washing a car with pressure washer

If you run a detailing or car washing business, you no doubt spend hours upon hours scrubbing away dirt and grime from your client’s vehicles. However, this is not the best way to go about your service. By using a pressure washer to clean your client’s vehicles, you’ll:

  • Save time and money
  • Scale your business up
  • Provide a better service for your clients

The truth is, manually washing cars with an ol’ garden hose and sponge can be tedious. Plus, this approach is typically not enough to get rid of all the dirt, dust, and road splatter that has accumulated over days of driving. Fortunately, there is an easier way – washing a car with a pressure washer.

In this article, we will teach you how to clean cars with a pressure washer. You’ll also learn about the benefits of this tactic, the best ways to prevent damage, and more.

But before all that, let’s answer the question that’s on everyone’s minds:

Is Washing A Car With A Pressure Washer Safe?

When done right, using a pressure washer to wash a car is perfectly safe. However, it’s important to know that you can risk damaging your client’s car if you use too much pressure, apply the wrong technique, or use a nozzle that’s not right for the job.

That said, you must know the right amount of pressure to use on a car. And, you have to use the right nozzle, which determines how much pressure is in the water stream that hits the surface you are cleaning.

Use The Right Amount Of Pressure & Nozzles To Prevent Damage

Cleaning a car with a pressure washer requires around 1,200 to 1,900 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure. Hence, a standard electric pressure washer should be enough. This amount of pressure is strong enough to allow you to wash your car efficiently, but not too strong that it agitates the paintwork on your car and chips it away.

To be safe, however, start washing your first car with a pressure level on the lower end of the spectrum. If a car has old paint, you may want to lower the pressure even more just to be sure you won’t accidentally blast the paint away. Want to learn more about proper psi levels for various cleaning jobs? Here’s a helpful article on how to gauge how much pressure washer psi you need.

Similarly, you have to use the right nozzle. Pressure washer nozzles determine how much pressure is in the water stream you’re going to use to clean a car. There are five different nozzles to choose from:

  • Red (0 degrees) – creates a small yet extremely powerful jet of water (in an O-shape); best for removing deeper stains from hard surfaces, but not recommended for cleaning vehicles.
  • Yellow (15 degrees) – emits a narrow fan of water that can remove dirt, rust, paint, and other contaminants, usually to prepare a surface for repainting or re-sealing. Avoid using this nozzle to wash your car unless you have experience; this amount of pressure is usually reserved for professional car detailing.
  • Green (25 degrees) – the most common nozzle for general use; creates a wider spray for pressure washing dirt, mud, debris, and other grime. Use this nozzle to clean stubborn grime and dirt off your car or truck, but do not use it for mirrors and windows.
  • White (40 degrees) – produces a wider and gentler spray for light cleaning; best for rinsing your car and washing away light dirt.
  • Black – used for applying soap quickly and efficiently.

Benefits Of Washing A Car With A Pressure Washer

So far, washing cars the traditional way seems like the easier option, so why should you bother learning how to clean a car with a pressure washer?

The answer is simple. Using a pressure washer to wash a car provides significant benefits that you wouldn’t get from a normal hose and sponge:

Saves Time

As a car washing or detailing company, you want to put an emphasis on efficiency. After all, the faster you get cars clean – the more profitable your service-based business becomes. You can wash more cars per day, too, helping you scale up your buisiness. With a pressure washer, you can get the job done in a little over fifteen minutes – maybe even less once you get the hang of it.

Uses Less Water

Washing a car with a pressure washer requires less water compared to using a garden hose. The main reason for this is that pressurized water emits more force than a regular stream from a hose, thus being able to clean surfaces much faster.

Furthermore, you can easily turn the water flow on and off by simply letting go of the wand’s trigger. With a regular hose, you would have to walk back and forth from the spigot to turn the water on and off. And since that takes too much time and energy, the tendency is to just leave the water running, which can lead to gallons upon gallons of water waste.

Thus, you’ll save time, money, and help the environment out along the way.

