Fall Checklist: Pressure Washing Away The Grime!

This blog mini-series is in partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

Friends: I have picked up a new hobby. A passion project, if you will. The hobby is obliterating dirt and grime from various surfaces with water from a magic wand. Literally, it’s called a wand and it’s part of my new pressure washer!

Carrying on with the theme of trying to make the front of my house look presentable while it awaits restoration and I wrap up the huge restoration of the side of the house, I focused a little attention on the front porch!

From a distance, the porch looks…pretty OK? It appears to be mostly original, and the fact that it’s still there at all is the main bright spot. It’s going to need a ton of work eventually—everything from the cornice (which may or may not need to be at least partially rebuilt—the rot is bad), to the siding, to those gloriously large 6-over-9 windows, to the door, to the transom, to the floor, to the columns. Literally all of it! I used to think I’d tackle the whole front elevation of the house at once, but now I’m thinking restoring the porch may well take an entire summer to get right. Isn’t that center column crazy looking?

I think that’s what happens when a contractor temporarily supports the roof and removes the original columns to install a new floor (the original floor was almost definitely tongue-and-groove fir, not 5/4″x6″ pressure-treated pine decking!), and then doesn’t understand that the columns are tapered when he throws a level on the side of the original column to put it back. I’m presuming this contractor was male, because only a guy would be this dense. The column is tapered, genius! You’re doing it all wrong! It’s only super noticeable when you look at the porch head-on, but of course it makes me mad whenever I think about it. Poor beautiful house. Who hurt you like this?

IN ANY EVENT. I sweep the porch sometimes. That’s about it. To be honest it’s not like the porch is in constant use—looking out onto the street isn’t the most bucolic view in the world, but I do like to sit out there on warm days with a cup of coffee or a cocktail and my laptop, getting some work done and watching the world go by until I get bored of the world and want to go inside. Sadly over time I’ve definitely used the porch less, not more, which I didn’t think about much until I realized the reason for that is pretty simple.

OK fine I’ll show you.

Please be kind.

I’m sorry in advance.

GASP! I FEEL LIKE A MONSTER! Yes, for real: that’s how the vinyl siding under the porch looked until a few days ago. No, it hasn’t always been that bad. No, I have not doctored this photo for dramatic effect. Yes, I have completely neglected to touch it in five years because if I’m not actively renovating it, what is the point of doing even some light maintenance?

The point is this: restoring a house takes a long time, and in that time you constantly have to negotiate between quick and achievable solutions and long-term, more comprehensive work. Focusing only on the latter means that you’re ignoring the former (guilty!), and so everything starts to actually look way worse than it really is. When I look at things like this, my instinct is to just rip all the vinyl off the wall—can of worms be damned! But then I have to reign it in and remember that I will tackle that project someday, but not today. Today, I just need it to…not be disgusting. And if I’ve learned anything through working on the inside of houses, it’s that a good cleaning is the cheapest and fastest kind of makeover.

Just to cut myself a little slack, the whole house doesn’t look like this, I swear!!! The rest of the vinyl siding at least gets washed down a little when it rains, but these walls under the porch never get rained on, so all that road dirt and pollen and other dirt just kind of accumulates. Let’s try not to think too hard about what this may or may not suggest about my local air quality, seeing as I’d rather just keep living my life than figure out how to insert myself into a plastic bubble.

So. I described my gross situation to my fairy godparents at Lowe’s and asked if I could pretty-please have my very own pressure washer, and they obliged! #2blessed

As I have recently discussed, I have a deep and abiding aversion to equipment that needs gas or oil to work. Whether it’s a lawnmower or a weed whacker or a snow blower, in my mind they are all equally as complicated as an automobile or a fighter jet and I wouldn’t mess around with the innards of those either. I’ve had my car for like 4 years and only recently learned how to pop the hood…while I let the AAA guy replace my battery, which I’d sooner throw into the Hudson River than attempt to jump by myself. Way too risky. Are you nuts? I’ll stick to house stuff PLEASE AND THANK YOU and I just want my tools to work immediately and without hassle and this doesn’t seem like too much to ask out of life.

So anyway! My pressure washer is by Stanley, and it’s a plug-in model! And when you go to turn it on, it does so immediately and without hassle! It’s everything I ever wanted! Unfortunately it’s currently out of stock, but I got the inside scoop and they’re working on restocking them AS I TYPE THIS VERY SENTENCE so all is not lost. There are a bunch of electric pressure washers available, though, including this Greenworks one that’s evidently equally powerful, a little cheaper, and looks much more compact! Why didn’t I just get that one? NOT SURE. I felt like branching out into yellow machines. Like most new tools I buy, I generally don’t need the biggest, baddest, most powerful one out there, but I also don’t want the cheapest one because that often results in disappointment (and needing to replace it sooner). My Stanley machine lands in the middle/upper-end of available options, and seems more than sufficient to do the things I want it to do!

