Is pressure washing Safe?

We have all seen the highly satisfying pressure washing videos, showing the drastic difference between the before and after results…

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We have all seen the highly satisfying pressure washing videos, showing the drastic difference between the before and after results of a power wash! Yet with all of that strength, it can leave us pondering “is pressure washing safe?”. The simple answer to the question is pressure washing safe is yes, if you act safe. Like with most things, if you behave recklessly and dangerously with a pressure washer, it will become dangerous. If you follow the advice of the manufacturers and use common sense when operating a pressure washer, it will be safe.

Contents

We have put together all the information that you could ever possibly need about pressure washing, including the different types of pressure washing, the safest way to clean with a pressure washer, and health and safety tips. If you follow our instructions, you will be able to answer yes to “is pressure washing safe?” with no hesitation.

Types of Pressure Washing

Power washing

Power washing and Pressure washing are often confused with each other, with many people thinking that they are the same thing. However, there is one large distinction which differentiate them. Power washing is much like pressure washing, but it uses hot water instead of cold. This can be very beneficial when needing to sanitise areas as no additional chemicals are needed. The use of hot water also means that it breaks down organic materials extremely well.

Power Washing machines are heavy-duty, and they are a big piece of kit. You only tend to find these in industrial settings and some commercial settings. Many companies will offer power washing as a service, as proper training is needed in order to operate a power washer. This probably is not the best option when you are thinking of cleaning the outside of your home, as the power washer’s ability to break down organic materials so well can cause lots of unwanted damage. 

The majority of all building exteriors do not require anything as fierce as power washing, so it’s best to leave this one to the professionals for heavy duty jobs.

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Pressure Washing

When most people think about cleaning their building’s exterior, they think pressure washer or jet washer as it is seen to be such an effective way to clean a variety of home and building surfaces. Although pressure washers do not heat up the water, the sheer force of the water that gets blasted out is still enough to be dangerous. The water pressure is enough to cut through your finger, and even enough to carve a pumpkin with! When you use pressure washers you must be at the correct distance away from the area you are cleaning in order to avoid wearing down and damaging certain materials. 

Pressure washing is designed for cleaning hard surfaces that are walked on, such as stone pathways and patios. Surfaces that are hardwearing but have deep grooves that dirt can get embedded into are great for cleaning with a pressure washer. However, the exterior of most buildings isn’t best suited to being cleaned with a pressure washer, as the pressure per square inch (PSI) is too large and causes damage to exteriors.

Pressure washing should be used for materials such as hard brick paths and concrete.

Soft Washing

You may think that soft washing has absolutely nothing to do with pressure washing due to it’s name, but that’s not the case! Soft washing is when a pressure washer’s PSI has been reduced to less than 1000 PSI. As well as reducing the pressure, the tip of the hose on the pressure washer is replaced with a widening tip. This also reduces the point of pressure, allowing cleaning to take place, without the risk of damaging any building materials. 

With soft washing, you can use special cleaning solutions with it. These cleaning solutions are typically eco-friendly, but still break down the dirt and organisms that live on surfaces. 

The real benefit of soft washing is that there is a significantly smaller chance of causing damage when cleaning. Although additional chemicals are added, when used correctly soft washing is a safe, efficient, and easy way to clean a building’s exterior, without having to stress about causing any damage to building materials.

Soft washing should be used on materials such as wood for siding and decking, stucco, metal buildings, and the majority of building exteriors. All substrates that are especially hard to get clean with just pressure or would be damaged if high pressure were used on them are the perfect candidates for the Soft wash treatment!

How to Safely Soft Wash a Building

Soft washing is the most common and the safest option when it comes to pressure washing. If you want to soft wash a building or surface safely, just keep on reading.

You should start by buying Sodium Hypochlorite and a surfactant. Most DIY shops sell these and there is a plethora of these available online. Sodium Hypochlorite is the primary component in bleach and is a great disinfecting agent. It is highly effective for the disinfection of viruses, bacteria, fungi and mycobacterium. Sodium Hypochlorite is also fantastic at removing any unwanted odours. When you use this, it is extremely important to read the information on the container and to mix the correct amount.

There is a huge variety of surfactants on the market, and you should select the most suitable one for the material that you will be cleaning. If you are cleaning a variety of materials it is best to invest in a multi-use surfactant that will be suitable for all the materials that you will be targeting. These substances are inexpensive, lasting for multiple cleans as not a large quantity is typically needed.

When mixing these you should make sure that you are using the correct amount of each substance. If you use too much of the surfactant it will produce soap suds that can leave unwanted marks on surfaces. If you have added too much Sodium Hypochlorite you can cause damage to sidings and exteriors. As long as you follow the directions on the packaging, you should not have any problems with this.

Pre-Soaking

When using any cleaning products, it is extremely important to pre-soak the surrounding landscape. Ensure that all the plants and grass nearby have been thoroughly pre-soaked with water before you begin the cleaning treatment. Making sure that the surroundings have been generously soaked keeps all your plants happy and prevents any unwanted effects on the foliage you may have around your building. 

