While pressure washing is the last thing most of us want to do in the winter, cleaning is critical this time of year. Salt corrosion is a serious issue, especially if you’re managing a fleet. These tips will help you use your pressure washer safely and effectively as temperatures reach freezing.
Don’t Work at Temperature Below Freezing
The water you use may be warm, but it only takes a little wind for cold air to draw that heat away. If water freezes inside your pressure washer, the expansion will destroy your pump. If you need to clean when it’s near freezing, keep a thermometer on hand. For cold water washing, stop when the temperature reaches 34°F. This gives you a bit of a buffer to empty the pump and lines. Hot water systems can run at a wind chill of 25°F. Once the temperature is below freezing, adding wind speeds up the transfer of heat from the pump to the air.
Whether you run hot or cold water, plan to do your washing in the afternoon during peak temperatures.
Work Indoors Where Possible
Obviously, if you have a heated garage with a dedicated wash bay to work in, it doesn’t matter what temperature it is outside. However, even a portable bay will help. The walls block the wind, and the drainage system helps keep runoff from freezing on pavement.
Work in the Sunlight
If you have to clean outdoors, try to do it out of the shade. Sunlight heats surfaces, making them easier to clean.
Use More Detergent
Cleaning chemicals become less effective as temperatures drop. Expect to mix in more detergent when cleaning than you need during the summer.
Use Hot Water
If your pressure washer has a heater, turn it on. Hot water will run off before it freezes, and it helps detergents do their job.
Wear Waterproof Clothing
Clothing stops holding in heat once it gets wet, making hypothermia a serious risk when pressure washing. Use rubber overshoes, slickers, and other waterproof clothing to create a protective layer around your winter clothing.
With so much water around, ice is always a danger. Add in the force of your pressure washer’s wand, and you have a high chance of falling over. Spiked shoes or a set of ice cleats will help you keep your grip on the ground.
De-Ice Ahead of Time
All the water you’re spraying will end up on the ground, turning the area into an ice rink. Lay down some salt before you start working to keep ice formation down. Be sure to match the de-icer to your current weather conditions. Magnesium and calcium chloride work well in sub-zero temperatures, preventing ice formation over cold nights. However, they can leave a slick film if temperatures hover just above freezing.
Protect Hinges, Levers, and Locks
Be careful where you spray: you want to clean dirty surfaces without forcing water into crevices. Avoid direct spray around door gaps, levers and mirrors. After cleaning, move these parts around to push out trapped moisture and wipe away water to keep them from freezing. Spraying lock cylinders with a water displacer like WD-40 will keep water from collecting inside and freezing.
Use Narrow Tips to Remove Ice
Used correctly, a 15 or 0-degree tip can slice ice into small chunks that can be pushed off with wider spray tips. Skip the 0-degree tip if you’re working around wood or paint.
Keep Your Pump from Freezing
When you’re done cleaning, extra care needs to be taken to protect the pump from freezing. After going through your usual drainage routine, spray compressed air into the pump inlet can help flush out any remaining water. Fill the pump with antifreeze as you would for long-term storage. If you used detergent, be sure to flush the chemical line. If pressure washer antifreeze isn’t available, RV antifreeze or winter formula washer fluid can be used to flush out water.
Where possible, store your pressure washer indoors to prevent freezing.
Keep Your Equipment Running through the Toughest Conditions
Do you need a better pressure washer that can tackle the cold? Shank’s Lawn Equipment carries a wide range of residential and commercial-grade machines from Cub Cadet, Billy Goat and Vortexx. Need parts, accessories, and repairs to keep your washer at peak performance? We do that, too. Stop by our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. We also ship parts and accessories for every brand we carry through our website, www.shankslawn.com. We can have your order delivered to any address in the U.S. or Canada.