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How to Pressure Wash a House

The Complete Guide

Pressure washing your house is not just about blasting dirt away. It’s a task that requires patience, effort, and a bit of know-how.

While it’s an efficient way to refresh your home’s exterior, it’s not as simple as pointing a hose and watching the magic happen. This method can breathe new life into various surfaces like stucco, wood, and brick. But remember, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

In this guide, we’ll cover the steps to get your house looking its best. From preparing your home and setting up the washer, to the actual washing and post-care. We’ll answer common questions and offer tips to ensure a successful clean. Whether you’re a first-timer or looking to refine your technique, this article is here to help.

Let’s step into the world of pressure washing and start the journey to a cleaner, brighter home.

Key Takeaways – How to Pressure Wash a House
  • Right Equipment Matters – Choosing between a gas or electric pressure washer is key. The right choice depends on your house size and cleaning needs. Remember, different surfaces require different pressure levels.
  • Safety First – Always wear protective gear like goggles and gloves. Be mindful of your surroundings to avoid accidents. Remember, pressure washers are powerful and should be handled with care.
  • Preparation is Essential – Before starting, cover plants and close all windows and doors. This protects your home and greenery from water damage and cleaning solutions.
  • Technique Counts – Apply detergent from the bottom up and rinse from the top down. This method ensures an even clean and prevents streaks. Tackle your house in sections for a thorough job.
  • Mind the Weather – Choose a mild day for pressure washing. Too much sun can cause the water to dry too quickly, leaving spots.
  • Post-Wash Care – After washing, if you’re painting, let your house dry completely. This ensures the paint adheres well and lasts longer.
  • Professional Help Is an Option – For multi-story homes or if you’re unsure about doing it yourself, consider hiring a professional. They have the expertise and equipment to handle the job safely and efficiently.

Find a Professional Pressure Washing Company Near You.
You Could Save Up to 40% By Comparing Pressure Washing Quotes.

Choosing the Best Pressure Washer

Choosing the right equipment for pressure washing your house is crucial. It’s not just about power, but also about suitability and safety.

The type of pressure washer you select can make a big difference in both the ease and effectiveness of the job.

There are two main types of pressure washers: gas and electric.

Gas models are known for their strength and mobility. They don’t need a power outlet, so you can move around freely. This makes them a good choice for larger homes or areas without easy access to electricity.

Electric models, on the other hand, are less powerful but more convenient for smaller tasks. Models like the Karcher K2 below are easier to handle and ideal for those who are new to pressure washing.

The power of a pressure washer is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). This tells you how much force the water will hit the surface with.

Different materials require different PSI levels. For instance, delicate materials like painted wood need a lower PSI to avoid damage, so starting around 500 PSI is usually best and working up to prevent damage. More robust materials like brick can handle a higher PSI.

It’s important to get this right. Using too high a PSI can harm your home’s exterior, stripping paint or damaging siding. Too low, and you might not clean effectively. If you’re unsure, it’s always safer to start lower and increase the pressure gradually.

Another key factor is the pressure washer nozzle. The angle of the nozzle affects how concentrated the water stream is. A wider angle means a softer spray, which is better for delicate surfaces. Narrow angles increase the intensity and are better for tougher jobs.

Here’s a handy summary of various nozzle types:

  • 0-degree high-intensity jet nozzle (red): Delivers a highly concentrated pencil-point jet stream to whatever you’re cleaning, and is ideally suited to moving the most stubborn of dirt.
  • 15-degree fan-tip nozzle (yellow): For particularly intense cleaning tasks on hard surfaces, for example, stripping paint, cleaning grease, or removing rust from steel.
  • 25-degree fan-tip nozzle (green): For a variety of household tasks, for example, cleaning brick patios, wooden decks, and driveways.
  • 40-degree wide-spray nozzle (white): For cleaning more delicate items, for example, cars, boats, patio equipment, lawn mowers, etc.
  • Soap nozzle (black): Specifically designed for when you’re using detergent. The lower pressure is ideal for cleaning equipment, removing mildew/oxidation stains from houses, and cleaning bricks, etc.

