Pressure washing a house is an effective way to remove dirt, mold, mildew, and other debris from exterior surfaces. When done properly, pressure washing can restore a home’s curb appeal and protect siding, decks, and other areas from damage. The key is using the right pressure washing solution for the job. In this post, we’ll discuss the different solutions available and when to use each one to get the best results.
What Solution To Use To Pressure Wash A House
There are three main types of solutions used in pressure washing:
- Water-only – Plain water can be effective for light cleaning jobs. The pressure from the washer helps blast away loose dirt.
- Detergents – Detergents help lift dirt and grease from surfaces. Detergents designed for pressure washing are more concentrated and efficient than household detergents.
- Bleach solutions – Bleach solutions help remove mold, mildew, and deeply set stains. Sodium hypochlorite and calcium hypochlorite are common bleaches used.
The right solution depends on the type of surface being cleaned and how dirty it is. Next, we’ll look at choosing solutions for specific pressure washing jobs.
Cleaning Wood and Vinyl Siding
Wood and vinyl siding are common siding materials that require care when pressure washing. The high pressure spray can damage softer materials if the wrong solutions are used.
For light cleaning of vinyl siding, a water-only wash may suffice. Apply the spray lightly in a wide fan pattern and rinse thoroughly. Avoid spraying directly at crevices or seams, as the pressure can push water into the siding.
For more stubborn dirt, grime, or mildew, use a house wash solution. House wash detergents contain mild cleaners and buffers that lift dirt without damaging the siding. Look for a solution specifically formulated for vinyl and wood siding. Apply it using a downstream injector or tank sprayer per the manufacturer’s directions. Rinse thoroughly after washing.
Avoid using bleach solutions on vinyl siding, as these can degrade the material over time, causing brittleness and discoloration. Also avoid high pressure spray patterns and tight nozzles that concentrate the spray. This can etch or puncture softer vinyl siding.
For unpainted wood siding, a house wash solution is also the best choice. The detergent helps brighten the wood without stripping or discoloring it like bleach would. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the detergent after washing.
If there are mildew stains on wood siding that don’t respond to house wash, you can apply a diluted 1:3 bleach-to-water solution. Test a small area first and avoid letting the bleach solution sit too long before rinsing. For severe mildew, a stronger 1:1 solution may be needed, but rinse immediately to avoid damaging the wood. Limit bleach use on wood to avoid long-term damage.
Cleaning Concrete and Brick Surfaces
For light cleaning, plain water may work to clear dust, pollen, and light staining. For most jobs, though, a concrete cleaner or degreaser designed for pressure washing is ideal. These detergents contain strong alkaline agents like sodium hydroxide to cut through oil, grease, and heavy grime.
Apply a concrete cleaning solution using a downstream injector or tank sprayer at low pressure. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing. This allows the detergent time to lift the grime. A long, sweeping spray pattern works best for rinsing concrete. Avoid holding a concentrated spray in one place, as this can etch the concrete.
For removing rust stains, mineral deposits, and efflorescence (a white powdery buildup), an acidic concrete brightener is the go-to solution. These solutions contain acids like phosphoric, hydrochloric, sulfamic, or oxalic acid to dissolve metallic and mineral stains. Apply the brightener, let sit briefly, then rinse thoroughly. Acidic cleaners can damage surrounding plants and grass, so take care to avoid overspray.
For oil stains on concrete, a degreaser may not be strong enough. In that case, use a poultice made with grease-cutting agents, or bleach. Mix the poultice per the manufacturer’s directions and apply it thickly over the stain. Cover it with plastic wrap and let sit for 24 hours before removing and rinsing. This draws out deep oil stains from concrete pores.
Removing Mold and Mildew from Decks
Mix a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. Increase the concentration up to 1:1 for severe stains. Apply it generously to stained areas using a tank sprayer, while wearing eye protection, gloves, and proper clothing. Let the solution sit briefly before rinsing thoroughly with clean water. Avoid letting bleach solutions sit too long on wood, as this can lead to discoloration.
