8 Safety Tips & Checklist For Users of Pressure Washers (2018 Edit)

pressure washer with gun

A pressure washer is a very powerful and efficient cleaning tool in general.

However,

this power needs to be handled properly by the person using it.

This is because as efficient as it is,

The risk of getting injured is very high when safety precautions are not in place.

You would be able to maximize the benefits of having a pressure washer as long as you are careful.

It was reported in 2014 that about 6,057 people suffered from pressure washer injuries.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission,

All these people needed to be rushed to the emergency room with varying degrees of severity.

Additionally, 14% of these people needed a secondary treatment and therapy for their injuries.

via GIPHY

Injuries from pressure washers may range from:

  • Deep Cuts
  • Abrasions
  • Neurovascular ruptures
  • Electrocution

Some of these injuries may even lead to amputation of the affected body part.

A 100 psi or greater is just enough to break the skin but it was reported that people who suffered injuries have been hit between 2,000 to 12,000 psi.  Most of the injuries occurred in the non-dominant hand and mainly in their index finger.

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Pressure Washer Types

Pressure washers can be used in numerous areas and spaces that require cleaning such as:

  1. Fences
  2. Exterior Sidings
  3. Bricks
  4. Garage
  5. Outdoor Grills
  6. Driveways
  7. Motorcycles
  8. Cars

It is important that you have the basic knowledge about pressure washers and be familiar with how they work to decrease risks, most especially for first-time users.

You can choose to rent or purchase a pressure washer depending on your budget and future uses.

Pressure washers are basically a garden hose with an air compressor.

Its basic process starts with pumping the water and speeding it up thru the hose, thereby, producing high pressure inside.

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Then,

The hose is connected to a water gun and when the trigger is pulled, a mix of water and air accelerates out the nozzle.

If a normal garden hose emits a pressure of 150 psi, the lowest-powered pressure washer model is about 200 times stronger than that.

This power is the key to removing stubborn dirt by initiating a high kinetic energy onto the surface due to the water speed.

The cleaning performance is determined by the value of PSI (pounds per square inch) and the GPM (gallons per minute) of this machinery.

The PSI is the measurement of the water pressure output that gives the power to infiltrate grime and grease.

The GPM is the measurement of water flow up to the gun that degrades the dirt to be able to wash it away as well as an indication of the model that can clean using less water.  The higher the values, the more heavy duty the pressure washer is.

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It is divided into two categories based on its engine type which is the gas-fueled type and the electric model washer.  The electric model is advantageous in terms of its cost as it is cheaper and the engine is quieter.

It is generally compact, lighter in weight, and is more convenient to move around.  It is a good tool to use indoor since it doesn’t have any harmful emissions and is relatively easier to maintain.

The disadvantage of an electric-powered washer is that it has a lower power than gas-fueled types so it will take you a long time to finish large spaces.  Therefore a higher water consumption is also to be expected.

wood pressure washing

Another thing is that water and electricity don’t really mix so there is a possibility of electrocution which is why this type should be always protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

Gas-fueled types have a wider range of models and are more powerful than electric models so they are more efficient in large spaces.  They are also best recommended for outdoor uses.  They have no power cord so you are not restricted to a certain working space.

A drawback of gas-fueled washers is that they have a higher maintenance like oil change compared to an electric engine.  They are also loud and are not recommended for indoor use because they produce emissions as gas is consumed.  Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas and inhalation of this fume may cause dizziness, fatigue, headache or irregular breathing.

Pressure washers can also be categorized depending on their pressure levels.

Different models can either be a light-duty, medium-duty, heavy-duty or professional duty.

Related: Anti Air Pollution Mask

Light-Duty Pressure Washers

Light-duty pressure washers have a pressure level below 2,000 psi.  This is applicable for easy cleaning of small spaces or patios and occasional cleaning of small items.

Medium-Duty Pressure Washers

Medium-duty washers have a water pressure level from 2,000 to 2,800 psi and are good for cleaning fences, brick or house sidings, driveways plus small cleaning jobs at home.

Heavy-Duty Pressure Washers

A heavy-duty pressure washer, on the other hand, can already be used for large areas of concrete and second level applications.

The pressure level can be between 2,900 to 3,300 psi.

The professional-duty washer has pressure levels higher than 3,300 psi and is designed to work for many hours.

It can handle various heavy jobs like preparation of a house exterior for repainting.

Pressure Washer Nozzle Types

Pressure washers come with 5 different types of nozzles used for various applications.

They are universally color-coded so it is easier to identify them from each other.

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They are categorized based on the water fan patterns that each nozzle produce.

