Power washing, also known as pressure washing, utilizes a high-velocity water spray to remove dirt and residue from the exterior surfaces of a home. It is frequently used on vinyl siding, concrete and sometimes on wood decks to treat mildew and other growth that accumulates over time. Power washing can be a great way to remove grime without having to scrub by hand. But, it requires a delicate touch to get it right. Sometimes it’s best to leave the job to professionals. However, homeowners willing to give it a go can try power washing themselves, as various stores rent power washers.

The home improvement website ImproveNet says that, until very recently, pressure washers were almost exclusively commercial machines sold to professionals or rented to do-it-yourselfers. Lately manufacturers have targeted homeowners looking to buy lightweight options. For those who see power washing as a routine venture, purchasing a unit may be worth the investment.

It is important to exercise caution when operating a power washing machine. The Ontario government warns that using a high-pressure water-jetting gun without a safe way to control the flow of water can put you and others at risk of injury or death. The high-velocity stream of water is often under enough pressure that it can tear through skin, cut flesh, damage eyes or cause other serious injury to people. It is key to get a feel for the washer, and try less pressure first to get a handle on the magnitude of the tool.

Be sure to wear safety gear prior to using a pressure washer. Gloves, eye protection and ear

protection can be handy. Most units will connect to a standard garden hose. Choose old clothing and expect to get wet. Never point a power washer hose at anyone and do not attempt to rinse feet or hands in the spray.

Start with a wide-degree nozzle to test out the spray on the surface that needs to be cleaned. A 15- or 25-degree nozzle is usually the wand for general cleaning and paint stripping without damaging the surface of the home. Experiment with an optimal distance of the washer wand to get the desired cleaning effects without causing any damage. Work using a horizontal and slightly downward angle to avoid driving water up under the siding of a home.

Avoid spraying any electric wires or components on the home. Also, try not to spray upward, and angle the spray away from doors, windows and vents.

Some washers have reservoirs that will hold a detergent solution. Choose the right detergent for the job. Keep in mind that cleansers containing bleach can damage surrounding plants, so they may need to be covered while the washing takes place.

Avoid the use of ladders when operating a power washer. The push-back from the wand can cause falls. Instead, opt for an extension wand to address the upper reaches of a home.

Power washing a home is an effective way to remove stubborn grime and refresh the look of a home’s exterior.