Pressure Washing Tips And Tricks - How To Use A Pressure Washer

Pressure Washer Safety The Ultimate Guide For Beginners

Sep 11, 2023
From cleaning concrete pavements, automobiles, and decks, a pressure washer is a powerful cleaning tool. And it works quickly and efficiently.

However, for your cleaning to be enjoyable, you have to understand the proper safety precautions. If you don’t do so, sustaining power washer injury is inevitable.

For instance, think of a pressure washer emitting water at the force of 3000 PSI. Such pressure, when directed at your skin, is sure to cause a skin laceration. No wonder such accidents are common.

However, the good news is that pressure washer accidents are avoidable; and that’s the purpose of this post. But first let’s look at the types of power washers that we have on the market.

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Types of pressure washers

Power washers are categorized depending on the type of energy that powers them. That means you’ll find two types:

  • Electric pressure washers

  • Gasoline pressure washers

Alternatively, they can also be classified depending on the level of pressure they support:

  • Light duty pressure washers

  • Medium duty pressure washers

  • Heavy duty pressure washers

However, don’t underestimate even the light-duty pressure washers.

For you to avoid power washer related injuries, the first step is dressing appropriately.

Protective Gear to Put on When Using a Pressure Washer

The high-pressure water jet may cause objects to fly about in any direction. So it is wise to dress appropriately from head to toe. Consequently here are some of the protective clothing and gear you shouldn’t miss:

1-  Gloves

A pair of gloves on both hands is very necessary. Remember, hands are one of the prime areas affected by power washer injuries. A beautiful pair of gloves provides double benefits:

  • Improves your grip on the wand

  • Protects your delicate skin

A cleaner wearing gloves while using a pressure washer

A cleaner wearing gloves while using a pressure washer

2- Goggles

The eyes are a very sensitive body part. High-pressure water can set a tiny object into motion towards your eyes. But with the safety glass on, you don’t need to worry about such accidents.

3- Gumboots

The high pressure washing safe work practices, demands that you shouldn’t put on flip-flops at work. An open pair of shoes leaves your feet vulnerable to injuries. Ideally, you should either put on work boots or steel toe tipped boots. Such footwear provides adequate foot protection.

Fully enclosed boots protect your feet

Fully enclosed boots protect your feet

4- Pants

To achieve complete protection from flying debris, match your work boots with long pants. 

5- Ear protection

Pressure washers that run on gasoline produce a higher intensity of noise compared to electric powered engines. So if you plan on using gas pressure washers, you must put on ear protection. Otherwise, the loud sound produced by their engines is enough to damage your hearing ability.

A cleaner dressed in full protective clothing before using pressure washer

A cleaner dressed in full protective clothing before using pressure washer

Once you understand what protective clothing to use, let’s move to the safety tips regarding the preparation and actual use of the pressure washer.

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 Pressure washer safety checklist

1. Read the manual carefully

Whether you have bought or rented the cleaning equipment, it’s vital to learn how to use the machine properly. And what’s the best way to understand a device other than reading the manual for the pressure washer safety checklist?

Read between the lines from the first to the last page. Particularly dig out the following pieces of information:

  • The function of each button on the control panel

  • How to switch off the equipment in case of an emergency

  • Basic troubleshooting tips

  • Water temperature accepted by the power washer

  • How to disassemble the machine

But if you are renting the device, perform a test yourself on how to use the tool. If you aren’t sure of anything, ask before you leave the shop.

2. Keep off drugs or alcohol

The first step in avoiding pressure washer accidents is maintaining your right state of mind. You need all your senses to be alert while operating the cleaning equipment. Drugs not only impair your thoughts but also introduce fatigue to the body. If you feel tired or dizzy, don't work.

3. Beware of your surroundings

You need to check your work environment for any possible hazards. For example, be on the lookout for the following:

  • Pets or children playing nearby

  • Obstacles you can trip on, like uneven ground, hoses or furniture

  • Automobiles passing near you

  • Power lines and electrical wires

Preferably have someone around to be the lookout for any dangers while you are engrossed in your work.

Use of a pressure washer in the wrong set up; child holding the equipment and other children playing around

Use of a pressure washer in the wrong set up; child holding the equipment and other children playing around

4. Do not operate a gas run power pressure in an enclosed room

Using a gas run pressure washer in an enclosed area is dangerous. Here are two reasons not to do so:

  • During operation, the equipment produces carbon monoxide. Running the engine in a poorly ventilated room will force you to breathe the dangerous carbon monoxide. That will cause dizziness or even headache.

  • Gasoline power washers produce a loud noise, just like lawnmowers. An enclosed area further amplifies the sound to a higher magnitude.

While using the power washer follow the precautions below:

5. Do not use a pressure washer while working at heights

The best way on how to use a pressure washer should be while your stability is at its optimum. Consequently, standing on the ground with legs spread out gives you the right balance.

What about if you want to clean a surface far above you?

In such an instance, an extension wand quickly helps to reach greater heights. Although a ladder will position you to reach greater heights, it compromises your balance. A kickback from a high-pressure gasoline washer is enough to knock you off your feet. A fall from a height of even 3 or 4 feet can be fatal depending on which part of the body touches the ground first.

Don’t pressure-wash while on a ladder, like this man

Don’t pressure-wash while on a ladder, like this man

6. When not spraying, make use of the safety latch

A pressure washer gun has a safety latch. Its primary purpose is to prevent any unintended turn on. Therefore never leave any power washer unattended even for a few seconds. Instead, turn on the safety latch or switch off the engine completely. And before resting the gun down for even a few moments, make sure you turn on the safety latch.

