How to Clean a Car With a Pressure Washer


A pressure washer is a powerful tool, which makes it very effective and efficient when it comes to cleaning a dirty car. However, the high pressure means you must use the washer correctly to avoid damaging your car and to ensure your personal safety. Most washers come with a range of nozzles and attachments for different uses. Read the instruction manual for a pressure washer before using it for the first time.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden hose
  • Cleaning solution approved for use with power washers
  • Protective goggles
  • Put on closed-toe shoes and safety goggles. If you have a gas-powered pressure washer, which is more powerful and louder than an electric pressure washer, wear ear protection.

  • Attach the nozzle for car washing to the pressure washer per the manufacturer's recommendations. Set the nozzle at the widest possible spray angle.

  • Connect the garden hose to an outside faucet, then connect the other end of the hose to the power washer. Turn the pressure washer on.

  • Point the nozzle away from you and down, toward the driveway or street. Pull the trigger a few times, holding it firmly with both hands, to get used to the pressure and spray pattern. Start washing your car only when you feel comfortable handling the tool.

  • Point the nozzle toward your car from a distance of at least 3 to 4 feet. Direct the water all over your car, starting at the roof and working toward the ground. Keep the angle between the water spray and the surface of the car shallow, preferably under 45 degrees. Spray your car all over until it is completely soaked.

  • Mix the cleaning solution with water in the pressure washer's chemical tank according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Point the trigger toward your car from at least 3 feet away, at a shallow angle. Start cleaning the car with the soapy water in an overlapping pattern. Change the angle and direction of the spray to target visibly dirty spots. Work on one area at a time before moving on to the next until you have covered the whole car, including the hubcaps and all nooks and crannies.

  • Switch off the cleaning solution dispenser according to the manufacturer's instructions. This usually involves removing the siphon tube from the solution tank.

  • Rinse the entire car with clean water until all the visible soap is removed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Point the spray at a downward angle as much as possible for greater control.
  • Use only a cleaning solution that is approved for use with power washers, never dish-washing soap.
  • Never point a pressure washer at yourself, another person or a pet. Consumer Reports warns that you should also never point a pressure washer at any light, air-conditioning unit or electrical device.
  • Never stand on a chair, stool or ladder while operating a pressure washer.

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  • Photo Credit side of car image by Christopher Nolan from
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