Using A Power Washer To Clean Wood, Brick, And Cement

Guys. I have a new favorite thing. And no, it’s not a pint-sized plastic vehicle.

Yup, we took our spring cleaning to the proverbial next level and rented ourselves a 2000 PSI pressure washer (just got it at the Home Depot in their tool rental department). For 80 bucks and thanks to borrowing my dad’s Kia to haul it, this puppy was all ours for a day. I was happier than a hip hop hamster.

I had never used a pressure washer before (and I had the usual “don’t want to break what’s not mine” anxiety), but the guy at the store gave me a crash course. It was pretty simple. Hook up the sprayer “gun” to the hose, hook that hose to the machine, and then screw in your garden hose. Crank the motor (it runs on gasoline) and spray away.

The main reason for renting it was our deck. It wasn’t looking so fresh after the winter so it needed some “rejuvenating” before we could stain it. We hadn’t stained it yet because, after finishing it in late August, we were told to give the pressure treated wood 2-3 months to dry out before sealing any of the moisture from the treatment in (apparently sealing or staining PT wood too soon can lead to terrible results). So by the time staining was advisable by the wood’s standards, it was no longer advisable by the stain’s directions because of the cold temperatures.

So yeah, we felt a little dumb for finding ourselves in that position, but ultimately it wasn’t too bad. There was just one area where some leaves and acorns had sat around longer than they should’ve, and it desperately needed some cleaning when spring rolled around.

The pressure washer was pretty fascinating to use. It almost felt like painting as you watched the dingy color give way to something lighter with each stroke of the water jet. This is a detail of that nasty area above. Pressure washing it board by board was making a big difference, although it wasn’t 100% flawless.

Here’s the whole deck once I gave it a once over. It was definitely looking a lot closer to it’s just-built days, although there were still some acorn cap stains in that one corner. I started to regret my decision not to use a cleaner (another option is that you can route your water feed through a cleaning solution so you’re essentially using pressure and soap to clean).

I did go back later with some cleaner (sans pressure washer) which seemed to do the trick, but I’ll cover that in our deck staining & sealing post. Right now there’s more power washing action to get to.

Since we had the thing for 24 hours, I kinda went crazy and aimed it at just about every piece of wood around our house. Fences, railings, steps. You name it, it got blasted.

And somewhere around the patio I discovered it also made a huge difference on brick (update: we rented a lower pressure version than some of the stronger varieties, which can apparently damage certain types of brick, so maybe do some quick research before spraying yours).

I never realized how green and dingy some of our brick was until now. (I didn’t think to take a before, so that’s a shot from our vine removal post before everything greened up).

When nothing was left to spray at our current house, I counted my lucky stars that I had more dingy brick to spray at our new place.

As satisfying as the process was (somebody stop me!) the moderate amount of energy it took to wrangle the spray gun for hours was starting to wear on me (no really, somebody please stop me). But in an effort to get our money’s worth, the spray must go on.

Since Sherry was wrangling Clara and taking pics of the process (her toe’s pulling a Where’s Waldo above) and I was already soaked and dirty, I pressed on. Or should I say I pressured on? Har-har.

The new house’s worst spot was on the back right above the deck. Between rain splashing there and it being fairly shaded, it was a color that I’m affectionately dubbing Ninja Turtle Green.

Sherry actually shot a video of this part, so you could see the satisfying de-greening for yourself. It’s almost like painting with a bleach pen or something, since you can watch things lighten up brick by brick.

By about 5pm it was time to call it a day and return my new toy. I was worn out and pretty nasty looking (thanks backspray) but I’ll spare you the shot of my grody dirt-coated leg. Instead you get my dirt-speckled face. Thanks for this flattering angle, $herdog.

So, in conclusion. I love you pressure washer. You’re a beast, but the kind of beast that has my heart.

That’s concrete by the way. I wouldn’t have even thought it was dirty to start with had I not accidentally sprayed it while doing some nearby brick. So it got a little facelift too. Amazing this thing, I tell you. It’s right up there with pegboards.

PS: Next Tuesday, May 7th at 7pm we’ll be chatting with Kate Hall (aka: Richmond Mom) about parenting, decorating with your family in mind, and Mother’s Day gift ideas at the Barnes & Noble in Glen Allen (near Virginia Center Commons). It’ll be followed by a Q&A and a book signing, so we’d love to hang with anyone who can make it.


  1. Ashlea says

    Great work! We just finished doing the same on our paver patio which, when wet, was a slipping hazard!!

    Had trouble watching the video though. “This is a private video”. Help! ;)

  2. Renee says

    Lol… welcome to the land of grown-ups! We’ve been pressure-washing our house, patio, and driveway for years now! I’m ready for the meaty posts about the new house larger projects!

