Will a Pressure Washer Remove Paint from Wood?

If you’re getting ready for a painting project, it’s important to understand how to prepare the wood beforehand. Even if you have high quality paint, it will only bond to a clean surface with no contaminants. This article will walk you through the step-by-step process and answer the following question: will a pressure washer remove paint from wood?

It’s possible to remove paint with a pressure washer using the right amount of PSI and the correct nozzle. A more aggressive nozzle will concentrate all of the water onto a small surface area. This process overall will be much faster than removing paint by hand.

How Much PSI to Remove Paint?

Using a pressure washer with 2,000 to 4,000 PSI will be enough to remove paint from wood. This amount of water will be powerful enough to strip paint, while keeping the surface of the wood intact at the same time.

In addition to having enough pressure, you also need to utilize the right nozzle. Pressure washers come in a range of different nozzles that are based on the spray pattern.

A tighter the spray pattern will focus water on to a smaller surface area. This will be ideal for jobs like removing paint from wood. A wider spray pattern can be used on more delicate surfaces, like the exterior of a vehicle.

Nozzle Types

0-degree (Red) – This delivers the most amount of water pressure to a concentrated area. It should only be used to clean off tough concrete stains. The red nozzle will cut through wood, home siding and other soft materials.

15-degree (Yellow) – Can be used like a scraper to strip off paint, or grease on hard exterior surfaces. The yellow nozzle can also work to clean second story floors from the ground level, as the water pressure will decrease with distance.

25-degree (Green) – Ideal for cleaning dirt, grime, and mildew on exterior surfaces. The green nozzle is safe enough to clean home siding, sidewalks, and metal furniture. It will deliver plenty of cleaning power without causing any damage.

40-degree (White) – Creates a wide spray that allows you to clean windows, vehicles, and other objects around the home. The white nozzle has more cleaning power than a traditional garden hose but is still safe on those delicate surfaces.

Detergent (Black) – Some pressure washers come with an attached canister that holds soap. The black detergent nozzle has the capability to evenly spread out soap when in use. This is also a low-pressure nozzle and is considered safe.

How to Pressure Wash Paint from Wood

It’s important to remember that peeling or flaking paint should always be removed before you apply a fresh layer. If you are working with a large surface area, pressure washing will be much easier compared to using a handheld scraper. It’s a more efficient method and it makes the process much quicker.

1. Prepare for the Job

You will need to follow two important steps to prepare the area, before you start pressure washing. The first step is to gather all of the necessary safety equipment for the job. You will need to wear safety glasses, long clothing, and boots. Safety glasses are essential, because there will be harmful pieces of paint flying off the surface.

The second thing you will need to do is protect everything surrounding the surface you’re working on. If you’re stripping paint off the exterior of a house for example, cover any plants and flowers with a plastic tarp. This will prevent you from cleaning up a big mess when the job is finished and you won’t kill the plants from the water pressure.

2. Use the 15 Degree Nozzle

Connect the 15 degree (yellow nozzle) to the end of your pressure washer wand. This attachment will pack enough power to strip paint off cleanly, without cause any harm to the wood. Avoid using the 0 degree (red nozzle) attachment as this will be too powerful for the surface. It can potentially cause damage because of its high power.

Make sure to firmly hold the gun at an angle during the cleaning process. This will allow the water to get under the initial paint layer for easy removal. The last thing you need is for the gun to get away from you and spray something else in the area. Make sure to fully shut and lock windows for a better seal if you’re stripping paint from a house.

3. Follow a pattern

Whenever removing paint from wood, you want to work in small sections at a time while following a consistent pattern. This cleaning method will help you from missing any areas. You can also sweep up with the wand in order to remove paint chips from the surface, so you don’t have to worry about them sticking back on to the wood.

You should always keep the wand moving, because holding the pressure washer in the same place could potentially damage the surface. Keep the nozzle between 12-15 inches from the wood, as this is the most effective range for paint removal. You also want to move the pressure washer with the grain of the wood to prevent any damage.

Paint Removal Tips

Keep some paint on – There’s no reason to remove every last drop of paint from the wood. The idea is to only strip off areas that are peeling, or chipping. New paint won’t adhere any better to bare wood compared to an old layer of paint. Don’t worry if you cant remove everything, as you can always follow up after pressure washing with a scraper.

Let the wood dry – If you’re looking to remove paint from wood and apply a fresh layer on the same day, think again. You will need to let the wood dry completely, before following up with a fresh layer of paint. In some cases this may take a few days. Painting wet wood will not only produce sloppy results, but it won’t last because the paint won’t bond properly.

Check for lead-based paint – It’s important to check the age of the paint before you strip it with a pressure washer. Lead-based paint applied before 1978 can have health risks and you will need to wear a face mask. This type of paint can be found on older homes before the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-based paint.


This article began with a question: will a pressure washer remove paint from wood? A pressure washer is one of the quickest and easiest ways for this outdoor protect.

The machine is powerful enough to strip paint, as long as you’re using a 15 degree nozzle attachment. This type of nozzle will be completely safe on the wood. A pressure washer is also much easier on your body – compared to a handheld scraper.

It can be frustrating when using this handheld tool and it will make the job much more difficult. Don’t forget to follow the steps above, so you can make the paint removal process go smoothly. And always allow the wood to dry completely, before applying a fresh layer of paint.

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