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3 Pressure Washer Uses for Outdoor Cleaning

Passion for pressure washers

Ask my family and they'll claim that I like to clean. The truth is, I like things to be clean, but I don't necessarily like to clean - see the difference? But when it comes to my pressure washer it's a whole different story. Using a pressure washer is both fun and satisfying. On top of it, it's a versatile appliance in that there are several uses for a pressure washer, especially for outdoor cleaning projects.

Use an electric pressure washer to clean a concrete patio

Use an electric pressure washer to clean a concrete patio


Change the amount of pressure by turning nozzle on wand

Low angle flow makes pressure higher

Low angle flow makes pressure higher

Twisting a nozzle changes the steam size

Twisting a nozzle changes the steam size

Large angle flow makes pressure lower

Large angle flow makes pressure lower

Pressure washers are a must-have for homeowners!

Let's face it, your home is most likely your largest investment and regular cleaning and maintenance go a long way to protecting its value.

In the past, I've always rented a pressure washer for outdoor cleaning and home improvement projects, like cleaning my aggregate concrete patio, but this year I bought a power washer of my own. There was quite a selection of pressure washers to choose from, but the $99 electric 1400 PSI (pounds per square inch) model that I bought is perfect.

I have several outdoor cleaning projects to tackle, but the first order of business is to clean the patio. It was not power washed last year, and the amount of ground-in dirt is astounding.

The pressure washer I selected was practically ready to use out-of-the-box. Within minutes of opening it, I attached the garden hose, plugged it in, and powered it up! I opted to not use any detergents since the high pressure of the water alone is sufficient to clean the patio. And it's so easy to use; simply by turning the nozzle at the end of the wand, both the size of the water stream and pressure are adjusted.

Tips for power washing a concrete patio:

  • Begin with a large fan of water to loosen up dirt and debris across the entire surface or a large section
  • Adjust the nozzle to a higher pressure stream and work on smaller sections, working from the middle towards the edge
  • Finish, by using a bigger stream, and in a large sweeping motion go over the entire surface pushing off any remaining loose dirt

The results of power washing are amazing

Cleaning my patio with an incredibly high pressure water stream certainly produced amazing results, almost restoring its original beauty. The stones, once covered in a couple year's worth of mother nature's dirt and grime, now glimmer again.


  • Decks, patios and sidewalks
  • Fences
  • Driveways
  • Gutters
  • Siding
  • Lawn furniture
  • Flower pots and gardening tools
  • Lawnmowers and other outdoor equipment
  • Paint removal
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Outdoor cleaning projects where a pressure washer makes the job easier

Besides cleaning patios, pressure washers make other types of outdoor cleaning jobs a snap. It is important to adjust the nozzle or tip depending on the type of surface.

Generally, a wider spray angle (less psi) should be used on softer surfaces like wood. Additionally, always use a continuous sweeping motion. Surfaces can be damaged quickly if too much pressure is applied.

Be sure and read all manufacturer instructions before using a power washer.

Clean driveway before having it sealed

If you live in an area of the country where asphalt/tar driveways are the norm, then you know that it's a good idea to seal them regularly. With the abuse that our driveway takes each year from weather extremes and the scraping of shovels and snow plows, we seal our driveway once a year.

In order to get a good seal, ensure that the driveway is clear of debris and as clean as possible before applying the tar. If it isn't then the tar will stick to the dirt and flake away. The best way to clean the driveway is with a pressure washer, leaving enough time for it to dry thoroughly before applying the tar.


Remove old paint before new paint job

Before adding a fresh coat of paint to any surface it is always best to prepare the surface by removing any pealing or chipping paint. Oftentimes, sandpaper is used, but on exterior surfaces, such as a mailbox post, a power washer is the perfect tool for the job. In a matter of minutes old paint can be effortlessly taken off.

Just be sure to let the surface dry completely before adding the new coat of paint.

An electric pressure washer for rent

An electric pressure washer for rent

Higher-price pressure washers for sale

Higher-price pressure washers for sale

Lower-price pressure washers for sale

Lower-price pressure washers for sale

Some cleaning jobs may need detergents

Some cleaning jobs may need detergents


Rent vs Owning

Pressure washers are available to rent at most big-box hardware stores. The Home Depot in my neighborhood rents both gas and electric powered pressure washers. The electric one can be rented for $24 per hour or $35 per day.

Deciding whether to rent or own will vary depending on how much time is needed to get the job done, whether or not it will be used each year, and if you have a place to store it.

Rental pressure washers may be overkill for most home-owners. They are usually industrial strength and are extremely heavy and bulky. If you have many small projects that will be done each year it may be worth buying a low-cost pressure washer.

Electric vs Gas powered

For simple home maintenance projects I would highly recommend an electric power washer instead of one that uses gasoline. It's easy enough to keep the electric cord out of the way during use and is better to not have to deal with the fumes from a gas engine.

PSI (pounds per square inch)

When selecting a pressure washer, PSI is a factor that should be considered. My newly purchased power washer is the lowest PSI available at Home Depot, 1400 PSI. It works great. If I had a model with a higher PSI, perhaps I could have done the patio cleaning job more quickly, but since I now own it, I don't anticipate letting as much dirt build up in the future. For most homeowners the lower PSI and lower-priced models should be adequate.

