Steamers vs. Pressure Washers: Which Is Best?

Choose the right option for your cleaning needs

When attacking a new cleaning job, you need to plan out the equipment and supplies needed to get the job done. Part of that is deciding whether you should use a steamer or a pressure washer to clean. Each of these tools offers different advantages in different situations, so let’s breakdown the benefits of each to help you choose the right tool for the job.

Advantages of Steamers

Steamers simply heat water past the boiling point, allowing you to focus the jet of steam on whatever surface needs to be cleaned. Steam is an incredibly effective sanitizer, with the extreme heat killing nearly all organic waste and bacteria. This all-natural solution is safe to use on surfaces where children will play or in animal enclosures.

In addition to the sanitization, steamers are also cost-efficient to operate. They have a reduced water usage – as low as 0.08 gallons per minute – meaning that you’ll need less water on site. It also means you can practically eliminate concerns about wastewater and runoff during cleaning jobs that use a steamer.

Plus, since you can rely on the power of steam to sanitize, you can eliminate the cost of detergents on jobs performed with a steamer. And, because it sanitizes without detergents or chemical solutions, there’s no risk of allergic reactions or exposure.

Click here to watch this great video of a steamer detailing a car from “Jay Leno’s Garage.”

Advantages of Pressure Washers

Pressure washers, on the other hand, offer far more brute force to the cleaning arsenal, which can be incredibly beneficial on some jobs. Caked-on mud, grease and grime can be difficult to remove, but a pressure washer delivers a concentrated stream of high-velocity water, applying force and moisture to loosen and remove the most persistent dirt.

Detergent use is another advantage for pressure washers. Some cleaning jobs require specialized formulas to help ensure a complete clean. This can range from degreasers or asphalt removers to sanitizing solutions and paint removers.

Finally, pressure washers also provide additional reach, making it easier to clean in hard-to-reach places. This can be incredibly beneficial on a variety of projects, whether it’s pressure washing a tall semi trailer, spraying grime off the eaves of a roof, or cleaning the underside of a tractor. That reach also extends to penetrating power, as pressure washers can be used to break up stains and grime on concrete and other porous surfaces.

Pick the Right Tool for the Job

The type of cleaning project you have will often serve as the guide for whether steamers or pressure washers are the best option. For jobs where water access is limited or runoff is a concern, steamers offer an ideal solution. They are also great in areas where detergent use isn’t possible or where children or animals may be at risk from the use of chemicals.

Pressure washers, on the other hand, are great at handling heavily soiled surfaces, and can put powerful detergents to use to deliver a specialized clean. They can help to clean in hard-to-reach areas and can cover large areas quickly, as well, giving them an advantage on the largest cleaning jobs.

Get the Equipment You Need at WET

Whether you need a steamer or a pressure washer, you’ll find everything you need at WET. We carry Hotsy pressure washers and Optima steam cleaners, as well as a full line of detergents and accessories to help you get your cleaning jobs done quickly and efficiently. Learn more and get what you need by calling us at 865.525.1515 or stop in and see us today.




Personnel Safety: Working Smart and Staying Safe

Safety Month Highlight – Prevent Accidents with Training

Your pressure washing and cleaning equipment is powerful, and when used safely can make removing dirt and grime a breeze. However, unsafe handling and improper use by employees can lead to accidents and injuries – some severe or life-threatening. As we continue to recognize National Safety Month, an annual campaign of the National Safety Council, let’s take a closer look at some of the worst case scenarios that a bit of training and practicing proper safety could have prevented.

Approach Jobs with a Safety Focus

Before you start any project, it’s important to be mindful of your surroundings. Buried utility lines and overhead power lines are hazards of course, but sometimes a difficult setting can lead to unsafe decisions. For example, extra high ceilings can be difficult to reach, but there are right and wrong ways to approach the job – as one employee learned the hard way.

In one story from the archives, a young service tech volunteered to take care of replacing a worn hose connected to an overhead boom in a large factory setting. Since this was quite high up, and out of the reach of a man lift, the technician worked with another employee to lift the basket system with a forklift. However, this unstable setting led to the basket tipping, slamming into the wall and pinching the man’s arm between the basket and wall.

