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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Pressure Washer

Have you ever looked at your driveway, patio, or house and thought, “It needs a good cleaning”? A pressure washer may be just what you need. These humble tools can dramatically transform the look of surfaces, but they’re not all equal.

So what kind of mistakes do you need to watch out for when purchasing your pressure washer? Let’s take a closer look. 

What Is a Pressure Washer? 

A pressure washer is one of the most common and versatile power cleaning tools. Water is pressurized to a high level using a gas or electric engine and then shot out through a nozzle.

The force of this water provides the cleaning power that blasts off dirt, grime, mold, and many other substances. You can use pressure washers on things like concrete, patio pavers, cars, and houses. The latter can have a dramatic new look with careful cleaning.

What Is the Difference Between a Power Washer and a Pressure Washer? 

The two terms may seem interchangeable, but there’s one crucial difference users need to understand. A power washer typically heats and pressurizes the water, while a pressure washer only does the latter.

This can provide an additional cleaning boost to power washers but may not be suitable for surfaces that are sensitive to heat. Therefore, it’s vital to know which one of these you’re working with before beginning.

How Many PSI Do I Need to Clean Concrete?

You’ll typically need at least 3,000 PSI or pounds per square inch to easily clean concrete with a pressure washer. Lower PSI models may be able to partially clean the concrete or take longer for a complete clean.

This is generally the highest PSI you’ll need to clean any substance, with vinyl siding or pavers needing about half as much and wood or cars requiring even less.

Pro Tip: Going to buy your pressure washer at Lowe’s? Make sure you know these 7 Rules for Shopping at Lowe’s before you go.

Man using pressure washer on wooden deck
Ensure you buy a pressure washer with the right amount of PSI for your project.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Pressure Washer

If you’re ready to head out to the hardware store and pick up your new pressure washer, cool your jets for a moment. There are some potential pitfalls to avoid, and here are the most common. 

1. Not Buying One With Enough PSI

When purchasing your pressure washer, it’s vital to consider what you plan to use it for. This is crucial to ensure you get a model with enough power to do the necessary cleaning. An underpowered pressure washer can make even simple jobs much longer or even impossible.

So it may be worth spending the extra for a more powerful model than you might think you’ll need if you can. 

2. Using the Pressure Washer at Maximum Power All the Time

It might seem easy to crank your pressure washer up as far as it’ll go and go to town, but it’s not smart in most cases. For one, the surface you’re cleaning may not be able to take the power of maximum pressure, which could do severe and permanent damage. 

In addition, going at full force means you don’t have any additional room to spare if you need to boost things a bit for a particularly stubborn spot. A good rule of thumb is to use as much pressure as is required to clean your surface, but no more.

3. Getting the Nozzle Too Close to the Surface Being Cleaned

Generally speaking, you’ll want to position your spray nozzle between 3 feet and 6 feet from the surface you’re cleaning. Keeping your spray nozzle too close can lead to multiple problems. First, it may result in a too-concentrated jet of water that can damage or permanently mark the surface you’re trying to clean. Less severe but still annoying is that keeping your nozzle too close also reduces the area cleaned in a single spray, making projects take longer. 

On the flip side, make sure you’re not too far away either! This should be more obvious if your surface isn’t getting clean or the water isn’t reaching where you need it. 

Man using pressure washer to clean patio
Don’t hold the nozzle too close to the area you are pressure washing.

4. Not Using Detergents for Pressure Washers

Many people think all of a pressure washer’s cleaning power comes from the water’s force. Not so. You can use just about every pressure washer with detergents that boost its cleaning ability even further.

In the same way dish soap or laundry detergent unstick stubborn stains and dirt, these detergents help loosen grime to allow the water pressure to work more efficiently. Without them, you’re only harnessing a portion of the machine’s cleaning power, so make sure you have some on hand. 

5. Neglecting to Use Safety Equipment

It might seem like it’s just water, but it can do serious harm at the speed and pressure it leaves the nozzle. That’s why all operators should wear proper equipment.

This includes eye protection, face shields, gloves, and even protective clothing or footwear in some cases. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so protect those precious body parts!

Pro Tip: Apart from owning a pressure washer, do you have any of these Weird RV Tools Actually Work Wonders in your workshop?

Is it Worth Buying a Pressure Washer?

Almost all of us have something that can do with pressure washing, from a car to a house or patio. And some will need to clean these items more than others. For infrequent users, renting a pressure washer from the hardware store or borrowing one from a friend should cover you. 

But for those who need to wash many surfaces, wash them frequently, or even do so professionally, it’s absolutely worth the cost to buy your pressure washer. You may even be able to make a bit on the side by renting it to friends or family! So keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be able to avoid these common mistakes when you’re under pressure. 

Is a pressure washer on your to buy list? Tell us in the comments!

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