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How to Unclog a Pressure Washer Nozzle: the full guide

When the performance of your pressure washers reduces, nozzles, if not pumps or motors, are the most likely culprit. You should straight away check them for clogging or run a diagnostic for any other common nozzle problems.

A question a lot of homesteaders ask me is how to fix clogged nozzles in their washers. Also, with so many different types of nozzles in the market from which to choose the best one for the money, the method of unclogging nozzles in power washers may vary depending on the one attached to your machine. Most importantly, you should note that proper care and maintenance of these vital cleaning accessories ensure their efficiency and longevity.

To Unclog a Pressure Washer Nozzle use the following steps:

  • Remove the nozzle
  • Poke the holes
  • Rinse the nozzle 
  • Re-install the nozzle

To help you understand every step involved in unclogging nozzles so that you can do the right thing henceforth, we will include some examples in this post. Moreover, if you are a homesteader or a provider of commercial cleaning services looking to learn more, this post is for you.

Dive in with us as we break down the process of cleaning clogged pressure washers nozzles bit by bit. To further help you understand this subject; we will also walk you through a few more tips about choosing and using nozzles for power washers.

Pressure washer nozzle cleaning tools

Of course, the first step towards cleaning nozzles in your pressure washer is having the right tools for the job. Thus, a question everyone should always ask at the onset is, do you have the right cleaning tools? If not, where do you get the best tools for unclogging nozzles?

Sometimes a power washer does not come with a cleaning tool kit, especially for unclogging the nozzles. If that is the case, you have no option but to buy it separately. The most common tool for unclogging nozzles is a cleaner wire. It is as simple as it sounds-a straight wire that can go through the nozzle openings.

You can also use a paper clip (unfolded) to rid the nozzle of debris. As you are about to discover, cleaning power washer nozzles is the simplest task you can ever perform on your power washer. It requires little effort; the amount of money you will need to buy a cleaner wire is way less compared to the price of the accessory in question.

You can find a Pressure Washer Nozzle Cleaning Tool here.

In the meantime, a few questions often come to mind, especially if it is your first time unclogging nozzles. You may want to ask the following:

  • How do you troubleshoot clogged nozzles in power washers?
  • How does a clogged nozzle affect the performance of your pressure washer?

Let’s explore answers to these questions separately to help you understand the process of unclogging nozzles.

Troubleshooting clogged nozzles in a pressure washer

With clogged nozzles, the main concern always is whether your power washer will blast water at high pressure or its optimal performance pressure will gradually reduce. The truth is that clogged nozzles are often a big hindrance to a cleaning routine hence the need to fix them right away. The following troubleshooting tips should, therefore, help you get started with the cleaning progress:

  • Disconnect: Start by disconnecting the spray wand.
  • Check: Check the nozzles for clogging using a wire. You should use a strong wire such as a paper clip for the best results.
  • Flush water: Flush water into the nozzle head but in the opposite direction.  It is the best way of removing debris, especially if there is any in the nozzle head.
  • Debris flowing out: If you see debris/particles flowing out, it is a sign that clogging may have been the reason for the low pressure in your power washer. Debris in nozzles also reduces impact pressure on the surface you are cleaning, hence reducing the optimal performance of your machine. With the debris removed, you can now reinstall the spray wand and test the machine again for clogging.
  • Repeat: If the process hasn’t cleared the nozzle of plugging, repeat the above steps. Alternatively, if the process is tiresome (we presume not), you can replace the clogged nozzle with a new one. Check out leading eCommerce stores for nozzle prices, making sure to put money on the best one for your machine. Later on in this post, we will briefly explore factors to consider when buying a new pressure washer nozzle.

How does a clogged nozzle affect the performance of your pressure washer?

We can also ask the above question differently, thusly; what is the importance of unclogging power washer nozzles? First off, if you are a homeowner-always looking to maintain a high level of hygiene in your homestead- having a power washer that delivers optimal performance when cleaning driveways, cars, and the wall is necessary  Also, noting that nozzles come in a variety, especially regarding their shapes and designs, you should always make the right purchase decision right from the start.

