How to Use a Pressure Washer

A pressure washer is an invaluable tool for cleaning outdoor surfaces like decks, patios, driveways, houses, and more. With the right technique, a pressure washer can quickly blast away years of built-up dirt, mildew, and grime. Learning how to properly use a pressure washer ensures you get your surfaces sparkling clean while avoiding damage. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know to use a pressure washer like a pro.

Choosing the Right Pressure Washer

The first step in learning how to use a pressure washer is picking the right one for your needs. Pressure washers come in different sizes and types, each best suited for specific cleaning jobs. Consider the following when choosing a pressure washer:

Power Rating

Pressure washers are rated by pounds per square inch (PSI) which indicates the amount of force or “pressure” they generate. Look for PSI of 1500 to 4000 for household use. Higher PSI is better for removing tough stains.

Gas vs Electric

Gas pressure washers have more power and mobility while electric ones offer quieter operation and less maintenance. Gas is preferable for whole house washing while electric works fine for decks, patios, etc.

Water Volume

This spec, listed as gallons per minute (GPM), tells you how quickly the washer can spray. 2-4 GPM works for household use. Higher volume equals faster cleaning.

Nozzle Tips

Nozzle tips control the shape and pressure of the water stream. A pressure washer should include multiple nozzles (15°, 25°, 40°) for variably intense cleaning.

Hose Length

At least 20-25 feet of high-pressure hose enables washing hard to reach areas without constant repositioning. Go longer if washing a large house.

Once you know what features to look for, pick a pressure washer sized appropriately for your needs. An electric 1500-2000 PSI model with an adjustable nozzle is a good residential starter choice.

Pressure Washer Safety Tips

Pressure washers are very powerful, so operating them safely is crucial. Follow these tips to avoid injury and property damage:

  • Wear protective gear – glasses, closed-toe shoes, gloves, etc. The pressurized spray can damage bare skin.
  • Keep the nozzlemoving and avoid spraying one area for too long. This can damage surfaces.
  • Never point the nozzle at yourself, other people or animals. The high pressure water can inflict serious wounds.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 1 foot between the nozzle and cleaning surface. Get too close and you risk damage.
  • Be mindful of electric cords laying in standing water – this poses an electrocution risk. Use a GFCI outlet.
  • Never use a pressure washer on asbestos siding, synthetic stucco or other delicate surfaces that require gentler cleaning.
  • Check manufacturers guidelines to determine what PSI your surfaces can handle without sustaining damage.
  • Work carefully on ladders, scaffolding or roofs. The push from high pressure spray can knock you off balance.

Following basic precautions will keep you safe while operating your pressure washer. Paying attention to safety means a more effective cleaning process.

Prepping Surfaces for Pressure Washing

Proper prep work is a key step before pressure washing. Taking time to prepare your surface properly will make the washing quicker and get you better results. Here are some tips:

Clear Away Loose Debris

Use a broom or stiff brush to sweep away cobwebs, leaves, sticks and other large debris. Dislodging this material first prevents it from interfering with pressure washing.

Repair Major Damage

Inspect for any damaged boards, peeling paint or cracks that may allow water intrusion during pressure washing. Make repairs beforehand to prevent exacerbating issues.

Wash Gently With a Garden Hose

Rinse the surface first with a regular garden house. This pre-soaking softens and loosens the dirt for easier removal by the pressure washer.

Mark Sprinkler Heads and Utilities

Use little flags or marking paint to indicate the location of sprinkler heads, gas lines, meter boxes or other subsurface features you don’t want damaged by the high pressure spray.

Mask Off Areas You Don’t Want Sprayed

Use painters tape and plastic sheeting to cover windows, plants or other items that you don’t want to accidentally get sprayed. This prevents costly overspray damage.

Taking the time to properly prepare your surface makes power washing faster and helps get professional-looking results.

How to Pressure Wash Different Surfaces

Using the proper technique is important for successfully pressure washing various outdoor surfaces without causing harm. Follow these surface-specific guidelines:

Wood Decks

  • Use a wide fan tip and keep nozzle at least 4-6 inches away to avoid digging into the wood grain.
  • Only use 500-1000 PSI. Higher pressure can splinter wood and strip paint.
  • Apply a wood brightener after washing to help restore color. Let dry completely before re-sealing or staining.

