Step 1: Rent a pressure washer. Pressure washers can be rented for the day at local rental companies or hardware stores. Generally, they will be gasoline-powered pressure pumps. Before using, check to make sure you have a full tank of gas.
Step 2: Purchase cleaning solution. The cleaning solution you use will depend on the surface to be cleaned. For vinyl siding, gutters and wood decks, it is smart to use a general purpose, non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning solution, which will be mixed with water according to the instructions. For masonry surfaces, such as pre-cast and poured cement, flagstone, slate, stone and bricks, use a cleaner designed for masonry and cement. Again, it will be mixed with water according to the manufacturer's instructions on the label.
Choose a general purpose solution for siding and decks.
Step 3: Take safety precautions. When pressure washing, it is a good idea to always wear safety goggles to protect the eyes against back-splash and flying dirt and grime. It is also advisable to wear a disposable Tyvek painting jumpsuit, which will keep your clothes clean and dry.
Wear a Tyvek jumpsuit and goggles when pressure washing.
Step 4: Preparing the pressure washer—attach the hose and the wand. Before starting the job, you must assemble the hose. Following the instructions that came with the pressure washer, attach one end of the pressure hose to the fitting on the pressure cleaner. Attach the other end of the hose to the pressure cleaning wand.
Step 5: Preparing the pressure washer—mixing the solution. Mix the cleaning solution in a bucket with water according to the instructions on the label. Place the cleaner suction hose into the bucket of solution. The cleaning solution will be injected into the water supply when the soap tip is in use.
Place the hose into the bucket of cleaning solution.
Step 6: Preparing the pressure washer—choose a tip and attach the water supply. There are generally four tips that come with the pressure washer that can be inserted on the end of the pressure cleaner wand. Each tip has a different application. The soap tip, which is black in this case, is the tip you use to apply the cleaning agent to the surface. Attach the soap tip to end of the wand. Next, attach your garden hose to the water inlet fitting on the pressure cleaner. Turn on the faucet to feed water to the pressure cleaner.
Step 7: Prepare the area for cleaning. Before you start, prepare the surrounding area for cleaning. Start by tightly closing all windows and doors. Remove the deck furniture, plants and any other odds and ends that might be on the porch. The deck should be completely cleared. Set the furniture as far away as possible because the spray and fine mist from a pressure cleaner splash quite far.
Step 8: Start the pressure washer. To start the pressure washer, first turn on the engine safety switch. Following the specific instruction for the pressure cleaner, set the choke for cold starts and open the fuel supply. Give the starter cord a sharp pull to start the engine. Set the throttle to the setting recommended for each cleaning situation.
Step 9: Apply the cleaning agent to the soffits and gutters. With the black soaping tip in place on the wand, apply the cleaning agent to the highest area first. In this case, the highest areas are the gutter and soffits. Allow the cleaning agent to loosen the grime for 10 to 15 minutes.
Spray the cleaning agent at the gutters and soffits.
Step 10: Switch to the green tip and continue cleaning. While you are waiting for the cleaning agent to work, switch to the green tip. The green tip disperses the water under pressure over a 25-degree area. As you will see, you use different tips to help set the pressure for different cleaning applications. The green 25-degree tip is good for mid-pressure cleaning situations. When the cleaning agent has had time to work, pressure clean the gutters and soffits. Hold the wand at an angle to the soffits to avoid spraying water up into the soffit vents. Don’t work any closer than is necessary to remove the grime as too much pressure can damage the area you are trying to clean.
Hold the wand at an angle to avoid spraying into soffit vents.
Step 11: Pressure wash the deck. For the deck, replace the green tip with the black soaping tip. Apply a steady, even coat of cleaning agent to the entire deck surface. Allow the cleaning agent to work for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let the cleaning agent dry out during this time. Next, switch to the 40-degree white tip. This tip has a wider, 40-degree dispersion and, as a result, it has lower pressure. Starting in the corner and moving away from the house, evenly pressure clean the deck. Hold the wand about 15 inches away from the deck at an angle, working in a sweeping motion. Don’t hold the wand too close to the deck or you can lift the paint right off, damaging the wood grain in the process.
Step 13: Rinse with a garden hose. When the gutters, soffits and deck are completely pressure cleaned, rinse the entire area with fresh water from a garden hose. This step is important because some cleaners leave an uneven stain or film if they are not rinsed away before the area dries. Make sure that all the surrounding walls and windows are thoroughly rinsed, as well.
Step 14: Prepare the area to clean the vinyl siding. Cleaning vinyl siding is another common use for a pressure cleaner. Prepare the surrounding area by closing and latching all the windows and doors. Cover all nearby electrical equipment such as utility meters, air conditioning units and exterior outlets. As an added precaution, turn off the circuit breaker to any electrical equipment that might get wet.
Step 15: Spray the cleaning solution on the vinyl siding. For vinyl siding, we again use the general purpose, biodegradable cleaner. Attach the black soap tip to the wand to apply the cleaning solution to the vinyl siding. When cleaning siding, it’s important to shoot both down and at an angle from the opposite side of any siding joints, otherwise, you will shoot pressurized water up and under or into the joints. Working from a ladder, apply the cleaning solution with broad sweeping motion, beginning with the siding up top and moving downward in a side-to-side motion. Keep the stream of water away from windows to prevent water from being driven into seams. Always point the nozzle downward to avoid driving water up under the siding. After the cleaning solution has been applied, wait 10 to 15 minutes for the solution to work.
Apply the solution from a ladder, shooting down at an angle.
Step 16: Continue cleaning the vinyl siding. Once the cleaning solution has worked in, switch to the green 25-degree tip. This tip will apply a moderate cleaning action. Begin to clean the siding, working from the top down. Hold the spray nozzle at a downward angle, between 1 to 3 feet from the siding. When the siding is clean, finish by rinsing with water to avoid staining. Use a side-to-side motion, sweeping the stream of water steadily back and forth. The siding should be significantly brighter.
Work from the top down, spraying at a downward angle.
Step 17: Apply cement cleaner to masonry surfaces. Our next project is cleaning masonry. Pre-cast and poured cement, flagstone, slate, stone and bricks can all be cleaned with the pressure cleaner. Switch to a cleaner designed for masonry and cement. Following the directions, mix the solution with water. Switch back to the black soaping tip to apply the solution. Thoroughly saturate the masonry with the cleaning solution. When cleaning stonework, use the same process, covering the surface completely with cleaner. Allow the cleaner to dissolve the mildew and grime for 10 to 15 minutes or more, but do not let the surface dry.
Follow the same process to apply cleaning solution to masonry surfaces.
Step 18: Switch to a 15-degree tip to clean poured concrete. For poured concrete, use the yellow, 15-degree tip, which will apply the strongest pressure. Bring the nozzle as close to the surface as necessary. Stop periodically to inspect your work. Cleaning concrete is a slower process than cleaning decks or siding, but the results are equally rewarding.
Hold the nozzle as close to the surface as necessary.
Step 19: Use a 25-degree tip for flagstone, slate and brickwork. Cleaning stonework is essentially the same as concrete with one difference. You should switch back to a moderate, 25-degree green tip as the milder pressure of the green tip is easier on the cement joints between the flagstone or slate and will reduce the chance of damage. Slowly work your way along the surface with even, overlapping passes. Brickwork gets the same treatment using the moderate, 25-degree green tip.