Are Pressure Washers Dangerous?

cleaning the floor

Pressure washers are a fast and efficient way to clean driveways, patios, sidewalks, the exterior of homes and buildings, vehicles and machinery. They can be very handy when cleaning large areas, but are pressure washers dangerous?

The answer to this question, like most things, is that they can definitely be dangerous if they’re not used properly. (After all, a pressure washer’s intense spray can even ruin your car’s paint job and damage concrete if it’s not used right.) Below, we’ll explain how pressure washers can be dangerous and offer some safety tips for using them.

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Here’s one definition of “pressure washer” that you might recognize: “A pressure washer is the piece of equipment you really wish you owned when you go outside, and then forget about until the next time you go outside.”

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Why are pressure washers dangerous?

According to Consumer Reports, in 2014 more than 6,000 people sought medical attention for pressure-washer related injuries. The problem seems to be that people think of pressure washers just like regular water hoses, and therefore think it’s harmless to point it at someone or to use it to wash off their bare feet. In fact, a pressure washer is exponentially more powerful. Although it uses much less water than a hose, a pressure washer expels a jet of water that’s 30 to 80 times more intense than a hose.

How can a pressure washer hurt you?

There are several different ways pressure washers can hurt you or people around you:

  • A pressure washer expels a forceful jet of water that can cause serious lacerations or flesh wounds that the injured party might at first think are minor. Because of this, they might delay or decide not to seek medical treatment at all, which increases their risk for the wound getting infected, or retaining a long-term disability or even needing amputation.
  • Pressure washers can cause serious eye injuries if sprayed into someone’s eye.
  • The forceful spray of a pressure washer can blow objects away at high speeds, posing a serious risk to people nearby who can be struck by them.
  • If a pressure washer isn’t used properly, the user can get an electric shock. (Even though it’s by nature a wet tool, care should be taken not to submerge a pressure washer in water!)
  • As with any gas-powered tool, using a gas engine pressure washer can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. For this reason, pressure washers should never be used indoors or without proper ventilation.
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Zero degree nozzles can be hazardous

Zero degree nozzles on pressure washers have caused numerous injuries, including damage to eyes, skin lacerations and punctures. The pressure washer’s single pinpoint is designed for forceful water pressure and again, should never be pointed at a human or an animal. There are plenty of different types of nozzles you can purchase for a pressure washer, so make sure you’re using one that’s appropriate for the task at hand.

Safety tips for using a pressure washer

  • Make sure the pressure washer is equipped with GFCI to help prevent electric shock.
  • Read the instruction manual!
  • Wear protective equipment, including closed-toe shoes and eye protection.
  • Refrain from using a gas-powered pressure washer indoors or in enclosed, unventilated spaces.
  • If you have to use an extension cord, keep the washer’s power cord connection away from water.
  • Use ear protection to prevent hearing loss.
  • Check your surroundings before using a pressure washer. Make sure all loose items are secured so they aren’t blown away by the washer’s forceful jets.
  • Never cut or splice the washer’s power cord or extension cord(s).
  • Avoid using pressure washer while standing on a ladder.
  • Pressure washers are adjustable, so only use as much force as you need for a particular task.
  • If the pressure washer trips a circuit breaker, do not use it and have it inspected by a professional.
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How to treat a pressure washer-related injury

  • Wash your hands with water and soap.
  • Firmly place some pressure on the wound with a clean, warm towel.
  • Stop the bleeding with a clean cloth or towel.
  • Once bleeding has stopped, wash the wound thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water.
  • Cover it with a fresh bandage.
  • Seek immediate medical treatment right away if it’s anything more than a very minor cut. Remember, the seriousness of pressure washer injuries can be misleading.
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Pressure washers are safe if used properly!

Now that you fully understand the answer to the question “Can pressure washers be dangerous?”, you probably realize the serious nature of this equipment. Above all, do not aim your pressure washer at anyone — it’s much more powerful than a regular hose!

If you’re ready to shop for a pressure washer to clean your sidewalk, driveway, garage or other surfaces, check out our Best Pressure Washer Reviews of 2020.

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