The price of the power washers spans a wide range, from $99 at the lowest to $799 at the highest. Obviously, the higher-priced models have a much higher PSI and may be better for industrial purposes or for pressure washer businesses.

To use detergent or not

Most pressure washers include a reservoir to place detergent or degreasers. Detergents are available for different types of surfaces, including siding, decks and fences; and concrete and driveways. Using a detergent is not required though to get a good result; oftentimes the high pressure alone is enough to lift up dirt and grime. However, it may be necessary for some grease and other stubborn stains.

If a chemical detergent is used it should be applied at a low pressure and precautions should be taken to protect the eyes and skin.


Expert advice from Home Depot


Precautions when using a pressure washer

Pressure washers can be extremely dangerous if they are not used properly. Damage can happen extremely fast so please be sure to read the owner's manual and follow precautions such as:

  • Always wear eye protection
  • Wear gloves and long pants and sleeves if using detergent
  • Remove loose objects before beginning
  • Use the correct pressure strength (by adjusting nozzle on wand or wand tips) for the type of surface
  • Do not use while standing on a ladder
  • Do not ever point at a person or pet

The following 30-second video showcases how powerful a pressure washer can be, and how quickly damage can occur.

Watch how quickly a pressure washer can slice a watermelon


Results are rewarding

As much fun as it is to power wash outdoors, it's even better to sit back and relax and enjoy the results.

Not only can you cross an outddoor cleaning task off your list, but you can rest assured that by maintaining your home's exterior you are protecting one of your biggest investments.


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Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on December 20, 2012:

You have to be real careful with wood. It probably would be best to test a small area at the lowest pressure possible and see how it goes. But for sure, you wouldn't want to risk splintering wood or damaging it or the paint on it. I do see a lot of people pressure wash their wood decks before re-staining and sealing, so I'm sure you can find an optimal pressure that cleans but doesn't cause damage.

aykianink on December 20, 2012:

That watermelon video is SCARY.

On another note, I can certainly appreciate the 'immediate results' aspect of pressure washing. Having said that, I really wouldn't want anything that powerful shooting against my wood walls. (The paint would be ruined, if nothing else.) Hm. Not sure I trust the 'weaker' 45 degree nozzles either. Guess I'd only be able to learn that through trial and error...

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on May 20, 2012:

Howard - I haven't had to clean anything like that up, but I bet it would do a good job, especially if a de-greaser detergent was added. Even though it's one of the lower pressure models available for sale, it still is very high pressure.

Howard S. from Dallas, Texas, and Asia on May 20, 2012:

How would that model do on the layers of grease and grime that accumulate under the front of a car after years, especially if it's had a leaky gasket at some point?

I bought a steam cleaner a few years ago, but it was obviously too cheap. It's not powerful enough to do much of anything worthwhile.

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on May 20, 2012:

sgbrown - I think it's that time of year to be power-washing and doing other home improvement projects. Once you get started cleaning with one, it's almost hard to stop! Thanks for stopping by.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on May 19, 2012:

We have owned a power-washer for years. I love it! My husand went crazy with it last week. He power-washed the patio, the siding on the house, the car and truck and more! I use it to clean my patio table and chairs that are painted wrought-iron (not sure how to spell that)LOL. Great hub, everyone should have a power-washer! Voted up, useful and interesting! Have a great day! :)

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on May 19, 2012:

moonlake - Even my relatively low PSI power washer works great! I have never seen that ad, now I'm very curious .

moonlake from America on May 19, 2012:

They work great don't they. I love the ad on tv with guy on the patio and power washer, so funny. Voted up

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on May 19, 2012:

Mary - I used to rent one, but I really needed more time than the rental period and it is a hassle to pick it up and return it to the store too. Like you, I find that it is more cost effective just to have my own. It pays for itself quickly. I remember reading your hub about renting out equipment. What a smart idea! You always have ingenious ways to either make or save money.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on May 19, 2012:

I used to pay a handyman to come and pressure clean my driveway and the milldew from the house. I decided I could save money by buying one. I did, and it has paid for itself several times over. Now, when it sits idle, I rent it out! (I wrote Hub about that)You did a good job of pointing out the danger of these machines. I accidentally cut my foot from the pressure because I had flip flops on. I voted this UP, etc.etc.

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on May 19, 2012:

Peggy - Now that I have my own power washer, I have added several more jobs to my to-do list. The front porch and walkway are next. Sometime in the summer I hope to clean my garage floor too. That's nice that you can borrow one from your neighbor. The yard is pretty green and lush right now. We've had a wonderful spring for northern Illinois. Thanks for your comment, sharing and votes.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 19, 2012:

I love the results of using a pressure washer! We just borrowed one from our neighbor who owns one. The before and after effects are so dramatic. Our back patio is in need of more pressure washing this year. On my "to do" list! Your yard looks very pretty from what was shown in the photos. Thanks for this review. SHARING and voted up and useful.

Kristin Trapp (author) from Illinois on May 19, 2012:

anginwu - You're so correct, the results of pressure washing are immediate, and might I add, pretty dramatic. I think the before and after photos of my patio capture how big of a difference using a pressure washer can make versus just a regular garden hose. Thanks for your comment.

anglnwu on May 18, 2012:

I can see why you enjoy power washing. The result is immediate and quite spectacular. I wouldn't mind cleaning if I can use a power cleaner. Thanks for sharing.

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