Concrete Driveways

  • Pre-wet the concrete to prevent pressure washer from etching the surface.
  • Use a 15° or 25° degree tip for maximum grime-lifting power. Aim for 3000+ PSI.
  • After cleaning, apply concrete sealer to help prevent future staining.

Brick and Stone

  • Use lower 500-800 PSI to avoid etching or loosening mortar between bricks.
  • Ensure all loose paint and old sealers are removed so they don’t get driven deeper into the brick pores.
  • Use a hot water pressure washer for the best grease and oil cleaning ability.

House Siding

  • Only use wide fan tips from a distance of at least 1 foot. Never aim nozzle directly at edge seams.
  • Adjust pressure lower on paintable surfaces – 500-1000 PSI depending on siding material.
  • Rinse thoroughly and let dry before re-painting. Spot re-caulk as needed.

Wood Fences

  • Use 500-800 PSI max and wide fan spray to prevent digging into the grain.
  • Apply wood brightener after washing and let dry thoroughly before re-sealing.
  • Never aim direct spray at fastener points as moisture can corrode nails.

Adjusting technique based on the surface material ensures you get things clean without causing damage. Take it slow and steady.

Pressure Washing Detergent Tips

Adding a pressure washer detergent to your process can boost cleaning performance on stubborn gunk and stains. Here are some tips on using detergents:

How to Apply It

There will be a siphon tube on the pressure washer – place the tube directly into the detergent bottle or bucket. Turn the soap dial or valve to engage the detergent.

When to Use It

Apply detergent and let it soak for 3-5 minutes before power washing it off. The longer it soaks, the better it will work.

What Kind to Select

Look for detergents specifically formulated for pressure washers. General purpose or degreaser detergents both work well.

Rinsing Completely

Be sure to fully rinse detergent off surfaces after soaking. Any residual soap left on the surface can cause streaking or staining.

For Stubborn Areas

Use a stiff bristle scrub brush and concentrated detergent to work on limited extra-grimy spots before power washing.

Adding a pressure washer detergent helps boost the cleaning performance. Just be sure to select the right detergent and fully rinse surfaces after use.

Technique for Washing Different Areas

Learning proper pressure washer technique for different parts of a house is important. Follow these tips:

Upper Exterior Walls

  • Work top to bottom to avoid drips dirtying lower sections.
  • Use an extension wand for second story washing.
  • Keep nozzle at 45° angle and 1 foot away to prevent driving water behind siding.


  • Wash glass first with a detergent and soft brush, then rinse with pressure washer.
  • Divert spray to avoid forcing water into window seams and seals.
  • Wipe edges dry when done to prevent water marks.


  • Flush gutters with a nozzle gutter cleaning attachment.
  • Work from top down so debris flows out downspouts.
  • Seal downspout outlets with a plug to catch debris as you work.


  • Use a fan tip held several inches above the boards.
  • Go with direction of boards to prevent water from getting under seams and warping.
  • Do sections in manageable blocks, rinsing and allowing to dry before moving on.

Under Siding

  • Use a 25° nozzle to jet water into cracks to flush out insect nests, dirt, etc.
  • Adjust PSI lower to avoid damaging softer materials behind siding.

Learning the optimal spraying motions for each exterior surface will let you clean efficiently while protecting your house. Practice proper technique as you go.

How to Pressure Wash a Deck

Pressure washing is a great way to rejuvenate a dirty deck. Follow this process for best results:

Clear the Deck

Remove all furniture, planters and other items from the deck area. This allows you full access.

Inspect for Damage

Look for any cracked boards, splintered edges or damaged areas that may need repairing beforehand.

Adjust Nozzle and PSI

Use a 40° nozzle and PSI between 500-1500 depending on deck material. Higher range for treated lumber, lower for fragile woods.

Pre-Soak the Surface

Wet the deck with a garden hose first – this prevents the pressure washer from damaging the dry boards.

Apply Detergent

Spray on a wood deck cleaning solution. Let it soak for 10 minutes before pressure washing.

