don't want to invest in your own power washer, they are readily available for rent at home supply and hardware stores. However, before you enthusiastically hook up the hose and dose every surface in a powerful spray, there are some precautions you should take. Here is a helpful guide to power wash cleaning dos and don'ts.

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How to Be Safe When Power Wash Cleaning

Before you begin any power wash job, it's important to protect yourself from the powerful blasts generated by the machine. That includes:

  • Wearing the proper protective gear for your face, eyes, and hands.
  • Staying clear of the nozzle and following all manufacturer's instructions.
  • Attaching any accessories before beginning your power wash cleaning.
  • Never leaving the machine unattended.
  • Never pointing the power wash nozzle at people, animals, or any surface that's unable to withstand the force of the blast.

Helpful Hints When Power Wash Cleaning

A power wash clean is intended for outside surfaces only. There are some general tips and tricks that can help you use it more efficiently. In general:

  • Work from the top to the bottom of a surface so that grime doesn't stain a clean section.
  • Direct water downward, versus straight on or upward, on surfaces. This includes siding, brick, or masonry; doing otherwise might force water into cracks or seams.
  • Continue with the power wash clean until the surfaces are free of dirt.
  • Use power wash-appropriate detergent or cleanser on applicable surfaces first, then rinse with a second round of water only from the power washer.

Surfaces That are OK to Power Wash Clean

In general, surfaces that are not inherently fragile or that have not been treated after manufacturing might be safe for a power wash clean. Those include:

  • Brick: A power wash clean is good for removing accumulated dirt or stains on walkways and edging; be careful of any loose or chipped spots. For a brick home, repair any cracks in mortar and allow to dry thoroughly before power washing.
  • Concrete: Sidewalks, driveways, and other concrete surfaces are perfect for a power wash clean.
  • Stamped concrete: Consider an application of a concrete sealer to any surfaces that might be subject to moisture damage.
  • Concrete pavers: A power wash clean is great to remove moss or get rid of dirt between joints.
  • Cut stone (mortared or not)
  • Exterior aluminum, wood, and vinyl siding on a home: For painted surfaces, you might want to use a nozzle with less pressure for a power wash clean.
  • Stucco: Before you power wash clean a stucco surface, make sure you have repaired any cracks or chips first.
  • Wood decks or patios: If you are going to reseal or restain your deck, a power wash clean is a good way to remove dirt and grime and prepare the surface. However, test an area with a lower pressure nozzle to make sure you will not generate splinters or cracks. 
  • Gutters and soffits
  • Wicker and metal outdoor furniture: Use a low-pressure setting to power wash clean.

Surfaces That Should Not be Power Wash Cleaned

While a power wash clean is useful for many outdoor surfaces, the pressure from the nozzle might damage other items. In general, do not power wash clean:

  • Wood outdoor furniture: Some surfaces might be protected enough to endure a gentle power wash cleaning, but if you are in doubt about whether a power wash clean might damage the surface, use a bucket of soapy warm water and soft rags instead. 
  • Any outdoor fabric or cushions: Follow manufacturer's directions for proper cleaning.
  • Outdoor umbrellas
  • Resin or plastic furniture: The construction of these pieces also determines whether a power wash clean is appropriate. For some, the pressure from a power wash clean might crack pieces that are less sturdy.
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