After the longest, coldest winter in memory, spring is in full swing. And, as we Floridians know, with the birds and the bees we get the pollen and the leaves. • Great for a rhyme but not so much for the exterior of your house, which can become coated with the yellow-green pollen and other dirt. There's really no better way to clean it up than with a good, old-fashioned pressure-washing, which not only improves your home's curb appeal but also helps to maintain and protect your investment. • For removing dirt, debris, mold and mildew from a home's exterior, you'll want to use a commercial-grade, gas-powered, light- to medium-duty pressure washer (1,500 to 2,500 pounds per square inch or psi). These machines are available for rent from home improvement centers, paint stores or rental outlets and can be used for a wide variety of exterior cleaning projects. They require no special expertise and are generally user-friendly. • Following the tips below will help you get the best results, keep you safe and give you the best bang for your buck. Will McCormick, special to the Times
>> When renting a pressure washer, discuss your project with the expert at the counter. Make clear what you plan to do so you can get the appropriate machine and specific instructions — and maybe even a tip or two.
>> Most rentals come with a standard package, which includes the machine, at least one pressure hose, a gun with 3-foot extension and four spray tips that concentrate the pressure for different needs.
The white (40-degree) tip has the least amount of impact and is excellent for cleaning gutters, washing windows, rinsing and other sensitive jobs.
The green (25-degree) tip is for general washing purposes and will suit most projects, including cleaning a fence, deck, asphalt shingles and most house siding.
The yellow (15-degree) tip is for heavy-duty cleaning projects and is best suited for concrete or stone surfaces, including pool decks, stone patios, driveways, pavers and tile roofs.
The red (0-degree) tip is the most concentrated spray tip and is not recommended for wood or more sensitive applications. It is generally used for stripping paint or for heavy-duty cleaning on concrete or metal surfaces.
As a rule, it is always best to start with a white or green tip and to test the pressure 6 to 8 feet from the surface you are cleaning. If you find that you need more pressure, adjust the tip and distance accordingly.
>> Specific accessories are often available at little or no additional cost and can dramatically improve your results, as well as make things a lot easier. These include longer or telescoping extensions for hard-to-reach areas, extra pressure hoses and a chemical-injector and tip.
>> Never pressure-wash from a ladder, as the high pressure can cause you to become unstable. Instead, use longer or telescoping extensions, which can reach higher surfaces, such as gutters and drip edges, second-story windows, eaves and soffits.
>> The chemical injector and its corresponding (black) spray tip allow you to apply a variety of cleaning solutions, including siding wash or bleach, directly through the pressure washer. If you do use a chemical injector, always ask the rental expert for specific instructions, work in small sections and protect surrounding areas and plants by covering them and/or lightly spraying them with clean water before and after chemical application.
>> Most important, always exercise extreme caution when using a pressure washer. The high-pressure stream of water put out by these machines can cause severe injury if it comes in contact with skin. Always keep yourself and others out of harm's way and wear appropriate clothing, footwear and eye protection.
Will McCormick is a freelance writer based in St. Petersburg.