Pressure washers with bigger nozzle holes may be a preferred choice, especially if you are looking for something that delivers low to medium cleaning pressure. Bigger holes on nozzles do not clog easily but that should not be a major concern at this point. However, with continued use, they too get clogged. Nozzles with smaller holes deliver high pressure, often loved for their top performance when cleaning concrete surfaces or when blasting stubborn stains on the kitchen counter. But compared to variants with big holes, they tend to clog faster.

Now, to understand how clogged nozzles affect the performance of pressure washers, think about blocking your nose with a piece of cloth then try to breathe out. Alternatively, imagine blowing air through a straw with the other end covered using a piece of wet cloth. It is how the clogging of nozzles in pressure washers affects their optimal performance.

When clogging is the reason behind reduced pressure, you will notice that the motor is working extra hard. It would also be necessary to pump water using more strength and power. In a nutshell, clogged nozzles will not only reduce the pressure at which your washer blasts water but also affect its optimal performance.

The importance of cleaning clogged nozzles in power washers is; therefore, to maintain their optimal performance, especially flow rate, impact pressure, and efficiency. When the motor does not struggle and the pump works with great ease, your power washer becomes the handiest cleaning equipment.

According to experts in this niche, clogging is one of the most common pressure washer problems. Even worse, it can grind everything you want to do with your washer to a halt. Most importantly, knowing how to troubleshoot these machines will help you fix mechanical hitches before they get out of hand.

What is the best way to clean clogged nozzles?

Bearing in mind that the nozzle in power washers can either have big or small holes; the method of cleaning them may also vary slightly. Tools for cleaning these gadgets remain the same, albeit, for big-holed nozzles, you will need a thicker wire/paper grip to realize a better grip of trapped debris. The process of unclogging nozzles is, however, simple. The following tips should, therefore, help you do it rigorously and faster:

  • Remove the nozzle: We advise that you remove the nozzle for the best cleaning experience. The catch here is that cleaning pressure washer nozzles while still attached to the main unit would worsen the clogging problem.
  • Poke the holes: Now, using a straightened paper clip or wire, poke the holes in the nozzle in a back and forth motion. When doing this, hold it by the sides with the front end facing you.
  • Rinse the nozzle: Now, use clean water to thoroughly rinse the nozzle. We emphasize flashing water back and forth to realize the maximum removal of debris. 
  • Re-install the nozzle and get back to work.

You can find a Pressure Washer Nozzle Cleaning Tool here.

Based on our experience with pressure washers, reverse cleaning nozzles is the best way to unclog them. For stubborn stains/dirt/debris/particles, we recommend soaking it in hot water for a few minutes. Or, you can soak them overnight and unclog them the following day.

In the worst-case scenarios, you may be forced to replace clogged nozzles with new ones, especially if it results in damage beyond repair.  Nozzles are some of the cheapest pressure washer accessories. They also come in variants to suit your needs.

Still, on cleaning nozzles, a question most people ask is how to unclog adjustable variants. Well, while unclogging should not be a complicated process, we would say, nozzles with removal orifices require extra care when it comes to cleaning.

With a good needle-slender and long (you can buy one from a shop selling tailoring supplies)-digging poking the holes of adjustable nozzles heads should be easy. You should force out dirt blocking the water pathway with little effort. The catch with unclogging these gadgets is that you must dig and push out dirt while applying a little force for the best results.

At this point, you may also want to ask this question: Where did the dirt come from? Did you run dirty water through your pressure washer? Does it have a filter? The right answers to these questions should help you plan, especially on how to avoid damaging your power washer nozzle in the future. Large debris such as small stones can damage vital parts of your machine.

