Purchasing a pressure washer, as mundane as it sounds, can be a fulfilling experience. After all, what better way is there to thoroughly clean a large area, such as a driveway, garage, or even the sidewalk next to the house?
However, many people start unboxing their newly-purchased pressure washer with excitement, only to encounter confusion. Packed together with the pressure washer is what appears to be a bewildering array of nozzles. How do they fit with the pressure washer and what does each mean for the cleaning task at hand?
Here is an itemized description of each nozzle, and an explanation of how to use each one. With a clear understanding of which nozzle does what, the pressure washer can be used to its maximum effectiveness. Each nozzle has a distinct color code, which ensures that it can be used appropriately.
1. Zero-degree Nozzle
This is a red nozzle. Called a zero-degree nozzle because it delivers a jet of water in a tight spray (nearly zero degrees), it concentrates water pressure into an area about the size of a quarter. The water jet is direct and extremely forceful.
This nozzle is not commonly used. It delivers great force onto a small area, and may potentially damage common surfaces such as soft wood, varnish, and so on. With a small spray area, it is also relatively difficult to clean a large area.
However, the zero-degree nozzle has its uses. What would these be? If there is very stubborn dirt, which is adhesive and stuck on surfaces (such as mud, chewing gum, rust or other types of difficult stains), this red nozzle may come in handy. Just be warned that it is most often used when the underlying surface is extremely durable and hard, such as industrial-strength concrete or steel. It is almost never used on any other surfaces; common household surfaces such as tile, ceramic, wood or plastic will be damaged by this nozzle.
Some advice from the professionals: Do not start using the pressure washer with this nozzle. With its extreme force, it should be used only when thoroughly familiar with the characteristics of the pressure washer and only by experienced users. The water jet from this nozzle can even hurt pets or small children. Make sure they are well clear of the area before using. In fact, it is quite normal to never have to use this nozzle.
2. 15-Degree Nozzle
This is a yellow nozzle. The water spray it creates is typically angled at about 15 degrees, which is wider than the zero-degree nozzle but still reasonably concentrated in a small area. As one might expect, the water pressure delivered by the nozzle is considerably lower than the zero-degree nozzle.
This nozzle is typically used to clean surfaces before they are varnished, painted, stained with color, resurfaced with another material or sealed with waterproof treatment. It will remove stains and stubborn dirt, such as dried mud or rust, from durable surfaces such as concrete.
3. 25-Degree Nozzle
This is a green nozzle. Angled at 25 degrees, the water jet shoots out as a flat and broad sheet spray. Water pressure is correspondingly weaker, making it friendlier than the zero-degree or 15-degree nozzles to most surfaces. It is much more suitable for general cleaning tasks around the house.
Common cleaning tasks that use the 25-degree nozzle include cleaning vehicles, outdoor furniture, garden fixtures, parking garages, driveways, asphalt, outside walls, sidewalks, and so on. The large coverage of the water spray makes it useful to clean a big area. Aside from cleaning the surface, many people find the large spray of water useful for quickly sweeping away leaves, mud and other assorted debris that are not deeply stuck onto the surface.
4. 40-Degree Nozzle
This is the white nozzle. Most first-time users of pressure washers start with this nozzle. It creates a gentle water jet, with low pressure which is easily controlled. Fragile surfaces and objects can be cleaned, such as window panes, shutters, doors, blinds, garden pots, and even cars with valuable paintwork.
As its name implies, the spray is angled at about 40 degrees. It is useful for rinsing off soap or cleaning liquids, for example, when cleaning an outdoor patio or wooden deck. The gentle water pressure means that wood varnish or paint would not be damaged.
5. 65-Degree Nozzle
This is the black nozzle. It is otherwise commonly known as the “soap nozzle”. When combined with detergent or cleaning solution inside the pressure washer’s tank, this nozzle ensures that the spray dispenses a soapy solution onto the desired surface. It is great for cleaning outdoor flooring such as patios or porches.
Note that this nozzle should not be used with water only, the 40-degree nozzle is the appropriate one to use in a water-only case. The nozzle is designed specifically to be used with soap or detergent.
This nozzle is usually the one with the lowest water pressure, and which covers the largest area. It is suitable for very large areas, such as driveways that can accommodate multiple cars, or a long stretch of sidewalk or road.
Less common is the turbo nozzle, so-called because it is a combination of the zero-degree nozzle’s power and the 25-degree nozzle’s spray area. In addition, the turbo nozzle creates a pulsing rhythm, by means of rotation of the water jet, typically at 1800-3000 revolutions per minute (that’s fast!).
How does one identify a turbo nozzle? Unlike the common nozzles, it does not always come in a specific color. It could be black, or blue, or any other color. However, it is easy to identify as it is very narrow, much more so than any other nozzle.
The turbo nozzle delivers a tightly focused water jet in a conical shape, to clean a variety of hard surfaces thoroughly, but more safely than a zero-degree nozzle.
Most pressure washers do not include the turbo nozzle as part of the package. However, it is a useful nozzle and many consumers choose to buy one separately. The combination of the power of the zero-degree nozzle and the coverage (and safety) of the 25-degree nozzle makes it versatile across a broad range of uses.
7. Adjustable Nozzle
This is usually a black nozzle, though that is not always the case. The adjustable nozzle is the “all in one” nozzle. It can be rotated to any angle that is desired, and the water pressure and spray area will change accordingly, mimicking the different functions of the nozzles described above. This is obviously a practical solution, and most are also extremely easy to use. With just one adjustable nozzle, any combination of force and angle can be achieved.
What’s The Right Nozzle?
Even after understanding the differences between all the different types of nozzles, it may still not be clear which ones is best suited for what purpose. Fear not – here is some practical advice.
First, most people start with a wide-angled nozzle, such as a 40-degree or even 65-degree nozzle, then go downwards until the right combination of water pressure and spray area is found. This ensures safety first and provides the most flexibility. After all, water pressure can always be increased, but damaged surfaces cannot easily be repaired!
Second, keep the nozzle at a good distance from the targeted surface when turning on the pressure washer. This will reduce the chances of damaging the surface, in the event that the water jet is more forceful than anticipated.
Third, it is a good idea to test the water jet on a small, inconspicuous area first, in case it causes any damage. Even if a wide-angled nozzle has been fitted, testing the water spray would provide the user with a good first-hand idea of the water pressure and spray area.
How to Ensure The Nozzles Are In Good Working Order
Nozzles are typically inexpensive and readily available from many hardware stores or online. If they become worn out, they are easily replaceable. However, it is always a good idea to keep them clean and in working condition.
One common practice is to check the nozzle before every use for signs of blockage. Even if there does not appear to be any blockage, a pin can be used to clear the nozzle and ensure that water flows smoothly through it.
When fitting the nozzle onto the hose, do not use excessive force. Nozzles typically have a particular method to be fitted, for example, screwing-on, snapping on, or some other method. If a nozzle does not appear to be easily fitted, and a lot of force seems to be required, it may be the wrong method is being used. Continuing to “fight the nozzle” will often cause it to be worn down and unusable.
Before turning on the water jet, double-check that the nozzle is securely attached. Otherwise, the force of the water jet could cause the nozzle to fall off, causing damage.
Nozzles should be stored properly when not in use. They should not be left in a bag or lying about in the open, especially in a dusty garage. Most nozzles come in sets with a storage container – use it. Many pressure washers themselves have receptacles to store nozzles.
Even so often, wipe each nozzle with a damp cloth and apply a little bit of soap or detergent to remove any trace amounts of dirt. Keep nozzles clean.
The right nozzle will do the right job – choose well!