    • Jessica says

      I’m a grown up, have been for a decade or so, and will be pressure-washing for the first time this year, so I appreciate this post. So, thanks John and Sherry for this!

  3. says

    I was in high school when my Dad brought home a power washer. After watching him for 5 minutes, I begged him to let me use it. I was in love immediately with it!

    My Dad was convinced I’d injure myself (blasted-away toe?), but I didn’t. I would have paid him to let me wash both decks and the railings, too.

    • Tiffany says

      I was in high school when I used a pressure washer the first time. I guess I didn’t realize how powerful pressure washers were and tried to rinse off the gunk that has sprayed onto my flip-flopped foot (say that 5 times fast). I was a victim of a “blasted-away toe”. It ripped right through my toenail down through my flesh. Genius move on my part. So to all future pressure-washers, they are REALLY powerful and you shouldn’t try to “rinse off” any part of your body with them.

      I really shouldn’t be admitting this in public, should I?

  4. Sarah says

    I first used a pressure washer in college and love it too! It’s so amazing and satisfying to see what you thought looked fine, then that first spray of “OHMYGOSH THIS IS AWESOME.” I always wanted to shoot someone with the gun though, even though I’m pretty sure that’s a BAD idea…

  5. says

    I am very jealous! My parents let us borrow their electric pressure washer, and it took us almost all day just to get our driveway done. Seeing how much you got done in a day makes me think next year we are borrowing the gas powered one!

  6. says

    My aunt & uncle have a pressure washer and we borrow it every year to clean our patio. It’s great, but yes, it can get very tiring!! And it makes a lot of noise (at least theirs) so I’m pretty sure our neighbors hate us…

  7. Jessica says

    Did you do the new house’s deck while you were at it or do you have to strip the peeling stain first?

  8. Jamie says

    !! Wait. The power washer didn’t damage the brick? The previous owners of our brick home decided to place lattice on the brick and paint it white instead of painting it, waiting for it to dry THEN putting it up. DUH. When we took it down there’s some white paint where the lattice was.

    I thought pressure washing brick was a no-no? Did you notice any damage since brick is porous?

    I want to go do this now!

    • says

      No it was great on brick! I think a lot of homeowners here regularly get their brick powerwashed to remove the green mold so it’s great for that stuff! Maybe there are some higher pressure machines that are a no-no though? This was just a run of the mill one from Home Depot’s rental center.


    • Jamie says

      Well…I know what I’m doing this weekend! One more question…It doesn’t look like it from the pictures, but is there a difference between the power-washed brick and the non, power washed brick? Does it look noticeably cleaner/redder?

    • says

      Thankfully it doesn’t seem to! At first it looked darker (from being wet) but when it dried it just sort of looked restored to the color of the rest of the brick.


    • says

      Hmm, I’m with you on this! I once worked with small businesses to help them improve their store fronts with a grant, and power washing brick was on the NO list.

      I think (to be as gentle as possible on the brick) you soak the brick with a cleaning solution, scrub it, rinse it off with very low pressure, then reseal the stone/mortar/etc.

      But as long as it’s warm and doesn’t freeze, it’s probably okay :)

    • says

      No expert here but especially if you are working with OLD brick you’d best be careful! The problem is not so much the damage to the brick itself as it is the degrading of old mortar. You don’t want to blow old, sandy mortar right out from between your bricks. Might be worth some research…

    • Jannell says

      Jamie, it’s sandblasting that’s a total no on brick. Some interior application are ok, but def not a good thing to try on exterior, especially if it’s old!

    • Sally says

      You might be thinking of sand blasting, which is always a no no. Power washing, done right, just cleans it. And yes, I love to power wash too. The power of the wand!

  9. Amy says

    Was it just water in the pressure washer or was there somee type of soap/mold agent in there with the water?

    • says

      You can add soap to the stream but we just went with regular old water and pressure. It was especially amazing on brick/stone/concrete!


  10. em says

    Looks like fun! We need to pressure-wash our white picket fence. Unlike your deck, the fence pickets are spaced a couple inched apart. So, will the pressurized water blast away our lawn where the water goes between the pickets?

    • says

      I would try not to get too close to the grass with the stream (it’s pretty concentrated, so try to trace it along the fence and aim it up/straight ahead instead of down into the grass at the bottom if you can). I think it should be fine though!


  11. ann marie says

    What the heck? You never used a power washer before? Was it not the most satisfying/therapeutic thing in your life??? I love to power wash and just watch the crud blow away. Sometimes you don’t even notice how dirty things are until you blast them with the power washer!

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