- Active Time: 30 minutes for my fence (could be more or less depending what you have to power wash)
- Total Time: same as above
- Cost: $0 if you have or can borrow a power washer
- Help Needed?: Nope! It’s a great solo project!
- Difficulty Level: Beginner (like total beginner)
Hi friends! I’ve been a little MIA on Instagram and the blog recently because I’ve been taking full advantage of this nice weather! In Northern Virginia, Spring usually lasts all of 2 seconds, and we just go from Winter to Summer like BOOM! So, this 60-70 degree loveliness deserves to be savored by the heat and humidity bears down on us. One of the projects that’s taken over my life is pressure washing, or power washing, the fence. I’d never used a power washer before last week, and I’m pretty sure it’s now my favorite outdoor activity.
Now, I know what you’re thinking (because I thought the same thing about pressure washing my entire life):
Power Washing Sounds A Little Intense. . .
I mean, it has the word ‘power’ in it. And, when you read all these how-to guides for power washing they talk about expensive equipment and hurting yourself in the strong spray.
Let me tell you: if you’re not ready to buy a power washer, borrow one (we borrowed my mother in law’s) or rent one from your local hardware store. Give it a whirl, and you’ll be seduced by its magical cleaning powers, and you’ll soon be researching power washers on Pinterest to buy for yourself.
And, in regards to hurting yourself, just don’t spray yourself directly with the spray, and you’ll be fine. If it’s strong enough to spray moss of your fence, it probably shouldn’t be sprayed on your body, am I right?
Do I Really Need to Use a Power Washer?
When we bought our house, the front and back fences were covered in moss and looked really run down. So, we got quotes to replace the whole fence (we have this mix of wood fence in the back and the front gate, with chain link fence along the sides and all the way through the front (to separate our driveway and our neighbors). We were ready to pay $2-3k but not the $6-10k we were quoted from four different companies! So, we sucked it up and just cringed when we looked at the moss-covered fence because moss is way better than $10,000.
Last summer I tried to clean the fence and our porches with this mildew remover I found at the hardware store. You just hooked it up to your hose, and supposedly it would clean everything right off. Wrong. It didn’t remove any of it.
This year, I ventured into the world of power washing. My husband had used it before, so I was going to make him do all the power washing all through our yard, but after watching him power wash our back porch for 15 minutes and seeing the AMAZING results, I was pushing him out of the way to see what magic it would work on the fences.
Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I earn a small commission if you click the link and purchase the item. The links are products I’ve used and loved in the past (or something very similar).
You just need a few things for power washing:
- A power washer also called a pressure washer (either borrow one like I did, or check out this awesome one from Ryobi!)
- A Hose
Step 1: Connect your Hose to your Power Washer
This is as easy as it sounds–connect your hose to your power washer. Ours was on the front of the power washer at the bottom of the container. Make sure the connection is tight.
Step 2: Turn the Water on to your Hose
Also straightforward–turn your hose on at the spigot. Your power washer will spray now at the same power as your hose would, if you have anything that needs a light washing but can’t take the pressure wash (like your car, your air conditioner, your windows, your flowers–I may have sprayed it on a lot of things 🙂 ).
Step 3: Plug your Power Washer In
Also, straightforward. I plugged it into an outdoor extension cord so we could use it in the front and back of the house without unplugging it.
Step 4: Turn your Power Washer On
Follow your manufacturer’s instructions on how to turn your power washer on. Ours was this two-button system, almost like a gfi outlet–press test then reset and it turned on.
When ours turned on, it made a quick motor like noise and then was quiet. At first I thought it was broken, but it wasn’t. It only made noise when the sprayer was on.
Step 5: Power Wash!
That’s it! Now you’re ready for power washing the fence. You’re going to be so amazed at how quickly it gets dirt and moss and mildew off, just like I was! And, how easy it is! Soon you’ll be power washing your fence, your side walk, your driveway, your shed, your house, your porch. . . not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
But, back to your fence (for now). Here’s some tips and tricks for power washing your fence.
Power Washing Your Fence
Start from the Bottom or the Top?
Most of the posts I read said you need to ‘Start at the bottom and work your way to the top.’ I never understood this, but I tried both ways and they both worked fine. Since I was curious where this advice came from, I did a little research. It seems that if you’re using a cleaner or soap before you power wash, you need to apply your soap from the bottom up. This is because by applying from the bottom up, you prevent the soap from running down on to dryer surfaces, which prevents the soap from evaporating before you rinse it off and streaking from the soap lines after washing it off. (There’s a lot of chemistry behind this with hydrostatic pressure and surfactants and such if you want to get really nerdy!) If you’re just using water like I did, it doesn’t matter where you start.
Spray in Long Lines
Even though I read that you should do this before I started, I learned this one the hard way. When you’re spraying on wood, you need to spray in long smooth lines. Otherwise, you’re going to get these marks on your fence where you changed direction. This allows you to apply even pressure across the wood, so you’re not putting more pressure on one spot vs. another–that’s what causes damage to the stain.
I wasn’t as worried about the stain–honestly I didn’t even know if there was any stain left on the fence since it was so green and old looking. So, I’m okay with the few streak-looking marks I ended up with. But, if I were to do this again, I would be more careful to make the long smooth lines from the beginning.
To make the long lines, I would start at one end of a plank, and spray to the top, and then spray back to the bottom. If I didn’t get all the mildew and moss off, I’d repeat the long slow spray once or twice, until it was all off.
Get All the Nooks & Crannies
I didn’t realize how many nooks and crannies there were on a fence. There’s hidden spots near the latch, around the hinges, on the sides of each picket and post. And, let’s not forget the WHOLE OTHER SIDE. Luckily for us, our back fence faces a wooded area, so I did not bother cleaning that side. But our front gate needed both sides cleaned, which I conveniently forgot about until I was going to put the power washer away for the day and looked at the back of the gate as I closed it. Oops!
Before & After
Doesn’t it look so good?! This took about thirty minutes of spraying, washing away years of yuckiness!
Need Help with Other Outdoor Projects?
Check out some of our other DIY outdoor project posts, like How to Overseed Your Yard, Starting Seeds Outdoors, and Choosing Plants for Your Garden for Beginners! We also have lots more outdoor DIY posts, and all other home DIY posts, on A Girl’s Guide to Home DIY–come check it out!