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Here’s how to power wash patios, driveways, sidewalks and pool decks

(Shuttershock Photo)

After a season of wind storms and spotty rain, your home’s exterior including windows, patios, walkways, driveways,and pool decks may look rather grimy. If a sweep of the broom does not do the trick, a power wash, also known as pressure wash may be the next step.

“When we pressure wash a house, we call it a ‘house washing,’” said Josh Lawlor, president, Clearco Window & Carpet Cleaning, a Rosie-Certifed Partner. “The purpose is to remove months or years of dirt and dust, especially from surfaces like stucco that start to look terrible over time. This renewal really can make a house shine like new without the cost of new paint.”

If you are going to do the power washing yourself, there some things you need to be mindful of.

Washing Windows

According to Lawlor, a pressure washer (or a garden hose) does permanent damage to windows and glass by leaving mineral stains from municipal water sources. The clarity of the glass is diminished by calcium and other minerals physically bonding with the glass. The best way to prevent this is to clean the window properly immediately after getting it wet with a pressure washer. Pressure washing with soft water can help but cleaning the windows immediately after is still recommended to preserve glass clarity as much as possible. When pressure washing a house you should never spray your windows directly, but they will get wet no matter what.

Washing Sunscreens

Lawlor does not recommend pressure washing sunscreens because you will likely be left with unsightly line patterns once the screens dry. The problem is once the screen is wet, all the dust becomes invisible. “You cannot tell what you have and have not cleaned thoroughly enough and the result is squiggly lines everywhere with dusty look in-between them. It is better to clean sunscreens with a dry brush first, then use a large soapy sponge washing. Next rinse them with a hose and let them drip dry,” he said.

The process Clearco uses is to brush sunscreens dry, then clean with a product that is applied with a sponge or window applicator that both cleans and protects as well as leaves a slight shine for a nice finish. I use 303 Aerospace Protectant for after cleaning the screens.

“When we do a house washing we always follow it up with a professional window cleaning so the house looks shiny and clean and the windows not only look amazing but they are prevented from permanent damage to glass and clarity from exposure to municipal water drying on the surface of the glass,” said Lawlor.

Washing Pavers and Concrete

When power washing your driveway, you might want to use a degreaser first on stubborn stains. Then use a pressure washer with detergent to finish stain removal.

Carefully read the instructions for your power washer. These devices can damage bricks, pavers, or concrete if you use too high a setting in the cleaning process. Be sure to wear rubber gloves, eye goggles, and rubber boots to prevent injury. Once the driveway is clean, use a sealer to help prevent future staining on the concrete surface.

A word of caution from Rosie: Never pressure wash an exposed masonry wall. If sand particles are blowing off your stucco wall you’re too close with the nozzle or have the pressure dialed up too high. When using degreasers on the driveway remember the toxicity of whatever you use will be getting rinsed into your landscaping — observe all warning labels!

Safety Inspection

This is also a good time to perform a safety inspection of pool decks, patios, sidewalks, and driveways. Some situations that can cause falls or tripping accidents may need repairs soon at your home:
• Large cracks or gaps in the surface of walkways or pool decks.
• Divots or potholes in driveways that need filling.
• Chunks of loose concrete or paving slabs that move or wobble.
• Utility plugs, valves, or other objects that protrude above a walkway surface.
• Tree limbs or bushes that are too close to a walkway.
• Sidewalk panels that have been raised by tree roots. You may need to grind down the raised portion to make the sidewalk level again. Tree roots might have to be cut back.
• Wobbly handrails on stairs and ramps.
• Walkways can be slippery during rainy conditions. They may need to be coated with a textured finish.
• Walkways and driveways that need better lighting at night.

Keep in mind that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans age 65 or over falls each year. But the above situations can be a danger to family members of all ages.

Selecting a Power Washer

There are many choices available when it comes to purchasing a power washer. There are electric and gas-powered versions, plus hand-held and push versions. Depending on the area you need to clean, hand-held washers run as low as $80 while the push versions can run from $200 as high as $500. Lawlor noted that he has used Ryobi and Dewalt, though there are many manufactures out there. If you are looking for “Made in America” brands, do your homework. Some tout “Made in America,” but their parts may be imported. Renting a power washer is an option. Though if you plan to power wash multiple times a year, it may be more economical to buy your own.

Tip: Watch the extended weather forecast before taking on this task. What a waste of energy and water it will be only to have a storm blow through. Plus, keep your power washer under wraps, otherwise, you may find yourself as your neighbor’s new best friend.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix, 9 to 11 a.m. on KAFF-AM (930) in Flagstaff, and 10 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.

Rosie on the House

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