Pressure Washer Power Comes at a Cost

The deck table and chairs got sparklingly clean, but the deck needs cleaning next.

Got mildew? Wherever you live, some parts of your property naturally get more shade than others. And if you live in humid regions, the combination of moist air and shade is an open invitation to every spore that happens by. Before long, it’s a colony with squatters’ rights. You can rescind the invitation, but brushes and bleach will knock you out first. You need a pressure washer.

Cleaning with a pressure washer, in fact, can be a joy to use since you can see such a difference in what you’re cleaning. And once you set out to clean something—such as the deck chairs and table in this photo—it’s hard to resist moving on to the deck, retaining walls, siding and everything else that could use a good once-over. Like eating potato chips, you can’t clean only one thing, such as the above deck chairs and table.

But pressure washers can be the most finicky of outdoor power gear. Setup, including the point at which you turn on your water connection, must be just so to avoid overheating the pump. Choosing the right spray nozzle or setting can make a difference between cleaning and ruining a deck, siding, or even driveway asphalt. Startup often needs several pulls, and few if any gas models come with electric start. Planning your work and staying focused on the work will keep you safe from the concentrated spray. And when you’re done, stowing the machine properly will keep your pump from corroding—and leaking in the spring from residual water that froze.

All power tool manuals are required reading, but skipping the guide that comes with your pressure washer can be particularly unforgiving. First, you could keep the thing running a good 15 to 20 years if you know how. Even more important is the safety, which deserves its own discussion.

Here is more advice from Tool to Power on setup, safety, proper operation and storage.

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