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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dykes

DIY Tips for Pressure Washing

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

We have learned how to most effectively and efficiently clean exterior surfaces using a pressure washer or soft wash system and want to give you some DIY tips for pressure washing! We see scenarios all the time where a driveway for example has been cleaned by a homeowner or a business who doesn’t have the right equipment or knowledge. The result is usually a driveway that resembles tony the tiger with all the stripes left behind. We know that with a few simple suggestions, the results could be much more satisfying, which brings us to our first tip.

Here is an example of a sidewalk that was cleaned with only the standard pressure washing wand.

1. Surface Cleaner Attachment – A surface cleaner is a separate piece of equipment that connects to your hose quick-connect fitting in replacement of the wand. Some connect to the end of the wand, but all are a simple quick-connect to attach. Instead of one nozzle in a fixed position, they come equipped with a bar with nozzles on each end that spins at a high rate of speed underneath. This produces a much better quality of clean and results in a more uniform appearance without all the unsightly lines left behind. They are used for cleaning flat surfaces like concrete driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots etc. They will cost a few hundred dollars but will drastically decrease the amount of time it takes to complete the job. One person can clean the average two car driveway in about an hour. Read this blog to learn more about Surface Cleaning.

They range in size from about 12-15 inches all the way up to 36 inches and some industrial sizes can be even larger, but for the average homeowner I would recommend somewhere between 15 and 20 inches. They can range in cost from about $75 up to over $1,000. The 20” size will run about $300-$600 depending on the brand name. You can purchase a 15” from one of the big box stores for around $100.

Shown, Drew is using a Whisper Wash 24" surface cleaner to clean this driveway. You can see The dirty area compared to where we have cleaned and how clean the areas are compared to the lines left behind with the above picture. After going over the surface with the cleaner we go back and rinse away the left over debris leaving a satisfying and even clean throughout.

2. Downstream Injector – A downstream injector is a fitting that connects to your pump and pressure hose (after the pump, you don’t want chemicals running through the pump) and has a hose attachment that can be dropped in a 5-gallon bucket or chemical tank. The soap is pulled through the hose from the tank and injects it into the pressure hose. This allows you to use chemical products to aid in the cleaning process.

This is a downstream injector fitting. the filter end is dropped into your mixture and the fitting connects where your pressure hose connects to the pump. Always make sure you are set up where the chemical is only flowing through your hose line and not your pump as this will cause damages and corrosion.

This addition will dramatically improve the results of basically any pressure washing job. You can pre-treat driveways before using your surface cleaner by putting down a layer of soap on the driveway and letting it sit for 10 -15 minutes before cleaning. This will loosen up the top layer allowing your surface cleaner to clean the area with ease and at a quicker pace. When pressure washing your home, gutters, pool areas etc. you can also use this similar method. The soap mixture will break down the algae making it easier to remove without needing as much pressure. Regarding this type of cleaning too much pressure is probably the most typical cause of damages and an easily preventable one. Especially when you realize it is harder and takes much longer to do it “the old-fashioned way”. Usually, the soap alone will clean the problem areas and you rinse lightly to wash off any residue. One person can clean the average home exterior including those with high gutters and peaks or two-story homes in 1-2 hours. Read this blog to learn more about how to pressure wash your home or business.

3. Specialty Nozzles- Most people in the industry these days are not using high pressure to clean except in certain circumstances. Instead, we use specialty nozzles that make the job much safer and easier for everyone. What I mean by that is without these nozzles that allow for soap to be injected in the stream, you can’t clean high areas without ladders or walking on the roof, or some other means that more than likely you don’t do on a regular basis making it more dangerous. With the correct pressure washer and nozzles, you can effectively clean even two- and three-story buildings from the ground. There are stainless steel nozzle holders which hold 3-4 nozzles that can easily be interchanged but are all held together. You have one soap nozzle that shoots a stream to be able to reach higher areas from the ground and apply soap to them. Then you have one nozzle that applies soap in a fanned-out pattern with a low pressure for areas like windows and siding and exterior walls where you can cover a wider area with the soap but with a low pressure that will not cause any damages. Then, you want nozzles for rinsing that basically do the same only without the added chemical. Since the chemical is doing the work, you just evenly cover the desired area with a low-pressure soap applicator nozzle, let it sit for 10 minutes and rinse clean. If the area still is not clean, you may need to repeat the process as needed. Areas that have a more severe build up will likely take at least one more round of soap. The right mixture is key here. Too light and you will have to repeat the process multiple times, too heavy a mix and you start to run the risk of harming or killing plants and grass.

The correct nozzles are a must. these nozzle holders eliminate the need for a pocket full of nozzles and allow you to more effectively reach and clean a number of areas.

4. Soap Mixture – We have explained the benefit of adding a soap mixture to your cleaning process, but now you need to know the correct mix rates. If you ask around or look online, you will get a variety of opinions. What I share here is exactly what we do and what works for us.

You will need a 5 gallon bucket or something similar if you do not have a trailer mounted tank. We mix sodium hypochlorite, water, and a surfactant for our standard mix. We use at least 50/50 and sometimes a higher concentration of sodium hypochlorite when down streaming and depending on the situation. We also use professional grade surfactants and you can use other more cost friendly options, but be careful they do not react with bleach. You will need different strengths to achieve different results with varying surfaces and materials. Down streaming is safe to use around landscapes but will make a huge difference in the quality of clean. Things like roofs will require the same 50/50 mixture being delivered straight without the added dilution of down streaming. This mix will be more dangerous to plants and other surfaces and should be used with the proper precautions and techniques. If used properly, you will be blown away by the results.

Bleach stains. Remember that you are using a mixture that can cause damages if you are not familiar with how to properly use it. Read our blogs on soft washing and mix rates to learn more.

5. Tips When Using Chemicals

-We purchase our chlorine from a pool supply store here in town called SE Pools. The chlorine from places like this is about 12% sodium hypochlorite. However, if you buy household bleach from the store it will be about 6%. Keep this in mind for mix rates and adjust accordingly if needed.

-Black spot stains can be left over even after pressure washing from some fertilizers and trees. It depends on the stain but some of these can be removed using the 50/50 mixture. Use a pump sprayer or brush the mix on the area after you have cleaned it as best as possible with the pressure washer. After letting the solution sit for 10 minutes or so, pressure wash those spots again and repeat if necessary.

-When using chemicals to clean be cautious of belongings or furniture around the home that you would not want to get bleach on. Even when diluted, bleach can sometimes fade colors or leave spots on things like cushions, mats, or flags if they are not removed before cleaning.

-Wear clothing that you will not be upset about getting dirty or ruined.

-Thoroughly rinse all equipment and all surfaces where you have used the chemical. Chlorine is effective for cleaning but if not used correctly can cause corrosion and wear on other materials.

We hope this blog is helpful whether you are looking to do some spring cleaning around the house or you are looking to start a pressure washing business of your own. We remember how hard it was to find good information when we were starting out and our goal is to provide value through our own experiences and on the job training. If this has been helpful we would greatly appreciate if you could share the article with your friends and family on social media. Thank you for reading!


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