Tools and materials for the job
The list below contains all the tools and materials necessary to clean a house’s exterior. Depending on the size, style and condition of your house, you may need all or just some of the items we’ve mentioned.
- Pressure washer. Most siding materials should be cleaned with moderate pressure (this includes vinyl, brick, stucco, wood and cement), so you’ll need a pressure washer with at least 2,000 PSI. Some electric models can be suitable, but generally, gas models are better for jobs like house washing because they can run for longer hours and they are more versatile with accessories.
- Detergent. Your cleaning solution should be specific to your siding material and condition. For example, vinyl siding with mold and mildew growth will need a heavy-duty mildewcide, while red brick with light weathering just needs a general-purpose masonry cleaner. Remember, only use cleaning solutions that are pressure washer safe.
- Extension wand. High walls, soffits and gutters usually require an extension wand to reach them (trying to spray them from 10 feet away won’t get the job done). Telescopic wands are preferred for their ease of use, especially for 2-story and 3-story houses, but fixed extensions cost less.
- Gutter cleaner. In addition to an extension wand, you’ll need a gutter cleaner to get inside them. This pressure washer attachment is shaped like a hook and has one or more nozzles to clear out leaves and other debris.
- Scrub brush. Scrubbing isn’t always necessary, but it’s helpful to have a brush available for tough stains. Use a brush with soft, synthetic bristles for chemical resistance, and make sure it has a long handle for high reach.
- Safety gear. Pressure washing can cause injuries, with one relevant hazard being falling objects, so you should have safety glasses, enclosed shoes, gloves and full-length clothing.
- Plastic sheeting, painter’s tape (optional). If you want to avoid damage to nearby doors, fixtures or other unmovable objects, consider covering them with plastic sheeting and painter’s tape for temporary protection.
- Garden sprayer, scaffolding (optional). If you have mold or mildew and your cleaning solution isn’t pressure washer safe (many of them aren’t), you’ll need to apply it with a garden sprayer. Depending on the location of the problem, you may also need scaffolding to reach it.
Steps to pressure wash a house
If this is your first time using a pressure washer, learn the basics in our article, How to Use a Pressure Washer. When you’re ready, continue with the steps below to pressure wash your house.
Warning: if your house was last painted before 1978, it may contain lead, which is dangerous to ingest. Talk to a professional before you proceed or test your paint if you’re unsure.
- Prepare the area. Remove any objects that are blocking or hanging from the house, like storage containers or decorations. Use your plastic sheeting and painter’s tape to cover any unmovable objects, like doors or windows. Make sure any openings are completely sealed so water doesn’t get inside, and pay extra attention to electrical components (if possible, shut off power).
- Start your pressure washer. Put on your safety gear. Set up your pressure washer by connecting your garden hose, high pressure hose, spray gun and extension wand, then fill your detergent tank (or take this time to prepare your garden sprayer). When ready, start it.
- Clean the gutters. Connect the gutter cleaner and rinse out as much debris as possible. Keep the nozzle at a 45° angle, and make sure to spray away from downspouts to avoid clogging them. To clear a clogged downspout, point the nozzle directly into it and spray until water flows freely.
- Clean the exterior. Divide the house into sections of about 10-15 feet wide and separate each story (for example, a 2-story house with a 30 ft. wall would have four sections: top left and right, bottom left and right). Starting with the highest story, repeat this step one section at a time.
- Pre-rinse (optional). Soft, porous materials like brick should be pre-rinsed to prevent chemicals from absorbing too deep into the surface. If this applies to you, connect the 40° nozzle and wet the current section using plain water.
- Apply detergent. Connect the 65° nozzle and apply detergent, starting with the bottom of the section and working up. Allow the solution to soak for 5-10 minutes.
- Rinse. Connect the 25° nozzle and rinse the detergent using plain water, starting with the top of the section and working down.
- Check for remaining stains. Battered houses may require extra effort. Reapply detergent to any remaining stains and use your scrub brush for extra force, then rinse again. If the troubled area still isn’t clean, try a stronger detergent or talk to a professional.
- Apply paint or sealant (optional). Allow the house to dry for at least 48 hours before painting or sealing. From there, the instructions will vary depending on your siding material and products, so follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application.
Frequently asked questions about pressure washing a house
The most common questions about pressure washing a house are answered here. For additional help, you can reach out to us at any time. For questions about specific products, we’re happy to offer advice, but depending on the question, you may need to contact the manufacturer.
How much does it cost to pressure wash a house?
This depends on your location and the size, material and condition of your house. Generally, the cost to pressure wash a house is between $0.25-0.35 per square foot, which includes labor and supplies. This equates to $600-840 for the average single family home, assuming the size is around 2,400 ft2. Keep in mind, this does not include gutter cleaning. Expect an additional $0.50-1.00 per linear foot for this.
Compare the professional cost above with the cost of doing it yourself. Based on the tools and materials we listed earlier, the cost would be between $500-600, assuming every item is purchased brand new. If you already own any of the items on the list, or you plan to rent or borrow a pressure washer instead of purchasing one, the cost could easily reduce to under $200.
Can you pressure wash a house with bleach?
Bleach should not be used in a pressure washer because it’s corrosive, not to mention it posts a serious threat to humans and animals as an airborne mist. However, you can still apply bleach separately using a bottle or sprayer and then simply rinse it off with your pressure washer.