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The Many Uses for a Pressure Washer

Worker pressure-washing a deck
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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on LawnStarter.

So, maybe you’re waffling over whether to invest a chunk of change in a pressure washer.

Is it really useful? Is it worth the cost?

The answer to both questions is yes.

A pressure washer is one of the most versatile tools you can own. It cleans everything from tools to garage floors, driveways, decks, siding and even patio furniture.

There are countless uses for a pressure washer, so let’s look at some of them.

How Do Pressure Washers Work?

Pressure washer
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A pressure washer pumps water under high pressure using an electric or gas motor, providing greater cleaning power than water flowing from a regular garden hose.

Pressure washers are pretty simple to use as well. You simply connect a garden hose to the washer, turn it on and spray the surface with sweeping strokes.

All pressure washers spray water through a spray tip, but you can save time by using a turbo nozzle, surface cleaner, or water broom, all of which can be purchased on Amazon.

Typically, a pressure washer has two modes: You can apply detergent or specially formulated cleaners under low pressure to break down stubborn gunk and stains, then you can use a high-pressure spray to power away the ground-in dirt or stain.

Gas or Electric?

An outdoor extension cord
Lyudmyla Nikolenko / Shutterstock.com

Pressure washers come in gas and electric varieties and in different sizes for large and small jobs. Neither is better than the other. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Gas pressure washers are generally more powerful than electric ones and are more durable. Also, since they don’t need an electrical outlet to work, you can take them anywhere.

However, they are more expensive, louder, and require more maintenance. Use a gas machine for more demanding jobs like cleaning large areas quickly. Here is a guide to the 10 best gas-powered pressure washers of 2023.

Electric pressure washers are easier to start, lighter, and require less maintenance than gas ones. However, they aren’t as powerful, limiting their use to lighter jobs like cleaning small driveways, outdoor furniture, small fences, and siding.

Also, you are limited by the length of your power cord, as you need to plug the machine into an outlet for it to work.

Another option is a cordless – or battery-operated – pressure washer. Because they lack the power of gas or even electric pressure washers, they are best suited for light-duty cleaning.

Best Use: Driveways

Car parked by garage
mikolajn / Shutterstock.com

Foot traffic, auto fluids, pollen, leaves, chemicals, and outdoor grime collect on your driveway over time and even eat away at the compounds that bind the concrete or asphalt.

Pressure washing away the dirt and oil preserves the integrity of the driveway and also increases your home’s curb appeal and value.

Best Use: Fences

Dirty garden fence
Ian Dyball / Shutterstock.com

Wood and vinyl fences get grimy and mildewy as well. A good pressure washing can add years to your fence and further increase your home’s curb appeal.

If you plan on pressure washing a wooden fence, use a low-pressure nozzle to avoid splintering the wood or removing the paint, or stain.

Best Use: Outdoor Furniture

rustic flagstone patio with an outdoor stone fireplace and furniture.
Christopher Edwin Nuzzaco / Shutterstock.com

Your deck and patio furniture get dirty and dingy over time. It can also develop mold and mildew and begin to smell.

Clean it early in the warmer months by washing it at low pressure, making sure not to damage it.

Best Use: Garbage Cans

Trash bins or garbage cans sitting on the curb for pickup
Alan Budman / Shutterstock.com

The awful smells of rotting food and gunk from your garbage cans make cleaning them unappealing, but you can’t put it off forever.

Using a pressure washer to clean them will remove gunk more effectively and more quickly than a garden hose.

Best Use: Garage Floors

Epoxy floor in home garage
Bobcat Beasley / Shutterstock.com

Your garage floor probably took some damage over the years from oil stains, tire marks, and shoe scuffs.

Use a low-pressure setting as a degreaser. After a few minutes, switch to a higher pressure and rinse everything off.

Best Use: Walkways

Stone path in a garden
Pablo77 / Shutterstock.com

Cleaning your walkways using your pressure washer’s scrub brush or surface cleaner (both of which are good for flat surfaces) removes dirt, grime, and mildew. It also clears out weeds and overgrowth between the bricks.

Use caution when you spray concrete or brick.

Try to avoid directing high-pressure streams at the mortar that holds bricks together or the seams in a concrete driveway. These powerful streams can loosen mortar or chip away concrete.

Best Use: Decks and Patios

Outdoor patio with brick fireplace and bench seating
Ekaterina Milenkovic / Shutterstock.com

Patios or wood decks can deteriorate from debris, so pressure washing at a low setting (to avoid damaging the wood surfaces) helps refurbish them.

When cleaning decks and patios, move consistently and hold the spray wand at a safe distance away from the wood.

Skip: Electrical Panels

Men looking at electrical panel
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Water conducts electricity, so washing anything electrical is unsafe, even if electric panels are protected from rain and storms.

High-pressure streams can force their way into electrical boxes in ways that ordinary rainfall doesn’t.

Skip: Air Conditioners

Air conditioning unit outside.
vincent noel / Shutterstock.com

Not only do air conditioners run on electricity (which we just established is dangerous), but the high pressure can cause some parts to break off, possibly causing the system to fail.

Skip: Plants, Flowers, and Gardens

xeriscape flower garden in full bloom
Kathryn Roach / Shutterstock.com

Though plants, flowers, and gardens all need water, the high pressure of a power washer can destroy them and splatter soil everywhere. Stick to garden hoses and sprinklers when doing garden work.

Skip: People or Animals

Man hugging a pet
Rock and Wasp / Shutterstock.com

It might be fun to spray someone with a hose as a joke, but not with a pressure washer. The high pressure can tear skin, damage eyes, and kill or injure small animals.

What’s the Difference Between a Power Washer and a Pressure Washer?

Porch power washer
Virrage Images / Shutterstock.com

The phrases power washing and pressure washing are used interchangeably. However, the most significant difference is that power washing uses hot water, while pressure washing uses cold water.

What Are Some Mistakes People Make When Pressure Washing?

Pressure cleaning a house
Beth Van Trees / Shutterstock.com
  • Not spraying at an angle. When pressure washing, you want to push the dirt off the surface. If you don’t spray at an angle, you’ll push the muck further inward or, worse, have it fly off and into your face.
  • Not using safety equipment. Pressure washers are dangerous, and high water pressure can cause serious injuries. Thus, you need to be safe. Wear closed-toe shoes and safety glasses.
  • Using too much pressure. You could puncture the siding, concrete, or wood if you use too much pressure. Start on the lowest setting and gradually increase the pressure.

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