The Process

Applying your Mix 

 Now that you have given the surroundings a good soak with water, you can start to apply your mix of Sodium Hypochlorite and your surfactant. You can apply this very generously. There is no need to worry about over applying this if you have mixed the chemicals correctly for the substrate that you are cleaning. To get the best results, leave the solution on for 5-10 minutes, or longer depending on the surfactant that you use. Always refer to the instructions on the packaging if you have any concerns. 

Clean a small test area to check if an additional layer of the cleaning solution should be applied. Depending on the material that you are cleaning and the surfactant that you are using, the number of layers required to achieve the desired result may vary. Vinyl siding for example typically only requires one layer of application, with a dazzling impact on dirt and mildew in just five minutes. On the other hand, more porous materials such as stucco require additional layers of application. 

Rinsing

You’ve pre-soaked the surroundings, applied your cleaning solution and taken a deep breath. It’s time, you are ready to see the fruits of your labour! Using pure water only, give your building a thoroughly good rinse and watch the results appear in front of your eyes. Make sure that you give everything a generous rinse, ensuring that no cleaning solution is left on the building, and that all chemicals have been thoroughly diluted. Your building should be left looking sparkling and clear of dirt, mildew, and bacteria. You can repeat this method as many times as is required in order to achieve your desired result.

Health and Safety Tips

Always wear safety glasses when you are operating a pressure washer. This prevents any debris from going in your eyes as well as stopping any of the chemical cleaning solution getting in your eyes also.

If you have any powerlines, electrical masts, or electrical outlets near your building, take extra care. Make sure that you maintain a minimum distance of six feet when you are spraying water anywhere near these. Do try and avoid spraying these altogether.

When you have finished using the pressure washer, turn it off at the switch, then turn the tap off. After this squeeze the trigger on the spray wand to release all of the pressure and water that is in the system.

Make sure that you turn off the pressure washer when you are not using it, and that the water is off also. If you change nozzles, ensure that the pressure washer has been switched off.

Never use a pressure washer while working on a ladder, as the powerful recoil of the spray hose can knock your balance and can cause you to fall of the ladder. 

When cleaning your roof there is the potential that you may make existing damage worse. For example, if there are loose edges or cracked tiles, you may break these beyond repair. Before you start on any cleaning, check for any cracks, loose tiles, or edging.

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Pressure washing Dos and Don’ts

DO:

  • Practice using the pressure washer in a safe location.  It takes some time to get used to the way the equipment handles, and you might not want your first stroke to be across the middle of your home’s siding.
  • Test the nozzle tip and pressure in a small, inconspicuous area of the surface you’ll be cleaning to make sure it doesn’t etch or damage it.
  • If you have flowers or vegetation near the areas you’ll be cleaning with bleach (or other cleaning solutions), douse them with plain water so that the cleaning solutions won’t stick to them as easily.
  • Clear breakable items out of your work area.
  • If you have outdoor electronics, unplug them, cover or move them, and tape over the outlets with painter’s tape.
  • Start with the lowest pressure and work your way up.  For pressure washers, power is gauged in pounds per square inch (PSI).  Many DIY pressure washers are capable of as much as 3,000 or 4,000 PSI, which is enough to dent siding, erode cement, and strip paint from surfaces.  Start with only a few hundred PSI, and work your way up.  
  • Use gentle cleaning solutions.  The best pressure washing jobs utilize low pressure and gentle cleaning agents to clean the surface.  
  • Begin pressure washing several feet away from the item you’re cleaning, and move in closer (up to 1-2 feet away) slowly and only as needed.
  • When applying the cleaning solution, start along the base of the fence, deck, or siding, and work your way up.  Then, when rinsing, begin at the top and work your way down.
  • Use sweeping strokes, and lift each stroke up and away from the surface to avoid making streaks or marks.  Keep your swing and the spray of the water in motion to avoid leaving marks.
  • Always note what’s on the other side of the item you’re cleaning.  For example, if you’re pressure washing your fence, be sure the neighbor’s pet isn’t on the other side of the fence.
  • Wear non-slip footwear.  The mixture of soap and water can make hard surfaces slick.  If you are pressure washing your roof, be sure you’re anchored.

DON’T:

  • Don’t underestimate the power of  your pressure washer!  The speed and force that make this tool useful also make it dangerous.
  • Don’t point the nozzle at people or animals.
  • Don’t bring the nozzle closer than 1-2 feet from the item being cleaned.
  • Don’t use one nozzle tip for every job.  Nozzle tips are available in wide-spray fan patterns and narrow targeted streams, all in varying levels of pressure, so find the tip that’s right for your project.
  • Don’t use hot water.  (In most cases, you can, but there is no need.)
  • Don’t use harsh chemicals, or else your landscaping may get damaged.
  • Don’t pressure wash your windows. You can damage the seals under the pressure.  Instead, plan to clean the windows by hand after the pressure washing is finished, or hire a great professional window cleaning company to do so.  (There will be overspray from the pressure washing, so your windows will certainly need some attention.)

Is pressure washing safe for all materials?

No, pressure washing isn’t suitable for all materials. See the list below for materials that you should avoid pressure washing.

Is pressure washing safe for Wood Siding?

