Don’t let the power of these machines turn against you.
What could possibly go wrong when you’re spraying water that’s up to 4 000 pounds per square inch of pressure at an object or surface to clean it? If you’re not careful, plenty. That’s why, whether you’re a professional or DIYer, following proper safety precautions is essential when using a pressure washer.
Keep these tips in mind to prevent injuries that can include lacerations, punctures, and internal tissue damage.
Know your machine. Every pressure washer model is different. Read the user’s manual to: learn how to operate the machine and its accessories; learn how to shut it off in a hurry; know whether it’s okay to use an extension cord if it’s an electric model (and what kind to use); and, learn how to troubleshoot problems that may arise.
Suit up for safety. Highly pressurized water is no joke. If the water is accidentally aimed at a foot or a foot slips into the water stream, toes can be lacerated or worse. Closed toe, non-slip shoes are a must; work boots are ideal. To protect yourself from any flying debris, wear full-length pants and safety glasses. Work gloves will not only protect your hands, but also give you a better grip on the handle. Wear ear protection when using a gas pressure washer as these can be noisy.
Survey the areas for hazards. Electrical outlets and water don’t mix. This combination can lead to electrical shock. So, be sure to cover electrical outlets. Be aware of any power lines or electrical wires and give them wide berth. In addition, move any fragile items out of the way. Clear the area of any tripping hazards and, ideally, people and pets. Use a spotter if there’s a chance a passersby could step into your perimeter.
Use a gas engine only in the open. The engine on a gas pressure washer emits carbon monoxide during use. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, work in an open area and never in a confined space.
Choose the right nozzle opening. The smaller the nozzle opening, the more concentrated the water stream and the greater the potential danger to surfaces and bodies. Start with a larger degree nozzle — these are the white or green nozzles — to see if it will do the trick. Move to the yellow nozzle if it doesn’t. Use the red, 0° nozzle only if you have to. This nozzle may be powerful enough to etch concrete, So, imagine what the red nozzle can do to flesh and bone. Don’t spray too close-up, follow the distance guidelines provided by the manufacturer, and never aim a small-degree nozzle at glass.
Keep your hands and feet out of the water stream. This seems obvious but it’s worth stating. In case you’re tempted to rinse your hands using the power washer, for example, don’t.
Keep two feet on the ground. Can’t reach your target? Use an extension wand or other extension attachment rather than mounting a ladder. Ladders pose an obvious fall hazard, especially when there’s kickback from the pressure washer involved.
Flip the safety latch. If the power washer is on, but you’re not actively spraying, engage the safety latch on the handle before putting it down.
Depressurize once you’re done. After you turn the pressure washer off, squeeze the trigger to release the remaining pressure before disconnecting.
Pressure washer injuries don’t need to happen. When used properly, pressure washers are safe and incredibly handy machines that are capable of making outdoor furniture, decks, driveways, siding, sidewalks, and even industrial equipment look new again.
Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands.