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Power Washing

The power washer on the front walk during a cleaning operationIt’s funny what the Internet does to certain otherwise mundane objects and activities.  You’ve probably seen the way that the Internet has turned bacon from a mild-mannered breakfast food into a phenomenon.  The Internet has done this for power washing as well via Reddit.  There, one can find a subreddit called Power Washing Porn, where people submit images of things that they have power washed.  Realize that in Reddit terminology, “porn” as a suffix refers to high quality images of a specific subject or theme, e.g. retail porn, destruction porn, sky porn, exposure porn, train porn, space porn, etc.  Much of the content submitted to the power washing subreddit consists of series of images showing before, in-progress, and after photos of objects or surfaces that got power washed.  In browsing the power washing subreddit, I’ve learned a bit about what makes surfaces change color with age.  In many cases, the answer is simply “dirt”.  As it turns out, wood surfaces don’t just turn gray or dark just on account of age.  It’s dirt.  Some dirt is stuck to a surface really well, and so it makes the most sense to just get a power washer and blast the dirt away at 1600 psi.

However, living in an apartment, I can’t do any power washing at my house.  I don’t have a yard, and all of the maintenance of the exterior of my building is within the purview of the property management.  And all of the lawn furniture that I have on my balcony is plastic – but it’s not like I could use a power washer out on my balcony anyway, owing to the lack of a water connection up there.  That said, my parents were delighted for me to come down to their house in Stuarts Draft, Virginia and power wash their stuff for them for the sake of the Internet.  They didn’t quite understand why I wanted to do it, but they went along with it.

I power washed five things at my parents’ house.  On June 8, I did the ramp up to the shed, the floor and two support columns in the carport, the concrete edge outside the garage door, and the front steps and walk.  Then on September 2, I did the picnic table in the backyard.  The results of all of these things were like night and day, as the washing away of years’ worth of dirt and grime left the various items looking like new again.

The first item of business was to set up the power washer.


In getting the power washer set up, I learned a few things about the way my parents have the hose and such set up. Basically, the hose reel doesn't move. It's been in place for so long that the ivy holds it in place, and it would be more trouble to remove it than it would be to work around that limitation. Thankfully, the hose reached everywhere that I needed it to reach while the reel stayed stationary.  

In getting the power washer set up, I learned a few things about the way my parents have the hose and such set up.  Basically, the hose reel doesn’t move.  It’s been in place for so long that the ivy holds it in place, and it would be more trouble to remove it than it would be to work around that limitation.  Thankfully, the hose reached everywhere that I needed it to reach while the reel stayed stationary.


The first item up to be power washed was the ramp up to the shed.  The ramp, as well as the shed itself, were original to the house’s construction in 1992, and had never been washed.  It was now time to remove 22 years’ worth of dirt and grime from that ramp.


After 22 years of being out in the elements, the ramp had acquired a greenish-brown color. In addition, the left side of the ramp had settled slightly. I wasn't equipped to fix the settling, but I could certainly fix the color.  

After 22 years of being out in the elements, the ramp had acquired a greenish-brown color.  In addition, the left side of the ramp had settled slightly.  I wasn’t equipped to fix the settling, but I could certainly fix the color.


The first thing I did was wash a line down the whole thing using the round attachment. in order to show the difference between the part that had been washed and the part that hadn't. The difference is astounding. The wood looked almost new following the removal of all of the gunk.  

The first thing I did was wash a line down the whole thing using the round attachment. in order to show the difference between the part that had been washed and the part that hadn’t.  The difference is astounding.  The wood looked almost new following the removal of all of the gunk.


After that, I did the deck in an orderly manner, starting at the bottom and going up towards the shed door.

After that, I did the deck in an orderly manner, starting at the bottom and going up towards the shed door.


Done! The ramp has become a nice golden brown once again.

Done!  The ramp has become a nice golden brown once again.


The finished deck ramp after it dried. Not bad for a first attempt at power washing, as far as I'm concerned. There were a few spots that I could probably have stood to hit again, particularly on the third board from the bottom, and I nicked the paint on the door a little bit, but on the whole, I think I did a good job. I also learned to stay well clear of the mulch, because that stuff goes flying really quickly if you even so much as think about going near it with the power washer.  The finished deck ramp after it dried. Not bad for a first attempt at power washing, as far as I'm concerned. There were a few spots that I could probably have stood to hit again, particularly on the third board from the bottom, and I nicked the paint on the door a little bit, but on the whole, I think I did a good job. I also learned to stay well clear of the mulch, because that stuff goes flying really quickly if you even so much as think about going near it with the power washer.

