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Pressure washers

Have a blast getting the grime off machinery, buildings and more

Several sizes, styles available

When it comes to really tough cleaning jobs on your acreage, nothing removes dirt, grease, and grime like a pressure washer.

These powerful tools come in a wide range of sizes and styles. They use either hot or cold water, and are powered by electricity, gasoline, natural gas, diesel fuel, propane or air.

Mike Smith and his wife, Ruth, recently built a home, shop, boarding stables, and an indoor riding arena near Lucas, Iowa. He uses a 1,500-psi cold-water pressure washer made by Bravo to keep the new buildings at Painted Horse Ranch shipshape, It also comes in handy for cleaning the tractors, trucks, and equipment he uses in his landscaping and hauling business.

"I used to rent a pressure washer every spring," Smith says. "I'd get all my equipment lined up and wash everything. Then I decided I'd be ahead to just go ahead and buy one."

Despite the many benefits of pressure washers, Smith warns they can cause damage if too much pressure is used on roofs and exteriors. "In fact, I've used it to strip old paint off buildings prior to painting," he says. "It saves a lot of preparation time." He also uses the washer to clean decks and cedar swings before applying new protectant in the spring.

Consider the cleaning power

There are so many pressure washers on the market that it can be difficult to determine which is right for you.

First, decide which power source would best fit your operation. If you plan to use the washer in or near a building, then electric may be the way to go. Gas- or diesel-powered models can be used anywhere there's a water source, but wouldn't be safe for inside buildings unless you have a way of venting the exhaust fumes.

Bigger isn't always better when it comes to pressure washers. For example, if you will only use it on your vehicles, pavement, deck, and siding, consider a small, cold-water model. Larger, more powerful washers can take the paint right off a vehicle or building, or get underneath siding.

On the other hand, if blasting caked-on mud and manure from barns is in your plans, a more powerful hot-water model may be best. Take into consideration, though, that on average, hot-water pressure washers cost $2,000 to $3,000 more than similar-size cold-water models.

When comparing pressure washers, look for the "cleaning power" rating. This is determined by multiplying the gallons per minute (gpm) of output by the pounds per square inch (psi) of operating pressure.

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