How to use a pressure washer

Cleaning Tools & Supplies

The spray of a pressure washer should never be directed at yourself, another person or an animal because it’s strong enough to break the skin, causing lacerations, punctures, bleeding and bruises.

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Home uses for pressure washers

Cleaning large surfaces like a driveway, a deck or the outside of a house would take days to accomplish by hand. A pressure washer is a tool that combines the natural cleaning power of water with high pressure to deliver a thorough washing in a fraction of the time.

Like any tool, to get the most out of a pressure washer, you need to learn how it works. Following is a guide that can teach you the fundamentals of using a pressure washer.

How a pressure washer works

How a pressure washer gets its pressure

A pressure washer uses the water from a normal outdoor garden hose. The hose connects to the machine and a high-speed pump inside the unit elevates the water pressure until it can be used as a highly abrasive stream. The intensity of the spray is controlled by a nozzle.

What are the different pressure washer nozzles?

The nozzles are ultimately what deliver the right type of cleaning power. There are five standard nozzles that are differentiated by how focused the spray is. 

The red nozzle creates a thin, powerful jet of water that’s best for the toughest stains. 

The yellow nozzle is one step down in intensity and is best for removing paint and mildew. 

The green nozzle is a general purpose cleaning nozzle. 

The white nozzle has the widest spray, making it best for lighter-duty cleaning and rinsing. 

The black nozzle is the only one that can be used with soap. Additionally, you can purchase a turbo spray nozzle, a multipurpose nozzle or a surface cleaning attachment, which is ideal for cleaning decks, patios and more.

Steps for using a pressure washer

While the best directions for using your pressure washer should be included with your purchase, this general outline can give you a good idea of the overall process.

  1. Clear the area you’ll be cleaning to make sure all fragile items have been removed. Sweep away dirt and debris and cover anything that can’t be moved with a tarp.
  2. Survey the area so you’re aware of windows, outlets and vents.
  3. Select and connect the proper nozzle for the job.
  4. Connect your garden hose to the pressure washer and give the equipment a once-over to make sure everything is fastened tightly and the machine is safe to use.
  5. Put on a pair of safety goggles to keep debris from splashing back into your eyes. 
  6. Turn on the water supply at the outdoor spigot.
  7. Squeeze the trigger on the wand to release any air pressure that may be in the line.
  8. Follow your particular machine’s instructions for starting.
  9. Before using, test the intensity of the spray in a safe area and adjust as needed.
  10. You can now begin cleaning.
  11. After shutting off your pressure washer and turning off the water supply, make sure you squeeze the trigger to allow any pressurized water to escape before disconnecting the hose and other parts.

Pressure washing tips

  • Pressure washers use a lot of water. Make sure you have adequate drainage where you’re working or things will quickly get messy.
  • The most important aspect of cleaning safely is to use the right nozzle for the job. Choose wisely, as the wrong nozzle can damage wood and siding.
  • Avoid spraying windows, painted surfaces, outdoor fixtures and electrical lines. 
  • The closer you are to a surface, the more intensely the pressure washer will clean. Always start your cleaning from a distance, several feet away. If you need greater intensity, gradually move the sprayer closer to the surface you’re cleaning. 
  • Never use a pressure washer when you’re on a ladder.
  • When cleaning vertically, move from top to bottom in a side-to-side pattern.
  • Work in small areas with clearly set goals.
  • If you get tired, take a break.

Best pressure washers

Simpson Cleaning MegaShot Gas Pressure Washer

Simpson Cleaning MegaShot Gas Pressure Washer

This pressure washer is designed for the toughest cleaning tasks. It features a Honda engine and delivers 3200 PSI at 2.5 GPM and has a welded steel frame with large, 10-inch pneumatic wheels.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot and Amazon

Champion Dolly-Style Gas Pressure Washer

Champion Dolly-Style Gas Pressure Washer

Designed for a wide variety of applications, this 2600 PSI with 2.2 GPM pressure washer can handle all your home washing needs. The unit features onboard storage for the high-pressure hose, trigger gun and spray wand and it comes with a 2-year limited warranty.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Karcher K5 Premium Electric Power Pressure Washer

Karcher K5 Premium Electric Power Pressure Washer

This top-performing electric model can deliver 2000 PSI at 1.4 GPM. It comes with a 25-foot high-pressure hose and features an onboard detergent tank and a water-cooled motor for durability.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Sun Joe Electric Pressure Washer

Sun Joe Electric Pressure Washer

A compact, affordable electric pressure washer that’s best for lighter-duty cleaning tasks. This model operates at 1450 PSI and has an automatic shut-off that helps prolong the pump’s life. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Greenworks Pressure Washer

Greenworks Pressure Washer

If you need a budget pressure washer for lighter-duty tasks, this is a model to consider. The compact unit can be rested horizontally during use for greater stability and it delivers 1500 PSI at 1.2 GPM.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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