One of the more annoying tasks associated with painting is removing the old paint from the outside surfaces (such as a wooden deck, patio, or siding).
It can be time-consuming to scrape or chip the old paint away by hand before you repaint the surface.
However, you can save considerable time and effort by using a pressure washer or a power washer.
Keep in mind that this should not be a cheap pressure washer used to clean your driveway, but one that is powerful enough to remove paint from surfaces such as your deck.
For most deck stripping projects, it is best to choose the hot water pressure washer unit in a 2000 PSI to 4000 PSI range.
However, if you are trying to remove the most stubborn paints off the wooden deck surface, picking the 3000 PSI pressure washer should work for you.
With that in mind, if you want, you can either rent or purchase the right size pressure washer to do the task. Because But buying a washer in that range can be a costly affair for many.
How to Choose a Power Washer to Strip Deck?
Before you spend your money on a good power washer device, you should clearly know about the process and size of the pressure washer you should use to strip the paint.
Here are a few tips to help you find the right type of equipment to use.
1- Check Nozzles
You’ll need to have nozzles that fit the pressure washer properly.
Plus, the nozzles will need to have the right pressures and spray angles designed to remove paint.
This means avoiding zero-angle nozzles as they can be unsafe in performing the task.
In general, the nozzles in a pressure washer are an important accessory when you need to decide how much cleaning power you need for a specific job.
Many of these are color-coded from strongest to lowest pressure. Also, it can be twisted and adjusted between zero to 60-degree spray patterns.
So, choose one with the proper angle that lets you remove the paint quickly and safely.
2- Check the Right Size and Pressure
Remember, a DIY pressure washer, which is known to provide very little pressure, will not remove the paint as efficiently as it should.
The fact is removing paint requires greater pressure than simply removing dirt and debris.
But if the pressure is too high it can flake off the paint, and can also damage the wood underneath.
This means you should obtain an optimum unit size that provides around 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.
A 3,000 PSI pressure washer is the right size for stubborn most tasks as it can exert the highest force that is typically needed to break paint off the wood surface.
If you have flaking/peeling paint or rust on the surface, that is already removed from the surface but needs cleaning, you can even use a pressure washer size that ranges from 1,200 PSI to 2,500 PSI.
Anything less than that does not have the power to remove paint.
3- Check for the Pump Type
Pressure washers for paint removal come with different pump types and making the right choice for this is important as well.
The various options are:
- Axial cam pump: Common for residential usage
- Triplex plunger pump: Most advanced and efficient
- Wobble plate pump: Comes in both low-end and high-end versions
4- Gas Vs. Electric Powered Pressure Washer
Choosing between these two varieties will mostly depend on your needs.
For example, if you are washing your concrete driveways or deck every weekend, you should get a gas-powered one as it can save you much time.
However, if you just want to strip the paint off your deck and don’t need to use them regularly, electrically powered would be the better choice.
As compared to gas pressure washers electric-powered are generally quieter, require less maintenance, and are affordable too.
However, at the same time, these are limited to only smaller jobs and would not be portable (since they need an outlet to plug into).
5- Check the Popular Brand and Reviews
When picking the best pressure washer for decking, paint stripping, or cleaning, it’s also essential that you check various brands, compare their features, and go through customer reviews in detail.
Based on features and overall ratings few brands/models that I personally like are:
- Simpson Cleaning MegaShot Pressure Washer (3200 PSI)
- Craftsman Gas Pressure Washer (3000 PSI)
- Greenworks Electric Pressure Washer (1500 PSI)
Few other reliable brands you can take a look at include: Generac, Ryobi, Sun Joe, Karcher, and DeWalt.
In addition to the above 5 important things, a few other factors you may consider when selecting a pressure washer for the deck are:
- Built-in soap/detergent tank
- Cord Length and ability to use with extension cords
- Built-in water reservoirs and type of water source you plan to hook
- Whether it allows you to use water directly from a bucket or a well
- Ability to use hot water – although these models may be expensive to buy for home use
How to Use a Pressure Washer for Paint Stripping?
After you pick the right pressure washer and learn the basics of how it works, the very first step is to clear the area.
Whatever is on the deck (any furnishings or objects) should be removed even if you do not plan to hit that area for a while.
Step 1 – Clean the Area
Once you have cleared away all the objects, the next step is to clean the deck.
While you may think the pressure washer can do that, keep in mind that any dirt or debris on the deck may strike your face or clothing.
So, sweep the deck well and clean before you start removing the paint from the deck with a pressure washer.
Step 2 – Scrape Off the Old Paint
Next, you’ll want to scrape away the larger areas of paint. You may need to use a DIY paint stripper first to soften the old paint.
If you are opting for a commercial product, make sure you get a detergent cleaner or a stripper that is designed for use on wood.
By scraping and then using a paint stripper, it will be easier to remove the old paint from the deck.