The finished deck ramp after it dried.  Not bad for a first attempt at power washing, as far as I’m concerned.  There were a few spots that I could probably have stood to hit again, particularly on the third board from the bottom, and I nicked the paint on the door a little bit, but on the whole, I think I did a good job.  I also learned to stay well clear of the mulch, because that stuff goes flying really quickly if you even so much as think about going near it with the power washer.


My legs and feet after power washing the ramp. No one said that this was going to be a neat process for me.  My legs and feet after power washing the ramp. No one said that this was going to be a neat process for me.

My legs and feet after power washing the ramp.  No one said that this was going to be a neat process for me.


The next thing to be cleaned by the power washer was the floor and two of the wooden support columns on the carport.  The carport was an addition that my parents made to the house within a month or two after we moved there in 1992.  We made the addition because the house, as built, only had a one-car garage, and Dad wanted his car to be covered as well.  None of the wooden support columns were painted, nor was the decorative wall on the east side of the carport.  After consulting with Mom, we opted to leave the other two columns and wall unwashed for now due to shrubbery and other plant life in that area.


The carport, before cleaning. My father washes cars in this area, and so this area sees a good bit of road dirt going onto it from that.  The carport, before cleaning. My father washes cars in this area, and so this area sees a good bit of road dirt going onto it from that.

The carport, before cleaning.  My father washes cars in this area, and so this area sees a good bit of road dirt going onto it from that.

The carport, before cleaning. My father washes cars in this area, and so this area sees a good bit of road dirt going onto it from that.  The carport, before cleaning. My father washes cars in this area, and so this area sees a good bit of road dirt going onto it from that.


One of the two columns to be washed on the carport. It had turned a somewhat greenish color over 22 years. The other column was similar in color.

One of the two columns to be washed on the carport.  It had turned a somewhat greenish color over 22 years.  The other column was similar in color.


Southwest corner of the carport floor after washing began. This corner was the most protected of the four, as it is against the house and near the shed, plus a trash can normally sits in this corner. However, there is still a noticeable difference between cleaned and not cleaned.

Southwest corner of the carport floor after washing began.  This corner was the most protected of the four, as it is against the house and near the shed, plus a trash can normally sits in this corner.  However, there is still a noticeable difference between cleaned and not cleaned.


Northeast corner of the carport floor. This is perhaps the least protected of the four corners, and was pretty dirty. The power washer blasted through that in seconds, revealing the true surface. However, I was a little disappointed that I couldn't get all of that green color out of the concrete on the washed side.

Northeast corner of the carport floor.  This is perhaps the least protected of the four corners, and was pretty dirty.  The power washer blasted through that in seconds, revealing the true surface.  However, I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t get all of that green color out of the concrete on the washed side.


Narrow line of washed concrete down the middle, to show the difference.

Narrow line of washed concrete down the middle, to show the difference.


Another washed line to show the difference.

Another washed line to show the difference.


Happy face in the dirt.

Happy face in the dirt.


One side of the column is washed, while the other is still dirty. Note the difference in color.

One side of the column is washed, while the other is still dirty.  Note the difference in color.


Progress pic on the back column. The upper section has been washed, while the lower section is still dirty.

Progress pic on the back column.  The upper section has been washed, while the lower section is still dirty.


Progress on the front column. The lower part is clean, and the upper part has not yet been cleaned.

Progress on the front column.  The lower part is clean, and the upper part has not yet been cleaned.


The front column, fully washed.

The front column, fully washed.


The end result in the carport. I was a little disappointed with how this came out, but it's still noticeably cleaner than it was before I started work on it, though I just couldn't get some areas to come clean, likely due to car work that often occurs here.  The end result in the carport. I was a little disappointed with how this came out, but it's still noticeably cleaner than it was before I started work on it, though I just couldn't get some areas to come clean, likely due to car work that often occurs here.

The end result in the carport.  I was a little disappointed with how this came out, but it’s still noticeably cleaner than it was before I started work on it, though I just couldn’t get some areas to come clean, likely due to car work that often occurs here.


The front column, after having been allowed to dry. It looks almost new, though I didn't like the weird markings on the one side. I'm guessing that it's from uneven washing in that area, i.e. I went through too quickly in some areas. Another run with the power washer at a later date should rectify that.  The front column, after having been allowed to dry. It looks almost new, though I didn't like the weird markings on the one side. I'm guessing that it's from uneven washing in that area, i.e. I went through too quickly in some areas. Another run with the power washer at a later date should rectify that.

The front column, after having been allowed to dry.  It looks almost new, though I didn’t like the weird markings on the one side.  I’m guessing that it’s from uneven washing in that area, i.e. I went through too quickly in some areas.  Another run with the power washer at a later date should rectify that.


After everything dried, though, this was pretty cool to see. This is the runoff from the carport going down the driveway after everything dried. This runoff was washed away a few hours later when a rainstorm came through.