After-accident reporting found much of what you might expect – the forklift driver was untrained and the lift system was definitely not OSHA-approved. Plus, the whole plan had not been approved by either employees’ supervisor. No one involved had paid attention to safety protocols, and the costs were real – the company had an expensive workman’s compensation claim and the employee was left with permanent nerve damage.

Respect the Equipment

As we’ve often stated, the power of a pressure washer is intense. It can blast away dirt and grime, wash away oil and grease, and loosen asphalt and tar from industrial equipment. This high power is great at cleaning, but it’s important to also know the limitations of what surfaces it should be used on.

In one case, a new employee at a drilling company was working to clean up tools and the worksite at the end of a day on the job. The 5-gallon-per-minute, 5,000 PSI hot-water unit he was using was making fast work of all the mud, grime and oil, so it seemed like it would be a great idea to use the equipment to wash off his soiled work boots. The problem is he was still wearing them.

As the worker turned the nozzle toward his boot, the mud and dirt quickly washed away – as did the leather boot protecting his foot. In seconds, the worker learned a lesson about the power of his equipment, paying the steep price of three of his toes.

Know Your Equipment

Knowing your equipment is critical. That means more than simply knowing its capabilities or what kind of fuel it uses. It means being aware of how it operates, as well.

For example, pressure washers that are powered by a fuel source instead of electricity must combust the fuel to operate. This leads to the emission of noxious fumes, which are often a non-issue when used outdoors. It’s also why these units should never be used inside, as one employee learned.

While using a gas-powered pressure washer to remove paint from the floor of car painting bay, a worker began to feel faint. As he had been washing in the confined space, the fumes from the washer had begun to build, making the air in the room toxic. The worker continued washing, and minutes later passed out from a lack of oxygen. Fortunately, his coworker heard the sound of the man collapsing and came to his rescue, but it served as a hard-learned reminder about the importance of working in a well-ventilated space.

Other Personnel Safety Concerns

Every employee has a responsibility to themselves and their coworkers to work safely while cleaning. While the employees above learned lessons the hard way, a bit of training and refresher meetings can keep your team working wisely. These are a few of the worst-case situations, but there are many other concerns for you and your personnel to keep in mind, including:
• Power lines and overhead fixtures
• Detergent and chemical use
• Maintained safety equipment
• Connections and fittings
• Improper nozzle use
• Modifying equipment or wands
• Spraying near live electrical outlets

Safety + Efficiency + Efficacy = CLEAN

At WET, we know the importance of cleaning efficiently, effectively and – of course – safely. It’s why we believe in the power of CLEAN, a comprehensive approach to training, maintenance and safety to maximize uptime for your equipment and your operations. Learn more about CLEAN and get the help you need to stay on top of maintenance and safe operations by calling WET today at 865.525.1515.




Equipment Safety: Preventing Injuries on the Job

Safety Month Highlight – Being Safe with Your Equipment

June is National Safety Month, recognized annually by the National Safety Council. All month long, we’re taking a close look at the best practices and safe behaviors to help you and your staff stay safe when using your cleaning equipment. Let’s start by taking a look at equipment safety – and what can happen if you aren’t safe.

Safety Gear

Before we discuss your actual equipment, let’s take a moment to emphasize the importance of safety gear. Many people take a casual approach to safety apparel – it can be clunky, it can be cumbersome, and it can seem like a pain in the … well, you know. But the fact of the matter is that your safety gear actually is incredibly.

Wearing the right clothing when pressure washing can prevent injuries – hands down. Whether it’s from loose debris that is thrown by a washer or the potential for exposed skin to come in contact with a caustic detergent or cleaning solution, wearing protective gear can keep you safe and let you focus on doing the best job of cleaning, and not cleaning up an unintentional wound.

Take, for instance, this story shared by one of our partners. A small pressure washing company took a lackadaisical approach to safety gear, and allowed employees to do their work in tennis shoes, not work boots. One day while spraying, a worker accidentally got the wand and nozzle tied up in his shoe laces, spraying the scalding hot water into his shoes. The worker ended up with severe burns before his coworkers were able to shut off the washer, and everyone learned the importance of wearing the appropriate clothing and footwear for the job.

