The Many Uses for a Pressure Washer

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man cleaning a wooden gate with a power washer.

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on LawnStarter.

So, maybe you’re waffling over whether to invest a chunk of change in a pressure washer. Is it really useful? Is it worth the cost?

The answer to all is yes. A pressure washer is one of the most versatile tools you can own. It cleans everything from tools to garage floors, driveways, decks, siding and even patio furniture.

There are countless uses for a pressure washer, so let’s look at some of them.

How Do Pressure Washers Work?

Worker pressure-washing a deck
bubutu /

A pressure washer pumps water under high pressure using an electric or gas motor, providing greater cleaning power than a regular garden hose.

Pressure washers are pretty simple to use as well. You simply connect a garden hose to the washer, turn it on and spray the surface with sweeping strokes.

All pressure washers spray water through a spray tip, but you can save time by using a turbo nozzle, surface cleaner, or water broom, all of which can be purchased on Amazon.

Typically, a pressure washer has two modes: You can apply detergent or specially formulated cleaners under low pressure to break down stubborn gunk and stains, then you can use a high-pressure spray to power away the ground-in dirt or stain.

Gas or Electric?

Porch power washer
Virrage Images /

Pressure washers come in gas and electric varieties and in different sizes for large and small jobs. None is better than the others. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Gas pressure washers are generally more powerful than electric ones and are more durable. Also, since they don’t need an electrical outlet to work, you can take them anywhere. However, they are more expensive, louder, and require more maintenance.

Use a gas machine for more demanding jobs like cleaning large areas quickly. Here is a guide to the 10 best gas-powered pressure washers of 2023.

Electric pressure washers are easier to start, lighter, and require less maintenance than gas ones. However, they aren’t as powerful, limiting their use to lighter jobs like cleaning small driveways, outdoor furniture, small fences, and siding.

Also, you are limited by the length of your power cord, as you need to plug the machine into an outlet for it to work. Check out our guide to the best electric pressure washers.

Another option is a cordless – or battery operated – pressure washer. Because they lack the power of gas or even electric pressure washers, they are best suited for light duty cleaning. Here is a guide to the best cordless pressure washers on the market today.

Best Use: Driveways

exterior of a home with focus on the garage
Artazum /

Foot traffic, auto fluids, pollen, leaves, chemicals, and outdoor grime collect on your driveway over time and even eat away at the compounds that bind the concrete or asphalt.

Pressure washing away the dirt and oil preserves the integrity of the driveway and also increases your home’s curb appeal and value.

Best Use: Fences

Yard with a fence
romakoma /

Wood and vinyl fences get grimy and mildewy as well. A good pressure washing can add years to your fence and further increase your home’s curb appeal.

If you plan on pressure washing a wooden fence, use a low-pressure nozzle to avoid splintering the wood or removing the paint, or stain.

Best Use: Outdoor Furniture

Home in Tacoma, Washington
Artazum /

Your deck and patio furniture get dirty and dingy over time. It can also develop mold and mildew and begin to smell.

Clean it early in the warmer months by washing it at low pressure, making sure not to damage it.

Best Use: Garbage Cans

Garbage in a trash can outside a home
Travis Wolfe /

The awful smells of rotting food and gunk from your garbage cans make cleaning them unappealing, but you can’t put it off forever.

Using a pressure washer to clean them will remove gunk more effectively and more quickly than a garden hose.

Best Use: Garage Floors

Storage shelves in a garage
urfin /

Your garage floor probably took some damage over the years from oil stains, tire marks, and shoe scuffs.

Use a low-pressure setting as a degreaser. After a few minutes, switch to a higher pressure and rinse everything off.

Best Use: Walkways

Pressure washer
Peter Majkut /

Cleaning your walkways using your pressure washer’s scrub brush or surface cleaner (both of which are good for flat surfaces) removes dirt, grime, and mildew.

It also clears out weeds and overgrowth between the bricks.

Use caution when you spray concrete or brick. Try to avoid directing high-pressure streams at the mortar that holds bricks together or the seams in a concrete driveway. These powerful streams can loosen mortar or chip away concrete.

Best Use: Decks and Patios

Man pressure washing the patio steps
Virrage Images /

Patios or wood decks can deteriorate from debris, so pressure washing at a low setting (to avoid damaging the wood surfaces) helps refurbish them.

When cleaning decks and patios, move consistently and with the spray wand at a safe distance away from the wood.

Don’t Pressure Wash: Electrical Panels

Electrician turning off power at circuit breaker box.
The Toidi /

Water conducts electricity, so washing anything electrical is unsafe, even if electric panels are protected from rain and storms.

High-pressure streams can force their way into electric boxes in ways that ordinary rainfall doesn’t.

Don’t Pressure Wash: Air Conditioners

High efficiency air conditioner unit next to house
GSPhotography /

Not only do air conditioners run on electricity (which we just established is dangerous), but the high pressure can cause some parts to break off, possibly causing the system to fail.

Don’t Pressure Wash: Plants, Flowers and Gardens

father and son planting garden plants
Odua Images /

Though plants, flowers and gardens all need water, the high pressure can destroy them and splatter soil everywhere. Stick to garden hoses and sprinklers when doing garden work.

Don’t Pressure Wash: People or Animals

American hairless terrier
art nick /

It might be fun to spray someone with a hose as a joke, but not with a pressure washer. The high pressure can tear skin, damage eyes, and kill or injure small animals.

Read on for answers to a few frequently asked questions about pressure washers.

What’s the Difference Between a Power Washer and a Pressure Washer?

Homeowner pressure washing a house
Ozgur Coskun /

Both power washing and pressure washing are used interchangeably. However, the most significant difference is that power washing uses hot water, while pressure washing uses cold water.

What Are Some Mistakes People Make When Pressure Washing?

Pressure washer on a deck
JuneJ /
  • Not spraying at an angle. When pressure washing, you want to push the dirt off the surface. If you don’t spray at an angle, you’ll push the muck further inward or, worse, have it fly off and into your face.
  • Not using safety equipment. Pressure washers are dangerous, and high water pressure can cause serious injuries. Thus, you need to be safe. Wear close-toed shoes and safety glasses.
  • Using too much pressure. You could puncture the siding, concrete, or wood if you use too much pressure. Start on the lowest setting and gradually increase the pressure.

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