Know Which Surfaces to Avoid When Pressure Washing a Store Exterior

Maintaining a clean store exterior is crucial for creating a positive first impression and attracting customers. A well-kept façade can enhance curb appeal and reflect the professionalism and care of the business. One of the most effective methods for cleaning exteriors is pressure washing, which uses high-pressure water to remove dirt, grime, and stains.

Pressure washing is widely used for its efficiency and thoroughness in cleaning surfaces. However, it is also important to learn that not all surfaces can withstand the intense pressure that it provides. In this article, we will discuss the different surfaces that you need to avoid when pressure washing a store exterior. This will help you prevent damage and ensure optimal results.

Understanding Pressure Washing

Pressure washing is a powerful cleaning method that employs high-pressure water spray to remove dirt, mold, mildew, and other contaminants from surfaces. By using a motorized pump to increase water pressure, pressure washers can effectively clean a wide range of materials quickly and efficiently.

How It Works

Pressure washers operate by forcing water through a narrow nozzle at high speeds, creating a concentrated stream that can break down and wash away stubborn grime. The intensity of the water pressure can be adjusted based on the surface being cleaned and the type of debris present.

Typical PSI Ranges for Commercial Exteriors

The pressure settings typically range from 1,500 to 3,000 pounds per square inch (psi) for commercial exteriors. Lower pressure settings (around 1,500 to 2,000 psi) are often used for more delicate surfaces like painted walls or wood siding, while higher settings (2,500 to 3,000 psi) are suitable for tougher materials such as concrete or brick.

Common Mistakes Made During Pressure Washing

Despite its effectiveness, improper use of pressure washers can lead to significant damage. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Using Excessive Pressure: Applying too much pressure can strip paint, etch concrete, and damage softer materials.
  • Incorrect Nozzle Selection: Different nozzles are designed for specific tasks. Using the wrong nozzle can either reduce cleaning efficiency or cause harm to the surface.
  • Inadequate Preparation: Failing to properly prepare the surface, such as not removing loose debris or protecting nearby plants, can result in less effective cleaning and potential damage.
  • Ignoring Safety Measures: Not wearing protective gear or being careless with the equipment can lead to personal injury or unintended damage to the property.

Understanding these aspects of pressure washing is essential for achieving a clean, attractive store exterior while avoiding costly mistakes.

Surfaces to Avoid When Pressure Washing

Surfaces to Avoid When Pressure Washing

While pressure washing is an effective cleaning method for many surfaces, high-pressure water can easily damage some materials. Understanding which surfaces to avoid can help prevent costly repairs and ensure the longevity of your store’s exterior.

1. Windows and Glass

Due to the intense water pressure, pressure washing windows and glass surfaces poses a significant risk of breakage. Even sturdy glass can crack under the force, leading to expensive replacements. Additionally, water can seep into the window seals, causing internal water damage and potentially leading to mold growth.

Instead of pressure washing, use a gentle glass cleaner and a soft cloth or sponge for windows. For stubborn grime, a solution of water and mild detergent, applied with a squeegee, can effectively clean glass without the risk of damage.

2. Wooden Surfaces

Wood is a porous material that can easily absorb water. High-pressure washing can force water deep into the wood, causing it to warp or swell. Additionally, the pressure can strip paint or stain, leaving the wood exposed to the elements and prone to further damage. 

To clean wooden surfaces, use a low-pressure setting on your pressure washer or, better yet, a garden hose with a spray nozzle. Apply a wood cleaner and gently scrub with a soft brush. Rinse thoroughly with water and allow the wood to dry completely.

3. Painted Surfaces

Pressure washing painted surfaces can easily strip away paint, leading to uneven finishes and exposing the underlying material to damage. This is especially problematic for older paint or surfaces with multiple paint layers.

Use a low-pressure setting and a wide-angle nozzle when cleaning painted surfaces. Hold the nozzle at a distance and angle to reduce the impact of pressure. Alternatively, consider hand-washing these areas with a mild detergent and a soft brush to preserve the paint.

4. Aged Brick and Mortar

Older brick and mortar are often more fragile and can be easily eroded by the force of high-pressure water. This can lead to crumbling mortar and weakened brick structures, compromising the integrity of the building. Use a low-pressure setting and a fan spray nozzle to clean aged brick and mortar. Apply a brick-safe detergent and gently scrub with a brush. Rinse with water at low pressure to avoid damaging the masonry.

5. Decorative Details and Signage

Decorative details and signage, especially those made from softer materials or with intricate designs, can be easily damaged by high-pressure washing. The force of the water can dislodge or break delicate parts, ruining the aesthetic appeal. 

