One day, while looking around your home, you realise it looks a bit lived-in, rundown even. The white wall siding is covered in soot and grime. Engine oil stains on the concrete driveway. A thin layer of moss growing on the brick patio. Black, hard gunk on the barbecue grill. Mould forming on the bases of the walls. You imagine hours and hours of backbreaking manual labour to clean everything. You just want all the dirt and grime gone.
Pressure washers are one of the best tools for easy and powerful washing and cleaning, whether for your home or at work. The machine works in a simple way: An engine or electric motor powers a pump, which forces the water out at an extremely high pressure through a concentrating nozzle. Increased water speed and pressure blasts away all the accumulated dirt and gunk on surfaces such as concrete pavement, patios and walls. High pressure washers also allow you to clean outdoor chairs, tables and other objects with far less time and effort compared to cleaning with a bucket of soapy water and a brush.
But before breaking out the big guns, pressure washers are incredibly dangerous in the hands of someone careless or unprepared. A pressure washer delivers a powerful and concentrated stream of water that is capable of causing serious injuries and damages. If you’re thinking of using a pressure washer, here are a few tips to ensure safe and proper operation.
READ THE MANUAL
Knowing how the tool works and how to use it is the first step in proper and safe pressure washer operation. Take some time to read the user manual in its entirety, from the front to the back, before using a pressure washer. The user manual should contain everything you need to know about the tool: technical specifications, operational instructions, and safety warnings and precautions. There are many kinds of pressure washers, with varying features and pressure levels.
CLEAR THE AREA
Before starting pressure washing, clear the area of any obstruction and possible tripping hazards. Take steps to reduce the chances of accidents happening, such as slips and falls. Establish a safety perimeter around the area where you’re going to pressure wash, making sure that no person (especially children) or animal is able to enter that area. If possible, have someone to keep watch while you use your pressure washer. If your watcher sees someone approaching, they can warn you, giving you ample time to turn off the washer.
WEAR SAFETY GEAR
Most pressure washer-related accidents can be prevented if the user simply wore personal protective gear. We might have even seen friends or co-workers using a pressure washer while wearing sandals or shorts. Here are a few of the basic protective gear a pressure washer operator should wear:
- Safety goggles: The highly-pressurised water can dislodge debris that can shoot off and hit you or someone else. It is important that you wear eye protection to protect your eyes from flying debris. If safety goggles aren’t available, you can wear shatter-proof sunglasses.
- Hearing protection: Some pressure washers can become incredibly loud, especially the gas-powered models. Constant exposure to the sound of the engine can adversely affect your hearing if you’re not careful. Wear hearing protection such as earmuffs or earbuds to protect your hearing from the high decibels.
- Work gloves: One of the most common injuries associated with pressure washers is when the hand accidentally gets hit by the water jet. Not only can wearing sturdy work gloves help protect your hands from injuries, they also improve your grip, reducing the chances of you accidentally letting go of the washer gun.
- Long pants: Just as you need to protect your eyes from the debris, it’s also important to protect your legs from the same hazards. The flying debris could pierce your skin. It also protects your legs from accidental contact with the jet.
- Steel-toed boots: Always wear closed shoes or steel-toed boots when pressure washing. The water spray from a pressure washer is powerful enough to cut through rubber and leather.
STAY AWAY FROM THE JET
A pressure washer is not a toy. Never aim a pressure washer at a pet or another person, even if it’s turned off. The highly-pressurised jet of water can severely injure or maim a person. Be aware of your surroundings while you’re using a pressure washer.
Secure all exposed electronics, windows, vents and the like before using a pressure washer. Observe all the areas that could be damaged if hit by the spray and take steps to protect or secure it.
ENGAGE THE SAFETY LATCH
Always use the safety latch when the pressure washer is not in use. The latch prevents accidental engagement of the pressure washer. Never put the water gun down without engaging the safety latch. Similarly, never leave the pressure washer unattended if you’re still going to use it. Turn the machine off if you have to step away for more than a minute. Only choose a pressure washer with a safety latch.
Pressure could still remain inside the washer long after it has been turned off. If released without depressurising, the water spray that comes out could still seriously injure you. Turn off the pressure washer and squeeze the trigger before putting it away.