For tougher mold stains, use an oxalic acid-based wood brightener after power washing with bleach. Oxalic acid can help further dissolve and remove residual discoloration. Rinse thoroughly after use.
It’s best to pretreat deck boards with a mold remover before power washing. An oxygen bleach powder works well and is safer for wood than chlorine bleach. Mix it with warm water per the label instructions and apply to the deck using a tank sprayer. Let it soak 15-20 minutes before power washing. The pretreatment helps loosen mold for more effective cleaning.
Always scrub planks in the direction of the wood grain while pressure washing. Avoid high pressures that can splinter and damage the deck boards. Washing once or twice per year helps prevent future mold and mildew growth.
Cleaning and Sealing Brick Pavers
Outdoor brick pavers are prone to staining from spills, mildew, efflorescence, and weathering. Pressure washing is key to removing dirt from the crevices between bricks. Sealing after cleaning helps protect the pavers and grout lines.
Use plain water first to rinse away surface dirt. Then apply a concrete cleaner diluted with water to remove oily stains. A pressure washer with a rotary surface cleaner attachment is ideal for cleaning pavers, as it distributes water evenly and prevents damage.
For efflorescence, apply an acidic masonry cleaner to the pavers. Let it sit for 5 minutes before rinsing. This dissolves the mineral deposits so they can be washed away.
Use a 1:3 bleach solution to remove mildew from pavers and grout. Apply it generously, let it sit briefly, then rinse thoroughly. Wear protective gear when using bleach.
Once the pavers are clean, rinse thoroughly with water to remove all soap residue. Allow the surface to dry completely before sealing. Using a roller or sprayer, apply a silicone-based sealer to the bricks per the manufacturer’s directions. Avoid acrylic sealers, which can trap moisture. Reapply the sealer annually or as needed to protect the bricks.
Cleaning and Protecting a Cedar Deck
Cedar decks add warmth and beauty to a home. Keeping the wood cleaned and sealed preserves the rich color and prevents splintering and cracks.
Use an oxygen bleach powder and warm water solution to brighten the deck and remove stains. Apply it with a downstream injector, let soak briefly, then power rinse. For deeper cleaning, use a wood brightener containing oxalic acid to further dissolve tannins and grime.
Avoid using harsh bleach or acidic solutions which can discolor and damage cedar. Also avoid high pressure rinsing. Clean with the wood grain using a wide-fan spray pattern.
Once the deck is clean and dry, protect the surface with an oil-based sealer made for cedar. Use a sprayer or roller to apply a thin, even coating. Choose a “penetrating” formula that soaks into the wood pores without leaving a thick film. This prevents peeling or chipping over time.
Reapply the sealer every 1-2 years. Test a small area first, as some sealers can darken or discolor cedar. Proper cleaning and sealing enhances the look of cedar while protecting it from moisture, mold, and UV damage.
Power Washing a Composite Deck
Composite decking offers low maintenance and durability. While composite won’t rot or splinter like wood, it still needs periodic washing to look its best. Here are some tips for cleaning composite decks:
Rinse first with plain water at low pressure. This removes surface debris like pollen and dirt. Then apply a composite deck
cleaner in a downstream injector. Let it sit briefly before power rinsing. Composite cleaners contain detergents and oxalic acid to brighten the surface.
Use a fan-tip nozzle and keep the pressure washer wand at least 6 inches away from the decking. Avoid high pressure, narrow spray patterns that can gouge composite materials.
For stubborn mold and mildew, use an oxygen bleach solution after detergent cleaning. Apply it with a tank sprayer, let soak 10-15 minutes, then rinse. This is safer for composites than chlorine bleach.
Ipe and other tropical hardwood composites can develop black spot mold. Use a deck brightener containing oxalic or phosphoric acid to remove the spots after cleaning.
Avoid metal-bristle brushes which can scratch composite decking. Use a soft nylon brush attachment to scrub any remaining dirt. Always scrub in the direction of the grain.
