To take the best care of brick, stucco, or siding, spray with a regular garden hose—no need for pressure-washing (which could damage those surfaces). If your home is made of wood or a hybrid (such as Hardiplank), as about a third of American homes are, a power-blasting is just the thing to brighten the exterior.
1. Rent the Machine
You can rent a pressure washer at Home Depot or a local cleaning-equipment company. Most are gas-powered. Depending on where you live, a rental will run you from $50 to $250 a day. Book the washer for a weekend; this is probably a two day job. If you plan to pressure-wash annually (recommended), you might consider buying a washer (consider the Generac OneWash, $399, homedepot.com). Your rental place is your best resource when it comes to questions about your specific home. If your house is three or more stories, hire a pro.
2. Consider Cleanser
Water alone will get rid of the usual buildup of dirt. You don’t need soap unless you suspect there’s mildew or mold. In that case, request a pressure washer with a compartment for detergent, and use a cleanser called Zinsser Jomax mixed with household bleach, according to the directions on the Jomax container. If you’re working with bleach, use protective eyewear, and rinse nearby plants afterward.
3. Prep for Spray
Shut and lock the windows, and when you’re working, avoid spraying windows directly. With this kind of power, water could seep through the sides and into the house. You’ll get wet, so dress to enjoy it.
4. Test First
Set yourself up with the least powerful nozzle, numbered 40 or thereabouts (which indicates a fan-spray pattern of 40 degrees, if you must know). Stand at least three feet away from the house and spray a small area. Stop and check to make sure the spray is not damaging the surface.
5. Wash in Sections
If you’re using only water, work from top to bottom in segments. (No need for a tippy ladder; you’ll be able to reach from the ground.) You may choose to switch to a sharper (lower-numbered) nozzle to dig into cruddy corners, but in many cases the 40 nozzle will get the whole job done. Keep the spray moving, and always do the entire house. Spot-cleaning just parts of it could leave the place patchy. If you’re using cleanser, wash from the bottom up, then rinse with fresh water from the top down.
6. Wipe the Windows
Even though you’ll avoid direct hits, windows will get wet and perhaps spotted with dirt. Try to wipe them down with a lint-free towel before the water dries or it could leave spots.
7. Run Out the Clock
If you have extra time with your rental and you have outdoor furniture made of iron, plastic, or a hardwood, like teak, give it a spray, for thrilling results.