How to Use a Pressure Washer

Discover tips and general information on using a pressure washer to clean a deck and other surfaces around the home.

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As winter breaks, it's time for some spring cleaning. A pressure washer is a great way to accomplish many cleaning tasks with efficiency and speed. However, knowing proper use and safety is key to accomplishing your tasks without damaging your home or harming someone. With proper knowledge, you can select the right pressure washer for the job as well as decide whether it makes sense to purchase or rent. Common around the home uses include cleaning: concrete walks, driveways, brick, siding, boats and vehicles.

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Should You Rent or Buy

Before buying a pressure washer, consider how often you will use it. A suitable machine for most home uses is going to cost around $400. Renting for one day will often yield a slightly more professional washer for about $75. If you also consider gas, oil and maintenance you should expect to use a purchased pressure washer at least twice a year for the next four years. Otherwise its a smarter move to only rent when you need it. If you plan to use a pressure washer for more than just spring cleaning, owning one makes more sense since you not only save the daily rental costs but also the time running the machine back and forth. 

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If You Buy, What to Look For

Whether you are renting or buying, consider the rated flow and pressure of the pressure washer. Most home tasks are best served by a machine with a flow of three gallons per minute and a pressure of 3000 psi. If you are buying a pressure washer, you will find a wide array of prices. The cheapest units will often lack the power needed to do a wide array of tasks. An undersized unit will also make tough tasks take longer. Meanwhile the most expensive units are sometimes overkill for average home projects. When cosidering which one fits the bill for your tasks, look not only at the pressure and flow but also the reputation and warranty on the pump and engine. 

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Set Up

Setting up a pressure washer can vary from machine to machine. However, this process is simple if you follow these basic steps. Start by familiarizing yourself with pressure washer. Many will have a simple step-by-step guidance on the handle. Next, assemble the parts. You will need the pressure washer, high-pressure hose, spray gun, tips and a garden hose. Before starting, check the oil and gas for proper levels. 

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Hook up the water supply with a heavy duty garden hose to the threaded fitting on the machine. Meanwhile the high-pressure hose attaches by holding back the knurled collar, pressing firmly onto the barbed fitting, and then pushing the collar forward. Double check fitment by gently pulling on the high pressure hose. Attach the spray gun in the same manner.

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Attach the garden hose to a wall spigot and turn the valve on.

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Next purge the air out of the water lines by lifting the safety latch and depressing the trigger.

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Then, turn on the fuel supply valve and set the choke.

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Finally, turn the ignition switch on and swiftly pull the start cord. Since the pump is cooled by the water running through it, refrain from running the engine for more than five minutes without using the spray gun.

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Nozzles

Critical for proper and efficient use of a pressure washer is the selection of the nozzle tip.

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The tip largely dictates the angle of flow. Generally, a tighter angle will increase the cleaning ability of the water however concentrating it in a smaller area. It can also increase abrasion and wear of the material being cleaned. The goal here is the pick the tip with the widest angle that still accomplishes the task. While you may need to resort to a more direct tip to remove stubborn dirt, you also increase the possible damage to the work surface, increase streaking, and decrease work speed. Also because different manufactures mark their tips differently, don't rely on the color alone. Always check the stamping directly on the tip. 

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Safety

While pressure washing may seem no different than cleaning with a regular hose, some key safety concerns need to be kept in mind. Because the water is at such high pressure, it not only poses a direct contact harm but it also will send dislodged materials at high speed that can cause an eye safety issue. Consider not only safety glasses but also water resistant clothing and closed-toe shoes. Also, never point the spray nozzle towards someone to prevent an accidental discharge.  

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