Pressure Washing Techniques

There are certain commonalities between the paint can labels you read if you compare a few different brands. In one way or another, the instructions will direct you to completely clean the surface, restore any damaged areas, and scrape off any loose paint. I’ve started pressure cleaning all of my finishes on a regular basis to achieve the finest potential result.

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But whether you’re pressure washing a house to clean the siding or prepare it for painting, there’s an art to it. Similar to The Three Little Pigs, if you have too much, you may blow your house down; if you have too little, all you can do is huff and puff all day long with no results.

Paint Remover Is Not What a Pressure Washer Is

Washing is done with pressure washers. They’re not meant for paint removal. If you are able to remove paint with a power washer, you are most likely doing it vigorously enough to harm the siding and perhaps putting water into the walls. Washing the home is necessary to get rid of oxidation, mildew, algae, and grime that can lead to paint failure. Before washing the home, loose and peeling paint should be removed with a scraper and sanded down, and damaged siding and trim should be fixed.

I adapt my method to each house, even though I prefer to wash harder than other contractors. I avoid spots that could be prone to leaks and use less pressure on an 80-year-old house than I would on a three-year-old repaint. I constantly ask permission before entering the house to make sure that water is not seeping into the walls. Once inside, I look for leaks around doors and windows.

Washing can loosen paint, even though a pressure washer cannot remove paint. Therefore, before priming, when I finish cleaning the house, I look for any freshly loosen or peeling paint.

Bleach Resolves the Mildew Issue

Mildew is one of the main issues with current paint jobs. In addition to causing paint discoloration and adhesion issues with fresh paint, mildew can also harm siding. I use a 3-to-1 water to bleach solution before doing a power wash to address this issue. I use a garden sprayer to combine the solution and use it all over the home. The garden sprayer is easier to maneuver around the home and up and down a ladder, which is why I prefer it over the chemical injector on the pressure washer for cleaning houses.

Use the bleach with caution. Although I’ve never had an issue, I have heard of others who have had negative skin reactions to the mist. Put on long sleeves, trousers, a respirator, and rubber gloves if you have sensitive skin.

Watch out for run-off and overspray even if the pressure washer and sprayer are both precise applicators. Although I normally avoid using chemicals on surfaces that won’t be painted again, I routinely wash the deck if the house has one. Otherwise, because bleach may leave observable clean patches on decks and wood-shake roofs, I take great care not to let the bleach solution drop on them.


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