Take, for example, the poppet valve. It is not easy to clean this part; hence the more reason you should install a water filter is to prevent dirt from going through the unit. Extensive damage to these machines can shorten their lifespan and it often happens when you least expect it. The inconvenience that comes with it is a topic we will reserve for another day. Even worse, you will spend more money than necessary for repairs and maintenance.

How to remove a pressure washer nozzle?

If you do not have a lot of experience with your pressure washer, you might wonder how to remove the pressure washer nozzle from your machine. Most pressure washer nozzles are designed to be replaceable. Only a few cheaper pressure washers come with a fixed nozzle, that can not be replaced.

Use the following steps to remove and replace a pressure washer nozzle:

● Step 1: Locate the nozzle

The first step is to locate the pressure washer nozzle. This is easy, as the nozzle is located at the end of the trigger gun, where the water comes out. It is relatively small, most are not longer than an inch. Some nozzles have a long black plastic cap, others have only a small plastic top.

If your pressure washer has a quick release system, this will be located directly beneath the nozzle.

● Step 2: Remove the pressure washer nozzle

There are several ways the nozzle is connected with the pressure washer gun. Depending on the method a different method to remove it is needed

– How to remove the pressure washer nozzle quick release

If your pressure washer model has a quick connect nozzle you can pull down the collar and release the nozzle. If the nozzle was clogged you can expect some water to escape when pulling the collar down.

There are also quick-release systems where you have to turn the quick-release collar to remove the nozzle. Turn the wand to the side and you should see a brass collar that you can pull down. This should release the nozzle.

– How to remove the pressure washer nozzle no quick release

If your pressure washer model has no quick release nozzle, it will use a fastener to keep the nozzle in place. To remove the nozzle you will have to use an Allen wrench.

Insert the Allen wrench into the holes on the trigger gun. This should unlock the nozzle, and you can remove it.

Remark: there are pressure washer models that have a fixed nozzle that can not be replaced. If you are unsure, check the manual.

Nozzles degree color coding and what it means.

By now, we presume you already know how to clean a clogged nozzle on your pressure washer. However, if your washer‘s nozzle always gets blocked, it could be that you spent money on a substandard product. It is why; we find it necessary to quickly walk you through different nozzle color codes to help you make the right purchase decision. They include:

  • Black soap nozzles that have large orifices hence blast water at low pressure.
  • White 40-degree nozzles are ideal for light washing tasks because they blast water at gentle pressure.
  • 25-degree nozzles, usually green, are ideal for general cleaning duties. Some people call them multi-purpose power washer nozzles given their wide-spraying capabilities. You can use them to clear off leaves on concrete surfaces, driveways, boats, cars, patio furniture, and decks.
  • 15-degree nozzles, usually yellow and narrow, are ideal for dirt and paint removal. It is because compared to the above variants; they blast water at high pressure making it possible to clean even the most stubborn stains.
  • Red 0-degree nozzles are another type known to blast water as powerful jets. If you are looking for something that will help you clean stubborn stains such as tar, gum, oil, mildew, and glue, go for the red 0-degree nozzles.

You can find Pressure Washer Nozzles here.

Does the type of a nozzle impact ease of cleaning it?

Yes, the type of nozzle you buy has a direct impact on the ease with which you clean it. Most importantly, it determines the type of cleaning tool you will use when clogging happens. Nozzles with bigger holes are easier to clean than those with small holes.

When you go out shopping for a pressure washer nozzle, pick not only the best one for the money but also something that you will not have trouble unclogging. In cases where high pressure is necessary, you don’t have an option because nozzles with smaller holes are the best.

The aforesaid brings us to the question of, what factors should homesteaders consider when buying nozzles for power washers? Well, we researched the above question and the following are important factors everyone should consider:

Types of power washer nozzles

We have briefly explored the type of pressure washer nozzles but let’s expand it further. When you go shopping for the best nozzles for your power washer, you can choose from the following variants depending on your needs:

● Quick disconnect nozzle

The first type is the quick disconnect nozzle. As the name suggests, one can vary the angle of this nozzle to suit different purposes. Thus, with quick disconnect nozzles, you can choose to use the machine for cleaning painting, or turn it into a cutting gadget. Often, the degrees to which you can adjust these nozzles vary from 0 to 80.

