Almost every DIY job requires a little prep work before you get going. If you’re cleaning your deck, for example, you’ll want to clear off the barbecue, furniture, planters, and anything else that would get in the way. You may also need to set up tarps to protect nearby vegetation or items that could be damaged by the spray.
There are a variety of different nozzle tips for washers, which change the amount of pressure and width of spray, ranging from 0° to 65°. The highly concentrated spray from the red-coloured 0° nozzle is only used in extreme cases such as blasting away graffiti. The yellow 15° and green 25° tips are for lifting debris, while the black wide-spray 65° tip is for soaking and rinsing.
Easy-to-use, plug-in electric washers offer about to about 1,500 PSI (pounds per square inch) in pressure. That’s strong enough to clean your car or your barbecue and rinse off the deck or your siding. But for heavy duty jobs such as removing paint or oil stains, or getting years of built-up grime out of patio stones, you’ll need a gas-powered washer with 3,000 PSI or more.
Both gas and electric pressure washers rely on a water supply from a garden hose, and there are accessories such as brushes and scrubbing brooms available for different tasks. Depending on what you’re cleaning, you may also want to buy a specially formulated pressure-washer detergent to use with the washer that you’ll rinse off later.
When using a pressure washer, you should wear goggles and close-toe shoes—safety boots, if you have them—and stand with your feet firmly on the ground. (The kick from starting the hose could knock you off a ladder.) Never aim the spray directly at a person or a pet: the flow is strong enough to knock someone down or cause injury.
Start off with the unit at the lowest setting, and slowly build up until you get to the right level. Don’t aim your spray directly at the material you’re cleaning. You want the flow at about a 45-degree angle so that it rinses and washes away the grime.
If you want to wash your dock and are planning on using a cleaning agent, remove the dock and set it up as far from the lake as you can. Try to channel the runoff to an area where it can pool and slowly filter into the ground instead of running directly into the lake.