The color scheme for pressure washers is fairly standard and makes it easy to choose the correct one.

how to pressure wash a house image - image showing a wider spray nozzle being used on the side of a house to prevent damage
We recommend starting with a wider, gentler spray pattern using a 65-degree (black) or 40-degree (white) nozzle to prevent damage. You can always work up to a narrower, more powerful nozzle if required.
Image credit: J. J. Gouin/

If you’re planning to buy a pressure washer, talk to experts at your local hardware store. They can guide you to the right model for your needs. If you’re renting, the rental agency can provide valuable advice on which machine and settings are best for your home.

In summary, picking the right pressure washer and settings is about balancing power with precision. It’s about matching the tool to the task at hand, ensuring you clean effectively without causing damage. With the right equipment, pressure washing can be a satisfying and productive experience.

Preparing Your House for Pressure Washing

Getting your house ready for pressure washing is a key step you shouldn’t overlook. Proper preparation can prevent damage and make the cleaning process smoother and more effective. Here’s how you can set the stage for a successful pressure wash.

First, consider the surroundings of your house. Cover any plants, shrubs, or garden areas close to the walls. You can use plastic sheeting or drop cloths for this. Securing these covers with duct tape will ensure they stay in place. This step is crucial to protect your greenery from the powerful spray and any cleaning solutions used.

Next, turn your attention to the house itself. Close all windows and doors tightly. This is important to prevent water from getting inside your home. Double-check them to make sure they’re securely shut. Pay special attention to small cracks and openings where water can sneak in.

If you spot any mold or mildew on your home’s exterior, treat these areas before you start. A simple solution of bleach and water works well on hard, non-porous surfaces. Apply it with a spray bottle, gently brush the area, and rinse with clean water.

For porous surfaces such as wood, undiluted vinegar is a better option than bleach. Let the vinegar sit on the surface for 60-minutes to air dry before wiping away any excess.

These pre-treatments will help remove these stubborn spots more effectively during any follow-up pressure washing.

Clearing the area around your house is also vital. Remove any obstacles like bikes, toys, and outdoor furniture. These items can get in the way and might get damaged. Also, move your car out of the driveway to keep it safe from dirt and debris.

For houses with more than two stories, setting up scaffolding is a smart move. It’s safer than using a ladder (which we never recommend), as the force of the water can throw off your balance. Scaffolding provides a stable platform, allowing you to reach high areas without the risk.

how to pressure wash a house image - an image showing someone using a pressure washer while standing on a ladder, a dangerous practice which we do not recommend
We don’t recommend using a ladder while pressure washing. You’ll find it difficult to handle the pressure washer’s powerful spray while holding on to the ladder, leading to potential injury if you fall from height. It’s not worth the risk.
Image credit: ronstik/

In essence, preparing your house for pressure washing is about safeguarding both your property and the environment around it.

By taking these steps, you ensure a safe, efficient, and hassle-free cleaning process.

Setting Up Your Pressure Washer for Optimal Use

Preparing your pressure washer properly is essential for a safe and effective cleaning session.

Here’s a straightforward list of steps to ensure your pressure washer is set up correctly:

  • Connect to Power – For electric models, use a long extension cord to reach around the house. Ensure the cord is safely placed to avoid tripping.
  • Choose the Right Nozzle – Pick a 15-degree nozzle for tough surfaces and a 25 or 30-degree nozzle for more delicate areas. The right nozzle prevents damage while ensuring effective cleaning.
  • Prepare Cleaning Solution – Fill the detergent dispenser with a suitable cleaning agent. Attach a siphoning tube for mixing detergent with water.
  • Attach Garden Hose – Connect one end of your hose to the pressure washer and the other to your home’s water faucet. Check for a secure fit to avoid leaks.
  • Use an Extension Wand – For high areas, attach an extension wand to reach safely without the need for ladders. This step is crucial for multi-story homes.
  • Test the Equipment – Before starting, do a quick test to ensure everything is working correctly. This helps identify any issues before you begin the actual cleaning.
  • Safety Check – Double-check all connections and settings. Ensure you have safety gear on, like goggles, and that the area is clear of tripping hazards.

By following these steps, you can set up your pressure washer effectively, ensuring a smooth and safe cleaning process.

With your equipment ready, it’s time to move on to the pressure washing itself.