ANYWAY, back to my very disgusting siding. My basic strategy was to start up at the top of the wall and work my way down, concentrating on each horizontal run of siding on my way down. It took a few minutes to kind of get comfortable with it, and then it was ALL I WANTED TO DO for the rest of the day. I mean how satisfying, right? Included with the machine were a few different interchangeable nozzles for the end of the wand, which are helpful for different kinds of cleaning projects.

After giving everything a first pass, which maybe took about 20 minutes, things were looking about a thousand times better! DEFINITELY way more than a hose alone could have done, and way faster and less hassle than trying to do this by hand with a sponge and some rags which was my previous plan I’d been putting off forever.

Not all pressure washers have them, but one of the things I like about mine is that it has a separate chamber for detergent if you need something with more cleaning power than just pressurized water. It uses about 1 part of cleaner for every 10 parts of water, so concentrated cleaners that aren’t too gel-like work well. After I got most of the grime off, I filled the detergent compartment with regular white vinegar and went back for a second pass, figuring it couldn’t hurt and might help lighten some of the deeper staining. Lowe’s also sells a full line of cleaners for different applications—next time I want to add the Krud Kutter House and Siding Cleaner and see how that does! The regular Krud Kutter has become one of my indispensable cleaning products around the house, so I’m optimistic.

SO. TO REVIEW. BEFORE:

LIKE LITERALLY AN HOUR LATER:

I thought it would be cute to switch the coffee out for a cocktail and add a festive little lantern. This backfired because a) you can’t tell that the stupid candle is lit and b) my friend dropped by while this very profesh photoshoot was going on and I had to explain that I was not, in fact, fixing a cocktail to drink at 1 in the afternoon but rather to just take pictures of for the Internet, which I realized as it came out of my mouth just might actually be more embarrassing.

I TRY. But the point here is not my lackluster prop styling. The point here is my now positively LUMINOUS walls of vinyl siding that no longer look like they’ve been left to steep in a swamp for years on end.

It looks SO much better. One thing I didn’t totally know about vinyl siding is the extent to which it really does stain—you’d think plastic wouldn’t but it totally does. Most of the nastiness was surface dirt and staining, but even blasting at the highest pressure couldn’t get the deeper staining out. So it didn’t exactly achieve “it looks brand new!” kinds of results, but I blame the old vinyl (and MAYBE a certain someone’s years of deferred maintenance), not the washer. But this kind of improvement for a very little amount of work? I’LL TAKE IT! In fact, I really think this is a chore I can add to my seasonal to-do lists and do again a couple times a year to maintain it, and I know having my very own pressure washer will come in handy for ALL SORTS of things. I’m already giving my fence, garage and sidewalks side-eye. Also the street. Also my neighbors houses. What if I just start rogue pressure-washing things in the dead of night? Like I know I probably shouldn’t but just…WHAT IF? Watch out, world.


51 Comments

  1. I was reading my go to forum for relaxation on Reddit r/powerwashingporn when your blog post showed up. Power washing seems to be a soothing and relaxing thing to watch for many of us. If you have video, please submit, the world awaits your washing.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/powerwashingporn/

  2. What a delightful post, Daniel. We recently had the exterior of our brick on the first floor of our wood frame vinyl sided house power washed. We got a bit of water in the house, which thankfully was easily cleaned up. I guess you didn’t have any issue with that?

    • Oh wow, could you figure out where it came in? Luckily I didn’t have that problem except when I got a little big for my britches and used it on the door, which I failed to notice was cracked open a bit!! Lol. So the door got cleaned AND my entryway is freshly mopped, ha!

      • This actually happened to me! I had no idea that some kinds of brick are just that porous, but they are. Right through the brick cladding and into a pool on my living room floor.

  3. It looks a thousand times better! I love my pressure washer too. I ended up using those mr clean magic erasers after the pressure wash on my house and it reduced the staining. But I’m not sure it was worth the effort.

    B.

  4. Hi. Looks great. Just be careful, you are supposed to wash DOWNWARD only on siding. You can be forcing the water under the siding the way you are doing it. The house and progress are amazing.

    • Yes, good point!!! On this vinyl siding, though, every two “boards” are really one piece of molded plastic (so there’s nowhere for water to get in, or for the house to breathe…), and they kinda click together on the underside between courses—so I don’t think it’s as essential as if you’re washing clapboard with actual seams and spaces where the boards overlap. But either way you’re right—I’ll be more careful next time. Thanks!

