Handyman: Use power washer properly to avoid damage

Glenn Haege
Special to The Detroit News

Now is the time to give the exterior of your home a good cleaning. While a power washer often is the tool of choice for driveways, decks and siding, you have heard me caution about using a power washer for certain projects, because the water pressure these units create can damage the things you are trying to make look good.

“Using a power washer with the wide stream nozzle is fine for solid surfaces like stamped concrete or pavers,” said Ken Calverly of KC Masonry, (877) MASONRY, “But any power washer can be dangerous if used incorrectly. In fact, using the tight stream nozzle is powerful enough to actually cut someone, so you have to be careful using it on softer surfaces.”

Softer surfaces can include things like asbestos roofing shingles, wood and composite decks and wood siding to name a few. But if you use a power washer with too high of pounds per square inch (PSI) of water pressure, you can even damage vinyl and aluminum siding and other surfaces.

To illustrate how powerful a power washer can be, compare the amount of pounds per square inch (PSI) of water pressure it puts out versus the garden hose. Most garden hoses used with a city water system produce between 40 PSI and 70 PSI. The light duty version of a power washers create from 1500 PSI to 1900 PSI, while the heavy duty models take that all the way to 3200 PSI. The typical hand car wash pressure washing wand only averages from 1000 PSI to 1500 PSI, less than most power washers. So you can see how putting that much water pressure on a wooden deck or siding can cause some real damage.

If you do plan to use a power washer for any project, Calverly suggests you test it on an obscure spot of the item you want to clean to make sure it doesn’t damage it. You should also consider using a light-duty pressure washer, such as the Follow Me Pressure Washer from Karcher,, that puts out 1800 PSI. It comes with attachments that enable you to clean a variety of things, including patios and driveways, outdoor furniture, grills and your vehicles. Generally if you stay around the 1500 PSI to 1800 PSI range, and use the wide stream nozzle, you have less chance of damaging anything you are cleaning.

Fortunately, you don’t always need a power washer to clean most things around your home’s exterior. Often the right products, a garden hose and a little elbow grease will do the job without risking the damage that a power washer can cause.

If you have either a wood, composite or PVC deck that could use a little cleanup, use cleaners like SuperDeck Wood and Composite Deck Cleaner,, and Zar Deck and Siding Cleaner, Using them with a soft bristled brush and the garden hose should do the trick.

To clean your home’s siding use a garden hose, scrub brush and products like Krud Kutter Exterior Siding Cleaner, Also look for JOMAX House Wash by Rust-oleum,

For one product that works on a variety of outdoor surfaces, including wood decks, vinyl siding, concrete sidewalks, brick and even plastic outdoor furniture, try 30 Seconds Outdoor Cleaner,, with a garden hose.

To get rid of those annoying roof streak caused by algae growth, you don’t need a power washer. Instead use Wet & Forget Outdoor, You just spray it on the roof and just let the weather do the rest.

So the next time you are tempted to crank up the power washer, make sure it is the right tool for the job. Often, that “tool” is a good old-fashioned garden hose and the right cleaning product for the surface you want to clean.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail If you want to talk to Glenn Haege , call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The “Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.