Power Washing is the best way to get rid of dirt and grime on exterior surfaces and doing it on a regular basis it will prevent mildew and moss growth. It also the easiest way to transform a concrete patio or sidewalk into “like new” condition.
You can buy a machine for a few hundred dollars or rent one for around $50 per day, but if you are not careful with it, a power washer can cause thousands of dollars in damage. The water pressure varies from 1500-4000 psi (pounds-per-square-inch), and this kind of power can easily tear through finishing materials or create unwanted textures on the wood surface. Here are some tips to achieve the best result while staying safe:
There are several different nozzles you can use on a power washer, each with a different spray pattern to suit your needs. There is one that enables you to siphon a cleaning solution through the machine, mixing it with water and making the cleaning more effective.
Before starting the job or between exchanges, always make sure the nozzle is securely fastened to the gun before turning it on. Otherwise, the nozzle can blow off and damage the building or disappear into the wilderness.
If you are washing siding, trim and doors, play it safe by standing far from the surface when you begin. Once you asses the pressure, you can shorten the distance as needed. Never point the pressurized water directly at a person or a pet.
In many cases, power washing alone is not enough. We find that soaking and scrubbing a house or deck with a bleach solution first makes a big difference. A thorough rinse afterwards with the power washer completes the job. When the wood or siding has deep mildew or blackened stains, Clorox bleach is the best product to use. Other brands of bleach do not work as well. We have also tried many of the “non-bleach” bleaches and other “siding cleaning” products but unfortunately cannot recommend any of them. Clorox is the way to go. It’s also a good idea to pre-soak plants and shrubs with fresh water to prevent them from getting “burned” by the bleach.
When the power washer is on, always start at the top and work your way down. Try to avoid spraying the water up and under the siding as well. When you get moisture underneath the siding, it can take a long time to dry out. Also, do not use a power washer to strip paint off wood siding. If you get close enough to remove paint, you are damaging the wood. We recommend you save yourself the money and heartache and use a scraper to get the paint off instead.
It’s also a good idea to be aware of any local laws regulating the use of power washers. Some Vermont towns forbid power washing any structure that was built before 1978, due to the possibility of lead paint getting atomized into the air. Check with your town office before starting the project, just to be on the safe side.