  • At 15 degrees nozzle angle, you can use your power washer to strip paint off surfaces such as wood and metal.
  • At 25 degrees, a disconnect nozzle becomes a useful tool for cleaning swimming pools.
  • Further varying the angle to 40 degrees makes your machine effective in cleaning cars, windows, and roofs.
  • Disconnect nozzles that blast water at high pressure sitting at zero degrees. But the catch is that with these variants, your tool becomes very versatile, making it possible to clean stains on different types of surfaces.

You can find Pressure Washer Nozzles here.

● Specialized/accessory nozzles

The second is the specialized or accessory nozzle, which is often sold separately.  The catch with this type of nozzle is that it comes with an extension wand, rotating brushes, scrub brush, flat surface cleaners, foam blasters, gutter cleaners, and other vital accessories.

● Rotary/Turbo nozzles

While these nozzles are bought together with the main unit, you can also purchase them separately, especially when you are looking for a replacement accessory. They spin at a speed of between 5000-9000, hence very powerful and effective on paint and grime. They are mostly 0 to 15-degree pressure nozzles.

● Variable/Adjustable Nozzles

Adjustable or variable nozzles are often purchased together with the main pressure washer unit. It is a one-piece accessory attached to a cleaning wand. Anyone who uses this type of power washer nozzle will tell you that it is multipurpose, combining the functions of five different nozzles in one. You can adjust the nozzle angle to a degree that most suits your cleaning needs.

● NPT threaded MEG nozzles

This type of pressure washer nozzle is threaded at the tip. The threads look like patterns and are specifically designed for MEG tips and double lances. The threading ranges between 1/8 to ¼ inches. Threaded MEG nozzles are mostly used to clean surfaces and they use sandblast power washer heads. You can also find them in spinning dust cleaners.

● Black Tipped Nozzles

Another type of pressure washer nozzles is the black-tipped variant, also known as black soap nozzles. It comprises a black tip as the name suggests and is mostly used to spray chemicals. However, given their large orifices, they are low-pressure nozzles. 

You can find Pressure Washer Nozzles here.

Other common nozzle problems you should know

As a homesteader looking to put money on the best nozzles, dealing with clogging is not an end in itself. You should not ignore other common problems that can hinder the performance of these vital pressure washer fittings. And when that happens, maintenance or repair costs would go high, leaving a dent in your pocket.

From our end of the bargain, we would say, the earlier you learn about common nozzle problems, the easier it is to fix them. You will be better prepared to handle the situation at an earlier stage before it gets complex. If you are using a power washer for commercial cleaning services, you know how nozzle clogging and other problems can grind your operations to a halt. So, here is everything you need to know about other nozzles problems:

● Corrosion

Corrosion is particularly a big concern when it comes to using pressure washer nozzles. Sometimes, the cleaning detergent/soap flowing through the washing unit can be the beginning of the end for once an effective nozzle. Corrosion greatly degrades nozzles, and it can get worse if you don’t take immediate action.

● High temperature

While some pressure washers are designed to use hot water, you should be wary of how high temperature affects the nozzle. Heat damage is likely to occur, especially if the nozzle material is not resistant to hot temperatures.

The question is should you go for a plastic or a metallic nozzle? Well, it depends on whether you have a hot water pressure washer or a cold water variant. You should always make the right decision before you start a cleaning routine.

● Damage due to accidental falls

Accidental damage of pressure washer nozzles can happen at any time. It can happen during installation or when you accidentally drop the nozzle during a clean routine. When it happens, you should expect a reduced performance, in which case, you may be forced to buy a replacement spare.