Bypassing Safety Features

In much the same way that some take a casual approach to safety apparel, some also take a relaxed view of built-in safety features that pressure washers include. Safety features can sometimes seem like they’re designed to slow down operations, particularly if you’re trying to cut corners and speed up the job. But the truth is there in the name – safety features.

Sometimes lessons have to be learned the hard way, as was the case for one large construction company. The work crew was on a job and wanted to fill a large tank with superheater water, while leaving it unattended. On their pressure washer unit, however, was a pressure switch, designed to ensure that the flow of water was manually controlled. Instead of filling the tank manually, the workers bypassed “All Safety Features,” disabling the pressure switch, but also the high limit switch, thermostat and – on top of it – even plugged the pressure relief valve. It worked fine for filling the tank, but they forgot to restore the safety settings.

A little bit later, another employee put the wand back on and started to work on normal cleaning. As he was washing, he released the trigger and set the gun down, but the burner was still on. One of his coworkers heard a noise coming from the pressure washer and went to investigate, but upon approaching the washer, it overheated and resulted in a steam explosion. The horizontal burner housing flew off the washer and hit the worker in the face, causing severe injuries. He was transferred to the ER by helicopter, and – needless to say – the rest of his crew learned the importance of safety.

Worn Hoses

Hoses are a vital part of pressure washing, carrying the water from the source to the pressure washer and on through to the spray wand. They’re used on every job and moved all around each worksite, while also being exposed to extreme heat, detergents, chemicals and more. It’s not surprising that they also tend to be one of the most commonly worn out parts of a cleaning system, and wear more quickly than other components. It’s also why they deserve a bit of extra attention to ensure your safety on the job.

In a bit of a change from the last stories, we once heard the tale of a client who was working on a cleaning project who kept getting harassed by bugs – not uncommon in the warm weather. He would spray for a while, but kept feeling a bug landing on his cheek or neck, but buzzing off as soon as he moved. He was smart and didn’t try to smack it with the wand, but instead looked at the wand and noticed something strange – a pinhole leak. It wasn’t a bug at all – it was a tiny jet of water that kept spraying backwards.

If he hadn’t noticed it, it could have erupted, tearing the wand from the hose and possible spraying him with high-pressure water. Fortunately, he caught it, but it’s just one example of why inspecting your equipment needs to be a high priority.

Using the Wrong Nozzle

Of course, it’s also important to use the right tool for the job. As we’ve discussed before, this is particularly true when it comes to nozzles. There are a number of mechanical reasons to pick the correct nozzle, and using the wrong one can put undue strain on the pressure washer and damage equipment. But using the wrong nozzle can also end up being costly.

In one case, a young employee of a pressure washing company thought he’d have a little bit of fun on the job and sprayed an inappropriate image on a soiled wooden deck as he started working. He then reduced the pressure, and set about doing a complete clean of the wooden surface, spraying down the whole deck to remove the old stain and dirt.

Much to his surprise, however, he had been using a 0-degree nozzle the whole time, and that innocent bit of fun ended up etching into the wood, permanently damaging the surface and leaving the trace of his prank apparent. Needless to say, the owner saved a few dollars on his salary, but lost much more in replacing the damaged deck. 

Other Equipment Safety Concerns

There are many other things to stay mindful of when using pressure washing equipment. These powerful machines are great at cleaning, but as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Be mindful of the following factors, as well, when working on any job site:

  • Hot heating coils
  •  Incorrect fuel mixtures or overfilling
  • Incorrect hose fittings or damaged connections
  • High voltage lines or outlets near water
  • Hot nozzles and spray wands
  • Chemical and detergent exposure

Safety Is a Vital Part of CLEAN

The CLEAN model is designed to help you clean any surface more efficiently, more effectively and more safely. Safety is a critical part of success, and ensuring rapid cleaning and continuous uptime for your staff and your equipment. Stay mindful and stay safe – and stay CLEAN.




Nozzles: Using the Right Tool for the Job

Understanding how different sprays can focus your cleaning

Not all dirt is created equally, and not all dirt can be washed away with the same tools. Hot-water and cold-water pressure washers offer different benefits, as do your different detergent solutions that help clear away grime, grease, oil and more. But did you know that the nozzle you use on your pressure washer can play an equally important role? Or that using the wrong nozzle could cause more issues than you might think?

