Using a Pressure Washer for Paint Prep (and other neat tricks)
There are a number of very affordable pressure washers on the market. Some of these are more than powerful enough to remove old paint when you are getting ready to repaint your house. But be careful when using a pressure washer- some of these things are powerful enough to remove paint!
If you are just going to use the pressure washer for Painting Prep, it might make more sense to rent than to buy, or you can even hire a professional power-washing service. There are enough other uses around the home for a pressure washer that it is worth considering purchasing a unit that will suit your needs.
When preparing to paint, it isn’t always necessary to remove the old paint. Especially if the last paint job was done properly. However, it is important to get the surface that you are going to paint as clean as possible. This is where a Home-owner grade pressure washer comes into its own.
Whether you select a gas-powered washer or a less powerful electric, some means of getting detergent into the pressure stream is very important. This will usually be with a siphon tube that you put in the detergent jug or bucket, or an on-board detergent tank. I prefer the tube because I feel it is easier to clean. Always use detergents that are made for pressure washer use, many of then have additives to combat mildew. Never use a bleach mixture which may damage the pump. If you need to use bleach for your job, it is better to apply it using a garden sprayer of brush.
Once you have selected your power washer, it is time to set it up and use it. Find and use the proper safety gear; a pair of goggles or safety glasses, water resistant boots, and loose, long-sleeved work clothes. Some users prefer a rain-suit, and if I were going to be power washing all day for several days, I would too. But I try to restrict my power washing to short sessions on nice days (another big advantage to owning your own machine).
Attach your garden hose to the machine (I usually find it easier to attach the hose to the machine and then attach it to the spigot.) I next lay out the pressure hose, usually before attaching it to the machine. It is important to remove as many of the kinks from the hose as you can; when the hose is pressurized it will try to straighten itself, so taking out the kinks before prevents damage. Attach the spray-gun to the hose and select your nozzle. If you are going to be applying detergent, use the lowest pressure nozzle in your kit. This siphon will work better at low pressure, and at this point you want to get as much detergent on the house as you can.
Start your machine following the manufacturer’s instructions. When washing the house using detergent, start from the bottom up. This seems backwards, but as the dirty water from above runs down the house, it will streak less if it runs over a wet surface. Once the whole section has the detergent applied, allow the chemicals to work for a few minutes, chance to a higher pressure nozzle, and then rinse from the top down.
Most sources recommend that you use a second story nozzle or an extended wand for reaching high places. Because of the force generated by the high pressure nozzle, working with a pressure washer on a ladder is not recommended. At the same time it is important to try to wash your siding with the gun pointed at a down angle. At high pressure, water can force itself under your siding where in time it could result in further damage.
The pressure washer is useful for other cleaning projects than just paint preparation. It is hard to beat for washing barbecue grills and lawn furniture. It can also be used to wash your car, boat, atv, or dirt bikes. Decks and driveways will never look cleaner than when they have been pressure washed. And a good annual or semi-annual pressure washing of the house may extend the time between paint jobs!