Can a Pressure Washer Remove Rust?

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Rust can weaken metals over time, and it isn’t aesthetically pleasing either. Fortunately you can use a pressure washer to get rid of it. In this article I will walk you through step by step how to do this.

A pressure washer is one of the most effective ways to remove rust. Use a 3000 PSI pressure washer with a yellow, 15 degree nozzle and it will eliminate rust from metal.

There are a lot of ways to get rid of rust. Baking soda and lemon is one method for example. But for large areas, a pressure washer offers a faster, more efficient solution.

How to Pressure Wash Rust

You will need a 3000 PSI pressure washer. I recommend Greenworks pressure washer as it is efficient and durable. If you prefer a gas model instead, I suggest the Generac 8896.

Step 1: Safety preparation

Wear safety goggles and gloves. Wear long sleeves, pants and shoes to shield your arms and legs.

Get a tarp or drop cloth. Cover windows, doors, furniture, plants and other objects nearby. 3000 PSI is a lot of force and it can cause serious damage, so cover everything you don’t want to wash.

Step 2: Prepare the pressure washer

There are two ways to approach this: wash the rust away with water or use a rust remover cleaning solution.

If you decide to use only water, prepare the pressure washer. Set it to 3000 PSI and put the yellow, 15 degree nozzle on. You can also use this nozzle to remove paint.

If you want to use a rust remover, I recommend Evapo Rust. Follow the package instructions, apply it on the rust.

Do not put the rust remover cleaner in the pressure washer soap dispenser unless the product says it is allowed. The mixture could damage the spray nozzle.

If your rust cleaner is compatible with pressure washers, put it in the dispenser.

Step 3: Wash the rust

First, do a spray test. Aim the nozzle at a discreet area. Set the nozzle at a distance of 18 inches off the rusted surface.

If the spray removes rust, proceed. If it doesn’t, move the spray about 12 inches from the surface. This is the closest you should go and should be enough to get rid of the rust.

Keep the distance steady and spray back and forth. Overlap each stroke. Move the spray to another area once rust has been removed. Let the surface dry completely. To prevent rust from appearing again, use a rust inhibitor. If you want to paint it, make sure it is properly protected.

Is it Safe to Pressure Wash Rusted Metal?

Pressure washers will not damage metal as long as it is used properly. Unlike stucco and other delicate surfaces, metal can handle pressurized water well.

If this is your first time to use a pressure washer on rusty metal, here are some tips.

In most cases, 3000 PSI and a 15 degree nozzle is all you need. For heavy rust, you might have to go up to 4000 PSI, but in my experience, 3000 is enough.

Do not use the red nozzle. Increase the PSI if rust won’t come off, but avoid the red nozzle. At 0 degrees, it can tear a hole in the surface.

Keep the spray gun moving. Metal is durable, but too much water pressure can cause damage. So once the rust is gone, move the spray nozzle to the next section.

Which Pressure Washer is Best for Rust Removal?

There are two choices: electric and gas pressure washers. Which to use depends on your needs.

I have tried both and they are equally effective. Provided it is at least 3000 PSI then you can use it to pressure wash rust.

Electric pressure washers are cheaper and require less maintenance. However, movement is limited by the length of its cord.

You can get around it by using an extension cord, but it can be unwieldy in large areas. If you don’t need to move around a lot while washing, electric pressure washers are ideal.

Gas pressure washers are more powerful and you don’t need a power outlet. But these models are more expensive and of course require gas.

If you regularly clean large areas, a gas pressure washer is the best choice. You won’t be slowed down by a cord and can be confident it has enough power.

When is the Best Time to Pressure Wash Rust?

The best time is as soon as possible. The longer an object rusts, the harder it gets to remove.

Ideally you should pressure wash in spring or summer. The surface will dry faster and it’s more comfortable for you as well.

But it is still possible to remove old rust stains with a pressure washer. It will probably take more time but it can be done.

For old rusty surfaces, you will need a rust remover. Apply it on the surface following the product instructions. Next, pressure wash thoroughly but carefully.

Keep the distance between the spray nozzle and the surface at 12-18 inches. The yellow nozzle is ideal here too. Increase the PSI to 4000 if rust won’t come off.

DIY vs. Professional Rust Removal Service

Anyone can learn how to pressure wash, but is it better to hire a professional pressure washer service to remove rust?

It depends on the situation.

If you already have a pressure washer, I recommend the DIY approach. There is no need to pay for this service if you know how to pressure wash.

Just use the right nozzle and PSI and you’ll be able to get the job done. You might have to use a rust remover but they are widely available.

If you are new to pressure washers and worried about damaging the surface, hiring a professional might be worth it. If you are busy and need to do a lot of rust removal, paying someone to do it might be better.

If you are going to hire a professional, look for those with a proven track record. Check their equipment and don’t hesitate to ask questions about the process.

Pressure Washing Rust vs. Other Methods

There are other ways to eliminate rust, so why use pressure washers? I can give you a lot of reasons but it comes down to the following.

Efficiency. A pressure washer gets the job done every time. With the right nozzle, water supply and pressure, it will take out rust.

Safe. A pressure washer will not damage the surface when used correctly. It’s going to eliminate the rust but the metal will be left intact.

Versatile. Because pressure washers can use different nozzles, you can use it to wash not just rusted metal but also stucco, concrete, asphalt stains, decks and more.

Pressure washers are versatile power tools. Whether you opt for electric or gas, it’s going to make cleaning and maintenance easier.

Fast. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I am sure that removing rust by hand is slower than a pressure washer.

While the focus here is on rust, these benefits also apply to other surfaces and materials. You get more done in less time with a pressure washer compared to other methods.

Tips for Using a Pressure Washer

Do not forger to wear safety gear. I always recommend this whenever you use a pressure washer. But even more so here because rust requires higher PSI.

Safety goggles are a must. I also suggest gloves, pants and a shirt that covers your arms. A thick pair of shoes to protect you from the wet surface and debris is essential.

Check your pressure washer before using it. If it’s electric, ensure the cord is securely plugged. Keep the cord length in mind in case you have to cover a large area. If you are using a gas pressure washer, check the tank if it is filled.

Pressure washing large areas. Wash in sections or segments. Focus on one small area and when done, proceed to the next.