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5 Things to Know Before Power-Washing Your Driveway or Deck


Jun 04, 2020 by Aly J. Yale

Power-washing is a fast and easy way to clean up outdoor features like patios, decks, driveways, sidewalks, and more. You might even consider it on your fence or siding.

With its high-powered, heated stream of water, power-washing can remove dirt, grime, mold, or mildew in one fell swoop -- no scrubbing or elbow grease required.

But miracle that it is, power-washing isn't perfect. In fact, it can actually cause quite a bit of damage if not used properly.

Are you considering power-washing something on your property? Here's what to know before you do.

1. Power-washing and pressure-washing aren't the same thing

Pressure-washing and power-washing are similar, but with power-washing, you're heating up the powerful stream of water before it hits your house or patio. Because of this, power-washing isn't ideal for masonry, wood, soft stone (sandstone, for example), or vinyl, as it could damage these materials pretty easily. It can also remove paint, so be careful about power-washing anything that you don't want stripped -- at least partially.

2. It can be dangerous

If you're DIYing your power-washing efforts, then make sure you take the proper safety precautions. Wear heavy-duty gloves, noise-canceling headphones (it can get pretty loud), work boots, and safety goggles when using the washer, and pay close attention to what you're doing, as the powerful spray could send bits of dirt, rocks, paint, and other debris flying. You should also be careful to avoid other people, outlets, electrical panels, meters, faucets, and more.

3. Your plants and other outdoor decor will need protecting, too

If you have plants or flowers anywhere near where you'll be power-washing, you'll want to cover those with a tarp before beginning. You should also remove any decor, nonmetal furniture, or play gear (clubhouses, plastic swimming pools, etc.) from the area just to be safe.

4. It shouldn't be done in the winter

You never want to power-wash your home when the weather's cold -- and especially if you're expecting a freeze. If water gets into any cracks or weep holes, it could freeze, expand, and damage the home's structure. Power-washing is best left to the warmer months (or, at the very least, mid-to-late spring).

5. Your cleaning solution matters

You can use just plain soap and water, but if you want the best outcomes, you should choose a cleaning solution tailored to what you plan to wash. You can find these solutions at any home improvement store (where you're probably buying or renting your power washer anyway) or places like Walmart (NYSE: WMT). You can even find cleaners that are eco-friendly if you're concerned about the runoff's impact on the environment.

The bottom line

Power-washing your property's exterior elements regularly can be a smart move. It keeps your home looking fresh and clean, and it can even keep health hazards like mold and mildew at bay.

If you're looking to sell or flip a house, power-washing can also be a great way to up your curb appeal (and maybe even your asking price). Want more ways to increase your profits on the sale? Try staging the house or putting these pre-sale tips into action.

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Aly Yale has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.