Will Pressure Washer Remove Paint?

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We use pressure washers for cleaning, but it is also an effective paint stripper. Tearing away old paint can be a tedious process, but a pressure washer makes it quick and easy.

Pressure washers can remove paint on wood, concrete and other materials. For the best results, use a 2000-4000 PSI pressure washer with a 15 or 25 degree spray nozzle.

How to Strip Paint with a Pressure Washer

I am going to show you step by step how to strip paint off. It is a straightforward process, but you’ll have an easier time if you prepare all the required tools and materials first.

What You’ll Need

Step 1: Prepare the area

Safety first: wear safety goggles, gloves, shoes and a long sleeve shirt.

Remove all objects in the area you are going to pressure wash. This includes plants, garden furniture, bikes, toys, etc. Cover items with a drop cloth if they cannot be moved.

Sweep debris off the surface. By removing dirt, dust, etc. it gets easier for the pressure washer to strip paint off.

Step 2: Get the detergent ready

Decide if you are going to use a detergent or not. If not, go ahead and prepare the pressure washer.

If you are going to apply detergent, prepare it now. Combine the detergent with water according to the instructions provided by the product.

Step 3: Set up the pressure washer

If you are stripping paint off concrete, use a 15 degree nozzle. If it is wood, stucco or other light materials, a 25 degree tip is better.

For concrete, I suggest 3000 PSI. If it is old paint you might need to use 4000 PSI, but do that only if the paint doesn’t peel off. You can use these levels to remove paint on various types of metal. For metal paint, use a 15 degree nozzle.

For wood I recommend 2000 PSI. Do not go any higher because the pressure can damage the surface. Use a 25 degree tip.

Step 4: Wash

Turn the pressure wash on. Test it first on an inconspicuous location. If it looks fine, point the spray gun downwards 12-18 inches from the painted surface.

Spray back and forth in a smooth, sweeping movement. Let your strokes overlap.

Do not let the nozzle linger on one area for too long. Once the paint has been removed, move on. Otherwise the pressure washer could scratch the surface. This is particularly true for softwood and stucco.

Divide the area into sections. This makes pressure washing large areas more manageable.

Step 5: Scrub and Scrape

In most instances the pressure washer will strip all of the paint off. If you see some paint chips, use a paint scraper, scrub brush or sandpaper. You can apply thinner on these spots to make them easier to remove.

Scrape lightly if you are removing paint from wood. Too much pressure can cause damage. It should not take a lot of effort as the wash has probably loosened the paint. You can apply more force if it is concrete.

Step 6: Let it dry

After scraping you can let the surface dry. Or you can give it another wash. You can use a 25 degree tip since you are already done removing paint.

Let the surface dry for 24-48 hours before repainting. Once the surface is ready you can go ahead with the paint job.

Are Pressure Washers Safe for Paint Removal?

Pressure washers are among the most effective tools for stripping paint. In fact you can also use it to remove asphalt oil stains.

A pressure washer will not cause damage if you use the correct PSI and spray nozzle.

PSI. For concrete, metal, asphalt, driveways, sidewalks and other hard surfaces, 2000-4000 PSI is fine.

In some cases 2000 PSI might be too low and you need to start at 3000 PSI. But to be safe you can opt for 2000 PSI and increase it if needed.

For wood, 2000 PSI is the maximum I would go with. Anything higher could cause damage. Of course if it is hardwood you might go with 2500 PSI. but I would go with 2000 PSI if possible.

Spray nozzle. Use 25 degrees for wood and 15 degrees for concrete. Do not use the 0 degree tip because it will tear through the surface.

Can Pressure Washers Remove Any Type of Paint?

Most paints used in houses today are water or latex based, which is easy to remove.

Oil based paints take more effort to strip. A pressure washer can do it but it’s going to take more washing. You also need an oil paint detergent or cleaning solution for this.

You can tell the difference between oil-based and latex/water-based paints by their appearance. Latex and water-based paint is more transparent and comes off easier.

Why Should You Use Pressure Washer to Strip Paint?

Stripping paint by hand is tedious and difficult. Whether it is by scrubbing, wiping or scraping, it takes too much time. Manual removal often leaves paint chips or you could accidentally damage the surface.

A pressure washer strips paint quickly and efficiently. It takes less effort and gets it done faster. As long as you use the right nozzle and PSI, it will strip paint.

What Pressure Washer Type is Best for Paint Removal?

There are two options: electric pressure washers and gas pressure washers. There are pros and cons to both, and which to use depends on your needs.

Electric pressure washers are more affordable and require less maintenance. However, the electrical cord limits its movement.

Gas pressure washers are often more powerful and you can move the machine freely. While ideal for large jobs, they cost more and need additional maintenance.

If you need to strip paint in small, confined areas, an electric pressure washer might be the better option.

But if you have to do large scale cleaning on a vast location, use a gas pressure washer. It is easier to move around and they are built for heavy duty work.

Tips for Stripping Concrete Paint with a Pressure Washer

There is some debate whether to use a 15 or 25 degree nozzle. You’ve probably heard some say a 15 degree tip is better, but others suggest 25. So which should you use?

In my experience, a 15 degree nozzle with a 3000 PSI gets the job done. For stubborn paint you might have to go up to 4000 PSI.

15 degree spray nozzles are designed to strip paint which is why they are very effective. But if you are worried about damaging the surface, start with a 25 degree tip instead.

A 25 degree tip might be able to remove light paint. Or you can use the 15 degree nozzle to strip paint and a 25 degree tip for rinsing.

Make sure there is sufficient water supply. An easy way to test this is to fill a 5 gallon bucket with water. If it takes more than two minutes to fill, the water pressure is too low.

How to Safely Strip Wood Paint with Pressure Washers

Wood is more delicate than concrete so you have to be careful. Too much pressure and the water could strip the wood surface along with the paint.

Use only a 25 degree nozzle and 2000 PSI. For delicate wood you can try 1500-1800 PSI. Increase it to 2000 PSI if needed but no more than that. I don’t recommend 15 degree tips on wood because it is too risky.

Start spraying 18 inches away from the wood surface. Move closer to a maximum distance of 12 inches. This should be enough to strip the paint off. You might have to scrap a few paint chips afterwards though.