Clean decorative details and signage using a soft cloth or sponge with a mild cleaning solution. For hard-to-reach areas, use a soft-bristled brush. If pressure washing is necessary, use the lowest pressure setting and maintain a safe distance to avoid direct impact on delicate features.

Recognizing and avoiding these vulnerable surfaces can help effectively maintain the cleanliness and appearance of your store exterior without causing unintended damage.

Alternative Cleaning Techniques

electrician and general worker washing the floor

When pressure washing is not suitable, alternative cleaning techniques can effectively maintain the appearance of your store exterior without causing damage. These methods are particularly useful for delicate or sensitive surfaces.

Soft Washing

Soft washing is a cleaning method that uses low-pressure water combined with special cleaning solutions to gently clean surfaces. Unlike pressure washing, soft washing is less likely to cause damage to delicate materials. The cleaning solutions used in soft washing are designed to break down dirt, mold, and mildew, allowing the water to rinse them away easily.

Soft washing is ideal for surfaces that are vulnerable to high pressure, such as:

  • Roofs, especially those with shingles
  • Painted surfaces
  • Wooden exteriors
  • Stucco and delicate masonry

Soft washing is also effective for cleaning areas with extensive mold or algae growth, as the cleaning solutions help to kill and remove these organisms.

Manual Cleaning

Manual cleaning involves using hand tools and cleaning solutions to clean surfaces gently. 

Essential tools include:

  • Soft-bristled brushes
  • Sponges and cloths
  • Buckets
  • Garden hoses with spray nozzles
  • Mild detergents and cleaning solutions

For sensitive areas, it’s important to use gentle techniques to avoid damage:

  • Spot Cleaning: Use a sponge or cloth to apply a mild cleaning solution directly to spots or stains. Gently scrub in a circular motion.
  • Brushing: Use a soft-bristled brush to clean textured surfaces, such as brick or stucco. Avoid scrubbing too hard to prevent erosion of the material.
  • Rinsing: Rinse surfaces with a garden hose equipped with a spray nozzle, using low pressure to wash away dirt and cleaning solutions.

Recommendations for Eco-Friendly Cleaning Solutions

Choosing eco-friendly cleaning solutions is not only better for the environment but also safer for your building materials and surrounding landscaping. Here are some recommendations:

  • Vinegar and Water: A mixture of vinegar and water is effective for cutting through grime and is safe for most surfaces.
  • Baking Soda Paste: A paste made from baking soda and water can help remove stains and is gentle on surfaces.
  • Plant-Based Cleaners: Look for commercial cleaners labeled as biodegradable or plant-based. These are formulated to be effective while minimizing environmental impact.
  • Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is a natural cleaner that can help remove stains and leave surfaces smelling fresh.

Usage Tips

  • Always test a small, inconspicuous area before using any cleaning solution to ensure it does not damage the surface.
  • Rinse surfaces thoroughly after cleaning to remove any residue.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can harm both the environment and the surfaces being cleaned.

By utilizing soft washing, manual cleaning, and eco-friendly cleaning solutions, you can effectively and responsibly maintain the cleanliness of your store’s exterior.

Hiring Professional Cleaning Services

Worker cleaning the street sidewalk

Maintaining a clean exterior can be intimidating for many store owners, especially when dealing with large areas or delicate surfaces. Hiring professional cleaning services can be a practical and efficient solution. Here’s why:

Advantages of Professional Cleaning Services

  • Expertise and Experience: Professional cleaning services bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the task. Trained technicians understand the intricacies of different surfaces and the most effective cleaning methods for each. They can identify potential problem areas and address them with precision, ensuring your store exterior is cleaned thoroughly and safely.
  • Specialized Equipment: Professionals can access specialized equipment that might be too costly or impractical for individual store owners to purchase. High-quality pressure washers, soft washing systems, and other advanced tools enable them to handle various cleaning tasks efficiently. This equipment, combined with their knowledge, ensures a superior cleaning outcome.
  • Time and Convenience: Hiring a professional service saves time and effort. Managing a store involves numerous responsibilities, and adding exterior cleaning to the list can be overwhelming. Professionals can complete the job quickly and effectively, allowing you to focus on running your business. Regular cleaning schedules can be arranged, ensuring your store always looks its best.
  • Safety and Risk Management: Pressure washing and other cleaning methods can pose safety risks if not handled correctly. Professionals are trained to use equipment safely and know proper techniques to avoid accidents or injuries. They also carry insurance, which means that any damage or mishaps are covered, providing peace of mind.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Service

Here are some tips on how to choose the right cleaning service:

