Dos & Donts When Using A With A Pressure Washer


In this article you will learn:

  • How to pressure wash a car without scratching or damaging the paint

  • What psi is safe to use on your vehicle’s trim and painted surfaces

  • Which nozzle you should use to pressure wash your car

If you’re looking for ways to wash your car quickly and effectively, then a pressure washer may be the tool for you. Pressure washers do a more thorough job of cleaning your car to achieve a smoother, more spotless finish. They’re quick, they’re convenient, they’re easy to use, they help you conserve water... the list of benefits goes on and on.

But, since pressure washers are so much more powerful than garden hoses, it’s important to know how to use them properly. Without following the appropriate safety measures, pressure washers can chip or damage your paintwork and leave the clear coat prone to fading and oxidation.

Before using a pressure washer to wash your car, you’ll need to know what size nozzles come with your machine and which car wash shampoo is safe to use with a pressure washer. And, if you aren’t confident in your technique, it never hurts to take the extra twenty minutes to perform a thorough hand washing using the double bucket method.

Here are the four dos and don’ts of washing your car with a pressure washer to get that sparkling finish with no extra hassle!

Don’t get too close to the paint

When it comes to pressure washers, proximity is just as important as power. You should never hold your pressure washer nozzle close to the paint surface. While this may seem like a great way to remove particularly stubborn soils, you can just as easily scratch or damage the clear coat.

A good rule of thumb is the “six-twelve” rule: always keep the nozzle of your pressure washer at least six inches away from the paint and 12 inches away from trim. This creates a stream of water powerful enough to tackle tough stains and grime without damaging the surface of your car.

pressure washer

Do steer clear of damaged paint and clear coat

It’s best to avoid using a pressure washer on any parts of your car with damaged paintwork. The force of the pressure washer can aggravate and worsen these imperfections, creating an even bigger problem to solve with your polishing compound and a dual action polisher. It’s better to hand wash these areas with a plush, microfiber wash mitt and a light concentration of M.A.X. Power Detergent to protect your vehicle from further damage.

cleaning mitt

Don’t go below a 25-degree nozzle

The nozzle of a pressure washer is often detachable, allowing you to switch to a larger or smaller spray pattern, depending on the surface you’re trying to clean. The smaller the nozzle, the more precise and powerful the stream of water. Surfaces like parking lots and concrete pavement require a ten to 15-degree nozzle for heavy-duty cleaning. However, a nozzle size that small isn’t safe to use on the surface of your car.

Never use a nozzle with less than a 25-degree spray pattern to pressure wash your car. If you aren’t sure which size nozzles came with your pressure washer, check the manual or consult the manufacturer.

You should also never set your pressure washer above 2,200 psi when washing your car. 1,500 psi is really all you need to get a good deep clean; any pressure higher than that won’t make a noticeable performance difference. You can use the adjustable unloader valve to set your pressure washer to a higher or lower pressure.

pressure washer

Do switch to the right nozzle for the job

Of course, different surfaces of your car can withstand more pressure than others, so it’s important to make sure you switch to the right nozzle for the right surfaces of your car. For your paintwork and glass exterior, we recommend a 40-degree nozzle. For your wheels and tires, we recommend a 25-degree nozzle to wash away all that brake dust and any embedded soils stuck to your rims and sidewalls. If your pressure washer doesn’t come with these nozzle sizes, check with your manufacturer to see if it’s safe to use aftermarket nozzles with your pressure washer.

The benefits of extreme foam solutions

If you’re using a pressure washer to wash your car, the best car wash soap to use is an extreme foaming solution, such as our #1 selling Turtle Wax Cherry Snow Foam. This lubricating car shampoo surrounds your car in a thick, fluffy layer of foam to encapsulate abrasive soils and protect your vehicle from scratches and swirls. Just load this powerful car wash soap into your foam cannon and spray it generously onto the surface of your car to create a protective barrier around your paintwork and achieve an even deeper clean!

turtle wax cherry snow foam


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