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While cleaning a wood fence isn’t high on our priority lists, it will keep the fence looking great and increase its durability if done regularly. Wood is a popular choice for fences over other types of material. People prefer its classic look but over time it can start to look dull and worse for wear, spoiling the appearance of your yard or garden.
If the climate in your area is dry, dust and UV rays can make your fence look old and washed out much faster than it normally would. In a wetter climate, you’ll notice a lot of slimy stains, mold and algae on the fence which can be hard to get rid of. A pressure washer is powerful and will make short work of cleaning fences. It saves time, water and money as opposed to washing the fence by hand or with a hose.
If you’re looking for information on how to clean your wood fence with a pressure washer, our step by step guide has everything you need to know. Follow these steps to successfully pressure wash your fence and restore it to its original appearance.
Should I Pressure Wash My Fence?
Pressure washing your fence is the most efficient and easiest way of revitalizing it. Keep in mind that the water pressure needs to be powerful enough to remove all the muck and grit from the surface without damaging the fence. Softer wood like cedar and pine can easily get damaged so pay extra attention to these and adjust the pressure according to the type of wood you’re dealing with.
If you’re going ahead, here’s what you need to do.
Step 1: Collect All Important Materials
Pressure washing a fence is a straightforward job and requires few materials. The first thing you need to do is to make sure you have everything you’ll need on hand. This includes a pressure washer with the correct nozzle or tip and a water source.
It would be a good idea to have a soft brush for scrubbing and removing stubborn stains on the wood and you might also want to keep some special cleaning liquid that will effectively remove any oil or grease stains present on the surface of the fence.
Choosing the Right Pressure Washer for the Job
There are two main categories of pressure washers: gas pressure washers and electric pressure washers. Whichever type you decide to use, the higher the PSI (pressure per square inch), the heavier duty the washer. Whether you’re renting, buying or already have one, make sure it’s adjusted to the right PSI.
- Gas pressure washers are optimal for washing a fence since they’re more suited for heavy duty jobs, delivering a PSI of up to 3000 or more at around around 2-3 GPM (gallons per minute) of water. They’re more powerful than electric pressure washers and use a bit more water as well. We recommend going for one of these if you want a thorough job done on your fence.
- Electric pressure washers on the other hand, are excellent for light duty jobs such as cleaning garage floors, vehicles and BBQ grills, since they deliver a PSI of about 1300-1400 and 1-1.5 GPM. These aren’t quite as powerful as gas washers but if a gas model isn’t available this would work as well.
Choosing the Right Tip or Nozzle for Your Pressure Washer
When it comes to choosing a tip or nozzle for your pressure washer, you’ll want to consider the width of the spray. The ideal nozzle should have a wide angle set at 25-40 degrees to ensure that it creates a wider spray which would cover a larger area without causing any damage to the wood.
A wider nozzle means that less pressure will be delivered by the washer. For example, if your washer has a 10 degree nozzle, you’ll get a blast of water that’s focused and highly pressurized but if you’ve got a 40 degree nozzle, the spray will be wider and less pressurized.
The recommended nozzle size for pressure washing a fence is 25 degrees since it delivers just enough pressure to clean the fence effectively without damaging it or leaving behind any visible marks.
Remove Loose Dirt
Before you start using the pressure washer on the fence, give it a quick brush first to remove any loose dirt that might be on it. This can be done using a brush or broom and will ensure that the cleaning process will be made easier without any distractions.
Lay Down a Plastic Sheet to Protect Plants
Not only can the high pressure of water loosen the dirt on your fence, but it can also spray the dirt back onto you and the rest of your yard. If you’ve got delicate plants growing near your fence, cover them with a plastic sheet for protection.
Step 2: Start Spraying the Fence
- Start from the top – Now that everything’s ready, it’s time to start cleaning the fence from one end to the other. Wash from the top of the fence to the bottom since doing it the other way round will make the dirty water splash onto the areas that you’ve already cleaned so keep in mind to start from the top.
- Choose the right spray pattern – When washing your fence, use a low-medium pressure spray pattern, especially when you’re using detergent. Wood can be quite soft surface damage is common if not done carefully.
- Ensure uniformity – The spray of from your pressure washer should be uniform or some parts of the fence may look less clean than other parts and the work won’t look neat. Remember, holding the nozzle of your pressure too close to the fence can make it harder for you to see what you’re doing and the water will most likely spray back on you when you stand too close. Holding the nozzle too close to the fence increases the risk damaging the wood so keep a safe distance.
- Follow the grain – Position yourself about 3 feet away from the fence and spray continuously in long lines. While spraying, make sure you follow the grain of the wood. Be organized with your spraying and cover a few boards at a time before you move on to the next section. Spraying it all over randomly will result in a poor job done and when it’s dry, you’ll notice patches of dirt that you missed.
Step 3: Work on Stubborn Stains and Tidy Up
When the entire fence has been rinsed down thoroughly, scrub all stained areas with the brush. You might need to use cleaning liquids for the tough stains that refuse to budge and make sure to be patient, taking your time to work at it if they don’t come out right away. Once you’re done, give the fence another good rinse with the pressure washer to wash away all the stains from one end to the other.
While you continue to spray the fence, you might notice debris accumulated at the bottom part of the fence when it should have been washed off. Make sure you rinse off any debris left over at the bottom to give your fence a thorough, clean look.
Step 4: Dry Out the Fence
If you’re planning to do staining or any paint work on your fence, let it dry for a minimum of 48 hours after washing.
Some Tips to Consider
Before you get to work pressure washing your fence, there are some things to keep in mind so that you can protect yourself safe while getting an excellent job done.
- Remember to wear protective eyewear.
- Don’t use a pressure washer with a PSI higher than 1800 on a wooden fence since it could damage the wood or even split it. If you’re washing a vinyl fence, using a higher pressure would be fine.
- Before you start spraying the entire fence, test the washer on a small corner of it to ensure that you haven’t set it to a damaging PSI.
- Adding a little bleach will help to kill mold.
- Don’t let any cleaning solution sit on the fence for more than 10 minutes. Rinse well to remove all cleaning solution residue.
The Bottom Line
Your wood fence can easily last up to 20 years depending on the type of wood that’s used, the climate where you live and how well you clean it. The best way to preserve the look of the fence and increase its durability is by cleaning it regularly and treating it with sealer or stain for extra protection.
If you’re not comfortable with pressure washing your fence by yourself, you can always hire a professional who will have the skills and the right tools for the job. Either way, pressure washing your fence will leave it looking clean and new just like when it was first installed. To learn more about pressure washers, check out our guide here. For the best pressure washers on the market, read our reviews here.