 ● Bearding/caking

Caking or bearding is a common problem with nozzles. It happens due to the build-up of materials, either on the inside or outside of the orifice. The main cause of caking is the evaporation of hot liquid. Caking is a major cause of clogging in nozzles. It obstructs the optimal flow of water hence the need to understand how it happens before performing the right corrective measures.

● Wrong nozzle assembling

When you wrongly assemble a pressure washer, you should expect mechanical glitches such as water flowing in the wrong direction. Improperly assembled washers would negatively affect the o-rings because they will not be as effective as they should. It is also true for nozzles.

When you over tighten them, it could be the beginning of an even bigger problem. From damaging the threads to cracking the head, anything can go wrong due to improper assembling.

● Clogging

This post is about unclogging pressure washer nozzles. However, it shouldn’t escape your radar that clogging is a major problem with these gadgets. Having explored steps to fixing this problem, we will also shortly look at the causes of clogging in power washer nozzles.  

● Wear and tear (erosion)

If you thought only clogging affects the performance of pressure washer nozzles, you should think again. Wear and tear affect almost every component of a machine. You may have bought the best nozzles for the money a few months ago, but that does not mean you should forget about wear and tear.

Nozzles do corrode, after the especially orifice comes into contact with water for several months. With erosion, comes the reality of low pressure because the orifice gradually become becomes smaller.  If you are suspecting nozzle wear and tear as the cause of low pressure, the following troubleshooting steps should help you fix it:

  • A drop in spray pressure should signal wear and tear on the nozzle orifice.  The flow of water, however, increases, albeit, the larger drop is noticeable.
  • Change in spray pattern: Another sign to look out for when diagnosing the wear and tear of the nozzle is a change in the spray pattern. If the quality has reduced, chances are high that erosion has occurred on the orifice.
  • A change in water flow rate is also an indication that the nozzle has suffered serious erosion. As the erosion of the orifice continues, the flow rate increases. You should also notice a decrease in water pressure given that erosion widens the orifice. If you had purchased a narrow nozzle for high impact pressure, erosion would mean that wouldn’t be the case anymore. The only option you have at this point is to buy a new one.
  • Worn-out nozzles spray water at low pressure. Something that should be even more telling is reduced spray impact. It is usually evident when a pressure washer you have been using to clean tough stains no longer delivers excellent performance.

You can find new Pressure Washer Nozzles here.

What causes clogging in pressure washer nozzles?

Now, here is another question every commercial cleaning service provider or homesteader using pressure washers should ask. What is the cause of clogging in power washer nozzles? Well, depending on the type of washer, the answer to the above question often varies from one person to another.  

After researching this subject, we noted that there are several causes of nozzle clogging/jam. They include:

  • Debris: Build-up on debris is a leading cause of clogging in power washer nozzles. While a pressure washer may have a water filter, tinier particles often go through. Over time, a build-up of dirt becomes a major problem affecting the performance of your machine.
  • Wear and tear of internal components of your machine also cause clogging of nozzles in power washers.
  • Caking, also known as bearding is another cause of clogging in nozzles. When worn-out materials build up on both sides of the orifice, clogging is most likely the next cause of worry.
  • Dirty water flowing through a pressure washing unit is another reason to worry about clogged nozzles.
  • Mixing cleaning water with the wrong detergent would result in erosion and corrosion of internal parts of your machine, resulting in clogged nozzles.

The best way to remove a nozzle from Karcher Pressure Washers

  1. The first step is to switch the pressure washer off by turning the power setting to 0.
  2. To remove the nozzle, turn the nozzle counterclockwise. That way it detaches from the trigger handle.
  3. When the old nozzle is removed, you can add the new nozzle and turn it clockwise. This way it will lock in place.
  4. When the new nozzle is added and feels secure, you can turn on the pressure washer and start using it.

Final Thoughts

In the end, knowing how to unclog nozzles in pressure washers is necessary. You do not have to spend money hiring a repair and maintenance expert to do something you can perform in quick easy steps. With the tips explored in this post, we hope your experience with these gadgets will improve to the highest level of efficiency.