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Sure, it’s 2011 and anything a man can do, a woman can do, too (usually better!). But let’s face facts, often women are intimidated by using power tools. Also, women can feel nervous asking some macho know-it-all male clerk basic questions about power tools so they pretend they aren’t interested in buying or using these time saving gadgets.

But you shouldn’t let that stop you. Pressure washers also known as power washers can make your cleaning jobs much faster (often reducing the task to under half the time it would normally take). And be honest ladies, pressure washers look fun to use, don’t they? Blasting dirt off just about anything can make you feel powerful and very independent. It can even be therapeutic after having a fight with your husband or kid! (But refrain from turning the pressure washer on them, please!)

This article will de-mystify some of the basic facts about pressure washers and make some suggestions that will help you choose the right pressure washer for you and your cleaning needs.

1. What is a pressure washer and why would I want one?

A pressure washer is a machine that uses an electric or gas/diesel powered pump to act as a compressor that concentrates in-going water into a high pressured out-going stream. You can then aim the pressurized water at objects to blast off dirt, grease, old paint, etc.

Often, you will use a garden hose as your water source. The power washer will increase the water pressurecoming out of your hose at least fifteen to twenty times. The main benefits of this is that you can use less water to clean something, less sweat and muscle power and less time to do the job. On top of that, the higherpressure is often enough to clean items without having to use toxic detergents.

Essentially, you’re looking at a unit with a pump that you attach your hose (or other water source to) with a hose coming out the other side that will be attached to a long handle with a trigger so you can control the amount of water coming out the end (lance or wand). A power washer can also include a variety of different attachments for a range of cleaning needs. You can also buy units that use only cold water or ones that heat water up for an increased cleaning advantage.

Power washers were mostly available to commercial users before but there are many affordable, smaller units now that are perfect for home use. They can run anywhere from two hundred dollars into the thousands, depending on how powerful a model you need.

Power washers typically are either run by electricity or gas or diesel engines. Electric power washers will be more quiet to run, be cleaner to run and tend to be smaller and lighter (you can get some that weigh in at 6kg/13lbs) – perfect for women who might struggle with the less portable gas/diesel units. The downside is that electric power washers tend to be less powerful; however, most will do the kind of tasks you need done at home. Gas and diesel powered power washers will give you more power but tend to be noisier, heavier and potentially more dangerous.

A pressure washer will make cleaning most things outdoors much easier and faster. You can use it on many things including (but not limited to) cars, tires, bikes, boats, trailers, lawn mowers, driveways, decks, fences, windows, walls, lawn furniture, garden decor, mailboxes, walkways, barbecues, awnings, swimming pools and you can use them to clean surfaces before you paint. And if you live on a farm, you can even use them to clean your cattle and hogs!

2. What are the key components to look for when buying a pressure washer?

Besides some of the things mentioned earlier, there are three numbers you need to know about before you go shopping so you can sound like you know what you’re talking about: the PSI, GPM and CPU.

PSI means pounds per square inch and this is the number that lets you know how much pressure your

unit can produce. This number will be provided with each machine. For home use, you will probably want something in the 1200 – 3000 PSI range. If you mostly want to clean your car, you don’t need anything over 1500 PSI. If you want to use the pressure washer to clean oily concrete or your driveway you might need a unit with upwards of 3000 PSI.

The GPM means the gallons per minute or the rate of the water flowing to the pressure washer. You will have to know what the GPM of your water source into the tank is and it must meet the minimum requirements for your specific pressure washer. You need to have a steady and constant source of water flow into your pressure washer so you don’t damage the pump. If your house is supplied with municipal water, you will probably have around 9 or 10 GPM coming out of your typical inch diameter garden hose.

The CPU is the way to assess the cleaning units of your pressure washer. The higher the CPU, the better the cleaning performance of your machine. (But remember, you might not need a top end pressure washer for your cleaning requirements). You can calculate your CPU by multiplying your PSI by your GPM.

3. Are pressure washers safe to use?

Women are generally more likely to be concerned about safety. Pressure washers are power tools so you have to exercise caution but if you follow these tips, you should be okay.

Learn to use your pressure washer properly. Read the manual that comes with the unit. If you have questions or concerns, ask someone who has experience using pressure washers. You can even watch demonstrations on YouTube on how to use a pressure washer.

Take care of your pressure washer. Make sure it is serviced regularly to minimize the dangers of using a damaged unit.

Never point it at someone or get too close to what you’re cleaning (you can get hit by flying debris or water bouncing back off the surface). Ideally, wear safety glasses and close toed shoes. If using a noisy gas or diesel powered model, you should wear proper hearing protection.

If you are using a gas or diesel powered pressure washer, make sure to use it only in open spaces so you don’t get carbon monoxide build up. This gas is impossible to detect by smell and can be fatal.

When first using your pressure washer on a surface of an object, do a small test patch. The pressure could strip paint or finishes off furniture, cars, etc. or even gouge wood.

If you get a pressure washer that uses detergents, use the recommended products for your model so you don’t damage the unit or the surface you’re cleaning. Also think about using products that aren’t toxic to you, your family or the environment. More and more companies offer ‘green’ detergents that are safe to use in pressure washers. But read your labels carefully. The terms ‘green’ and ‘natural’, etc. are not regulated and anyone can make those claims even if it isn’t true. Generally, you want to avoid harsh chemicals that don’t break down quickly in the environment. You should also avoid cleaning products that contain a lot of phosphates since they can create algal blooms in lakes and ponds and choke out other life. It is also best to avoid products that are colored or scented. There is more and more evidence that the chemicals used to color and scent products are bad both for the environment and for you and your family. Finally, stay away from chlorine bleach. It is very toxic to you and if it gets in waterways, it can bind with other elements and is very toxic to fish. Also, people have died from the fumes created when chlorine bleach is mixed with other cleaning chemicals. You can find oxygen based ‘bleach’ which is a safer choice.

Don’t be intimidated by learning how to use a pressure washer! It’s not rocket science! If you pick the best unit for your cleaning needs (and your abilities) and you follow the instructions in your manual, you will discover a variety of benefits from using this convenient, time saving power tool! It can even make cleaning seem fun! You go, girl!


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