  1. Research and Reviews: Start by researching local cleaning services and reading reviews from other businesses. Look for companies with positive feedback and a track record of quality service. Recommendations from other store owners can also be valuable.
  2. Certifications and Training: Ensure that the cleaning service you choose has the necessary certifications and training. Technicians should be knowledgeable about different cleaning techniques and safety protocols. Certification from recognized industry bodies is a good indicator of their professionalism.
  3. Customized Services: Every store exterior is unique, and cleaning needs can vary. Choose a service that offers customized cleaning plans tailored to your specific requirements. Discuss your needs and expectations with the service provider and ensure they can meet them.
  4. Eco-Friendly Practices: If environmental responsibility is important to you, inquire about the cleaning service’s use of eco-friendly products and practices. Many professional services now offer green cleaning options that are effective and environmentally sustainable.
  5. Cost and Value: While cost is an important consideration, it should not be the only factor in your decision. Compare quotes from multiple services, but also consider the value offered. A slightly higher price may be justified by better service, superior results, and the added benefits of expertise and convenience.

Hiring professional cleaning services can be a smart investment in maintaining your store’s exterior. With their expertise, specialized equipment, and ability to save you time and effort, professionals can ensure your store always looks inviting and well-maintained.

Preventive Maintenance and Regular Cleaning

Preventive Maintenance and Regular Cleaning

Regular preventive maintenance and routine cleaning can prevent the buildup of dirt and grime, reducing the need for frequent pressure washing. Here are some practical tips to help maintain your store exterior between major cleanings and an ideal schedule for routine maintenance.

Tips for Maintaining the Store Exterior Between Major Cleanings

  • Regular Sweeping and Dusting: Regularly sweep sidewalks, entryways, and other high-traffic areas to remove dirt, leaves, and debris. Dust windowsills, ledges, and other surfaces to prevent the accumulation of grime.
  • Prompt Spill and Stain Removal: Address spills and stains as soon as they occur to prevent them from setting in. Use appropriate cleaning solutions for the specific type of spill and follow recommended cleaning methods for the affected surface.
  • Gutter and Drain Maintenance: Ensure gutters and drains are clear of leaves, dirt, and debris to prevent water overflow and potential water damage to the building’s exterior. Regularly inspect and clean gutters, especially during and after the fall season.
  • Plant and Landscape Management: Maintain the landscaping around your store by trimming plants, bushes, and trees regularly. Overgrown vegetation can deposit leaves and dirt on the building, while roots can cause damage to foundations and sidewalks.
  • Window and Door Inspection: Regularly inspect windows and doors for signs of wear, damage, or leaks. Clean windows with mild detergent and water, and make necessary repairs to seals and frames to prevent water intrusion and damage.
  • Seasonal Preparations: Prepare your store exterior for seasonal changes. In the winter, remove snow and ice promptly to prevent damage and ensure customer safety. In the spring and summer, power wash sidewalks and entryways to remove salt and grime buildup.

Schedule for Routine Cleaning to Prevent Buildup

Daily Cleaning

  • Sweep entryways, sidewalks, and high-traffic areas.
  • Empty trash cans and clean surrounding areas.

Weekly Cleaning

  • Dust windowsills, ledges, and outdoor fixtures.
  • Inspect and clean windows and glass doors.
  • Check and clean outdoor seating and decorative elements.

Monthly Cleaning

  • Inspect and clear gutters and downspouts.
  • Wash exterior surfaces with a garden hose or low-pressure washer to remove dirt and grime.
  • Trim plants and bushes around the building.
  • Inspect the exterior for any signs of damage or wear.

Seasonal Cleaning

  • Spring: Perform a thorough cleaning of all exterior surfaces, including pressure washing where needed. Check for and repair any winter damage.
  • Summer: Focus on maintaining clean, inviting outdoor areas, including seating and decorative elements. Monitor and manage plant growth.
  • Fall: Clean gutters and downspouts to prepare for winter. Remove leaves and debris regularly. Perform a final thorough cleaning before winter.
  • Winter: Remove snow and ice from sidewalks and entryways regularly. Inspect for and address any potential damage from harsh weather conditions.

These preventive maintenance tips and regular cleaning schedules can help keep your store exterior looking pristine year-round. Consistent care enhances the appearance of your store and prolongs the life of exterior surfaces. It also reduces the need for frequent and intensive cleaning methods like pressure washing.


Maintaining a clean and attractive store exterior is essential for making a positive impression on customers. By understanding the proper use of pressure washing, knowing which surfaces to avoid, and employing alternative cleaning techniques, you can effectively care for your store. Regular preventive maintenance and routine cleaning will keep your exterior looking its best year-round. For professional assistance, contact Custom Painting, Inc. at 925-294-8062 or use the contact form on our website.