When using a paint stripper, your pressure washer can be set from 800 to 1,200 psi to effectively remove the paint from a distance of around three feet.
Be sure to use cold water in the pressure washer for the best results.
Warm or hot water should only be used in the cleaning area that is large and is affected by lots of stains, salt, mildew, pollen, moss, or weeds.
Step 3 – Finish Up and Allow the Surface to Dry
Once you have removed all the paint using a pressure washer, you will want to reduce the pressure and sweep away any remaining loose debris and pressure washer marks.
Once you have done that, let the deck fully dry (for about 48 hours) before you start applying new paint or stain to a pressure-treated wood deck.
Avoid painting the surface if it’s still wet as it will not get adhere to the surface well – which means you will need to strip the paint and repaint your deck more frequently.
Also, remember that your decking area will be slippery when it is still wet.
So, before you allow walking around, make sure the deck and stairs are completely dry and are free from all the bubbled-out paint.
Tips and Techniques to Follow When Stripping Deck
Pressure washers when used for paint stripping can deliver extreme pressure.
If not used properly these can even cause serious injuries.
Especially for beginners, who have not used these tools before, it’s important to use them with caution.
Here are a few Do’s and Don’t you need to follow when using a pressure washer:
- Start with the lowest setting to test
- Wear safety glasses when operating
- Try to work only on one section at a time
- Move with the wood grain to get better results
- Use the safety lock on the trigger when not washing or when changing the nozzle tips
- Maintain a distance of about 6-8 feet when spraying the water around electrical outlets or power lines
Prior to stripping the deck, you should also take all the outdoor furniture or toys off.
Also, close the nearby windows and doors (if any) to avoid water entering your home.
When not in use, prepare your pressure washer for storage by winterizing it.
This is important to lubricate and protect the internal seals.
- Avoid usage in direct sunlight
- Do not use the unit from a ladder
- Do not put your hand in front of the nozzle
- Avoid washing or removal of the old lead paints
- Do not point the unit directly at pets or people near you
- Do not use the device for removing the paint on cars, trucks, or other vehicles
Above all, you should avoid using the pressure washer unit for washing wood siding, asphalt roof, asphalt shingles, laminar sandstone, old wood furniture, or electrical units like your AC.
Can You Use a Pressure Washer as a Paint Sprayer?
Unlike paint sprayers, a pressure washer to wash the paint off deck comes with higher pressure.
These are designed for blasting away even the toughest dirt and grime in less time and with less effort.
Its generally used for preparing the surface for painting and not for spraying the paint.
You will typically need a different sprayer system for spraying/painting the deck surface as the pressure washer cannot be used for this purpose.
Some of the airless sprayers, however, can work similarly to pressure washers when used with paint instead of water.
But they can be messy and should be used with proper care.
Pressure vs. Power Washing: What is the Difference?
Although the basic function of both these machines is the same (to use pressurized water for clean-up), they are actually different and work differently for different types of surfaces.
The real difference between power washing vs. pressure washing lies in the fact that a power washer makes use of a high-pressure hot water stream for blasting away the dirt and grime from the outdoor surfaces.
While a pressure washer is typically designed for home use (like for cleaning decks, driveways, sidewalks, and even vehicles), a power washer is a better choice for cleaning “tougher to clean” surfaces that involve cleaning up the oils and grease.
Power washers, if used on soft surfaces, can damage them due to the high pressure and heating involved.
These are generally found more useful for professional cleaning (and industrial cleaning) and should be used by an experienced professional only.
When Should You Hire Professionals?
In general, if you have a large area to strip or clean, it’s good to avoid doing the job yourself.
You should rather hire experienced professional power washing services that are trained well to deal with your task at a professional level.
They always know which nozzle to employ, and the appropriate pressure they need to use based on the surface and other conditions.
This will not only speed up the overall process but also avoid the possibility of getting your wooden or concrete surfaces damaged.
What is the Best Time of Year to Wash/Strip the Deck?
I always get this question from my readers, who want to do their annual deck maintenance.
Remember, you should power/pressure wash or strip your deck in fall or spring.
A good thumb rule you can follow is always to clean the patio when the temperatures remain around 45 to 52 degrees both during the day and night.
Plus, to dry the area quickly after washing there should be no signs of acidic rain or condensation for several days.
If you want to go for deck stripping in winter, make sure you check the weather forecast to get an idea of the warmer days of the month.
Freezing weather (when the temperature drops below freezing) should be completely avoided as water may then seep into and can freeze-thaw making severe damage to the wood or concrete.
The Bottom Line
A pressure washer is a great tool to strip chipped paint off wood, metal, concrete, and other exterior surfaces.
In fact, when used properly a good pressure washer can save you a considerable amount of time in removing old paint from your deck and patio.
Do not forget to wear the appropriate safety goggles and clothing, and focus on completing the task at hand by choosing the right deck stain applicators that will let you coat the surface in the best possible way after all the cleanup.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.