Whether you have new or old pavers on your property, there comes a time when you need to clean them. Can pressure washers do the trick? Better yet, can they do it without damaging the integrity of the pavers?
Pressure washing pavers can safely be done with the right psi, nozzle, and expertise. Otherwise, you risk ruining the look of the pavers and loosening what keeps them packed together, which is why it is risky to pressure wash them without any prior knowledge.
Here is some information on the benefits, risks, and methods on how to wash your pavers with a pressure washer.
The Pros Of Pressure Washing Pavers
When you see unwanted grass and weeds sprouting up through the space between your pavers, you obviously want to get rid of them as soon as possible. The thing is, all the interlocking cracks between each individual paver makes for a lot of work. If you decide to do this by hand, it could take a large amount of time and energy.
That’s where pressure washers come in.
Pressure washing saves you from having to go at a painstakingly slow pace as you clean your pavers. It also has the force to scrape away at surface grime, as well as any weeds that have grown in the cracks.
What once would have been a days-long job turns into a task that takes an hour or two at most, depending on how much you have to clean and how careful you are as you do it. Pressure washing covers a wide area without any scrubbing, digging, and scraping that you would have to do without it.
One of the most frustrating aspects about pavers, especially ones that are older and have loosened over time, is that weeds climb up through the cracks just to taunt you.
Although it is good to take preventative measures, like spraying vinegar or other weed-killer as soon as you see green in places it shouldn’t be, widespread growth can still occur.
Pressure washing dislodges weeds from where they have taken root. On top of that, you can have an eco-friendly cleaner that focuses on weed killing when diluted in with the water.
But if you do add a cleaner like this, be careful not to accidentally spray plants or grass you do want to keep. Be aware of where the runoff may go to, as it can also affect greenery.
This may not be the case for the pressure washer you own, but heated pressure washers can clean pavers at a more effective level. The heat is better at scouring grime, weeds, mold, and mildew. It also does less to cause shock to the pavers, unlike cold water.
The steam from heated pressure washers does extra cleaning as well, and if you take the gentler approach (as you should) when cleaning pavers, the steam is an added benefit you would otherwise lose out on with a regular washer. It softens caked-on dirt that can easily be washed away once the stream reaches the area.
The Cons Of Pressure Washing Pavers
Before you jump into using a pressure washer on your pavers, you need to consider all the dangers of pressure washing them the wrong way—and what it will do to them if you are not careful.
Pressure washers come with enough psi to potentially crack or crumble pavers if they are at high enough intensity and have a jetted nozzle. The concentration of the nozzle, combined with the high psi of the pressure washer, can make for a bad enemy against pavers.
Pavers are meant to be gently cleaned. If you have older pavers, they are especially prone to damage or even complete dislodgement via pressure washers.
Once the structure is damaged, you’ll either have to pay money to repair it or have to look at a damaged part in an otherwise seamless arrangement. Both choices are not ideal, which is why it’s better to take extra precaution as you clean these rather delicate surfaces.
Professionals and individuals who are against pressure washing pavers say that one of the biggest detriments to the method is the removal of the pavers’ sealant.
The sealant is what keeps the pavers tight and locked together. Harsh, jetted pressure washing can strip away this sealant. Without protection that the sealant offers, the pavers become vulnerable to even more dirt and weed pollen—exacerbating the problem you wanted to get rid of in the first place.
For pavers, the sealant is vital to looking polished, uniform, and even. A harsh jet stream can ruin this look. Just because the high psi and pressured stream can remove unwanted grime, grass, and weeds at a moment’s notice doesn’t mean you should take that route.
Before you work, you need to consider how you can wash without damaging the paver sealant. Otherwise, you may find all the investment you put into keeping your pavers looking pristine gone to waste.
The worst thing about improper pressure washing is that you probably won’t even notice that something has gone wrong at first. But although it may not be right away, the long-term damage will show itself over time.
A pressure washer accidentally stripping the sealant from pavers is common, even if you have experience washing other surfaces or hire a professional company to wash the pavers themselves. It’s because of this that you have to be careful and patient as you take on the project—and be willing to accommodate cleaning in other ways should you think that a pressure washer will be too harsh.
When the sealant gets removed, there is nothing that keeps the pavers from sticking together as closely as possible, which results in the pavers becoming loose and sagged apart from each other. Even though this happens naturally over time, pressure washing can speed up the effect.
Once the pavers are loose, they basically ask for dirt to build up and weeds to gather in the space. And the more you improperly pressure wash to get rid of them, more sealant breaks up between the cracks, and the pavers become looser.
Eventually, some pavers may just dislodge completely from their spot, causing you or others to trip over them and invite more weed growth.
This kind of damage takes money to repair, whether or not you do it yourself or hire a company to come and repack the pavers together. Before you pressure wash your pavers, you will want to note the current integrity of them and determine if they are safe enough to clean.
Not all pavers have notable colors, but the ones that do have color for a reason. Among other things, sealants also protect the vibrancy of these colors. But if pressure washers strip away the sealants, then they strip away the paver colors as well once the sealant isn’t strong enough to preserve them.
As a result, the colors will appear faded and dull. This isn’t the worst possible outcome, but neither is it one you want to unintentionally cause due to poor pressure washing.
How To Pressure Wash Pavers
Now that we’ve spoken about all the things that can go right and wrong with pressure washing, it’s time to actually talk about how you can pressure wash your pavers in a safe manner that keeps them preserved and undamaged.
Pull Up Weeds
For the larger weeds that are in your pavers, it’s good to try and uproot them before you pressure wash. You don’t have to spend time removing them one by one, but it’ll save you from having to focus your pressure washer in one place for too long once the weeds don’t have much of a grip.
Nozzle Tip Type
Before you attach a nozzle tip that creates a strong jet stream to blast away everything and anything, think about what this may do to your pavers. They need a nozzle tip that has a wider surface area to prevent too much concentration in one spot that can harm the sealant.
A gentler nozzle tip means that you will probably spend more time cleaning your pavers, but this saves their sealant and keeps them from crumbling, cracking, loosening, and fading.
Can you put your pressure washer’s psi to the max? Yes. Should you for your pavers? No. Find a spot in your psi that has good pressure, works well with the nozzle tip, and cleans rather than destroys.
Not all pressure washers have a heat mode, but if yours does, use it on the pavers. As mentioned earlier in the pros section, high heat is beneficial to paver cleaning, so you’ll get better results without having to use as much pressure or concentration.
Because pavers need extra care when you pressure wash them, keep in mind that this project will likely take more time than other cleanings. But when you do slow down to be safe and thorough, your pavers will thank you.