Under Pressure

By DiAnne Crown

March 20, 2018 4 min read

Routine outdoor spring-cleaning often just takes a few garden tools, sponges, scrubbers and a good hose. But some larger jobs, such as cleaning siding, decks, fences or sidewalks, require the water, reach and pressure of a power washer. Sometimes this is a do-it-yourself project; other times it requires the help of a professional.

*To DIY or Not to DIY

Safe, successful pressure washing requires using the right amount of force. Too much force might damage the surface you're cleaning by gouging it. Additionally, heavy-duty rental units can be more difficult to handle and could cause you to hurt yourself by losing balance on a ladder, for example, or hitting yourself with the high-pressure stream.

Meanwhile, the lower-pressure units for sale at big-box stores might be safer but might not clean satisfactorily.

For small jobs that don't require deep cleaning, an electric unit should be sufficient. But for larger, more challenging jobs, Roy Berendsohn of Popular Mechanics says a gas-powered washer might be necessary.

To avoid damaging softer surfaces and to prevent harsh cleaners from harming your landscape, follow these tips, courtesy of Danny Lipford at Today's Homeowner: Use a wide tip on softer surfaces; find the distance from the tip to the surface that cleans best without causing damage; when cleaning wood, move the tip with the grain of the wood; use a cleaner made for pressure washers, and the tip made for applying cleaners; if bleach is necessary, use oxygen bleach instead of chlorine bleach; use a surface cleaner attachment for large horizontal areas.

*Why Call a Professional?

Mike Aden, owner of Pow'r-Clean, describes the differences between DIY and professional services. "The safety aspect is the No. 1 reason" to opt for professional services, Aden says. "That is, knowing how to use different tips and pressures."

In addition, many commercial units deliver up to 3,500 psi (pounds per square inch) of water, including very hot water when needed. Rental units might only provide a third of that pressure, he says.

According to Aden, hiring an experienced professional with references and insurance helps to ensure the job will be completed more quickly, without damage and with sufficient reach to clean high places safely.

And finally, Aden uses a variety of special biodegradable cleaners and sealers for various cleaning and restoration applications.

Of special concern may be masonry with very hard brick and very soft mortar; older wooden decking that needs special care not to splinter; siding with paint that has oxidized but can be easily gouged, and more. In these cases and others, Aden recommends calling an experienced professional for a free estimate.

For more tips on pressure washing, go to http://www.todayshomeowner.com and search for the video "How to Clean Your Home With a Pressure Washer."

For specific tips on mildew, visit https://www.popularmechanics.com and find the article "How to Pressure Wash Your House."

For considerations when dealing with wood-frame homes, lead-based paint, soft mortar and other surfaces, see the article "Four Reasons You Should Never Pressure Wash Your House" at http://thecraftsmanblog.com.

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