Can Pressure Washers Remove Paint? (Yes, Here’s How)

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A pressure washer is not only for cleaning cars, surfaces and decks. It is also one of the most efficient ways to strip paint. Before repainting, you have to remove the old flaky, peeling paint first. This is where a pressure washer can really help.

A pressure washer can strip paint from concrete, wood and other surfaces. For the best results, use the yellow, 15 degree spray nozzle and stand 12-18 inches away. The pressure washer should have 2000-4000 PSI at 4 GPM.

So yes, a pressure washer can remove paint. But it has to be done properly. This post shows how it is done step by step.

What You Will Need

Pressure washer: It must be 2000-4000 PSI and 4 GPM.

You can use an electric pressure washer such as the Sun Joe SPX3000.

If you prefer a gas pressure washer, our pick is the Simpson Cleaning PS60843 PowerShot.

You might get away with a lower PSI and GPM on wood surfaces, but for concrete, get 4000 PSI and 4 GPM.

Yellow spray nozzle. There are 5 common spray tips or nozzles: white, green, yellow, red and black. Yellow is the best for stripping paint.

Safety gear. Safety glasses, boots or thick shoes, long pants and a long sleeved shirt. A pressure washer can cause injury if you are not careful. For these reasons, always wear safety gear.

Tarp, canvas or other materials to cover fixtures and other areas.

This video clearly shows how to remove paint with a pressure washer.

Step 1

Inspect your pressure washer. If it is gas-powered, make sure it has sufficient fuel. If you have an electric model, the power plug has to be secure. If you haven’t already, take the pressure washer outdoors. Get an extension cord is necessary. Put the yellow spray nozzle on the pressure washer.

Tip: paint peels off easier when the weather is warm. You don’t have to wait for the scorching heat (that is not good for pressure washer engines), as warmth is all that’s needed.

Step 2

Wear your safety gear. At the very least, wear safety Goggles. Yellow nozzles are more powerful than the green nozzle used for home cleaning, so more protection is needed. If you really want to be careful, wear a full face mask.

Put thick gloves on to protect your hands from cuts. A long sleeve shirt will safeguard your arms and long pants for your legs. You can wear boots or closed toe shoes, it’s your choice.

Step 3

Prepare the area. Cover nearby fixtures with a tarp or similar material. If you are removing paint from one side of a wall, cover the other sides. Do the same with windows and doors.

The next step is to clear debris in the area. A pressure washer can generate a lot of force capable of sending dirt and other debris flying. This can cause injury to you and others nearby.

By removing as much debris as possible, you minimize the risk. Close all doors and windows nearby. Make certain there are no pets or people near the surface you will spray..

Step 4

If you didn’t already put the yellow spray tip on, do it now. Stand 12-20 inches away from the painted area.

Hold the spray gun and wand. Point to a small spot on the surface. Spray to see if it removes the paint. If it works, you can start spraying the rest of the surface.

Aim at the surface and start spraying. Move the spray constantly, sweeping downward.

It is possible the pressure washer will not remove all the paint. If some paint remains, you have two choices: spray again or sand it off. After the paint is removed, wait for the surface to dry before painting on it. You may want to rinse the surface after pressure washing.

Tips for Effective Pressure Washing

Plan ahead. Know what type of surface it is and what paint. You can then determine how long th job can take and what pressure washer will work best.

Take breaks. Summer obviously is the best time for painting projects. But the heat can take its toll on you and your pressure washer. Allow yourself to relax and give the pressure washer engine time to cool down.

If you are stripping a lot of paint, divide it into sections. For a large wall, you may divide into sections. Work on one at a time.

Do not allow the spray nozzle to rest on any spot. Keep it moving as it peels the paint off. If the nozzle lingers on an area for too long, the pressure might scratch the surface.

Keep the pressure on. If the pressure drops, check the pressure washer and adjust it.

Can Pressure Washers Remove Paint on Any Surface?

A pressure washer can strip paint on wood, concrete, vinyl, aluminum, metal and other surfaces. You can use it on hard surfaces like sidewalks, wood decks and any flat concrete surface.

If there is paint on the surface, a pressure washer can remove it. With enough PSI, GPM and the right spray nozzle, it can remove paint on stucco, masonry and others.

The type of paint you are removing can determine how long it will take. Latex and water-based are easy to remove LN. Oil-based pains take more time. That doesn’t mean a pressure washer can’t remove it, but it’s going to take longer.

There are three keys to re getting rid of paint effectively: PSI, GPM and the right spray nozzle. As explained earlier, 2000-4000 PSI is the ideal range for stripping paint.

Start at 2000 PSI and increase if necessary. Note that 2000 PSI is the minimum, so most likely you have to bump it up to 3000 or 4000 PSI.

As for the nozzle, just go with 15 degree yellow. Green and white are too light and red is too strong. Yellow is the right one for these jobs. If the paint is not peeling, increase the PSI

Can a Hot Pressure Washer Remove Paint?

Both can strip paint off surfaces. Hot pressure washers are more effective in peeling off thick oil-based paints and stains. Cold pressure washers are best used to remove mildew, dirt and thin layers of paint.

In many cases, cold pressure washers can get the job done. If the paint is based on latex or water, a cold pressure washer is going to work. Most commercial and industrial buildings use oil-based paints, so a hot pressure washer is better suited.

Whether you use a hot or cold one, it iss more effective than scraping or sanding. If you use a pressure washer correctly, it won’t damage the surface. In contrast, scraping or sanding by hand can lead to accidents.

A pressure washer is more efficient, cost effective and faster. You can get the job done faster and easir.

Which Pressure Washer Type is Best for Paint Removal?

Gas and electric pressure washers both work. As long as it has the right PSI, GPM and nozzle it will work. There might be some instances wherein an electric or gas model might be better though.

If you have to move around a lot, a gas pressure washer might be better. You can move the machine around without a power cord to limit your mobility. If you are going to be mostly in the same spot, an electric pressure washer will be fine.

Is Pressure Washing the Best Way to Strip Paint?

It is one of the most efficient. There are other options but overall it is hard to beat the convenience offered by a pressure washer.

A sharp knife works fine for stripping bits of paint. But it’s going to take forever to strip an entire wall. Using a knife for long periods will tire you out and you might scratch the surface by accident.

A pressure washer minimizes the possibility of errors. Standing several inches from the surface, you will clearly see the paint coming off.