High Pressure Water for Cleaning Soffits before Painting

Answered by Jeffrey ~ November 2, 2010 ~ Comments

I've put off the backbreaking job of painting the soffits of my Springfield, Missouri, split-level home. Now the paint is cracked and there's all sorts of dirt and webs up there. Is it safe to use a high-pressure hose to clean off everything loose so I can minimize the scraping or wire-brushing?

Peter ~ Springfield, Missouri

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Peter, I've actually been doing the same thing on my home the past several weeks. When you say a high pressure hose I'm assuming you mean a pressure washer as the only other type of high pressure hose I'm aware of is a fire hose hooked to a hydrant and you definitely don't want to use that or you won't have any soffits left. Using a pressure washer to remove cracking paint, dirt, and spider webs makes the job go fairly quickly, but there are a few cautions to keep in mind.

Based on my experience I recommend that you use a pressure washer in the 2,500 psi to 3,500 psi range. I'm using a 3,000 psi washer and having pretty good results and most of the paint that's old and cracked is coming off without using a wire brush or doing any scraping. I think you might have a problem with a washer under 2,500 psi if you're trying to remove paint or attempting to reach your soffits, as there's a significant difference in the water pressure between a 2,000 psi unit and a 3,000 psi unit. I also think you need to be careful with a unit over 3,500 psi as the power of the spray can damage your wood if you're not careful.

I recommend getting a unit with a few different wand heads so you can experiment to see which head works best for your application. They're usually available with different angles of spray and I've found that for my application a more direct spray works best.

You mention that you have a split level home so some of your soffits are going to be pretty high off the ground. You should make sure you have a unit with a hose long enough to reach those heights as the washer has to remain on the ground.

There are also a few safety concerns I'll mention before you start using a pressure washer. The water comes out of the wand with enough power to remove paint and that same pressure can cause a nasty injury if it happens to hit a person or animal so the washer should always be used with extreme caution. You should always wear eye protection when using the washer as debris comes flying off the home with enough velocity that it could easily damage the user's eyes if it contacted them. Lastly, when using the washer on a ladder don't pull the wand trigger when the wand is at a 90 degree angle to the home as the sudden force can knock the user backwards and possibly off the ladder. I always pull the trigger with the wand almost parallel to the home and then move it in the direction I need it so I'm ready for the force of the spray when it hits the surface.

You should be able to rent a pressure washer at most tool rental businesses and I would think there would be a lot of those around a city the size of Springfield, Missouri. You might also want to consider purchasing one as they can be pretty handy around the home.

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