Pressure washing a fence is a good way to prepare it for staining or restore it to its original appearance. If you are new to the pressure washing game, it is important to exercise caution. While effective for cleaning, a pressure washer can inflict great damage not only to the fence itself but also to you. Fortunately, you can adopt some tried-and-tested tips for safe and successful results.
Is It Okay to Pressure Wash a Fence?
Because pressure washers spew out water with great force, it is normal to worry about damage. After all, there are some things you can’t pressure wash. But is a fence one of them?
In general, it is perfectly fine to clean a fence using a pressure washer. The catch, though, is that you must do it the right way. This means using the right combination of force, nozzle, detergent, and technique. Using too low pressure will not effectively get rid of dirt and stains, while pressure that is too high or narrow can chip away the wood.
What Are the Benefits of Pressure Washing Your Fence?
A fence can boost the appeal of a residential or commercial property. It can elevate a property’s appearance and complement the landscaping. It also serves as an added layer of protection, keeping trespassers and stray animals out.
Time and the elements, though, can wear down a fence. Dirt, grime, algae, and smoke can diminish the appearance of a fence and even contribute to premature deterioration. A fence can even have mold and mildew growth, which can have negative health effects on people and pets.
Pressure washing can remove these pollutants and protect the condition of the fence. It is a fast and effective cleaning method and can even extend the lifespan of your investment.
Pressure washing a fence before staining is also a common practice. It is a good way to prepare the fence for staining or painting, ensuring a clean and blemish-free surface. This prevents imperfections from showing up after the staining or painting process.
How Often Should You Pressure Wash a Fence?
Generally, you should pressure wash a fence once you start seeing a build-up of dirt, grime, and other pollutants. Stains, in particular, are harder to remove when you let them fester.
The frequency of pressure washing should also depend on your location and environment. If you live in a place that exposes your fence to harsher conditions, then you will likely need to pressure wash it more often.
That said, a good rule of thumb is to pressure wash your fence at least once per year.
Top Tips to Follow When Pressure Washing a Fence
If this is your first time cleaning a fence using a pressure washer, you will greatly benefit from the tips below.
1. Safety First
Injuries are not uncommon in the world of pressure washing. A pressure washer can bruise and even cut through flesh when used incorrectly. There is also a risk of contracting an infection if the laceration is deep and exposed to bacteria.
Therefore, safety is absolutely paramount when it comes to pressure washing anything. You should wear protective clothing and eye gear at all times. You should also learn how to use a pressure washer properly. Never leave the pressure washer unattended or have it stand on uneven surfaces.
After switching off the pressure washer, make sure to release any remaining pressure, too. You can do this by squeezing the wand trigger before disconnecting all nozzles and hoses.
2. Preparation Is Key
Preparation is integral to safe and effective pressure washing. Before blasting away at your fence, make sure to clear the surrounding area and remove any loose debris. Lawn furniture and other objects should be set aside, far from the fence, as there is a risk of sending these things flying. Don’t miss out on any small objects, too, as you may trip over them and hurt yourself.
Even if your fence isn’t directly adjacent to your house, make sure to shut all doors, windows, and any other openings. This will prevent water from flooding your home. Cover any nearby fixtures, plants, and outlets with a tarp. Beyond that, see to it that you read the manufacturer’s instructions on your pressure washer before starting the project.
3. Protect Plants and Soil
In addition to covering nearby plants and soil with a tarp, you may also want to spray them with a hose. This will prevent detergent and any runoff from soaking into the soil and damaging your plants. If you have flower pots instead of an in-ground garden, move them away from the washing area.
4. Use the Right Nozzle
When done with the wrong nozzle, pressure washing a wood fence can result in severe damage. A nozzle that’s too fine or narrow can carve through wood. The best nozzle to use for this project is a 25-degree tip, which is usually in the color green. This nozzle will effectively remove dirt and grime without damaging the wood.
5. Use the Right PSI Level
What is the best PSI to clean a fence? Generally, you should aim for a PSI between 500 to 800 for softer woods and between 1200 to 1500 for harder woods.
Of course, there are other variables at play. The condition of your wooden fence can also influence the right PSI level. As such, for damage-free wood fence cleaning, it is a good idea to test out the PSI in a small area of the fence first before applying the same pressure to the rest of the fence.
6. Use the Right Fence Cleaner
There are different detergents you can use to clean your fence, but you should opt for one that’s specifically designed for wood. This type of detergent should be tough enough to get rid of moss and mold while safe enough to avoid damaging the material. Don’t forget to let the detergent sit for 5 to 10 minutes before washing it off with water.
7. Use a Bottom-Up Approach
The best way to pressure wash a fence is to apply detergent using a bottom-up approach. This means working your way from the bottom to the top of the fence. Used properly, this method prevents streaking, which can be very noticeable after the fact.
8. Wash in Sections
Another tip when pressure washing a fence is to work in sections, especially if you have a big fence. You might be tempted to apply detergent to the whole fence before washing it off, but this will only cause the detergent to harden. When detergent hardens, it can be tough to rinse off. Sure, working in sections means repeating the same process multiple times, but it allows for better results.
9. Use a Scrub Brush for Stubborn Stains
A good detergent should be able to clear stains from your fence. If you find really stubborn ones, though, you can use a rotating scrub brush wand attachment. A scrub brush can break down difficult stains and caked-on dirt.
Bonus Tip: Hire Fence Cleaning Services
There are several things to keep in mind when pressure washing a fence. If you don’t feel like doing all of the above, a trained professional can do them for you. Hiring a fence cleaning service will save you both time and effort, so you can spend your Saturday afternoon doing something else.
Pressure Washing vs Power Washing a Fence: Which Is Better?
While pressure washing and power washing do share similar qualities, they do have one glaring difference: temperature. Power washing involves using heated water, whereas pressure washing does not. But is it better to power wash a fence than to pressure wash it?
Pressure washing is a good base option for fence cleaning. It’s well-suited for fences that aren’t too filthy. If you have a fence with years’ worth of dirt and grime, you are better off using a power washer. The same goes if you have a moldy fence or a fence with oil stains.
Skip the Headache, Hire a Pro
Pressure washing a fence, while effective, does come with some considerations. You must factor in a number of things, including safety, PSI level, nozzle tips, and technique. To an amateur, this can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, several companies offer expert fence pressure washing services.
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