Mastering Effective Pressure Washing Techniques

Now that your pressure washer is all set up, it’s time to get down to the actual washing. Pressure washing your house can be satisfying, especially when you see the dirt wash away, leaving your home looking fresh and clean.

Let’s go through the steps to ensure you do it right and safely:

  • Start from the Bottom – Begin applying detergent to the house from the bottom upwards. Tackle small sections, about 6-10 feet wide, to prevent the detergent from drying on the house before you rinse it off.
  • Work in Sections – Divide your house into manageable sections. This approach ensures thorough cleaning and lets you focus on one area at a time, reducing the chance of missing spots.
  • Apply Detergent – Use the low-pressure setting to apply the detergent solution. Cover the entire section and give it some time to work on the dirt and grime.
  • Scrub if Necessary – For tough stains, you might need to do a bit of scrubbing. Use a soft-bristle brush to gently work on these areas. Be careful not to scrub too hard to avoid damage.
  • Rinse from the Top – Switch to a higher pressure setting and start rinsing from the top of the section downwards. This ensures that all the dirt and detergent are washed away effectively.
  • Keep a Consistent Distance – Maintain a steady distance between the nozzle and the house. Too close, and you might damage the siding; too far, and you won’t clean effectively.
  • Overlap Your Strokes – As you move the wand, overlap each stroke slightly. This helps prevent streaks and ensures no spots are missed.
  • Be Mindful of Windows and Doors – Direct the spray away from windows and doors to prevent water from getting inside.
  • Regular Breaks – Take regular breaks, especially if you’re not used to the physical demands of pressure washing. This helps prevent fatigue and keeps you alert.
  • Final Inspection – Once you’ve finished a section, step back and inspect your work. Look for any missed spots or areas that might need a second pass.

Pressure washing is about patience and attention to detail. By following these steps, you can ensure a thorough clean that rejuvenates your home’s exterior, all while keeping things safe and efficient.

With one section done, you can move on to the next, watching your house transform as you go.

Ensuring Safety During Pressure Washing

When it comes to pressure washing, safety is as important as the cleaning itself. Understanding and following safety guidelines can prevent accidents and ensure a smooth cleaning experience.

Let’s discuss some essential safety measures and best practices:

  • Wear Protective Gear – Always wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from debris. Sturdy gloves can help you maintain a good grip and protect your hands. Also, consider wearing ear protection, especially with louder gas models.
  • Check the Equipment Before Starting – Inspect your pressure washer for any signs of wear or damage. Look at the hoses, connections, and nozzles to ensure everything is in good working order.
  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings – Keep children and pets away from the area where you’re working. Also, be mindful of objects that can be hit by the high-pressure spray, like windows or fragile decorations.
  • Use the Right Pressure Settings – Don’t start with the highest pressure. Begin with a lower setting and increase it gradually as needed. This helps prevent damage to your siding or paint.
  • Maintain a Safe Distance – Keep the nozzle a safe distance from the surface you’re cleaning. Too close can cause damage, too far can be ineffective.
  • Never Point the Nozzle at People or Pets – The high-pressure spray can cause serious injury. Always point the nozzle away from yourself and others.
  • Avoid Using Ladders – The recoil from the pressure washer can throw off your balance. Use an extension wand for high areas instead of climbing ladders.
  • Handle Electric Models with Care – Be cautious with electric pressure washers. Keep the electrical connections dry and away from water to avoid shocks.
  • Stay Grounded on Slippery Surfaces – Pressure washing can make surfaces slippery. Wear shoes with good traction and be aware of your footing.
  • Take Regular Breaks – Pressure washing can be tiring, especially for your hands and arms. Take breaks to rest and reduce the risk of strain.

By following these tips, you can ensure a safer pressure washing experience. Safety precautions are not just about personal protection; they also contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of your cleaning task.

With these measures in place, you can focus on the rewarding aspects of pressure washing, knowing you’ve taken steps to safeguard yourself and your surroundings.

Post-Wash Care and Painting Prep

After pressure washing your house, there’s a sense of accomplishment. Your home looks refreshed, but the job isn’t done yet. There are a few post-wash actions you need to take, especially if you plan to paint your house.

These steps are crucial for ensuring your home is ready for a new coat of paint and stays in great condition.

