Power washers have built up quite a reputation for being effective cleaning machines. While they do work well to clean stubborn filth, there is a risk of causing damage from power washing, especially when you try to do it yourself without professional help. Luckily, most of these potential problems are easily avoided with a little patience and some expertise.
In this article:
- Can You Inflict Damage from Power Washing?
- Pressure Washing vs Power Washing
- Potential Dangers of Power Washing
- What Can Power Washing Damage?
Can You Inflict Damage from Power Washing?
So, can power washing do damage? Short answer, yes. The dangers of pressure washers are evident right in their name. Consumer models can easily reach pressures around 2800 psi, while commercial units can reach upwards of 4000 psi. That’s roughly the same kind of pressure you’d get if you could balance a Honda Civic on a quarter.
The extreme pressure involved means that it’s easy to do a lot of damage from power washing in a relatively short period of time if you don’t take proper precautions. That’s not even accounting for potential water damage if your project is not properly prepared.
Pressure Washing vs Power Washing
Before we dive in, let’s first differentiate pressure washing and power washing. Most people use the terms interchangeably, but they are not synonyms.
To put it plainly, pressure washing uses a high-pressure water spray with the help of a motorized air pump to clean dirt, mold, dust, mud, grime, and other filth from surfaces. The process sometimes involves the use of detergent for better cleaning. Power washing, on the other hand, is basically the same but with added heat for more effective cleaning.
While pressure washing already involves some level of heat, power washing amps it up a notch to help kill bacteria. In this way, power washing is more thorough, but it also means it’s more dangerous than the process of pressure washing, which in itself already poses risks.
Potential Dangers of Power Washing
Due to its efficacy, many homeowners face the temptation of power washing home exteriors. But, as we’ve already said, the pressure involved in power washing is immense. If not done correctly, you can expect:
- Stripped paint
- Shredded window screens
- Loose and dented vinyl siding
- Loose brickwork from cut mortar
- Damaged seals on windows, resulting in clouding and water damage
- Splintered or cracked wood
- Algae, mold, and mildew growth from water build-up beneath the siding
If the potential for damage to your home’s structure isn’t enough, you also have to consider the potential damage to your body! Thousands of injuries and even some deaths are attributed to power washing each year.
Usually, these come from irresponsible use while on ladders. Trying to control the power washer wand while still maintaining balance is an accident waiting to happen. Don’t let a simple home-beautification project lead to major repairs or expensive hospital bills. It simply isn’t worth it.
What Can Power Washing Damage?
If you’re thinking about using a power washer to clean your home exterior, you may wonder whether the process can damage certain materials. Let’s break them down one by one.
You may think that power washing concrete surfaces can’t possibly cause any damage because the material is so strong — you’d be wrong. In fact, you can easily spot damages from power washing concrete by looking for lines, pitting, and overall surface deterioration.
So, can power washing damage concrete? In a word, yes. Older concrete slabs are usually more resilient to damages caused by power washing compared to slabs that are under a year old.
If you’re not sure whether you should power wash your concrete patio or driveway, it’s best to ask a professional for help. Alternatively, you can also clean concrete without a power washer. If you want to know how to clean concrete patio without pressure washer, simply use a regular garden hose sprayer along with a cleaning solution.
2. Pavers and Brick
Power washing pavers and brick also pose significant risks. If you’re not careful, the high-pressure heated water can damage the mortar in between bricks. The mortar is the material that binds the bricks together. Damages to the mortar can largely compromise the integrity of the structure.
Similarly, if your driveway is made of pavers, you’ll notice sand in between the stones. Power washing driveways improperly can scatter the sand and cause the stones to become loose. So, if you want to pressure wash driveways made of pavers or houses made of bricks, make sure to seek professional help.
If your house has a vinyl siding, you must be careful when power washing them. The panels can become loose or take damage if the water pressure is too high. Inspect your vinyl siding prior to the power washing process. If the siding is already loose or damaged, to begin with, replace it first before proceeding with the wash.
Although you can power wash wood surfaces, you must be cautious. High-pressure levels can splinter the wood. It’s also not a very good idea to power washing your hardwood floors, as the material can soak up the water, which encourages mold growth and weakens the wood.
5. Painted Surface
Power washing can be an easy way to remove paint from surfaces. But, if that’s not your intention in the first place, then it’s better not to power wash painted surfaces.
You must also be careful about power washing surfaces painted with lead paint. As you know, lead is dangerous to your health. And with paint chips everywhere, lead can easily find its way into your kids’ or pets’ mouths.
How Do Damages Occur?
Damages don’t just happen willy-nilly. There’s a cause-and-effect element to power washing and the damages it can cause. There are a number of factors that can contribute to damages from power washing. These include:
- Pressure Level. High-pressure washing is the name of the game, but too high a pressure level can inflict damage on your property. In general, the higher the pressure you use, the more damage it can cause. The right level of pressure depends on the material of the surface, so make sure to check first before turning on your machine.
- Distance. It may not seem like it, but the distance between the wand and the surface is equally important. Being too close to the surface you’ll be washing can cause splashback or worse. Similar to the pressure level, the minimum safe distance is determined by the material of the surface.
- Nozzles. Power washing uses more than one nozzle, depending on the surface. Just like the pressure level and distance, using the wrong nozzle on a surface can cause damage in an instant.
- Cleaning Solutions. Just like everything else, you must look to your surface material to determine which cleaning solutions are necessary and safe. For instance, acidic solutions can corrode wood. Before mixing in your cleaning solution, always read the components first.
- Length of Time. It’s common sense — directing pressurized water in a single area for too long can cause damage. So, if you’re power washing by yourself, make sure to move the wand regularly.
How to Prevent Problems
So, improper power washing can get you into a lot of trouble. Thankfully, you can avoid potential damage from power washing by doing it the right way. But, what is the right way anyway? The simple answer is: don’t use so much pressure. More specifically, only use as much pressure as you need for the job.
The truth is, most jobs don’t actually require that much pressure. In fact, the gallons per minute (GPM) rating of a power washer is often more relevant than the pressure rating. GPM measures how much water the washer is able to output in a minute.
While pressure is important to break up caked-in dirt and grime, a high volume of water is what helps actually flush that water away.
Hard and porous surfaces like concrete driveways and sidewalks are generally good candidates for high-pressure washing. These surfaces are subjected to a lot of dirt, and their porous nature allows that dirt to clump and stick. Luckily, they’re also strong enough to hold up to the abuse of high pressure, though not too much.
For softer materials like wood, shingles, painted surfaces, and vinyl siding, a “soft wash” is more appropriate. With this technique, there’s a larger focus on volume than pressure, and cleaning solutions are used to help break up dirt without damaging surfaces.
Calling in the Experts
Of course, most problems can be avoided by just hiring professionals. While some simple household jobs can be done easily with consumer-grade gear and little experience, you shouldn’t be afraid to call in the experts when you need to.
Bigger jobs are often more complicated than they seem, and more dangerous jobs like roof cleanings are just not worth the risk of doing yourself. By contracting professionals, you can easily avoid potential damage from power washing.
If you’ve chosen to take our advice, don’t hesitate to give us a call.