After everything dried, though, this was pretty cool to see.  This is the runoff from the carport going down the driveway after everything dried.  This runoff was washed away a few hours later when a rainstorm came through.

After everything dried, though, this was pretty cool to see. This is the runoff from the carport going down the driveway after everything dried. This runoff was washed away a few hours later when a rainstorm came through.  After everything dried, though, this was pretty cool to see. This is the runoff from the carport going down the driveway after everything dried. This runoff was washed away a few hours later when a rainstorm came through.


The next project was a quick one, but still important: the concrete edge in front of the garage door.  It was dirty, but not nearly as bad as the concrete in the carport, despite being slightly older and also having never been cleaned since the house was built.  And I got it much cleaner looking than I did on the carport.


The driveway edge before cleaning, with a whole bunch of gunk on it.

The driveway edge before cleaning, with a whole bunch of gunk on it.


The difference in one of the dirtier areas.

The difference in one of the dirtier areas.


All clean! I don't understand why those lighter-colored areas are that way, though, since I washed those as well. Considering the location, perhaps this is something tracked over it from car movements?

All clean!  I don’t understand why those lighter-colored areas are that way, though, since I washed those as well.  Considering the location, perhaps this is something tracked over it from car movements?


The end result after drying. Looks good as new!

The end result after drying.  Looks good as new!


After finishing the edge on the garage, I turned the power washer on the front walk and steps.  The walk and steps, previously concrete, were redone in brick around 2005, and my mother power washes them every year.  So this was the regular annual cleaning, and as such, there was only a year’s worth of crud on there.  That’s not to say, however, that there was not a noticeable difference after I was finished.


The "before" photos of the walk and steps. Looks pretty good already, especially when compared to the other things that I washed, but it still could be better.  The "before" photos of the walk and steps. Looks pretty good already, especially when compared to the other things that I washed, but it still could be better.

The “before” photos of the walk and steps.  Looks pretty good already, especially when compared to the other things that I washed, but it still could be better.

The "before" photos of the walk and steps. Looks pretty good already, especially when compared to the other things that I washed, but it still could be better.  The "before" photos of the walk and steps. Looks pretty good already, especially when compared to the other things that I washed, but it still could be better.


The first swath of cleaned brick and mortar on the walk.

The first swath of cleaned brick and mortar on the walk.


Comparison of washed vs. unwashed. Quite a striking difference for just a year!

Comparison of washed vs. unwashed.  Quite a striking difference for just a year!


The end of the walk next to the stairs, after power washing.

The end of the walk next to the stairs, after power washing.


The other end of the walk, after cleaning and after drying, while work on the stairs was underway.

The other end of the walk, after cleaning and after drying, while work on the stairs was underway.


Getting rid of the gunk under the mat. Notice the difference between the cleaned area and the area that's still dirty.

Getting rid of the gunk under the mat.  Notice the difference between the cleaned area and the area that’s still dirty.


The stairs, after washing was complete.  The stairs, after washing was complete.

The stairs, after washing was complete.


Yeah, this power washing is a dirty job, especially when you're washing next to mulch. I ended up taking another shower after this to get cleaned up again.

Yeah, this power washing is a dirty job, especially when you’re washing next to mulch.  I ended up taking another shower after this to get cleaned up again.


That was it for the power washing session on June 8.  After this, I got my stuff together and headed back up to Maryland, on a very difficult drive home due to heavy rains.  It washed the runoff from the power washing away, but was a beast to drive through.

When I was down again in early September, I identified something else that needed cleaning: the picnic table.  My parents have had that picnic table for probably around 20 years, as we got it not long after moving to Virginia.  And over the intervening two decades, it got quite dirty – dirtier than anything that I had power washed in June.  The picnic table had also turned a greenish-brown color like the other wood items that I had power washed, but more so than the others.  There were also discolored spots left over from when my mother had kept potted plants on the table.  In short, this was especially ripe for a power washing.


The picnic table in its usual location, prior to washing. Note the very dark color of the upper surfaces, and notice the markings from where the potted plants used to be. Would you ever want to eat at this table?  The picnic table in its usual location, prior to washing. Note the very dark color of the upper surfaces, and notice the markings from where the potted plants used to be. Would you ever want to eat at this table?

The picnic table in its usual location, prior to washing.  Note the very dark color of the upper surfaces, and notice the markings from where the potted plants used to be.  Would you ever want to eat at this table?

The picnic table in its usual location, prior to washing. Note the very dark color of the upper surfaces, and notice the markings from where the potted plants used to be. Would you ever want to eat at this table?  The picnic table in its usual location, prior to washing. Note the very dark color of the upper surfaces, and notice the markings from where the potted plants used to be. Would you ever want to eat at this table?