  5. Nice job! It does look a 100 times better than the before. It’s amazing just how filthy things get, doesn’t it?

    Two years in, my house does not look too bad in most areas fortunately, but at some point, I HAVE to pressure wash the deck and reseal with Thompson water seal, of which I have some in the shed that was left behind by the previous owners.

    Keep it up Daniel!

    • It really is astonishing the amount of filth that can build up on stuff that doesn’t get rained on!!

      Power washing the deck will be so fun and satisfying! I used mine on this porch floor and the difference didn’t photograph very well but it looks way better—I considered repainting/staining (I’d probably want an opaque stain, since I feel like paints never hold up on pressure treated wood), but then that seemed a little over the top for a floor I can’t wait to replace anyway. One word of caution—depending on how powerful the washer is (and what type of wood is there, I guess), it can really eat into the wood! Best to start with a low pressure and work your way up if you need more oomph!

  6. On a sponsorship note, I just wanted to chime in and say that before I started reading Daniel’s blog (aka my favorite blog) I had never really explored Lowe’s because another store, let’s call it Schmome Schmepot, was about a mile and a half closer to my house. Now I vastly prefer it and go all the time, which never would have happened without Daniel. Which is all to say, please keep giving him whatever his heart desires.

    • Aw, thank you for taking the time to say this, Caitlin! That’s nice to hear! I’m in the exact same situation here—Lowe’s is a little further from my house than *competitor who will go unnamed but you have named perfectly and I’m just going to start calling that in real life* but I go the extra little distance because it’s literally the choice between feeling comfortable and like I can get what I need (including in-store assistance!!!) vs. feeling completely anxious and pissed off by the time I leave that other place!

      • Our house is about equidistant between the two, but thanks to one free lighting installation demo/workshop at Schmome Shmepot we looked forward to for ~*wEeKs*~ (OK like a week and a half maybe) and then the guy didn’t show up… they are dead to my fiance and we are Lowe’s people now. LOL.

      • Both chains are located equidistant from my house because they are ACROSS THE STREET from each other. One day I went into the Schmepot looking for a specific screw or both (some hardware fastener) and they didn’t have it – I even asked for assistance to locate it. After failing to find it I told the employee that I’d just go across the street to see if they would have it and they looked at me with the look of “Where do you mean?” And I’m like, do you not realize that your competitor is directly located on the other side of the street?

        I know now that if I need hardware things, fence things especially that I’m better off just looking at Lowes first.

  7. If you can fit that little thing in when you come for Thanksgiving, id love a little outdoor power cleaning done. I have nowhere to keep one of those though.

  8. Before and after still looks pretty damn good. There was an opportunity here to give the internet a satisfying powerwashing gif.

  9. Try it again with siding cleaner for the stains. I have a side of the garage heavily shaded by bushes/trees, and the white siding looked yours, but also green tinged. (Ewww) The detergent for houses left it bright and shiny again. It also did a good job on the smoked section behind the grill.

    • Good to know—I’ll definitely add that to the equation next time! I don’t feel like the vinegar did much that the water wasn’t doing on its own, so time to bring in the bigger guns!

  10. You are not helping me NOT get a power washer. I borrowed a gas-powered one from a friend, but it took me back to days of having to squirt starter fluid in the carburetor of my first car to get it to start.

    • Hahaha I know! My neighbor offered to let me borrow his gas snow blower and I ended up just doing it by hand because getting it to start up every time was harder than just shoveling! Same with my rototiller which I actually spent good money on…and now can’t get to start for reasons I’ve mostly been unwilling to explore. Not trying to blow myself up!

  11. My husband loves his Karcher pressure washer. Nothing makes him happier than blasting off dirt.
    A friend has a little hand-held Karcher that’s for cleaning windows. She swears by it. (Around here, people clean their windows weekly.)
    As you say, a little deep clean can make something livable until circumstances allow for a complete redo.

    • WOAH WOAH WOAH. You mean to tell me there’s a fun little device for cleaning windows?! I NEED THIS IMMEDIATELY. Some of my windows haven’t been cleaned in…well, we don’t have to get into that. Decidedly longer than a week.

    • Ok, I just looked that window cleaner device up on Google and I had no idea that these things existed. I know that I can wash my windows with a rag but I have true divided lights and it’s such a pain so I never do it. My windows have been cleaned twice in 10 years and the storm windows maybe once?
      This might be worth the investment.

  12. I think you should TOTALLY start pressure washing other people’s property in the dead of night. You’ll be like the Chainsaw Chicken in the recent MFM minisode, but doing something positive instead of destructive!

    Also – the clean(er) siding looks great!

  13. Do you get wet using the power washer? Is there splash-back?

    • A little bit, but surprisingly not really? I noticed it the most when I got up near the ceiling, since water was splashing off of that and then kinda dripping down, but I didn’t need to change clothes or anything afterwards.