First, inspect your house for any areas that might need more attention. Sometimes, pressure washing reveals spots that require extra cleaning or even repairs. This is particularly true for older homes where the high pressure might have uncovered hidden issues.

an image showing damage on the siding of a house that should be repaired after pressure washing and ahead of painting
Pressure washing may reveal some areas that need to be repaired ahead of painting, particularly on older houses. It’s important to fix these to prevent the problem getting worse.
Image credit: Indy Edge/

If you’ve used detergent, make sure to rinse your house thoroughly. Any residue left behind can interfere with the new paint adhering properly. Think of it as preparing a canvas for painting; it needs to be clean and smooth.

Give your house time to dry completely. This is crucial. Painting on a damp surface can lead to peeling and bubbling. Ideally, wait for a dry, warm week to ensure all the moisture has evaporated. This patience pays off with a paint job that lasts longer and looks better.

Lastly, check for chalking. Older paint might have left a powdery residue. You’ll want to remove this before painting to ensure the new paint adheres well. It’s similar to sanding down a piece of furniture before repainting it.

By taking these post-wash steps, you’re not just cleaning your house; you’re preparing it for a fresh start. Whether you’re repainting or just enjoying the renewed look of your home, these actions help maintain its beauty and value.

With your house clean, dry, and ready, you can move forward with confidence, knowing you’ve laid the groundwork for a successful painting project or simply for enjoying your revitalized home.

When to Consider Professional Pressure Washing Services

When considering pressure washing your house, it’s important to think about the costs involved and whether to do it yourself or hire a professional.

Both options have their benefits, and the best choice depends on your situation, budget, and comfort level with the task.

Let’s compare DIY versus professional pressure washing:

Consideration DIY Pressure Washing Professional Pressure Washing
Initial Costs Cost of renting/buying equipment, cleaning solutions, and utilities (water, electricity/gas). Service fee, which typically includes equipment and cleaning solutions.
Average Cost Approximately $231.25 (varies based on equipment and size of the house). Varies based on house size and job complexity; charged per square foot.
Equipment Responsibility to select and operate the correct pressure washer and attachments. Professional-grade equipment provided and operated by the service.
Safety and Complexity Requires user to handle equipment safely and effectively, higher risk in multi-story houses. Handled by experienced professionals, ideal for multi-story or complex structures.
Time and Effort Time-consuming, physically demanding, requires personal effort and learning. Less time and effort required from the homeowner, job typically completed more quickly.
Risks Potential for property damage if done incorrectly, safety risks in handling equipment. Reduced risk of damage, professionals are usually insured against accidents.

In summary, the decision to DIY or hire a professional for pressure washing your house comes down to several factors: the cost, your comfort and skill with the equipment, the complexity of your home, and the potential risks involved.

Weighing these factors will help you make an informed decision that fits your needs and ensures your home gets the care it deserves.

Find a Professional Pressure Washing Company Near You.
You Could Save Up to 40% By Comparing Pressure Washing Quotes.

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to pressure washing, many homeowners have questions. It’s natural to want to know more about this process, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.

Let’s tackle some of the most common questions people have about pressure washing a house:

What Should I Do to Prepare My House for Pressure Washing?

Preparing your house for pressure washing is like getting ready for a big paint job.

First, protect your plants and garden areas with plastic sheeting or drop cloths. Then, make sure all your windows and doors are closed tightly. You don’t want any water sneaking inside.

If you see any mold or mildew, treat those areas with a mix of bleach and water on hard surfaces, or with undiluted vinegar on porous surfaces such as wood.

Next, clear the area. Move anything like bikes or outdoor furniture that could get in the way or damaged.

Lastly, if your house is more than two stories, consider setting up scaffolding instead of using a ladder. It’s safer because the force of the water can make ladders risky.


How Do I Choose the Right Pressure Washer and Settings for My House?

Choosing the right pressure washer is like picking the perfect tool for a DIY project. You have two main types to choose from: gas and electric.

Gas models are powerful and great for bigger jobs, but they’re also louder and heavier. Electric models are easier to handle and better for smaller tasks.

