Avoid damage to siding and plants while getting your home’s exterior shining clean, with this guide to using pressure washers and hoses
Don’t reach for the pressure washer unless you have some serious grime to contend with — a light layer of dirt and road dust can be easily cleaned using a plain old garden hose. If your home has sturdy siding and needs more power than a garden hose can muster, a pressure washer can be heaven sent.
- Soap or no soap? Water alone is enough to get most exteriors clean. If you have mold or mildew, use a specialty house cleaner designed to kill mildew in the pressure washer’s detergent compartment.
- Choose the right nozzle. Pressure washer nozzles are measured in degrees — those that shoot water in a very narrow area have the strongest spray (zero is the strongest) and should be used very cautiously. For most homes a nozzle with a 40-degree spray should suffice, so start there and work your way down to a 25-degree nozzle if necessary.
- Secure windows, doors and pets. Make sure dogs (who could be curious about the spray) and children are inside, and close all the windows and doors before getting started. Also put on a pair of safety goggles to protect your eyes from dirt and debris.
Also avoid spraying windows, as the spray could break the glass, especially in older homes with single-pane windows.
- Spray at a downward angle. Siding is designed to protect your home from weather … and weather comes from above, not from below. Work with your home’s protective features and direct your sprayer downward. Never spray into seams or cracks in siding where water can become trapped and damage your house.
- Test a small section. Before getting too far along, turn off your pressure washer and take a close look at the first small section you’ve completed. If you see any evidence of damage, switch to a regular hose. If it looks good, continue!
- Keep the hose moving. Use a steady side-to-side sweeping motion as you spray your house — lingering too long on one spot can cause damage. If you are using a cleanser, work from the bottom of your house to the top, then rinse from top to bottom.
- Inspect. Take a close look at the exterior of your home, keeping an eye out for spots that are especially grimy or mildewed — you will be tackling those first.
- Pretreat. Squirt especially soiled areas with cleanser before getting started with the hose. For a gentler alternative to harsh mildew killers, try a solution of oxygen bleach, which is a form of hydrogen peroxide. You can give especially grimy areas a quick scrub with a soft brush, too.
- Wash. Fill the compartment in your hose attachment with cleanser, if using. Keep in mind that unless your home’s exterior is heavily soiled, water alone should do the job. Spray your home from bottom to top, working one section at a time. Just as with pressure washing, aim the spray at a downward angle.
- Rinse. If you used a cleanser on the first pass, now is the time to rinse, spraying your home from top to bottom.