Yes, you can use your pressure washer to remove rust and this guide will take you through the process.
People use pressure washers to remove dirt, grime, and other stuck-on debris from brick, concrete, and even their vehicles and boats. When you look at the list of items you can clean efficiently with a good high-quality pressure washer, you might be surprised by some of the things on that list.
But when it comes to the types of dirt and grime that can be removed with a pressure washer, what does this include? For instance, will a pressure washer remove rust from metal so that it is rust-free and clean once again? The answer to this question is yes, as long as you use the right pressure and the right tools.
First Things First
Rust can be found just about anywhere, from the siding on your home to the concrete walkways or driveway in your yard. Under normal circumstances, it can be difficult and time-consuming to remove rust, but with a pressure washer, that is not the case.
Pressure washers make removing rust a lot simpler and faster, but there are still some “rules” that you need to follow to make the endeavor successful. First of all, you’ll need a pressure washer with a PSI (pounds per square inch) number of at least 2000, maybe even 3000. Since most household pressure washers have this type of pressure, it should be easy to find.
What Causes Metal to Rust?
Simply put, metal objects start to rust due to one thing: the oxidation process. When they’re new, metal objects are nice and shiny, but because oxidation occurs, metal objects both in and outside of your home can start to corrode. This can happen to everything from small appliances to walkways in your yard, and everything in between. The trick to using a pressure washer to get rid of rust is a two-step process because first you have to eliminate the rust, and then you have to make sure that it never comes back.
Oxidation simply means corrosion, and it is what happens when water and air mix. Therefore, it is unlikely that any of your indoor appliances will ever rust if you keep the appliances dry and the home at a comfortable temperature.
Check out our article on how to clean decking.
Once you’ve chosen either an electric or gas-powered pressure washer that provides a pressure of at least 2000 PSI, you’ll want to choose the right nozzle next. All nozzles are universally color-coded and range from 0-degree angle to 65-degree angle nozzles. The green nozzle, which is made at a 25-degree angle, is a good place to start. This nozzle is in the middle of the five nozzle options, so it’s mid-range when it comes to pressure and power.
One thing that you’ll want to do is test a small part of the rusted object to make sure that particular nozzle doesn’t damage it. Start with the green (25-degree) nozzle and only use the yellow (15-degree) or red (0-degree) nozzles if the green one doesn’t seem strong enough. Remember that the red nozzle is the most powerful, so you’ll have to make sure that it doesn’t chip any item that is made of either concrete or brick. This is why testing a small area first is such a good idea.
If you’re planning to remove rust from a metal shed, you certainly won’t need a red or yellow nozzle. In fact, the green, or 25-degree nozzle, will likely be the strongest one that you’ll need for a metal shed, but you should still test a small area to make sure that one is powerful enough without being too strong.
What Chemicals Do You Need?
When you’re preparing to use your pressure washer to eliminate rust, ask yourself if you’re going to remove rust alone or rust and paint. The answer to this question will determine what cleaning materials you’ll need to get the job done. If you’re going to be removing rust only, some hydrochloric acid mixed with some water is a good choice. To strip away paint, you’ll need to buy an over-the-counter paint stripper to use in your pressure washer.
Both hydrochloric acid (even when mixed with water) and paint stripper can burn or damage your skin, so extra care should be used when working with these materials. If either of these materials gets on your skin, wash it off very well with water. If the burns are serious or extremely painful, you should definitely see a physician.
If you’re worried that the hydrochloric acid may get onto your lawn, you can always dilute it by mixing one part baking soda to ten parts water to neutralize the solution. When you’re finished using the hydrochloric acid mixture, place a sprinkler on your lawn and run it for at least an hour to prevent the runoff from damaging your grass.
What to Do When You’re Done
Once you’ve removed the rust from the item you’re cleaning, you’ll want to let the item dry completely before using something that can protect it from future rust. Apply the following three materials, and make sure that each coat dries completely before applying the next one. Apply the materials in this order:
Fortunately, you can purchase all three of these at any home-improvement or hardware store, and they are usually very inexpensive. You’ll also likely have some leftover that you can save and use for later projects.
Rust can be found in numerous places in your yard, including pipes, faucets and spigots, lawn decorations, and just about anything else made out of metal. It can also be found indoors to a lesser degree, so knowing how to get rid of rust is important.
One of the most important tips for using your pressure washer to eliminate rust is to use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as goggles, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and maybe even an apron. Remember that when it comes to using materials such as hydrochloric acid and paint stripper, there is no such thing as being too careful.
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