Pressure Washer Safety

An estimated 6,057 people ended up in the emergency room in 2014 with injuries related to pressure-washer use. Trust us: Don’t be curious about what it feels like to spray your hand or foot. The velocity of the water can actually tear through skin and the tissue beneath, and may result in a bacterial infection.

A zero-degree spray—indicated by a red-colored replaceable nozzle tip —concentrates the full force of water into a pinpoint blast and poses an unnecessary safety risk. You can get the same cleaning effectiveness with a wider-angle setting; it will just take a bit longer. Consumer Reports does not recommend any pressure washer with a zero-degree nozzle or setting, no matter how well it cleans. And if the unit comes with a red, zero-degree nozzle, we recommend you get rid of the nozzle and avoid using pinpoint settings to reduce the chance of damaging property or causing injury.

While all pressure washers are noisy, gas-powered units are significantly louder. We recommend hearing protection if you are working near the washer unit. But if you stretch out the hose and work at a distance from the washer itself, the noise should not be hazardous. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:

• Read the manufacturer’s manual.
• Wear goggles, long pants, and sturdy footwear (no flip flops), and take extra care on wet surfaces, which can quickly get slippery.
• Always start with the widest spray angle. Begin by working with the nozzle 2 feet away from the surface and move closer as needed.
• If your washer uses replaceable spray tips, turn off the engine and press the trigger to drain excess water before changing tips.
• Test-wash a surface patch in a less-noticeable area until you get the hang of the machine.
• Take care if washing or rinsing your car. A garden hose would be more gentle on your car’s paint job.

• Don’t get closer than 6 inches to whatever you’re cleaning. You could damage paint, pockmark the asphalt of your driveway, puncture your car’s tires, and gouge holes in deck wood.
• Don’t let the engine run for long on a gas pressure washer without pressing the trigger to prevent the pump from overheating.
• Don’t use a pressure washer while standing on a ladder. Pulling the trigger could cause recoil and throw you off balance.
• Don’t point the nozzle toward yourself, other people, or pets.
• Don’t use an extension cord with an electric-powered model.


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