Then there’s the pressure setting, measured in PSI. Use a lower PSI for delicate surfaces to avoid damage. For tougher surfaces, like brick, you can go higher. The key is to start low and gradually increase the pressure.

Also, consider the nozzle. Wider angles are gentler, while narrow angles are more intense. It’s all about finding the right balance for your home.


Can Pressure Washing Damage My Home?

Yes, pressure washing can damage your home if not done correctly. It’s a powerful tool, and just like using a power drill, you need to be careful.

The high pressure can strip paint, dent siding, or even break windows if you’re not careful.

To avoid damage, use the right pressure setting for your home’s material. Stay at a safe distance from the surface, and never use a zero-degree nozzle on siding. Also, keep the spray away from windows and doors.

If you’re not confident, it might be safer to call in a professional, especially for delicate materials or hard-to-reach areas.


How Often Should I Pressure Wash My House?

Think of pressure washing like a regular health check-up for your house.

It’s good to do it every few years to keep your home looking fresh and clean. It also helps protect your house by removing harmful things like mold, mildew, and built-up dirt.

If you’re planning to repaint, you’ll definitely want to pressure wash first to prepare the surface. For areas with a lot of trees or exposure to pollution, you might need to do it more often.

Keep an eye on your home’s exterior; if it starts looking a bit grimy, it’s time for a wash.


What Are the Key Safety Tips for Pressure Washing?

Safety in pressure washing is non-negotiable, like wearing a seatbelt in a car.

Always wear protective gear, like goggles and gloves. Check your equipment before starting, especially for any leaks or damage. Be aware of your surroundings – keep kids and pets away, and watch out for things like electrical wires. Use the right pressure settings and nozzles to avoid damaging your house.

Also, never point the pressure washer at people or pets, as the high pressure can cause serious injuries.

Lastly, avoid using ladders. The kickback from the washer can make you lose your balance. If you need to reach high areas, use an extension wand instead.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Find a Professional Pressure Washing Company Near You.
You Could Save Up to 40% By Comparing Pressure Washing Quotes.

In Summary – How to Pressure Wash a House

As we wrap up our guide on how to pressure wash a house, let’s reflect on what we’ve covered. Pressure washing is a powerful tool in maintaining the beauty and health of your home. It’s about more than just making your house look good; it’s a crucial part of home maintenance that protects your investment.

Remember, pressure washing isn’t just pointing a hose at your house and spraying. It requires the right equipment, technique, and a bit of planning. Whether you choose a gas or electric model, the key is to use the right pressure settings and nozzles for your home’s specific needs. And always approach the task with safety in mind, protecting yourself, your home, and those around you.

We’ve seen that preparation is vital, from covering plants and closing windows to selecting the right cleaning solution. The actual washing process, done in sections from the bottom up, can transform the look of your house, clearing away years of dirt and grime. After washing, if you’re planning to paint, give your house time to dry and prepare it properly for the best results.

The choice between doing it yourself or hiring a professional comes down to your comfort level, the complexity of your home, and safety considerations. The cost, while a factor, should be weighed against the potential risks and the quality of the outcome.

By keeping these points in mind, you can ensure that pressure washing your house is a rewarding experience. It’s a task that, when done correctly, can bring a sense of pride and satisfaction.

Your home is more than just a structure; it’s a space where memories are made. Keeping it clean and well-maintained is a way of honoring those memories and looking forward to many more.

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toolcrowd expert writer profile image
Author: Jack Burton
Pressure Washing Specialist Writer, ToolCrowd
Jack's journey into the world of pressure washing began over two decades ago, driven by a deep-rooted passion for revitalizing properties and a commitment to delivering exceptional service.
In 1996, Jack embarked on his own venture in pressure washing, with a clear goal in mind: to combine top-quality workmanship with dependable reliability. He specializes in a wide array of pressure washing techniques, adept at handling projects ranging from quaint residential homes to extensive commercial properties. For Jack, pressure washing is more than just cleaning — it's about caring for and preserving each property with meticulous attention.
Jack's approach to business is simple yet effective: prioritize the client's needs above all. Whether it’s a single clean-up or regular property maintenance, he tailors his services to meet the unique requirements of each client. Recognized as a go-to consultant in the field of pressure washing, Jack is always ready to offer his expert advice.