Pressure washer nozzles 101: A beginner’s guide
Choosing the right pressure washer nozzle is actually more important than the PSI or GPM of your pressure washing unit. It’s the nozzle that creates the pressure in the water stream that hits your cleaning surface. Nozzles work because of physics. Restricting the water flow from a continuous pressure source creates more velocity (speed), which creates more force (pressure) in the spray.
Sometimes you have to experiment to see what nozzle will work best. However, it’s better to have a firm idea of what you need before you get started.
Types of nozzles
Most pressure washers come with 4 – 5 color-coded nozzles in the box:
- 0-degree (red)
- 15-degree (yellow)
- 25-degree (green)
- 40-degree (white)
- Soap (black)
The red 0-degree nozzle makes a small, concentrated, yet very powerful water jet. It’s best for removing tough stains such as mildew, tar, glue, oil, tree sap, dried gum, etc. from very hard surfaces such as concrete and hard metal. DO NOT use this nozzle on wood, siding, or any other soft surfaces. It can cause serious lacerations as well, so only use this nozzle if you absolutely need it.
The yellow 15-degree nozzle has a narrow, yet powerful fan that is great for removing dirt, rust, paint, or mildew for surface prep on most surfaces before painting, staining, or re-sealing. If used with caution from a distance, it can be good at removing caked mud from 4×4 vehicles and farm equipment.
The green 25-degree nozzle is for general cleaning of most surfaces. It’s the most common all-purpose nozzle around the home. The wider spray is great for sweeping away debris, mud, leaves, and other grime that isn’t deeply embedded in a surface. It can be used on decks, driveways, vinyl siding, cars, boats, patio furniture, and lots more.
The white 40-degree nozzle produces a wide, gentle pressure spray for light cleaning of more fragile surfaces such as windows, blinds, flower pots, cars, etc. It’s also great for rinsing off detergents.
The black soap nozzle is the lowest pressure nozzle with the largest orifice. It decreases the water velocity, which increases pressure in the hose. This pulls detergent from the detergent tank so you can apply soap quickly and easily.
These nozzles are usually sold separately, but sometimes come with the pressure washer:
Turbo or rotary nozzles sometimes come with the pressure washer, but are usually sold as an accessory. They combine the pressure of a 0-degree nozzle, spinning at 5,000 – 9,000 RPM, and expanded to a 15-degree circular spray pattern. This can cut your cleaning time in half. But they still produce a powerful spray, capable of removing stuck-on grime, stripping paint, etc.
For a gentler option, the rotary deck cleaning nozzle makes a wider jet to deep clean more delicate, porous surfaces such as wooden decks and fences.
Adjustable/variable nozzles sometimes come with pressure washers. This is a single piece at the end of the cleaning wand. It’s like 5 nozzles in one that you simply turn to adjust to the degree that you need.
Accessory/specialized nozzles come in many types for many different uses. They are always sold separately and include second-story extension wands, scrub brush attachments, rotating brushes, gutter cleaners, flat surface cleaners, scrubbing brooms, foam blasters, and many more.
How to choose the right nozzle when you’re not sure
If you’re not sure which nozzle you need, or if you’re new to pressure washing or trying a new machine for the first time, follow these general rules.
- Let common sense guide you – For instance, if you need to clean a wooden deck or vinyl siding, you know you won’t need a 0-degree nozzle, and you probably won’t need a 15-degree nozzle unless you have an absolutely filthy surface that you’re prepping for paint or stain.
- Start wide, then work your way in – Start with the widest angle, such as a 40-degree nozzle to begin with.
- Keep your distance at first – Start about 24 inches away from the surface. Gradually move closer until you see the desired results. Don’t get closer than 6 inches from the surface. If it’s not removing dirt from that close, then try a narrower angled nozzle.
- Test on a small, inconspicuous area – Experiment on a corner of the deck where the grill usually sits, for instance. If it happens to get damaged, at least you can hide it.