Pressure Wash Decking

Work methodically in sections from top to bottom. Allow each section to fully dry before moving on.

Rinse Away Detergent

Double check that all soap residue is washed off once done. Remaining detergent can cause staining.

Brighten and Seal

Apply brightener as needed to restore color. Let dry fully, then re-seal or re-stain as desired to protect and beautify.

Following a careful process avoids deck damage while restoring a like-new appearance. Take your time for best results.

How to Pressure Wash a House

Pressure washing is an efficient way to renew the exterior of a house. Follow these guidelines:

Inspect and Make Repairs

Look for any needed repairs to siding, paint, caulking etc. Fix issues to prevent causing more damage.

Clean Gutters

Use a gutter cleaning nozzle to flush out debris before washing walls. This prevents streaking.

Mask Off Areas

Tape around windows, cover plants and mask off any other areas not being washed.

Adjust Nozzle and PSI

Use 1000-1500 PSI and 25° nozzle for general cleaning. Drop PSI lower on softer materials like wood.

Pre-Rinse with Garden Hose

Gently hose down all areas first – this prevents pressure washer damage by softening up grime.

Apply Detergent

For tough areas, apply a degreasing detergent and let soak before power washing off.

Wash From Top Down

Work systematically from roofline down to foundation. Overlap strips as you go.

Rinse Thoroughly

Double check all soap residue is removed before stopping. Prevent streaks.

Spot Clean Tough Areas

Use a 15° nozzle and concentrated detergent for limited extra-grimy sections.

Carefully following procedure allows you to thoroughly clean a house exterior while avoiding any damage.

Pressure Washer Maintenance Tips

Proper maintenance keeps a pressure washer running smoothly for years. Follow these tips:

  • Change oil regularly – For gas models, replace oil per manufacturer guidelines.
  • Check hoses – Inspect for cracks or leaks and replace damaged hoses. Ensure connections are tight.
  • Unclog tips – Use a fine wire to clear any blocked nozzle tips. Soak in vinegar to dissolve mineral deposits.
  • Wipe away residue – Rinse machine after each use and wipe away dirt, grime and any chemical residue.
  • Winterize appropriately – For cold climates, properly winterize and store gas models for winter.
  • Inspect connections – Check that quick connect fittings are sealing tightly and not leaking.
  • Consult manual – Follow all maintenance directions per manufacturer’s instructions.

Doing preventative maintenance extends the usable life of a pressure washer. A well maintained machine will have greater cleaning power and reliability.

Pressure Washing Safety FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about how to pressure wash safely:

Is it safe to pressure wash your house yourself?

Yes, it’s safe for homeowners to pressure wash their own house if proper precautions are followed – use protective gear, correct PSI for surfaces, maintain safe distances, go slowly etc. Review safety guidelines.

How do you avoid damaging surfaces when pressure washing?

Adjust PSI appropriately for each surface, keep nozzle moving, maintain proper distance, use wide fan tips on fragile materials, prep surfaces correctly and test small hidden areas first before full washing.

What PSI is safe for different surfaces?

500-1000 PSI for wood, 1000-1500 PSI for general concrete/brick cleaning, and 2000-3000 PSI for stripping paint or stubborn stains. Adjust within ranges based on condition. Test hidden spots first.

Can pressure washing remove paint?

Yes, higher 3000+ PSI levels and direct spray can strip paint. Drop PSI lower, use wide tips and keep spraying moving when working around painted surfaces to avoid damage.

Is it better to pressure wash hot or cold?

Hot water (140-250 F) adds cleaning power for heavy grease, oil and grime. However, it risks more damage to surfaces. Cooler temps are safer for DIY washing, especially on delicate materials.

Following basic safety measures will allow you to effectively pressure clean while avoiding injury or property damage. Exercise caution and care when working.


The proper technique is crucial for pressure washing like a pro without causing harm. With the right pressure washer, prep work, detergent use, washing motions and maintenance as outlined above, you can tackle any dirty surface. Always keep safety at front of mind. Learning how to properly operate a pressure washer takes some practice, but it is a skill that pays dividends. Keep surfaces clean and extend the life of outdoor living spaces. With a pressure washer on hand, you’ll keep the exterior of your home looking fresh for years to come!