Purpose-Built Patterns

Each spray nozzle available from WET is designed to provide a specific spray pattern. The nozzle itself throttles the angle and intensity of water spray, which in turn affects how large or small an area you can spray at once as well as how much pressure is exerted on dirt. Matching the area that you need to clean with the right nozzle can have a world of difference on how well you clean.

Spray the Rainbow

Sometimes while washing you may have enough water in the air to cast a small rainbow. That’s a perfect way to help you remember the different types of standard pressure-washing nozzles, as they’re all conveniently color coded to make them easy to recognize and use.

Red

The red nozzle is the highest intensity – 0 degrees – and should be almost never used. Think of red like a stop light, where you should stop and look around before proceeding. The high-power jet of water from a 0-degree nozzle is very narrow, making it difficult to wash large areas. It’s also intense enough to strip paint and even dent or puncture soft materials like wood, fabric or weakened metal. Use this nozzle only in the most extreme circumstances.

Yellow

The yellow nozzle is lower intensity, but still packs a punch so – like a yellow light – you should approach using it with caution. At 15 degrees, this spray pattern is most appropriate for heavy-duty dirt and grime, and is frequently used for stripping paint from a surface or blasting away heavy mud or animal waste from driveways or barn stalls. This nozzle should be used selectively on soft or painted surfaces so as to not cause damage.

Green

Green means go, and that’s typically the case with the 25-degree green nozzle that is used for most cleaning applications. This nozzle has a wide spray angle while still providing a powerful stream of water to wash away grime from vehicles, metal siding, lawn furniture and much more. This tip can be used on all but the most fragile or sensitive surfaces.

White

Think of the white nozzle as the one to use on anything that requires more of a white-glove treatment. This nozzle sprays at 40 degrees – much less intense than the other nozzles, but enough to clean surfaces that may not stand up to the impact of higher pressure. This nozzle is best suited for soft or sensitive surfaces, including materials like windows or wood that could be damaged by higher spray intensity.

Black

Finally, the black nozzle is very low pressure, but is used to apply soaps and detergents as you start cleaning. If you’re hosing down something that’s black with dirt, use the black nozzle first. This nozzle has a greater opening that makes it easier to spray on cleaning agents and with the widest spray radius, it applies your detergents easily and broadly, helping accelerate the cleaning process.

Specialty Nozzles

WET also offers specialized nozzles that offer further customization and capabilities. Rotating nozzles, for example, combine the higher power of narrower angle nozzles with a broader radius, allowing you to continue to wash with high intensity across a larger area. These nozzles typically spray in a circular or cone-shaped pattern at a rapid speed, delivering intense cleaning power for the most stubborn dirt and stain

Other nozzles can attach for specific situations, like duct cleaning nozzles that spray in a 360-degree radius or foaming nozzles that can spray foaming cleaners and disinfectants at a high pressure. There are also variable intensity nozzles that are great for applying detergent at low intensity and switching to high pressure for washing.

Nozzle Size and Pressure

It’s also important to keep in mind that you need to select a nozzle size that works with your pressure washer. This is determined by the gallons per minute of output and the hole size on the nozzle, and is independent of the spray angle. Using a nozzle with too large of a hole means that you won’t achieve the desired PSI for washing. Using a nozzle too small, on the other hand, can damage your equipment, leading to costly part replacement or equipment repairs. Hotsy offers a handy nozzle sizing chart in its annual catalog (page 66).

Choosing the Right Nozzle

Selecting the right nozzle can be one of the most important parts of cleaning. The last thing you want to do is select a nozzle that’s too intense and ends up blasting away the paint from your equipment or damaging sensitive surfaces. The best practice is to always err on the side of caution and choose a lower intensity nozzle if you’re unsure. It’s better to have to wash a second time at higher pressure than to have stripped paint or broken windows.

Find What You Need With WET

At WET, we offer a full range of pressure washer nozzles to outfit your equipment with the right spray for any job. Choose from an array of standard and specialty nozzles to suit your cleaning needs. Find everything you need – and more – by stopping by to see us today.