  14. Am I the only one who wants reassurance that you didn’t waste that drink?? After that glorious rejuvenation, I’d say you’d earned it, 1 p.m. or not! We’ve also got an old house that badly needs some power washing, but we’ve been putting it off out of fear (among other things) of damaging the siding. Good tips on the correct angling of the spray, but are there also certain speeds that you should be using depending on the type of siding? Ours is vinyl but goodness only knows how old …

    • This is what I want to know too. I would have had that drink. At 1:00. Or even 10:00 in the morning.

      • Haha! Strained out the ice, stuck it in the freezer for later! We don’t waste liquor in this house, as a rule.

        Good question about the pressure for vinyl! I was on max pressure for parts of this (trying to get the deeper staining out) and it was totally fine, but I’d say start low-ish and just work your way up—no need to go any higher than what’s effective! My siding has to be at least 20 years old (I don’t know when it was installed) and still very pliable, although I know sometimes older vinyl can get brittle.

      • Bravo! And thanks for the pressure suggestion — starting slow and building up pressure was my instinct, so it’s nice to have that validated! :)

  15. “As I have recently discussed, I have a deep and abiding aversion to equipment that needs gas or oil to work. Whether it’s a lawnmower or a weed whacker or a snow blower, in my mind they are all equally as complicated as an automobile or a fighter jet and I wouldn’t mess around with the innards of those either.”

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels like this! When we bought our house I made us buy a battery powered lawnmower (and assorted lawn tools) because fuck internal combustion engines! My fiance isn’t the BIGGEST fan (and he is actually the one who does 95% of the mowing, oops), but I do all the trimming and edging and that battery-powered string trimmer is my baby/favorite yard tool of all time.

  16. OK – you inspired me to do this this weekend. We also have a tree that drops dark stains on our sidewalk and it will look so much better to freshen that up before the loads of snow come along.

  17. If you do decide to embark on rogue power washing in the dead of night you should figure out a costume. Every superhero needs a good costume. Love the results!

    • Your rogue pressure washing made me think of that guy that goes around pressure washing hate graffiti off of walls and things. But I agree you’ll need a super suit :)

  18. If it makes you feel better my deck railing, and parts of my house look just as bad. The usual pollen and dirt accumulation also got moldy because it was so damp this summer, at least it did where I live on the CT shoreline. I will have to put a pressure washer on the to-buy list though if it can knock that work out in 20 mins but cleaning the exterior will have to wait until my bathroom reno is finished. By which I mean, wait until spring.

  19. Love my pressure washer! A word of caution about storing it for the winter. We had one that spent the winter in an unheated space and some residual water in the “works” caused something else to split… and the washer was kaput. So, be sure to store it over the winter in your basement. You have reminded me that I need to run mine for one more pass at the patio before lugging it down.

  20. I know pressure washers are amazing and so relaxing to use! My husband would do our entire neighbourhood if I would let him. Sadly I can’t look at them without visualizing a small child in some 3rd world country walking 30 miles to a well for drinking water. I’m sorry to poop on the parade ☹️

  21. Hi Daniel,

    I had a house with old vinyl siding (which I have sold). After I washed the siding with a pressure washer I coated it with liquid floor polish. Restored the sheen and formed a protective coating making it easier to clean. Worked a great.

    Just a suggestion …..

    • Such a good idea! And brave! It held up fine over time? I have a bunch of floor polish for my old VCT kitchen floors in the basement…hmmmmm.

  22. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but sometimes I skim thru sponsored posts – but not yours! Ever. They are always an entertaining, amusing and informative as all the posts. I have some siding, but its ‘s some kind of composite that’s probably full of asbestos (j/k, I hope). There isn’t much of it either. Most of the house is painted cement block with this horrible weeping mortar that attracts dirt like crazy. A power washer may be the thing I need to dislodge the grime left by the monsoon dust storms (I’m in az).

    • Thank you so much, Kelly! :) :)

      Oh I know exactly what you mean with the weeping mortar! I’d say as long as the mortar is hard enough to take the pressure, it would work out great! Here we have to be careful with masonry because our old bricks are generally soft, meaning the mortar is even softer (mostly lime and sand, rather than cement), but if your mortar is strong enough to handle it I’m sure it would help immensely!

  23. Hi Daniel, me again

    My vinyl siding was more than 20 years old. Polish held up very well for the five years I had the house. Also meant when I did the yearly wash (Australian bush is really dusty) the dirt just slid off. Would definitely do it again. Just try it on the front porch first.

  24. What about trying some reverse graffitti? Public pressure washing with artistic intent. I’ve been facinated by it ever since pinning this image: https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/465981892665019938/

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