Taking a look at the underside of the table after moving it onto the grass to avoid mulch and shrubbery in the table's usual location. The underside was pretty dirty as well, though not nearly as much as the upper surfaces.  Taking a look at the underside of the table after moving it onto the grass to avoid mulch and shrubbery in the table's usual location. The underside was pretty dirty as well, though not nearly as much as the upper surfaces.

Taking a look at the underside of the table after moving it onto the grass to avoid mulch and shrubbery in the table’s usual location.  The underside was pretty dirty as well, though not nearly as much as the upper surfaces.


Let the power washing begin!

Let the power washing begin!


Looking at how the first test area came out, I could tell that this was going to be especially satisfying when it was finished.

Looking at how the first test area came out, I could tell that this was going to be especially satisfying when it was finished.


Part of the first board of one of the benches is done, showing the difference between dirty and clean. The wood looks almost new after cleaning.

Part of the first board of one of the benches is done, showing the difference between dirty and clean.  The wood looks almost new after cleaning.


The first board of one of the benches is done. Compare the color of this one vs. its mate.

The first board of one of the benches is done.  Compare the color of this one vs. its mate.


The first bench is now completely done. It looks new again!

The first bench is now completely done.  It looks new again!


I admit that I had a bit of fun with this one. I knew my way around the power washer, and so I wrote "HELLO" in the gunk on the other bench.

I admit that I had a bit of fun with this one.  I knew my way around the power washer, and so I wrote “HELLO” in the gunk on the other bench.


Now washing the other bench, both boards at once this time.

Now washing the other bench, both boards at once this time.


Action shot.

Action shot.


Detail on the bench showing the difference between the part that's been cleaned and the part that hasn't. It looked like a layer over the wood.

Detail on the bench showing the difference between the part that’s been cleaned and the part that hasn’t.  It looked like a layer over the wood.


Both benches now clean. Time to work on the top.

Both benches now clean.  Time to work on the top.


And in doing the top, I switched to the round attachment and did something silly. Since the plan was also to post it to Reddit, I used the round attachment to draw the Reddit alien with "POWER WASH" beneath in the gunk on the top of the table.

And in doing the top, I switched to the round attachment and did something silly.  Since the plan was also to post it to Reddit, I used the round attachment to draw the Reddit alien with “POWER WASH” beneath in the gunk on the top of the table.

And in doing the top, I switched to the round attachment and did something silly. Since the plan was also to post it to Reddit, I used the round attachment to draw the Reddit alien with "POWER WASH" beneath in the gunk on the top of the table.


Blasting away the gunk on the edges.

Blasting away the gunk on the edges.


One edge complete.

One edge complete.


The entire top of the table is done except the Reddit alien.

The entire top of the table is done except the Reddit alien.


Half of the Reddit alien is now gone.

Half of the Reddit alien is now gone.


The Reddit alien has been completely power washed away, meaning that the top is clean.

The Reddit alien has been completely power washed away, meaning that the top is clean.


Now it's time to work on the underside.

Now it’s time to work on the underside.


More lines between dirty and clean. The accumulation of crud was quite uneven below the tops of the table, as the legs had far more on them than the support beams.  More lines between dirty and clean. The accumulation of crud was quite uneven below the tops of the table, as the legs had far more on them than the support beams.

More lines between dirty and clean.  The accumulation of crud was quite uneven below the tops of the table, as the legs had far more on them than the support beams.


The difference between dirty and clean on a support beam for the tabletop.

The difference between dirty and clean on a support beam for the tabletop.


All finished!

All finished!


And the table is back in its usual place after everything was done.

And the table is back in its usual place after everything was done.


These photos were taken the morning after I washed it, i.e. about 15 hours later. It's partly dry after sitting overnight, and it looks practically new.

These photos were taken the morning after I washed it, i.e. about 15 hours later.  It’s partly dry after sitting overnight, and it looks practically new.

These photos were taken the morning after I washed it, i.e. about 15 hours later. It's partly dry after sitting overnight, and it looks practically new.


These were taken a day later, after the table was completely dry. I'm particularly proud of this job, as the table looks brand new again, despite its being 20 years old.  These were taken a day later, after the table was completely dry. I'm particularly proud of this job, as the table looks brand new again, despite its being 20 years old.

These were taken a day later, after the table was completely dry.  I’m particularly proud of this job, as the table looks brand new again, despite its being 20 years old.

These were taken a day later, after the table was completely dry. I'm particularly proud of this job, as the table looks brand new again, despite its being 20 years old.  These were taken a day later, after the table was completely dry. I'm particularly proud of this job, as the table looks brand new again, despite its being 20 years old.


And that is what happens when you give me a power washer and some dirty items to clean.  As you can see, I do good work.  There are a few other things that I want to power wash at my parents’ house, but this is still a great improvement over the way things looked before.

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