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How to Use a Pressure Washer

Over time, dirt and grime accumulates on the siding, walkways, and driveways around your home. Removing years of dirt is easy when you utilize the power of a pressure washer. This handy tool provides a strong, consistent stream of water that can remove tough stains, strip paint, and provide a deep clean.

Skill Level: Beginner
  1. Step 1 Prepare the Area You’re Washing

    A patio set is covered in a tarp so the pressure washer doesn’t harm it.

    Before you can start pressure washing a deck, driveway, walkway or home, you must first clear the area of all furniture and decor. Remove any potted plants, patio furniture, outdoor rugs, and accents. If you have nearby landscaping, cover it with a tarp to keep it protected from the spray. You should also lay a tarp over gravel and areas with small rocks so they don’t get picked up by the power of the sprayer and thrown into the side of the house.

  2. Step 2 Choose A Pressure Washer and Accessories

    A pressure washer unit is shown with a person using the hose in the background.

    A pressure washer is an investment. If you plan on using the tool often, you may want to purchase your own. If you are only making it an annual part of your spring cleaning, renting one from The Home Depot is a great option. No matter which one you choose, you will need both the pressure washer and the sprayer accessories designed for the job at hand. If you’re working on a two-story house, an extension wand may be in order.

    When you’re shopping for a pressure washer, you must choose between electric and gas-powered pressure washers. Gas-powered pressure washers don’t require being near an outlet but they do mean having gas on hand. Electric powered pressure washers simply plug into an extension cord and are ready to use for as long as you need them.

    A gas-powered pressure washer is more powerful than an electric pressure washer, so if you plan on using it to wash your car or other more delicate surfaces, you’ll want to reach for an electric pressure washer.

  3. Step 3 Select the Right Nozzle for the Job

    A red pressure washer nozzle is shown.

    There are multiple nozzles available for use with your pressure washer. These nozzles come colour coded according to how many degrees wide the spray is, making it easy to identify which one will work best for the object you’re cleaning

    • Red: 0-degree spray for hard-to-remove dirt and oil on durable surfaces
    • Yellow: 15-degree spray for stripping old paint off deck or siding
    • Green: 25-degree spray for cleaning driveways, walkways, and car exteriors
    • White: 40-degree spray for washing windows, window screens, and light fixtures
    • Black: 65-degree spray for cleaning cars, patio furniture, and small outdoor items that are a little more delicate

    Some pressure washers come with all five nozzles while others come with a single nozzle. Check out what your pressure washer comes with and if necessary, pick up additional nozzle sizes along with any other accessories you need.

  4. Step 4 Attach a Garden Hose

    A pressure washer unit is shown with a person using the hose in the background.

    The pressure washer needs a steady supply of water. Connect your standard garden hose to the pressure washer and your home’s water supply. Once you’ve checked that all connections are tight, turn on the water supply from the house.

  5. Step 5 Check the Pressure and Make Final Adjustments

    The dial on the pressure washer is shown close-up.

    With the water supply attached, turn the pressure washer on and check the pressure coming out of the sprayer. If there is too much or too little pressure, adjust the settings on the machine or trade out the pressure washer nozzles. It is possible that some air is trapped in the pressure washer from the set-up process. Run the sprayer for a minute before starting your pressure washing to remove any air pockets.

  6. Step 6 Start Pressure Washing

    A person uses a pressure washer outdoors to clean their driveway.

    If you have a gas pressure washer, make sure the unit has both oil and fuel. Once it does, open the valve to the “open” setting and turn on the switch. Pull the starter rope and move the choke to the “run” position.

    If you have an electric pressure washer, plug it into a power source and turn the pressure washer on.

    As you start to spray, start in the top left corner and start washing in a side-to-side motion, working your way down. This will prevent dirt from running down over a surface you’ve already cleaned. The wider the spray, the faster you’ll cover the surface but the weaker the stream will be. Start with your nozzle farther from the surface you’re cleaning and work your way closer if a deeper clean is needed. The pressure of the water will be greater closer to the nozzle.

  7. Step 7 Turn Off and Put Away Pressure Washer

    The power switch of the pressure washer is shown close-up.

    Once you’ve completing your pressure washing project, turn off the pressure washer and start cleaning up the machine. Start by releasing the trigger and engaging the safety lock. Next, turn off the water supply from the house. Once the water supply is turned off, wait a minute and then turn off the safety lock on the pressure washer. Pull the trigger to remove any water remaining in the hose and wand. With all pressure released, it is safe to detach the garden hose from the pressure washer.

  8. Step 8 Additional Tips and Tricks for Using Your Pressure Washer

    A person uses the pressure washer to spray soap on his car before washing.

    Now that you’ve gotten to know your pressure washer, brush up on a couple tips and tricks for using it to the best of its ability.

    • As you use your pressure washer, make sure to avoid directly spraying electric outlets and outdoor lighting fixtures to prevent damage to the electricity.
    • Keep yourself safe and protected as you use this tool by wearing protective goggles as you clean and closed-to shoes.
    • Gas pressure washers can never be used inside because they emit fumes that are dangerous to breath when they accumulate.
    • Never stand on a ladder to reach higher places, opt for an extension wand instead.
    • Do not use a pressure washer within 6 feet of power lines.

What You Need for This Project

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