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Pressure Wash Your Home Exterior

Any type of exterior gets dingy over time, but a pressure washer can quickly restore your home to its former beauty.

Preparing for Pressure Washing

Different pressure washers have different cleaning abilities. Read the documentation that came with your pressure washer before beginning any cleaning task and confirm that your model is appropriate for the job. Learn how to set up your machine and how to select the correct spray pattern. Settings vary by whether you're applying detergent or performing high-pressure cleaning and by the type of surface you're cleaning.

In addition to preparing the pressure washer, get the work area ready. Remove obstacles that could cause you to trip or that might snag the hoses. Turn off power to external electrical outlets and fixtures and tape down plastic to cover them. Trim back plants that touch the home exterior and then wet and cover all of the plants in the work area. Close nearby windows and doors.

Good to Know

If you have a two-story home, consider investing in accessories such as spray tips and extensions that are designed to help you clean second stories.

Using a Pressure Washer Safely

Follow the safety instructions in your pressure washer manual. General guidelines include:

  • Stand on a stable surface where you have good balance and solid footing.
  • Wear the eye protection specified by the pressure washer manufacturer.
  • Wear hearing protection when using a gasoline-powered pressure washer.
  • Do not operate a gasoline-powered pressure washer indoors or in an area that does not have proper ventilation. Direct the exhaust away from doors, windows and vents.
  • When using an electric pressure washer, keep the electrical connections dry and off the ground. Don't touch the plug if your hands are wet.
  • Never leave a spray gun unattended while the pressure washer is running.
  • Be aware of where you're directing the spray. Never point the spray gun at people, animals or plants. Keep the spray away from electrical fixtures, power sources and power lines.
Caution

Don't pressure wash your home if you think it's been painted with lead paint. Typically, these are homes painted before 1978. If you think your home might have been painted with lead-based paint, you can purchase a test kit or contact a professional for an inspection and recommendations.

Cleaning with a Pressure Washer

Pressure Washing Siding

General cleaning tips are listed below. Always follow the instructions that came with your pressure washer. Using a pressure washer incorrectly can damage a home exterior, so check the manual to find information on spray settings and how far the spray tip should be from the surface you're cleaning. Test the high-pressure spray on an inconspicuous area before cleaning to make sure the setting does not damage the exterior surface.

Cleaning tough stains and grime that build up on your home exterior may require a detergent:

  • Use only detergents intended for pressure washers.
  • Use a low-pressure spray pattern to apply detergents.
  • Avoid streaking on vertical surfaces by applying the detergent from the bottom up. Work in small sections you can easily identify.
  • Let the detergent remain on the surface for several minutes before you rinse it off, but don't let it dry. Rewet the surface as needed.
  • When you've finished applying detergent, disengage the detergent supply. Set the pressure washer to the spray pattern appropriate for the surface you're cleaning and activate the spray to clear any residual detergent from of the system.
  • Spray off the detergent and grime, starting from the top and working downward. Work in small sections.
Caution

Keep the high-pressure spray away from windows and exterior vents.

Pressure Washing Different Exterior Types

Pressure Washing a Brick Home

Regardless of the type of exterior you're cleaning, avoid getting detergent or water behind the outer surface. Here is more information on pressure washing some common exteriors:

Brick and Mortar

Patch damaged joints and allow the patches to dry for at least a week before you clean the brick. Saturate the brick with water using a gentle, low-pressure spray before you apply detergent. This will help keep the detergent from soaking into the brick. Stand away from the surface and work upward with the spray. After you've finished cleaning and the brick has dried, you may see a powdery, white substance known as efflorescence — a residue of salts that moisture draws out of the brick. Scrub off efflorescence with a dry wire brush. If residue remains, use water and a soft-bristle brush to remove it.

Siding

Repair or replace damaged siding before pressure washing. Keep the spray away from gaps, such as those around door and window trim. If the siding panels overlap, work across the topmost panel to the one it overlays. Avoid spraying under the bottom edges of the panels.

Stucco

Patch chips and cracks in the surface and let the patches dry for a least a week before pressure washing. To protect the texture when you clean the stucco, hold the spray gun or wand so that the spray hits the stucco at a 45-degree angle. Keep the nozzle at least 24 inches from the surface. If you notice copper or rust stains, clean them using a soft brush and a rust-removal solution. Clean off the solution with a garden hose and clear water.

Caution

When using a cleaning chemical, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Pressure Washing Gutters

Your gutters may also need cleaning. Set your pressure washer for a high-pressure spray pattern. Rinse the surfaces with clear water to reduce the spots and streaks caused by water, detergent and grime splashing from other areas of the house.

Good to Know

When cleaning overhead, point the spray ahead of you and to one side to avoid spray-back and drips.

Finishing Your Cleaning Project

After you clean your home exterior, flush the area around the house with clear water to dilute the detergent residue. You'll also need to take care of the pressure washer. Your manual should include directions for relieving the water pressure, draining liquid from the pump and storing the machine. Follow these instructions to make sure your pressure washer is ready for your next cleaning project.