Pressure Washer Dos and Don'ts

Got a pressure washer? We can help. Follow these pressure washer dos and don'ts to use it properly

These pressure washer dos and don'ts will help you with your next cleaning job

When you need an outdoor cleanup, using a pressure washer can make a tough chore seem so much easier. The pressure washer is a powerful tool (so it is aptly named) and can hurt or help people, places, and things if it is not used in the right way. Read some of the dos and don'ts of pressure washing to be safe, clean quickly, and make your pressure washer last.


  • Read the instruction manual before you begin. Knowing what to do, and how to do it, even when it comes to a simple act of turning the pressure washer on can help you avoid a lot of frustration.
  • Inspect your equipment before starting the job. Make sure all the guards, shields, and tips are in working condition and pointed the right way.
  • Check oil levels before you begin, every time. If you do not have enough oil, you will burn out the motor faster than you may realize. Making sure that the pressure washer engine is lubed up and ready to wash will save you a costly mistake.
  • Be safe. Wearing safety gear over your eye, face, hands, and ears is a great way to protect yourself when operating loud and potentially messy equipment. Also, be sure to wear closed-toe shoes!
  • Attach all gear or accessories before turning on your pressure washer.
  • Use the hose, nozzle, and other parts of the device the way it was intended.
  • Clean your power washer often.
  • Use a cleaning agent to help reduce your cleaning time.
  • Watch what type of surface you are cleaning. Wooden surfaces can get damaged if sprayed head-on. Test a small area of your surface area before you begin cleaning in earnest. Testing will help you see what way to point the wand and how much pressure to use without damaging decks, or siding.
  • Keep the pressure washer at least 6 feet from anything containing electric components, such as wires, boxes, and outlets. Getting shocked from wet wires can cause harm or death.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions concerning the distance between the spray head and the surface — typically six to 10 inches while power washing, although this varies with the PSI and spray width settings. (Moving too close may harm the surface; staying too far away may be ineffective.).
  • When cleaning, spray from top to bottom. Working this way will help keep mildew and dirt from running over an already clean section.
  • Prep before starting, test water flow from hose, make sure the nozzle is pointed in the right direction, and that all parts of the device are working the way it is supposed to.


  • Don’t spray yourself or anyone (pets, animals, and children included) with the pressure washer. Even pointing the nozzle can be dangerous. The blast will rip the skin off.
  • Don’t leave a nozzle closed for more than a minute. Doing so may overheat your equipment and cause more harm than good.
  • Don’t repair the pressure washer when the unit is turned on, or still hot.
  • Don’t refill the fuel while the engine is still hot. Make sure to turn it off before filling the tank.
  • Don’t hold the nozzle close to a surface or in a spot for too long. The jet is so strong it will gouge wood, dent siding, erode stucco and wash away caulking out of the joints.
  • Don’t point the stream at any windows or glass doors, as it has the power to crack and break through the glass.
  • Don’t use the pressure washer on a ladder. When the wand is turned on, you’ll need two hands to control it from the kickback. Being on a ladder can knock you off balance. If you need to get higher areas, power washers offer extension kits and packages.
  • Don’t spray siding with an upward angle; doing so can push water behind the siding, which will only cause water damage in the future.
  • Don’t run the machine without pulling the trigger.
  • Don’t use a pressure washer for every job. Not all tasks need to be pressure washed and using one when it is unneeded can cause damage or destruction on surfaces that cannot handle it.

By following these pressure washer dos and don'ts, you'll be a pro at outdoor cleaning jobs in no time.

Resources — Bob Vila, MiTM, Ultimate Washer