If you're anything like me and love using a pressure washer, you know how much fun they can be. Yes, this may sound a little odd, but if you've ever felt the exhilaration of watching a fence turn from weathered to brand new looking in a few minutes, then you know what I'm talking about. Regardless if you already own a pressure washer or are thinking of getting one, there are a few tips to keep in mind.
Rent or Buy?
Trying to decide whether to purchase or rent a pressure washer depends on a few different things.
Consider this, you can purchase a brand new washer for a few hundred dollars. Granted it may not be as high PSI as one you rent, but it may certainly be enough to get the jobs done around the house. You can find a typical 2500 PSI washer from Home Depot or even Amazon for around $299; and that's gas powered. Small electric washers with less PSI are available for even less. So if you plan on pressure washing more than once a year, it might be in your best interest to buy.
However, there's something else to take into consideration as well. It seems a lot of people, myself included, may want to start a pressure washing business. Actually a buddy of mine and me started a painting company back in the late 90's and power washing was one of the services we offered. There seems to be a misconception that you have to own everything in order to start your own washing business. But it may benefit you to rent your equipment for a few months before you buy. Additionally, rent from different shops and try out different equipment. This is a great way to know exactly what you want from a power washer when you go to purchase your own. There's nothing worse then buying a product, especially something as expensive as a power washer, only to find out you wish you'd gotten something else.
Remember the BIG THREE
When we talk about pressure washing, the first thing that comes to mind is a lot of pressure and water. Some people make the mistake of thinking that's all it takes to clean a surface. There are actually three elements to the washing process: water pressure, temperature, and detergents. Depending on the surface you're washing, you'll want to carefully consider the amount and intensity of each element.
For example, the first time I used my Honda power washer; I set outside and washed my entire fence using only water. Even though the fence was weathered and looked brand new after washing, it returned to the same old look within a week and all the mold I thought I got rid of came back a short time later. I was missing a valuable element; detergent.
Even though the fence looked clean, the mold or mildew was actually still there, I failed to kill it effectively with just water and pressure. I've since discovered that by using a simple solution of about 1/4 cup oxygen bleach and water, the mixture will actually kill the mildew and keep it from returning; at least for the rest of the season. You can also add in a little laundry detergent (powered) to help loosen dirt and some of the other things that might be stuck to your fence.
Knowing the right amount of pressure to use can also keep you from seriously damaging the surface; especially on decks. I work with a lady who's husband rented a power washer and did their whole deck one Sunday afternoon. He used the wrong tip (fan with less than 40 degrees) and actually splintered the deck. The bad thing about this is you really don't realize you've damaged the wood until it starts drying and you see the little splinters as they dry. It can be a real sinking feeling not to mention cost a fortune to have it sanded and repaired.
Generally you want to use a tip with a wider fan (40 â 60 degrees) for wood. I generally use a 40 for about everything and make sure I know what the end product is going to look like. For example if you're cleaning a deck, it's a good idea to work on a little area off to the side and let it dry for a few days so you know how it's going to work. Many deck detergents you apply and let sit for 10 minutes or so before rinsing off with your washer. I like to do a small area about 4 square feet off to the side and run through the entire process. If I'm planning on doing the entire deck over the weekend, I'll do my test area at the beginning of the week so I'm prepared for the weekend.
Regardless of whether you're looking to start your own pressure washing business or just consider yourself a weekend washer warrior, keeping these few simple tips in mind will help make your washing jobs a success.