Blast away grime with a pressure washer

Agriculture.com Staff 09/02/2009 @ 3:00pm

There's never a shortage of grease and grime around the farm. And many of those cleanups require more than a bucket and a sponge. To maximize your elbow grease, consider purchasing a pressure washer. But before you make that investment, here are nine things you should consider.

Water Temperature. Cold water pressure washers work well for removing dirt and are fine for most applications. If the surface you're cleaning has oil or grease on it, however, a cold water unit won't clean it very well. You'll need a hot water unit to get rid of that oil and grease

Gas Or Electric. A gas-powered pressure washer offers the portability you might need for outdoor work and is recommended for jobs that require more power. The downside is they can only be used outside because their engines emit carbon monoxide. While electric pressure washers may be low maintenance and quiet, they need a power source, which limits their mobility.

PSI. Units rated at 1,300 to 2,200 PSI are for light, occasional chores (such as cleaning small areas, lawn equipment, cars, or trucks). Models at 2,200 to 3,000 psi are designed for more frequent users and those bigger jobs that involve removing a lot of dirt and grime. Units rated at 2,200 to 3,500 psi are for professional use on heavy-duty projects.

Coil Style. You can choose between an upright and a horizontal lay-down coil. The upright has the burner at the bottom of the coil rather than on the side like the horizontal. Since heat rises from the bottom of the upright coil past all the coils and moves out the top, it's the most efficient coil for heating and energy use. It also produces hotter water, which cleans better.

Belt Or Direct Drive. Belt-drive pumps run at lower rpm and are insulated from engine or motor vibration. While this feature could extend the life of the pump, it can cost you 10% to 30% more than a direct-drive unit. Direct-drive pumps are directly mounted to the engine or motor, which eliminates the extra cost of a gearbox, pulleys, and belts.

Maintenance. Pressure washers require regular maintenance like routine oil changes and replacing worn parts (belts, nozzles, hoses). For winter storage, in addition to standard engine storage preparation, prime the water pump with antifreeze.

Nozzles And Tips. Many units feature nozzles with a variable spray pattern (0Ëš to 60Ëš angle), while others have individual quick-connect tips with a preset spray angle. The size of the nozzle influences both pressure and flow rate. The spray angle also plays an important role because the wider the spray angle, the lower its ability to cut through dirt.

Detergents. Detergents can dramatically reduce cleaning time and help remove tough stains, grease, and dirt. Apply the solvent with a low-pressure spray and let it soak into the surface to break down dirt and grime. Many pressure washer detergents are customized for specific cleaning chores.

Safety. Make sure you use proper safety gear like eye, foot, and hearing protection. The danger of a pressure washer is in its water stream, which can cut the body or inject toxins into the bloodstream. If you use detergents, it may be necessary to protect exposed skin and to use a respirator to prevent inhaling cleaning agents.

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