A lot of people assume that concrete is an impermeable surface but I can assure you that this is far from the truth. I think one of the most satisfying, yet time-consuming outdoor tasks one can take on is pressure washing their driveways and walkways. You know that cleaning with a pressure washer is very effective as it can almost get rid of built-up dirt, debris and general stains from any surface. But you might also wonder and have questions like, “Can pressure washing damage concrete?” You will see that in the rest of this article. We not only have the answers that you need, but we have also compiled pressure washing tips and guidelines that would help you prevent damage to your concrete and other surfaces.
Can Pressure Wash Damage Concrete?
The quick answer to this question is yes. Yes, pressure washing can cause damage to the surface of the concrete. Moreover, you can notice this visible damage from your water pressure at a level that even light-duty pressure washers operate. This is why you need to be very careful when cleaning with a pressure washer, as it can cause irreversible damage to your walkway, driveway or patio. Also, there are some concretes that are generally weaker than the others are. In this case, it can make some areas a little more vulnerable to surface imperfections like pitting, developing lines and much more. It can also cause deterioration to joints especially if the mortar or joint sand is peeled off or washed away during the cleaning process.
There are quite a lot of reasons for pressure washing damage. However, the main reasons include using the wrong nozzle tip for cleaning, applying excessive pressure to the concrete surface, spraying at an angle that is too close to the concrete surface, and applying pressure to a particular spot for too long. Now just like any equipment or gadget that you purchase to use, you will probably want to read all the instructions or follow the user manual before you get started. This is why we have compiled some information and useful details on how you can deal with your concrete surfaces effectively, without causing any problem or more damage to it.
How to Clean Concrete with a Pressure Washer
The first thing you need to know is that, if done correctly, cleaning concrete with a pressure washer can make your patio, walkway or driveway look as good as new in just a few hours. First, you need to note the keyword “properly.” Pressure washing can only be effective if you do it the right way. If not, you might end up making surfaces worse than before.
Now if you have decided that you want to pressure wash your surfaces by yourself, the first thing you will need to do is either purchase a pressure washer, borrow or rent one. For those homeowners who only pressure wash like once or twice a year, renting a pressure washer is probably the best idea in this case. Not only does it save cost, but it also saves you the stress of looking for storage space to keep the pressure washer for the rest of the year. You can also avoid the hassle of performing any maintenance or repairs on your pressure washer.
Next, you will want to pick the best part of your day, probably in the morning, to get the job done (afternoons can be a little stressful, especially when it’s sunny). This also depends on the size or type of surface you want to work on. Generally, pressure washing can be a very messy job. So be sure to wear boots that you don’t mind ruining as well as pants or clothes that will protect your body from any loose materials or rocks that your pressure washer might send flying. While you are at it, bear in mind that you may begin with one area of the surface and decide to move to every other surface on your property. It is normal. As I said, pressure washing can be quite addictive and satisfying.
Tip: If this is your first time of using a pressure washer, or maybe you have never really gotten around to it, make sure you read through the instructions first. If you are not sure of yourself or you think that you don’t have the time or interest in taking it upon yourself, don’t hesitate to call in a professional. It is easier for someone who does pressure washing daily to know precisely how to clean your surfaces without causing any damage.
Now that you are ready to go, here are the steps involved in pressure washing a surface.
1. Check Your Nozzle Tip
This is one of the crucial steps in pressure washing, as any wrong nozzle tip can cause damage. It can be somewhat tempting to use a small nozzle, but using the wrong size of nozzle tip can cause damage to surfaces. Just know that the higher the number, the wider the tip and lesser the pressure or spray force.
For most concrete jobs, a 25-degree nozzle is more suitable to clean and rinse your surfaces. For grease or oil stains on your patio, you may want to use a finer nozzle to get rid of the stains. For materials like iron or metals, a 15-degree nozzle should be used because iron can withstand even the maximum amount of pressure from your washer. Not in any situation should you use a 0-degree nozzle, it poses a high safety risk.
Now if you are not sure of the type of nozzle to use, begin with the larger size and gradually make your way down. You can test them on a surface that you don’t mind damaging. The 25-degree nozzle can even be a bit too intense for your furniture, siding, and other sensitive decks. You should only use a smaller nozzle tip on your concrete when you are applying detergent to achieve a deeper clean.
2. Check Your Water Supply
If the water supply is not adequate, your pressure washer will not be able to function efficiently and effectively. So be sure to check the water supply before you proceed to pressure wash. To achieve an adequate flow of water, you can do a quick test by checking how long it takes before your hose can fill up a five-gallon bucket. If it takes two minutes to be filled up, then you are good to go.
3. Assess the Area
Before you begin the cleaning process, take a close look at the surrounding surface around the concrete that you want to wash. Fine, with the right nozzle size, your concrete can handle the pressure you are about to unleash on it, but what about the windows nearby? Can that outdoor furniture withstand it? What about that wooden deck? So make sure any sensitive area around your concrete is well protected before you proceed. Also, if you would be pressure washing around your driveway, remove your car. You may lose control while washing and the pressure washer blasts your car- you might end up chipping away the paint. Also, remove all lawn toys and long cords that can cause accidents when you start washing. Finally, do a check for any trip hazards that might be within the area. You wouldn’t want to trip over them and lose control of your washer.