After washing, a composite sealer adds extra protection. Water-based sealers work best for composites. Apply with a paint pad applicator in thin, even coats per the manufacturer’s directions. Reapply every 1-2 years.
Proper pressure washing cleans composite decks while avoiding surface damage. Always use the right nozzles, pressure, and deck cleaners for your particular composite material. Consistent cleaning removes debris that can otherwise stain or hide the deck’s rich color.
Cleaning Railings, Screens, and Pergolas
Railings, screens, pergolas and other exterior structures also benefit from occasional power washing. Buildup of dirt, mildew, pollen and debris makes them look dingy while promoting deterioration. Here are some tips for cleaning common outdoor structures:
Rinse railings, screens and pergola framing first with plain water at medium pressure. This removes loose surface contaminants.
Use a 25-40 degree wide fan nozzle and keep the tip 6-10 inches back to avoid damaging materials. Rinse pergolas with the grain of the wood.
Apply a cleaning solution like siding wash, deck wash or mildew remover to screens and pergola slats with a tank sprayer. Let soak briefly before rinsing.
Use a downstream injector or tank sprayer to apply deck wash or brightener to wood pergolas. This removes tannin stains and brightens the wood. Rinse thoroughly.
For metal screens and railings, use a degreaser to cut through dirt and grime. Rinse carefully to avoid leaving streaks. Wipe metal dry after washing to prevent water spots.
Avoid high pressure, narrow spray patterns. Use medium pressure and widen the spray angle to clean delicate structures without damage.
Proper rinsing restores exterior structures to a like-new appearance. Consistent cleaning helps maintain their curb appeal and prevent deterioration.
Safety Tips for Exterior Pressure Washing
Pressure washing is an effective cleaning method for home exteriors, but also comes with safety risks. Following some basic precautions helps ensure a safe and successful pressure washing job:
- Wear eye and ear protection – Flying debris and loud noise make protective gear a must. Close-toed shoes are also a good idea.
- Use the right pressure – Excess pressure can damage siding, wood, and masonry. Stay below 1500 PSI and don’t hold the nozzle too close.
- Maintain a safe distance – Keep the pressure washer wand back at least 6 inches from surfaces to avoid damage.
- Use the right spray angle – Wide fan tips help control the pressure. Never aim directly at home windows, which can break them.
- Divert runoff properly – Prevent contaminated runoff from entering storm drains. Block drains or divert water into grassy areas.
- Watch electric cords – Don’t run power cords through standing water or let them kink. Keep cords safely away from spray.
- Limit bleach use – Bleach can damage some surfaces with prolonged contact. Rinse immediately after application.
- Wear protective clothing – Chemical-resistant gloves, boots, suits, and respirators help avoid exposure when using caustic cleaners.
Following safety protocols reduces risks when pressure washing. Protect yourself, your home, and the environment.
Pressure washing is an effective cleaning method for home exteriors when done properly. Following some key tips ensures the best results:
- Use the right pressure washing solutions – House wash, deck cleaners, concrete detergents, and other formulated cleaners outperform household products.
- Adjust pressure and technique – High pressure requires keeping the nozzle further back and using wider spray patterns. Lower pressure allows closer nozzle contact. Scrub or rinse with the wood grain.
- Rinse thoroughly after washing – This prevents staining or striping on siding and removes chemical residue.
- Work top to bottom – Debris and runoff from upper areas can re-dirty lower sections, so work top-down.
- Allow to dry before sealing – Sealing damp surfaces prevents proper absorption and adhesion.
- Follow safety protocols – Wear protective gear, divert runoff, and take care when on ladders or roofs.
The right solutions coupled with proper technique allow exterior pressure washing to restore a home’s beauty while protecting its integrity. Consistent power washing helps maintain curb appeal and prevent deterioration. With these tips in mind, you can tackle exterior cleaning jobs like a pro.
If you’re opting for professional pressure washing around North and Central Georgia, contact Sullins Suds Pressure Washing today!