  • Red Nozzle (0o) – is used for heavy dirt and stains on concrete, crevices, and for washing to reach a second level siding. This is not typically used because it may cause serious injury when used in closer distances.
  • Yellow Nozzle (15o) – for heavy-duty cleaning of outdoor walks and garage floors. This may also be applicable for stripping paint and greases from different surfaces.
  • Green Nozzle (25o) – this is the nozzle typically recommended for general cleanings like patios, outdoor furniture, and decks. The green nozzle is safer to use compared to the previously discussed nozzles.
  • White Nozzle (40o) – the nozzle that is used for cleaning cars and for surfaces that can easily be damaged like stucco walls.
  • Black Nozzle (65o) – has the lowest pressure out of all the nozzles; this is typically used for cleaning agents. Given the gentle pressure it releases, it is normally used if there is a need to just wet a surface.

pressure washer nozzle color chart

Parts of a Pressure Washer

A pressure washer has the following basic parts:

  • Water inlet – this is the hose that connects the water supply and the pressure washer. There’s a filter in the inlet to prevent debris passing through the high-pressure nozzle since they could be risky when they go blasting at the other end of the water gun.
  • Electric motor or gas engine – the source of power for the water pump.
  • Water pump – is the heart of the pressure washer and is designed to control water flow of around 1 to 2 gallons per minute.
  • High-pressure hose – the tube that connects your washer to the needed cleaning attachment. It is characteristically made from reinforced wire mesh and another layer of high-density plastic to withstand high pressure.
  • Cleaning attachment – may range from just a simple trigger gun to a spinning wand spray or rotating brush.

At the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security. -- Jodi Rell

Safety Tips in Using a Pressure Washer

  1. Point the pressure washer away from your body.

Do not underestimate the power of high-pressured water as it may cause fatal injuries.

Do not point the pressure washer at people, pets, especially to your own body.

Keep your fingers away from the nozzle so avoid changing the attachments while spraying.

This powerful tool is not a toy so avoid letting a child operate it.  Always aim carefully for what you’re cleaning before pulling the trigger.
Also, avoid pointing high-pressured nozzles into glass windows as this can easily break.

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  1. Read the pressure washer manual.

Getting acquainted with a pressure washer prior to using it is the first step to achieving safety.

There are a lot of washer models and each has its own characteristics and features including the water temperature requirement and amount of pressure exerted by the unit.

It is advised that you read all the pages of the manual because it contains all the essential information to safely use your unit.

You will also be able to see specific instructions on how to set it up and how to properly disassemble it which is also critical in reducing possible injuries.

read manual

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  1. Do a test run and provide clearance between the surface and nozzle.

Before starting on your cleaning activity,

Conduct a test run using the widest angle nozzle with a clearance of about 2 feet away from a cleaning surface.

Adjust the size and distance accordingly, based on what you think will be the most efficient and safe during cleaning.

Make sure to hold the wand securely with both hands if necessary until you are confident enough to use the pressure washer.

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  1. Wear protective gears.

Majority of pressure washer injuries can be prevented with just wearing the proper gear during cleaning.

Here are the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) when using a pressure washer:

  • Boots – Ensure that you are wearing enclosed boots or shoes to protect your feet. Wearing a steel-toe boot is better as the high pressure may potentially cut through a normal rubber boot.
  • Gloves – As mentioned earlier, hands are the most common injured part of the body when using pressure washers. Protect them by using gloves and not only can it keep you safe, it can also improve your grip on the wand.
  • Long Pants – It is highly possible that debris and dirt may blast off from surfaces that may cut the skin. Protect your legs by wearing long pants since you can never predict the direction of the spray and dirt.
  • Safety Glasses – This is used to protect your eyes from the same hazards as mentioned above. Safety glasses or at least shatterproof sunglasses should be used to prevent small debris from getting into your eyes.
  • Hearing Protection – This is especially applicable for gas-fueled pressure washers because of the noise that they make since their engines are not enclosed. The loud sound they generate may damage your hearing, especially in the long run.

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  1. Consider all possible hazards in your working space.

Be aware of your surroundings and all possible hazards before turning on a pressure washer.

This may include slippery areas, distractions or passing traffic.

If you are working outside and along the streets, it is better to have a spotter for any approaching traffic or person within your working space.

Move any furniture, pots or any other objects away from your working space.

Consider as well your physical well-being on the day you are about to use the pressure washer.

Do not use this tool when you feel weak or nauseous.

Ensure that you are away from open windows and exposed electrical cords.  Avoid using the pressure washer in heavy rains or winds.

  1. Avoid using a ladder or working from a height with a pressure washer.

You have to be stable when using a pressure washer as it can easily knock you off your balance.

There is a possible recoil from just the water pressure itself so you will eventually fall down and a bad fall may be fatal.

If you need to clean a surface on a high ground, use an extension wand instead of using a ladder.

  1. Use a safety latch when not spraying.

The washer gun has a safety latch attached that is to be used whenever you are not using the spray.  This is to prevent any unintentional action of turning on the washer by accident.  This safety latch is usually a lever that can be moved horizontally to hold the gun trigger in place.

Avoid putting down the gun without moving the safety latch.

Don’t leave the pressure washer unattended and turn it off completely if you need to move away for a bit.
  1. Remove the excess pressure inside the wand before disassembling.

After using your pressure washer, turn it off then squeeze the trigger to release the pressure that is still inside as it may cause injury if released in a wrong way.

Do not remove the:

  • hose
  • spray gun
  • nozzle

until all the pressure is released.

If you remove any one of the parts while there is still pressure,

It will directly be released straight to your hand.

Allow the unit to cool down before moving and storing it to prevent any possible burns.

A pressure washer is a very reliable piece of machinery as long as safety precautions are in place.

If by any chance someone gets injured by a pressure washer, immediately call your emergency number and apply first aid to the wounds.

Stop the bleeding and carefully clean the affected area.

People with this type of injury should always seek urgent medical attention.

How to Use a Pressure Washer [Infographics]

Pressure Washer Guide
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