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How To Use a Pressure Washer To Clean Stucco Properly

If you love the look of stucco for the exterior of your home, but you think it is difficult to clean, then you are not alone. Luckily, it isn’t as difficult as you might think with the help of my favorite, cleaning tool: the pressure washer.

To pressure wash a stucco surface properly, spray detergent on to loosen the dirt build up. Then rinse off. Manually scrub rust and other stubborn areas with a soft bristle brush and wash off with a garden hose.  That’s it.

Of course there are some details that I left out. I’ll get to those in a bit. But you can see now that it’s easy and quick.

What is Stucco?

Stucco is a beautiful finish that is often found on houses. It’s actually a kind of cement plaster, so it’s very dense, and durable. However, it’s also porous in texture and somewhat brittle to flexing. That’s you shouldn’t soak stucco or get too much water into those pores. You also shouldn’t apply too much force. Stucco houses don’t settle well if the ground tends to move.

With that in mind, you have to be careful when you’re cleaning dust, dirt and grime off stucco walls. Instead of dirt accumulation, you might get chips and cracks instead. Then that will be an even bigger eyesore!

Fortunately, pressure washers can be configured to properly clean stucco surfaces. There are options you can go with that will ensure the water pressure used isn’t too excessive that it blasts away parts of the stucco. You can configure the psi settings or go with specific pressure washer nozzles. There are also attachments that you can use for a more gentler clean. 

Equipment and Materials You Will Need

To efficiently remove mildew, mold, dirt, or grime from a stucco surface, you will need a set of equipment to make the process a success. These include:

Pressure washer

Use a pressure washer that provides a moderate amount of power. Stucco can be easily damaged, so it is best not to use your most powerful option. An electric pressure washer is sufficient for most cleaning jobs around the house. Generally a setting between 1,500 and 2,500 PSI is appropriate for stucco.

Nozzles

Nozzles have a universally colored-coded scheme and have spray patterns that vary, ranging from 20 degrees to 40 degrees. When pressure washing a stucco surface, I would go with a black nozzle (0 degree) for soaking and a white (40 degrees) nozzle for rinsing. As an alternative, you may consider an adjustable nozzle and change the settings in line with the section you are working on. Having a nozzle on-site may also turn convenient while cleaning. 

Scrub brush attachment

A scrub brush attachment will help you get rid of stubborn dirt and stains.

Extension wand attachment

An extension wand is a must in most cases unless you live in a particularly short home. It allows you to reach high places without having to stand on a ladder, which is not recommended when using a pressure washer.

Pump sprayers

If your pressure washer does not have an inline soap dispenser, you will need a pump sprayer to spray the area with cleaning solution. A convenient tank should hold between 1 to 2 gallons or 3 to 8 liters. 

Safety equipment

Other accessories such as safety goggles, long pants, facemask, and a ladder are also important during the cleaning process. Goggles prevent particles from getting into your eyes.

Before You Get Started

Familiarize yourself with your pressure washer

If you’ve never used a pressure washer before, it is important to familiarize yourself with how it works. Using a pressure washer is not difficult, but it is a powerful machine. If you don’t use it carefully you can cause damage to your property or injury to yourself or others. 

  1. Go through the manual thoroughly so that you know the ins and outs of the machine.
  2. Take all appropriate safety precautions like wearing work boots to protect your feet, long sleeves, pants, and eye protection.
  3. Test out the different nozzles to see how they work.

Inspect the stucco

Before starting the cleaning process, make sure that the chips and cracks are patched up. If you use a pressure washer on a cracked surface, water will seep into the wall through the crack and cause water damage. Fix any cracks in your stucco and allow them plenty of time to dry before you attempt to pressure wash your home.

Prepare your pressure washer

Attach the hose, provide the fuel (electricity or gas depending on your pressure washer), attach the nozzle and accessories. 

Cleaning solutions add to power

When using a pressure washer, you don’t always need to use a cleaning solution when using a pressure washer, but for the exterior of your home, you most likely will. If you prefer to use green cleaning methods, then you can always try to pressure washer without cleaning solution first and see how it works.

There is a wide range of cleaning solutions available on the market today. If you have plants around your home, you should use a cleaning solution that is eco-friendly and non toxic to help prevent damage to them. Otherwise, you can use any all purpose cleaner compatible with pressure washers.

Steps to Pressure Wash Stucco

There’s only a couple of steps you need to take when you pressure wash stucco. You wash and then you rinse. However, little details I’ll talk about below can help you do the job more effectively and safely.

Step 1:

Give your stucco a good soaping using a multi-purpose pressure washing detergent. Using the black tip nozzle, spray the surface starting from the bottom and then working towards the top. You do this to prevent streaking from dirty water and soap that falls down. Make sweeping horizontal passes as you work through sections of the stucco. Stand approximately 2 feet away as you hold the pressure washer gun and wand. Let the detergent do its thing for 5-10 minutes, but do not let any areas dry out.

Pressure washer nozzles are universally color coded. The black nozzle is the soaker nozzle. It has the lowest pressure discharge and the widest spray pattern, making it ideal for suds.

Step 2:

Rinse off the detergent from the stucco. Do this by switching and spray with a white nozzle. Start from the top and work your way to the bottom using horizontal passes. Work in manageable sections.

The white nozzle will provide a little more water pressure. It has a smaller orifice, which allows for a more powerful and focused spray pattern. Be careful here. You might want to do a test patch spray first. Given the delicate nature of stucco, be sure you won’t damage the stucco surface. It’s unlikely, but you never know. Better to be safe than sorry.

If needed, attach an extension or a telescoping wand for hard to reach stucco surfaces. If you’re pressure washing a two-story house, you don’t want to be standing on a ladder and spraying. The white nozzle will exert a little more pressure than the black nozzle and you’ll feel a recoil. It’s possible to lose your balance while standing on a ladder and pressure washing.

How to Handle Heavy Stains

If your stucco has any sections that are heavily stained, you will want to use a rotating brush attachment on it after the cleaning solution has had a chance to soak. This will help work out the stain. 

If you have a lot of spots that require a rotating brush, make sure you invest in a quality one to save you both time and the hassle of needing a new brush.

Hire a Professional

If pressure washing your entire house is not your idea of a fun way to spend your weekend, you can always hire a professional to handle the job.

A professional pressure washer will have the expertise to do the job quickly, efficiently, and safely. 

Final Thoughts

Stucco is a very expensive kind of siding for houses. You want to make sure it’s taken care of properly. A pressure washer can help you keep your stucco walls and other surfaces clean and looking new. Compared to other ways to clean stucco, pressure washing is easier and faster. Just follow the simple instructions provided and you’ll wrap up this cleaning task in no time!

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