Can I Power Wash That?
You want the exterior of your home to shine—from your siding and windows to your porch and deck—and that means keeping it all clean. It’s a good idea to wash your home’s exterior at least once a year to remove dirt and prevent mildew, but you also need to avoid the power-washing horror stories: stripping paint, ripping siding and shingles, damaging wood decking.
While your specific maintenance routine will depend on the type of material (don’t ignore those manufacturer guidelines!), in our experience, there are basic points to consider and rules you can follow to avoid any power-washing problems and keep your home’s exterior sparkling and looking great for years.
Power washing makes it quick and easy to clean vinyl siding, but not all brands recommend it. Typically, vinyl siding can withstand a power washer with a higher PSI (2,500-3,000), but check your siding manufacturer’s website to learn if it’s safe for the material on your home.
For brick, stucco, or wood siding, it’s a good idea to either wash by hand or use a lower PSI (1,200-1,500) to steer clear of damage like chipping.
If pressure washing is an option for your siding, just be sure to use the correct PSI, point the nozzle at a slight angle, don’t get too close to prevent peeling, and avoid spraying upwards—as this can trap moisture underneath the siding.
Important rule: keep your distance, especially with a wood deck. Avoid spraying your deck with the power washer tip close to the wood. Power washing can permanently damage wood by imprinting lines and marks when a sprayer is held too close to the surface. Pull back and create space to allow for an even application.
If you have a composite deck, you should check your decking manufacturer’s website for guidelines.
When it comes to determining the right PSI, keep the following in mind:
- Composite decking – Check your decking manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure you are following their recommendations for cleaning with a pressure washer to avoid damaging your deck.
- Softwood decking – For softwood decks like redwood or cedar, 1,200 PSI is sufficient. Anything greater than risks damaging or removing the wood, leaving behind a raised grain.
- Hardwood decking – Hardwood decking can typically withstand a bit more pressure than softwood. When pressure washing a hardwood deck, stick to between 1,200 and 1,500 PSI to prevent damage.
Use a lower setting on your power washer when you apply your water. Spray your windows and frames from an angle, starting on one side when you spray. This is more effective at lifting dirt than spraying directly.
If your window frames are aluminum or vinyl, power washing should not be a problem. Wood-framed windows require special attention to detail, so be sure to review the glazing between the frame and glass; it should be intact and solid. Inspect the weather stripping on the window and the caulking around the frame where it meets the siding.
Take care when power washing around windows and doors to prevent breakage and keep water out of your home.
You have the power of pressured water, but what if you’re considering using an additive—like soap or chemicals? There are a variety of specialized products you can use to safely power wash your home, and it’s frankly easier to outline what NOT to use:
- Bleach: Bleach will corrode your pump’s seals and potentially ruin the pressure washer. It can also discolor your siding and lead to fading. Bleach is also a dangerous chemical, and spraying bleach means propelling the chemical into the air.
- Dish Soap: Grabbing the dish soap from your kitchen counter might seem like a convenient and affordable option, but it can cost you in the long run. Dish soap doesn’t have the cleaning power of detergent and can leave a film on surfaces. Dish soap is also not a good match for a power washer’s high-temperature water, and can eventually damage your power washer’s tubing and other parts.
The best call is to use a detergent specifically made for power washers. These products are formulated for the job and will leave you with a thorough and bright clean.
- Power washing is great at achieving a deep, thorough clean for exterior surfaces.
- Take notice of your housing material and manufacturer guidelines before pulling out the power washer.
- Keep in mind PSI, distance from the surface, and angle as you start to clean.
- Use a power-washer-specified detergent to achieve a deep clean without damaging your home’s surfaces.