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13 Things You Should Never Pressure Wash

A pressure wash can serve a valuable role in home maintenance, but don’t get carried away! Pressure washing can do more harm than good.

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pressure washing houseBeth Van Trees/Shutterstock

Wood Siding

While it’s possible to pressure wash wood siding correctly, you can also force water up and under the exterior surface if you use high pressure. From there, water can damage insulation and electrical wiring and even spur mold growth. A high-powered pressure wash can also dent aluminum and vinyl siding.

We’ll walk you through how to safely use a pressure washer to clean your home’s exterior.

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electrical box on houseChristian Delbert/Shutterstock

Electrical Panels and Meters

Even on the exterior of your home or in your yard, do not pressure wash fixtures housing electricity. Though built to withstand a rainstorm, pressure washing can force water into cracks and crevices, leading to damage and costly repairs.

Plus, avoid these top 10 electrical mistakes by DIYers.

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asphalt shinglesESB Basic/Shutterstock

Asphalt Shingles

Never pressure wash your roof if you have asphalt shingles. The water pressure strips away the granules that protect your roof. Not to mention, using a pressure washer in a high place is dangerous. Once you squeeze the trigger, the powerful recoil on the spray wand can throw you off balance and off a ladder.

Plus: 15 silent signs that your roof is failing.

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fixing ac fins with butter knife home air conditioner

Air Conditioners

For cleaning your air conditioning unit, don’t reach for a pressure washer. The intense flow of water can bend or crush the delicate fins and restrict air flow, which shortens the life of the unit.

Instead, use a vacuum and much gentler water flow to rinse away debris. Straighten cooling fins using this tool.

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peeling lead paintJoyce Vincent/Shutterstock

Lead Paint

Never remove lead paint with a pressure washer. Lead paint should be carefully contained when removed, not blasted into the air and surrounding surfaces.

Learn how to remove lead paint safely yourself. Protect yourself during lead paint removal using this respirator.

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crumbling brick

Old Mortar

A pressure wash damages weathered brick houses and other landscaping surfaces with mortar. Any loose material, especially on older structures, will be blasted away by pressure washing on a high setting. Here, we’ll show you how to correctly clean hard water stains off brick.

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pressure washer stream

Living Things

This one is a no-brainer (hopefully!). Never pressure wash humans, pets or plants. The force of water coming from a pressure washer can cause physical harm — even penetrate skin—and will most certainly destroy your plants.

When you pressure wash appropriate surfaces, always wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from debris. Check out the other safety gear every DIYer should own.

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Ceiling Fan Front PorchJohn Wollwerth/Shutterstock

Painted Surfaces That You Want to Stay Painted

A pressure wash easily chips paint off most surfaces, so only use a low-pressure flow of water to wash painted items such as a porch floor or painted outdoor furniture. Plus: Learn how to give your pressure washer a tune-up.

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broken windowSeDmi/Shutterstock

Windows

Don’t pressure wash windows! The high pressure can break them, causing you a major headache (and expense) to replace. Instead, wash your windows better with these tried-and-true tips from professionals.

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car under hoodAlexxndr/Shutterstock

Vehicles

Using a high pressure wash to clean your vehicle can actually cause small dents and even chip the paint, leaving it vulnerable to rust. If you do use a pressure washer to clean your car, always set it to a low-pressure setting.

And never attempt to pressure wash under the hood! It could force water into cracks and crevices and cause serious damage. Home mechanics will appreciate this list of 100 car maintenance tasks you can do yourself.

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FH02JUN_02631_065Family Handyman

Outdoor Light Fixtures

Though outdoor lighting can withstand rain and other weather elements, you should not pressure wash these fixtures. You’ll risk forcing water into cracks and causing damage. Learn how to install low-voltage outdoor lighting yourself.

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clean guttersIndy Edge/Shutterstock

Gutters

Though tempting, you should never clean out the inside of your gutters with a pressure washer. It’s best to remove debris by hand (or use this trick), and then rinse the inside clean with a less intense flow of water.

Gutters can withstand rainstorms, but not the extreme power of a pressure washer. Choose this gutter cleaning tool instead of a pressure washer.

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power washing stained chairiMoved Studio/Shutterstock

Stained Wood

A pressure wash pulls stain right off wood surfaces. Maybe that’s your goal, but if you intend to keep stain on wood, don’t use a pressure washer to clean it.