Deeper Clean

A pressure washer can get into the nooks and crannies of a car’s exterior, something that a regular garden hose cannot. For example, many cars’ wheels have spokes that would be very hard to clean with just a hose and a brush. We’re sure you don’t want to spend hours on your hands and knees cleaning these hard-to-reach areas. Instead, use a pressure washer that can easily wash off dirt from even the deepest corners of the car.

Easier Clean-Up

After you’re done washing a car, you can quickly clean the soapy water off your client’s driveway (or your parking lot/cleaning station) with the pressure washer. And unlike when using a hose, the amount of water used on clean-up is minimal.

Washing A Car With A Pressure Washer: Step By Step Guide

By now, you are probably already convinced of the superiority that pressure washers have over regular car washing methods. The next question is: how do you pressure wash a car properly?

As we’ve mentioned before, using the wrong pressure or technique can cause damage to a car’s paint and metalwork. So, we’ve prepared a quick tutorial to help you pressure wash cars the right way:

Choose The Right Pressure Washer

Before anything else, you have to select the right pressure washer to clean a car.

There are two main types of pressure washers to choose from: electric and gas. Electric pressure washers are ideal for general home use and produce pressures of up to 3,000 psi. Gas pressure washers, on the other hand, can go up to 4,000 psi, making them great for industrial applications.

But since we are only washing a car, an electric pressure washer is the right choice for the job. Remember: you only need about 1,200 to 1,900 psi to blast away dirt from a car’s exterior.

You also have a choice between a hot water pressure washer vs. cold water pressure washer. The main difference between these two options is that hot water can clean off oil and grease, while cold water cannot. For cars and other types of vehicles, however, cold water is always safer to use. Hot water can damage the paint and even cause the metal to warp in extreme cases.

Step 1: Rinse Away Loose Dirt & Debris

The first step is to wash away loose debris with the 40-degree nozzle tip for the body and the 25-degree tip for the tires, wheels, and wheel wells. Start from the roof of the car and work your way down to the bottom until you reach the lower panels.

Step 2: Cover Your Car With Foam

Take out your foam cannon and fill it with car wash soap. Make sure that the soap you’re using is specifically formulated for car washing (it may not be effective at washing away dirt otherwise!) or use a car wash soap that the pressure washer manufacturer recommends. Then, connect the cannon to your pressure washer and start covering the car in a liberal layer of foam. This will help break down soil and lift up dirt from the car, making it easier to wash away.

By the way, we also have a blog post on which pressure washer nozzle to use for soap if you need more help!

Step 3: Scrub Away The Dirt

After letting the foam sit for a few minutes, grab your car wash mitt and scrub the entire car, starting at the top. Work in sections to ensure that you get every last bit of dirt and grime. As you go along, dunk your mitt into a bucket full of water and car wash soap to avoid spreading the dirt around.

Step 4: Rinse

Now, it’s time to rinse! Attach your 40-degree nozzle tip and everything away. Again, start at the very top, making sure to wash off every bit of foam from the car. Be sure to wash the areas around the door and window seals thoroughly, as soap and foam tend to accumulate in these tight areas.

When the water runs clear, you are all done.

Final Thoughts On Washing A Car With A Pressure Washer

Washing a car cannot get any easier than when using a pressure washer. No more spending hours in the sun with a hose that can’t even break off the mud in the wheel wells. And certainly no more wasting water with each car wash. If you’re ready to start washing cars more efficiently and effectively, you’re now on the right track. Soon, you’ll be able to provide a better service for your clients while increasing efficiency, productivity, and revenue.

Now, there is just one thing left to do – choose the best pressure washer possible. And at Hotsy, we’ve got you covered. We’ve got both hot water pressure washers and cold water pressure washers. We’ve even got pressure washer soap to help you get the most out of your cleaning!

So, start reaping the benefits of a pressure washer today. Find reliable, commercial pressure washers for just about any cleaning task with the #1 pressure washer store in San Antonio.