Everything About Power Washers
What is a power washer? A power washer is a machine that compresses air and then mixes that compressed air with water supplied from a garden hose. The net result is water that comes out of a washing wand under very high pressure — from 800- to 3000-psi (pounds per square inch). Air assisted water emitted from a small port at 3000 psi could easily drive metal particles through a persons hand. Actually, a power washer is even more powerful than the air assisted machines you may have used at a you-do-it car wash.
Power washers in the 3000 psi range are used commercially for heavy duty cleaning jobs. For example: painters use heavy duty power washers to remove paint from the exterior of an entire home. For do-it-yourselfers, 1500 psi is usually more than sufficient power. Some companies rate power washers using two values: the psi rating and the gallons per minute flow of water. Others use a value that results from multiplying the psi rating times the gallon per minute flow of water. For example: a 3000 psi machine that uses 6 gallons of water per minute would be referred to by the latter as a machine that generates 18,000 units.
We knew power washers were versatile, but never realized until we began using them. We cleaned sturdy surfaces and fragile ones as well — all with the same machine.
Redwood deck cleaning was first on our list. Turning gray wood red impressed everyone including the camera man and our producer. Next, was house cleaning — ridding exterior walls and eaves of spider webs and insect nests. Windows were next — cleaning the glass was the obvious aspect — but brightening the metal frame was also important. Opening weep holes in metal frames was never so easy to do. And, the screens were a breeze. Dirt disappeared instantly. Naturally, the screens had to be removed before they could be properly cleaned. Next, was plastic and metal patio furniture and kids toys — a trike and a race car. The furniture and toys were located under a large patio frequented by a couple of very territorial Blue Jays. Need we say more?!? A large cypress tree covered with dead leaves and spider webs also needed cleaning. After five minutes of gentle spraying the shrub was ready for presentation in the next regional horticultural event.
After that, we “de-charred” a barbecue grille. No mess, no fuss and no bother — just spray and shine. Then, we cleaned a few grease covered hand tools. Moss growing on a concrete statue took a little longer to clean because the statue was made of very porous concrete. Cleaning a stain from the driveway was also time consuming — porous concrete again. The stains disappeared completely — as did all the dirt and debris that got in the way of the powerful washing wand. Of course, as soon as we finished the shooting session, we used the power washer to clean — you got it — the power washer.
We cleaned a lot of different thing for our TV segment. But, we missed a few items — there just wasn’t enough time. For example: we also could have cleaned roof shingles, fence boards and gate hardware, sliding glass door tracks and garden tools. And don’t forget rain gutters downspouts and the family car.
With a power washer, it is interesting to note how easy it is to manage the degree of pressure needed to clean a given surface. Changes in pressure can be controlled by a regulating devise on some machines, but the best control is managed by altering the distance between the tip of the washing wand and the surface being cleaned. Less distance from tip to surface — more cleaning power. More distance from tip to surface — more gentle cleaning power. More porous surfaces not only require that the wand be placed closer to the surface, but the cleaning process takes a bit longer as well — especially when the pores are filled with growths such as moss or mildew.
Different types of tips are also available. Some spray in a tight circular pattern and others in a wide fan-like spray. The tip that sprays in a tight circular pattern is better for cleaning really hard to clean surfaces. The fan shaped spray is better for more gentle work — like cleaning spider webs, furniture, plants and shrubs.
Interestingly enough we did not enlist the aid of any cleaning chemicals during our day of filming and yet everything we washed sparkled. Had we actually run into a troublesome spot we could have introduced the appropriate cleaning chemical through a tube provided on the power washer. We could have used mild detergent on the car that we washed, an acid (phosphoric or muratic) on the concrete surface that we cleaned, and when we did the deck we could have introduced a wood bleach such as oxalic acid.