Tools & Materials
Get the Most From Your Pressure Washer
Variable Pressure vs. Fixed
Most pressure washers run at maximum pressure all the time, but some let you turn down the pressure for delicate surfaces. This is a nice feature, but you can get the same effect just by using a wider spray pattern and holding the nozzle farther away from the surface. Or buy an add-on pressure regulator like the Simpson Dial-N-Wash.
Soap Tanks Are More Work
Pressure washers provide the best results when you pretreat with pressure washer soap. Some machines include an onboard soap tank. We initially thought that was a great idea. But we found it to be a nuisance overall. We had to constantly refill the tank on large jobs. And afterward, the tank needed to be cleaned out (dried soap can damage the pump).
Instead, we prefer the siphon tube approach. Just shove the end of the tube into a gallon of cleaner and start soaping. When you’re done, rinse the siphon tube, cap the jug and call it done. You can convert a machine with an onboard tank by disconnecting the tank tube and installing a siphon tube/filter accessory to the soap port on the pump.
Higher Hose Connections Are Easier
Consider the location of hose connections when choosing your machine. The pumps and hose connections on vertical-shaft gasoline engines are mounted at the bottom of the unit, near the ground. The pumps on horizontal-shaft engines sit about 8 in. higher. The designs work equally well. It’s just a matter of convenience when attaching the garden and high-pressure hoses. If you have bum knees or trouble bending over, that slight height advantage makes it easier to connect hoses.
If your work calls for a lot of pressure washing, you have to try a Hyde Pivot Nozzle Wand. You just twist a handle to rotate the business end and you can hose down just about anything. Flip it down for gutters, up for soffits, or sideways for cleaning out the inside of barrels or whatever else needs cleaning. There are several models; choose the one that fits your pressure washer. If you treasure your pressure washer like a cowboy treasures his six-shooter, you’ll love this thing.
Helpful Pressure Washer Accessories
- Replacement O-ring kit with filtering screens.
- Gutter cleaner attachment. Snap this attachment onto a telescoping extension wand (such as the General Pump 6-ft. to 24-ft. Telescoping Wand; found at home centers or online.) You’ll be able to blast the gunk out of your gutters without climbing a ladder.
- Quick-connect adapters and couplers. Convert your screw-on pressure washer hose to quick-connect fittings and you’ll never have to worry about O-ring damage or crossthreading.
- 6-in-1 dial nozzle. Stop fiddling around with individual nozzles. If your hose uses quick-connect nozzles, just snap this on and you’re done.
- Adjustable pressure regulator (Simpson Dial-N-Wash Pressure Regulator.) Snap it onto your hose and connect the other end to your gun. Then adjust the pressure from max down to 1,000 psi to prevent damaging delicate items.
Use the Right Pressure Washer Nozzle for the Job
Pressure Washer nozzle tips are color coded to denote their spray pattern. A zero-degree nozzle provides the most power for really stubborn stains. But that force can etch concrete and brick, blast holes in wood siding, break windows and even rip trim off your car. So be sure to test the area first and back the tip away from the surface if you notice any etching or damage. The soap nozzle (which is black) has a large opening to allow maximum water flow through the pump. The high water flow is needed to siphon soap out of the dispenser nozzle. The soaping function won’t work with any other nozzle.
- Red 0°: A zero-degree nozzle produces a pencil-point spray with no fan. Use it to blast mud or debris off surfaces from a distance or remove weeds from cracks in concrete.
- Yellow 15°: A 15-degree nozzle produces a slight fan pattern. Hold the nozzle at a 45-degree angle to use it like a scraper when you’re removing peeling paint or dislodging other coatings.
- Green 25°: A 25-degree nozzle produces a wider fan pattern that’s perfect for removing dirt and grime. This nozzle can also be used as a water broom to sweep debris off a driveway.
- White 40°: A 40-degree nozzle produces the widest fan pattern. Use it to wash delicate surfaces like deck boards, glass and vehicle exteriors.
Pull the Pressure Washer Trigger First
Before you yank the starter rope, pull the gun trigger (or have someone else do it). This will relieve pump pressure and lower engine resistance, making it easier to start (gasoline pressure washers only).
Pressure Washer Safety
Don’t park the pressure washer unit too close to structures. Hot exhaust can melt vinyl siding and start fires. This damage was caused in less than two minutes.
Never run a gas-powered pressure washer in the garage while you clean the garage floor. Move it well away from the house (at least 5 ft.) to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Never use a strong spray to remove caulk around windows. The stream can force water behind siding, causing extensive water damage.
Lube Pressure Washer Hose Connectors
Dry O-rings in a pressure washer hose connector can twist slightly and tear as you make the connection, causing them to fail. Since regular oil washes off when it gets wet, buy a small container of silicone plumber’s grease instead. It doesn’t wash off and it’s compatible with all types of O-ring materials. Tape the container to your machine so you’ll always have it handy. Then apply a new coating every five uses or anytime the O-rings look dry.
We’d Love to Hear From You
Do you have a jobsite or tool tip that makes your work-life easier, safer, or just more fun? Why not share it with your construction comrades? Plus, you can show off your professional prowess to your family and friends.
Click the image below to send us your Pro Tips! Please include an image if you can. We will contact you if we run your submission on the site.