What is Pressure Washing?
Pressure Washing (also known as Power Washing, Steam Cleaning, and Water Blasting) is the process of using high pressure (1,000 to 5,000 psi) water jets for cleaning, demolition, paint or dirt removal, and similar applications. The water may be heated to near 220 degrees Fahrenheit, or at ambient temperature.
“Pressure” is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch). Pressure is what loosens the dirt from the surface being cleaned. The higher the pressure, the more force is available for cleaning.
“Flow” is measured in GMP (gallons per minute). Flow is what carries the loosened dirt away. Every pressure washer has a minimum GMP and PSI of water that must be supplied to the unit for it to function as designed.
The combination of pressure and flow is what determines how fast a pressure washing project can be completed. High pressure and high flow are required in order to properly complete a job in a timely manner. This requires expensive, professional equipment. Low budget equipment will yield high pressure with low flow or low pressure with high flow, both of which will slow down the pressure washing project down.
Cleaning effectiveness may be enhanced with the addition of certain chemicals compounded specifically for power washing and the particular problem being treated (oil, grease, etc.). One reason for heating the water used for pressure washing is because hot water requires less chemicals to complete the power washing project.
Why is Pressure Washing Necessary?
Humid climates can allow the rapid accumulation of organisms like algae, mold, and mildew to take root on just about every surface on the exteriors of your home or place of business. Dry climates similarly produce dirt, grime, cobwebs, mold, and mildew that accumulate and rob your home or place of business exteriors of their original luster and sheen. This includes siding, dumpster and trash areas, brick pavers, concrete driveways, and more.
These problems, if not dealt with, can result in dangerous or hazardous conditions for people, equipment, and vehicles. Also, if your facility was the subject of a surprise OSHA inspection, many of these problems could result in serious fines.
In addition, things like graffiti, paint and oil spills, or stains make a poor impression on your business and prospective customers. You only get one chance to make a 1st impression.
Power washing is often used as a highly effective, relatively low cost way to deal with these problems.
Typical surfaces suitable for pressure washing:
- Most types of exterior surfaces, including stucco, masonry, wood and metal siding
- Fences and decorative surfaces
- All types of concrete slabs including patios, sidewalks, driveways, interior floors in warehouses and industrial structures
- Swimming pool decks
- How often should Pressure Washing be Done?
Pressure washing is usually done on an “as needed” basis. However, we recommend scheduling pressure washing on a regular basis as a form of maintenance to help homes, businesses, and other areas keep their value or restore them to what they should be.
One-time power washing is frequently used to clean a surface prior to painting.
Power washing can also be done on a regularly scheduled program. This is often the case for store fronts and entry sidewalks, signage, high foot or vehicular traffic areas, and containers and areas subject to frequent spills such as trash bins and surrounding areas.
Is Pressure Washing Dangerous?
Power washing is not inherently dangerous. However, whenever any power tool is used, it must only be used by a trained operator, in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and following all recommended precautions and safety measures.
The power washing jet is strong enough to peel paint and remove dirt and oil from concrete. If the jet comes in contact with your skin, it can cause damage the flesh. A simple Internet search for “power washing accidents” or “pressure washing accidents” will result in numerous injury related stories.
Pressure Washing Misconception
“The lowest power washing bidder is always the one you should hire.”
This is rarely a good policy for the following reasons:
- Low bidders may use unskilled and uninsured “day laborers” which could put you in liability danger if a day laborer is injured on your job.
- They may also lack required and appropriate liability and worker’s compensation insurance.
- They may use inferior materials and equipment.
- The lowest bidder may have missed or simply not bid an important aspect of the job, hoping you won’t catch it and they can tack it on as an “extra charge”.
- Low bidders may tack-on extra charges when they hand you their final bill.
- Get at least 3 quotes from different pressure washing companies. Before comparing prices, be sure all contractors are bidding exactly the same thing. Be extremely suspicious of an unusually low or high bid.
How to Choose a Pressure Washing Contractor?
Get at least 3 power washing quotes.
Avoid any contractor who charges for an estimate.
Insist on being listed as “additionally insured” on the contractor’s liability, worker’s compensation, and vehicle liability insurance policies.
Be sure the contractor states, in writing in your quotation, that they will not use “day labors” or uninsured labor on your job.
Ask for power washing references, and check them out carefully.