4. Keep a Safe Distance
When you are ready to start washing, back up and take a few steps away from the surface. Remember, if you blast from a very close range, you may end up damaging the surface that you want to clean. So start cleaning from at least 10 feet away from the surface that you intend on cleaning. Once the pressure washer starts running, you can now step a little closer until you are sure that the distance from your surface is safe.
5. Aim high and gradually adjust
Now that you are ready to wash, first aim for an angle that is higher than the spot you want to hit. Then turn the pressure washer on to spray at 3,000 psi and gradually adjust your stance. If you use any more pressure than this, it can be risky, especially if your concrete is weak or not in good condition. So as you wash, aim the nozzle to move in one direction. That way, you’ll be able to avoid etchings and other surface damages on your concrete. Also, when you are cleaning with detergent, it is advisable to move from the bottom of your surface and gradually work your way up. However, if you are rinsing, begin at the top and make your way to the bottom.
If you haven’t used a pressure washer before, just know that you can’t rush the process. You will want to start on an area that is less visible until you can figure out how a pressure washer works. You will also need to stay at a consistent distance from the concrete surface to get uniform results. Also, you may need to focus on one area before moving on to the next. We know that pressure washing can be tiring, so whenever you feel the need to, take a break, especially if the area you are working on is extensive.
Even after you have tried everything within your power to prevent damage, things can still go wrong. You might still encounter damages during pressure washing.
Damage from Pressure Washing
Concrete is one of the most durable building materials available. However, it is not immune to cracks, wear, and tear and imperfections. Over time, these surface imperfections can develop, especially on areas that are trodden upon by people or by cars such as areas like a walkway or a driveway. Now a pressure washer is capable of delivering water at a pressure level that is way higher than that of your regular garden hose. So if you do a bad washing job, your concrete can become damaged due to this pressure.
You know that your concrete is damaged if it looks etched and if the surface is uneven and looks unappealing. Etching and other surface imperfections, however, may not always be caused by extreme pressure from your pressure washer. It may have existed even before you remove the layer of dirt and grime on top of the surface.
Tip: If you have just installed your concrete, you may have to hold off on pressure washing for some time. This is because concrete needs at least a year to be able to handle the type of pressure of a pressure washer.
There’s yet another type of concrete damage that some homeowners come across. When you pressure wash your concrete too often, it can cause damage to the concrete. If you are pressure washing your concrete, it should be done once or twice a year. Anything more than this can subject your concrete to damage.
Also, note that when you switch from pressure washing your concrete to other surfaces such as wood or other outdoor furniture, you will need to decrease the pressure level to avoid damage. For wooden decks, they can be easily cleaned with the use of a garden hose rather than a pressure washer.
Using a pressure washer for your roof is generally a bad idea, you can be thrown off balance when you turn on the machine while you are on a ladder. It is also a bad idea to pressure wash your car; the paint can be peeled off in the process. A pressure washer can also dislodge shingles. Making contact with a high-pressure spray on your skin can ultimately cause bruises and lacerations, which can send you to the hospital. Therefore, you need to be extremely cautious.
How to Remove Pressure Washer Marks
If you notice that your pressure washing is leaving marks on the surface of your concrete, do not panic. These leftover marks are a whole lot easier to get rid of than etches and other damages. Carefully observe the concrete surface that you have just cleaned, you might see some leftover dirt or debris that didn’t come off while you were pressure washing. If you are sure about pressure washing skills, you can switch the nozzle tip with a much broader one and go back over the concrete. Rather than that, you can brush off the dirt and debris or use a gentle spray to remove them. Most times, these leftover marks are a result of rushing through the job. Therefore, if you start to notice these marks while you are still pressure washing, take it and make sure you go over each area thoroughly before moving onto the next section.
Another method you can employ is to try using a detergent to remove marks or discoloration. Instead of the usual process of delivering water through a high-pressure spray, mixing water with cleaning liquids can also go a long way. If you are applying this method, you should use a smaller nozzle. The cleaning detergent you plan to use should also have a more detailed instruction on how to use it. If you follow those instructions, you should be able to get the kind of results that you want. There are other important things you have to keep in mind before you begin your pressure washing process.
1. Do Your Homework
No matter the size of your job or the duration of the pressure cleaning process, it is essential that you pay attention to your pressure washer. That amount of pressure can make a lot of noise, so before going ahead to rent or buy a pressure washer, make sure you do some research. Some models make more noise than others do. Therefore, you might need to consider this especially if you do not want to disturb your neighbors.
Also, make sure you wear proper clothing when pressure washing. Safety experts recommend earmuffs and protective equipment so that you don’t cause damage to your skin or health. Besides, try to wear gloves, safety goggles, and long-sleeved clothing to prevent any exposure to the high-pressure. Never point a running washer nozzle at a person to avoid any injury or accident.
2. Be Cautious Of Your Environment
If your area or neighborhood is going through draught, pressure washing may be prohibited to prevent waste of water. Even without these restrictions, you should also avoid wasting water. Once you can follow the right step or procedure on pressure washing your properties, you will not have to waste water. Just be cautious of how much water you are using.
3. Consult Professionals
Sometimes, when homeowner’s pressure wash their concrete by themselves, it can lead to accidental damage, either to their home or themselves. So if you are not confident about your pressure washing skills, consult professional cleaning companies to get your job done easier and with less damage.
We hope that this article will help you through your pressure washing journey. Best of luck!