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7. Carry a the test run 2 to 3 feet from the test surface

Pressure washers usually are sold with different spray nozzles. If you aren’t sure which nozzle fits your use, it’s advisable to run a test. However, while doing so, position the spraying gun to be about 2 to 3 feet from the surface to be cleaned.

From such a distance, you can adjust to the angle and distance without causing any damage to the test surface. But begin from the broadest spray angle till you find the nozzle that suits your purpose. Nevertheless even while adjusting the spraying distance, don’t go below 6 inches from the surface you are cleaning.

8. Never aim the power washer at any part of your body

Some pressure washers are so powerful that they can etch concrete walls. What could be the extent of the power washer injury if the same force hits your skin? On the same note, don’t try to change the nozzle during spraying. 

Remember, a pressure washer isn’t like a squirt gun or garden hose. So don’t think of playing any silly games with it. Always ensure the spraying gun is pointing away from your body and glass windows too. Such a rule will help avert the unforeseen damage from the pressure washing machine.

Always hold the pressure washer away from your body, as this man demonstrates

Always hold the pressure washer away from your body, as this man demonstrates

9. Keep away from electrical sockets and connections

When using a pressure washer, it’s essential to keep away from electrical outlets and connections. Remember that water conducts electricity. So if water jet strays to the socket or any other electrical connection, electrocution may occur. On the same note, keep the equipment’s power cord from passing through a pool of water.

At best, do not use an extension cord. But if you must, then pick an extension cord that is verified to be used in wet places. Verify its components’ rating and ensure its fit for duty.

10. Confirm the operation GFCI

Even after keeping away from pools of water, you wouldn’t wish to take a risk with your life. Thus before beginning cleaning, confirm that the ground fault circuit interrupter is operational. In case of a fault like a leakage, it becomes your only defense. At the same time, ensure that the grounding prong of the extension cord or the machine’s power cord is connected and not hanging.

11. Don’t allow kids to operate the pressure washer

However easy it seems to use a pressure washer, don’t leave the operation of the equipment in the hands of children. Kids are much more likely to mess up and cause pressure washer injury than adults. Here are a few reasons to back up the statement.

  • Children lack the know-how about how the equipment operates.

  • A child may not have the strength to withstand the kickback force produced by pressure washers.

  • A kid lacks the right judgment skills on how to respond to an emergency.

The seemingly enjoyable game will soon turn to an accident. Kids must not operate a pressure washer

The seemingly enjoyable game will soon turn to an accident. Kids must not operate a pressure washer 

12. Be mindful of the back force

Just like a gun generates a push back effect as it emits bullets, a pressure washer simulates the same energy. Therefore if you are using a pressure washer for the first time, hold the spray gun firmly or else the kickback force will knock you back. For the first couple of moments, you might struggle to control the pressure cleaner.

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13. Release the pressure inside the wand correctly before storage

Once you have finished pressure cleaning, before storing the equipment, make sure you release trapped pressure in the wand-correctly. The right procedure is to:

  • Switch off the engine.

  • Squeeze the trigger to release the pressure safely.

  • Cool down the engine in preperation for storage.

Before releasing the force, do not disconnect the hose, nozzle, or even the spray gun. Otherwise, the high-pressure liquid will hit your hands directly, leading to an injury.

5 Common Pressure Washer Mistakes to Keep Off

1) Excessive pressure

Most people believe higher pressure makes it easy to dislodge stains and dirt. However, it is essential to know the nature of the surface you are washing. Doing so will help you decide on the due pressure that the surface deserves.

Do you know that applying undue pressure may crack the wood, etch concrete, and even bore a hole in the vinyl siding? Even the best pressure washer in the world may damage surfaces if not set correctly. 

2) Being unmindful of painted surfaces

Some painted surfaces cannot withstand pressure washes. For example old painted areas which have been weakened by continual sunshine. When you use a pressure washer on such surfaces, instead of removing dirt, you will only find yourself peeling off the paint.

3) Using hot water on all surfaces

A large percentage of pressure washing in industries employs hot water. Industrial fittings and structures exhibit sturdiness incomparable to residential houses. Therefore although hot water removes dirt and grime faster, not all residential applications can withstand it. For example, cleaning vinyl siding and cedar shakes are easily damaged by hot water.

4) Not understanding your equipment fully

All pressure washers don’t have the same features. When you buy a new pressure washer, take your time to figure it out, and don't make assumptions. And before bringing home a rented power washer, ask for a real demonstration of how to use the equipment. Believe me, it will save you from making many mistakes.

5) Failing to winterize the power washer

Pressure washers mostly find application during spring and summer. Consequently, most of the cleaning engines are stored for a longer period during winter. However, most people don’t take the time to winterize the pressure washer before the long winter break.

After winter, such machine again may develop any of the following problems:

  • Corrosion in some parts of the engine.

  • Delays or failure in the starting mechanism especially for gasoline-run engines.

  • Engine damage calling for expensive repairs.

So winterizing the equipment will keep it in good working condition, thus avoiding pressure washer injury and also minimize repair/maintenance cost.


Most pressure washer injury pictures you see on television are avoidable. The above tips highlight the best ways on how to avoid a pressure washer injury. But above all, use your common sense at all times. If you don’t follow the above safety tips and the manufacturer’s instructions, you can suffer a deadly accident. Don’t be the next pressure washer accident victim. 

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