While it is possible to pressure wash wood siding correctly, it is best to leave this to the professionals. This is because you can also force water up and under the exterior surface if you use high pressure in the wrong places. From there, the water can damage insulation and electrical wiring and even spur mould growth. 

If you have aluminium or vinyl siding, a high powered pressure washer can also dent this. If you have any of this sliding, consider using a pressure washer, or contact the professionals directly.

Is pressure washing safe for  Electrical Panels and Meters?

Even if you are cleaning the exterior or your home or your garden, do not pressure wash any fixtures housing electricity. Although these fixtures are built to withstand rainstorms, pressure washing can force water into the small cracks and crevices. As well as this being a health and safety issue, it can also cause damage to your wiring, leading to costly repairs. To wash these fixtures, you can just use a soft sponge and soapy water to hand wash any plastic casings.

Is pressure washing safe for Asphalt Shingles?

Never pressure wash your roof if you have asphalt shingles. The water pressure strips away the granules that protect your roof. If you have any loose shingles you can damage them further, or even worse, cause them to fly down and shatter. As mentioned above, you should also never use a pressure washer on a ladder as the powerful recoil on the spray wand can throw you off balance and off of the ladder.

Air Conditioners

If you happen to have an air conditioning unit, don’t reach straight to the pressure washer to clean this. The strong and intense stream of water can bend or crush the delicate fins, restricting air flow and shortening the lifespan of the air conditioning unit. Instead of pressure washing, you can use a vacuum and a bucket of water to rinse away the debris.

Lead Paint

Never remove lead paint with a pressure washer. Lead paint should be carefully contained when removed, not blasted into the air and surrounding surfaces. If you are unsure of what type of paint you have, consult with a professional to discuss your cleaning and removal options.

Is pressure washing safe for Old Mortar

If you have an older house or walls, pressure washing can damage the mortar. If you have any loose materials or damaged mortar, this can be blasted away by using a pressure washing on a high setting. You should speak with a professional pressure washer to clean this safely. 

Living Things

You should never aim a pressure washer at humans, pets, or plants. The force of water coming from a pressure washer can cause physical harm, even penetrating skin, leading to large lacerations and wounds if on a high setting. When you pressure wash appropriate surfaces, always wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from debris. Wear gloves, closed toe shoes and trousers to avoid causing any damage to yourself. Dogs often love to play in water streams, so make sure that any dogs are kept inside, far away from harm’s way.

Painted Surfaces That You Want to Stay Painted

A pressure wash easily chips paint off most surfaces, so only use a low-pressure flow of water to wash painted items such as a porch floor or painted outdoor furniture. 

Is pressure washing safe for Windows

Don’t pressure wash windows! The high pressure can break them, causing you a major headache (and expense) to replace. Instead, wash your windows the good old fashioned way, or hire a professional company to give them a clean, it is extremely affordable!

Vehicles

Using a high pressure wash to clean your vehicle can actually cause small dents and even chip the paint, leaving it vulnerable to rust. If you do use a pressure washer to clean your car, always set it to a low-pressure setting. Make sure that you are not washing the car on a gravelled drive, and definitely do not attempt to pressure wash a convertible with a soft top.

You should never attempt to pressure wash under the hood! It can force water into cracks and crevices, causing serious damage and costing you lots of money! 

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Outdoor Light Fixtures

Though outdoor lighting can withstand rain and other weather elements, you should not pressure wash these fixtures. You’ll risk forcing water into cracks and causing damage.

Gutters

Though tempting, you should never clean out the inside of your gutters with a pressure washer. It’s best to remove debris by hand and then rinse the inside clean with a less intense flow of water. Professional gutter cleaners use soft washers to help clean the inside of your gutters, however these are trained professionals, and you should not attempt this at home. 

Remember, gutters can withstand rainstorms, but not the extreme power of a pressure washer 

Stained Wood

A pressure wash pulls stain right off wood surfaces. Maybe that’s your goal, but if you intend to keep stain on wood, don’t use a pressure washer to clean it.

Overview

When it comes to the cleaning process it is vital that you check what material you will be cleaning. Different materials respond differently to treatment, with some materials being more sensitive and easily damaged. Generally, soft washing is suitable for the majority of all surfaces. Power washing should be avoided, and pressure washing should be used with caution as it can cause unwanted damage. 

When soft washing your property, it is important to use a good surfactant. Make sure that you mix this correctly and always follow the instructions on the container. When the cleaning solution is mixed correctly, you will be able to do a highly effective clean which will destroy the moss and mould at the root, preventing them from growing in the future. 

You can repeat the cleaning process after a few days, and as many times as you need to as long as the cleaning solution is at the correct concentration. When you do wash your building, make sure that you have pre-soaked the surroundings in clean water to prevent any accidental damage.

As with everything, there are associated risks when It comes to cleaning your property. Make sure that you are wearing safety goggles, a face mask and gloves when operating the machinery. If you do not feel confident in cleaning any areas of your building you should contact a professional.

We hope that this article has answered your question of “is pressure washing safe?”. Pressure washing is safe as long as you make it safe! Make sure that if you have any questions or queries, just get in touch with a professional pressure washing company.

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