Electric Power Washer Tips 

Robert Harris
Version Date: April 21, 2012

1. Plan and Position. When  you get on a cleaning roll with your pressure washer, there is little that's more frustrating than to be unable to reach that last spot along the wall or fence or car. With a garden hose, we are often tempted simply to tug on it and get a few more feet of use. But a tug on the pressure washer hose can be quite disappointing because you can break something. Some electric pressure washers have plastic connectors for attaching the garden hose to the unit. Even if your connectors are all solid, a tug is likely to knock the unit over and not get you the additional distance you need.

Remember that you have three connections and three "hoses" to deal with: the garden hose from hose bib to the washer, the pressure water hose from washer to the washer gun, and the electric cord from washer to an outlet. Position the washer so that you have all the hose reach you need while still enabling the other two hookups. If you have difficulty, remember that you can always get a longer garden hose: instead of 25 feet, there is 50, 75, and even 100 feet.

2. Approach carefully. In fact, be really careful in general. A power washer is not a toy. Well, okay, it is a toy, but it's a serious toy that can cause damage or injury if used carelessly. Wear eye protection, hide the dog, close the windows. Don't let a 13-year-old kid use it unsupervised. When  you are first ready to wash, point the washer nozzle at the ground and pull the trigger. You might be thinking you left off with the nozzle in fan pattern when you actually left it in point shape. If you aim at a window close up with the point spray, you might just knock it out.
"Look, dear, how clean the windows are."
"That's great, honey, but why is there broken glass and water all over the living room?"

3. Follow the Power Washer Intensity Rule. The power washer intensity rule is, The softer the target, the farther away, the bigger the fan, and the larger the angle you should spray. Following these guidelines appropriately will let you knock the aphids off the rose bushes without hurting the bushes. Following these guidelines inappropriately will let you tear those rose bushes to shreds.

4. Remember that water is a solvent. While electric pressure washers are amazing cleaners (even though they might not have the power of the gas powered big brothers), they don't always work instantly on built up grime. If you use the washer to wet down the surface first, and then after a minute or so come back and rewash, you might be surprised at how well just plain water can clean.

5. Be Patient. Some surfaces come clean with one wipe. In fact, you can sweep your driveway or walkway very efficiently with an electric power washer and save a lot of water. Many of the electric washers use only about a gallon and a half of water per minute, while a garden hose will put out anywhere from about 10 to 88 gallons a minute, depending on hose size, length, and water pressure. (A 50 foot, 5/8" hose on a 60psi water system will pump out 28 gallons per minute, according to the University of Idaho.)But I digress. For most uses, you'll need to go slow and use repeat passes. Exceptions like garage door rinsing and car washing shouldn't deceive you into assuming instantaneous cleaning of stained walls. Rust, moss, mildew, dirt stains, all require awhile to remove.

6. Consider the Overspray. I almost titled this, "Consider the Neighbors," but I soon realized that thoughtless overspray could hit the patio furniture, a sunbather in the backyard, laundry hung on a clothesline, the dog, and of course, the neighbor's fancy car. The point is, if you're cleaning along the top of a wall, for instance, the spray can easily shoot past the top as you move the wand. If you have a fairly narrow nozzle  setting, the spray can go twenty feet beyond the wall. And even with a fan pattern, overspray can do something undesirable if you're not careful. So look beyond the immediate place you are going to clean and think about the possibility of water where  you don't want it to go.

7. Add a Brush. Problem solving theory tells us that the goal of problem solving is to solve the problem, not to implement a particular solution path. So, if after you have duly and patiently applied the power washer spray to an unusually difficult spot, don't be too proud to grab a scrub brush and run over it to loosen the dirt. Then hit the spot again with the power washer. (If you're asking, What's the point of having a power washer if you have to use a scrub brush anyway? then let me ask you an analogous question: What's the point of having a box wrench if you sometimes have to use a breaker bar with a socket on it?) Anyway, it's legal to use a hand-operated brush to assist the washer or even to get a brush fitting that connects to the washer and spins as it sprays.

8. Don't Be Stupid. The owner's manual that came with my electric power washer features 27 warnings against behavior that should be obviously not a good idea. For example, for people who think it's great to use a  hair dryer in the bathtub, there is a warning against using the washer while barefoot. Or my favorite, "Never spray an electrical outlet."  Let's see, what part of water + electricity = death by electrocution don't you understand? And for flamethrower buffs, there's the "Never spray flammable liquids." I know that's a bummer if you were planning on torching your backyard. Finally, don't try to use it to clean skin. You might end up cleaning bone.

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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com