Using Pressure Washers Today

Pressure washers have come a long way in the last few years. Only professionals could afford to own them and charged accordingly. They have drastically come down in price and gone up in features and functionality. Now they are in many homes across America as people have discovered how useful they really are.

Here is a picture of the unit that I use. It is 15 HP, 4000 psi and moves four gallons per minute. I go into more detail below on sizes of machines.

What Can You Clean With a Pressure Washer?

Well, almost anything related to cleaning. I read an article the other day that talked about 111 things you can use a pressure washer for. Most of them had never crossed my mind and many were commercial in nature.

The items I use a pressure washer for are really simple. I clean:

  • the driveway;
  • the exterior of the house;
  • the grill; and
  • the smoker.

I very carefully clean:

  • the deck; and
  • the wood privacy fence.

The careful use of a pressure washer can take years of dirt off in just a few minutes.

To give you a general idea of the cleaning power, here is a picture of our mailbox with the crud cleaned off around the Clematis plants. When fall arrives and the plants die down I’ll clean off the darker areas.

How Often Are You Going to Use the Pressure Washer?

    1. If your answer is “occasional”, say less than 100 hours a year and only for light dirt problems, use a light duty model. A small electric model that cleans outdoor lawn furniture, a wooden deck and has 1000 pounds or so of pressure will suffice.
    2. If your dirt accumulation is heavier, then a medium duty gas unit is more in line with your requirements. Typically, these units are designed to run up to 1000 hours per year. They will work faster at removing the dirt as their pressure outputs are around 2000 psi (pounds per square inch) or so and are equipped with 5 HP (horse power) or more gas engines.
    3. If you have really heavy requirements, running up to 2000 hours per year. Gas units are available at output ranges of 3000 to 4000+ psi and flow rates of up to 8 gallons per minute. These machines require routine maintenance.

The higher the pressure and the higher flow rates will make cleaning much easier as the pressure blasts the layers of dirt off and the flow (gallons per minute) washes away the dirt.

There is, however, the point of diminishing return as too much pressure and flow will damage the surface you are cleaning. Better units have adjustable pressure settings. Also, if you intend to keep the unit a long time, find out if the unit is rebuildable. Some units are designed to be thrown away after so many hours of usage. The pumps can not be rebuilt.

If you are planning to clean concrete driveways, plan on using a 3000 or 4000 psi and a high flow rate. The job goes really fast.

Here are a Couple of Tools to Expand the Functions of the Pressure Washer

You will not find these in the big box stores.

  • A flat surface cleaner: It is a quick and easy way to clean a concrete driveway using a flat surface cleaner. For several years I rented one of these devices from the local contractors’ rental store. Then last year my local rental agent said “sorry the unit is broken”. I bought it from them for 10% of the initial purchase price and repaired it. The only thing wrong with it was it had a bad bearing. Now there is another gadget in the garage.

The flat surface cleaner is a real time saver and does not leave the “tiger striping” marks on the driveway. Most people have never heard of it. Of course, the pressure washer unit that runs it is not the small unit. The one that I have is an adjustable unit that can go to 4000 psi with a 15 HP Kohler engine. I only wish it had an electric starter like my 16 HP lawn mower does.


  • The extension wand: The standard wand is just over 48 inches long. You can add longer wands up to 24 feet (6 ft increments) when they are extended. This makes washing the second story walls much safer than standing on a ladder.When you first pull the trigger, the reverse thrust can knock you off a ladder. Standing on the ground is safer. You can also get a shorter wand for working in close quarters.


Remember when you are using the spray wand, the angle you spray at should be 45 degrees to blast the dirt away from the surface. Straight on will blow the dirt deeper into the surface making its removal harder.


Safety When Using a Pressure Washer

Always wear the correct safety devices. Goggles to protect your eyes from the flying “Stuff” and believe me it’s everywhere. To protect your hands wear gloves. I have an old pair of water skiing neoprene gloves that work well when wet and keep their grip. A hat is a good idea to protect you from the sun and the flying dirt. You will get wet.

Finally, Let’s Discuss Maintenance

The pictures below are of my lawn mower. I’m showing you my lawn mower instead of my pressure washer because the fuel shut off valve and the hour meter are more visible on my lawn mower.

All the power equipment I have above 8 HP is equipped with a fuel shutoff valve between the fuel tank and the fuel filter. This allows me to change the fuel filter at the required intervals without leaking gas. I also run the engine with the fuel shut off until it stalls. This way there is no standing fuel in the carburetor.

Also, there is an hour meter which shows how many hours the engine has run. This lets me know when maintenance is required. These units are available on line at prices ranging from $15 to $80.

Dave Altman

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