ICS Magazine

Pressure Washers: A Tool for Expanding Commercial Floor Care

April 18, 2002
As a facility manager or contract cleaner specializing in commercial floor care, you know that you need the best tools at your disposal given the wide variety of cleaning any commercial, industrial or professional facility requires. One device that may prove itself a valuable addition to your arsenal of cleaning tools is the pressure washer.

There are many areas both inside and outside a facility where dirt and mildew buildup must be removed. Pressure washing can enhance the overall cleanliness of any facility. Used effectively, a pressure washer can thoroughly clean the following in any commercial facility: Building exteriors, concrete floors, tile and grout, walk-off mats, graffiti, and mold and mildew.

Dependent upon use, pressure washers come in a variety of sizes: Electric motor & pump: 120-, 230- and 460 volts; gas engine & pump : 5.5-, 11- and 21 HP; diesel engine & pump: 15-23 HP. A small electric or gas unit will produce 1000 PSI about like a car wash. These units produce about 2-3 gallons per minute (gpm).

A middle of the road pressure washer would be a 2000 PSI unit, producing 3-4 gpm. On the other end, an industrial heavy-duty unit will produce 3500 to 4000 PSI and about 4.5-6 gpm. In addition to hot- and coldwater pressure washers, companies manufacture rotary pressure cleaners, which are ideal for commercial floor environments, such as concrete, tile, grout or even marble or other hard surface material.

Roy Chappell, Chappell Supply (www.chappelsupply.com), Oklahoma City, Ok., sells pressure washers and pressure washer parts. He says pressure washers are viable tools because they can be used in such a variety of areas in the service industry. For contract cleaners dealing with commercial floor care, pressure washers are efficient, safe, productive and clean.

However, "Make sure you get the right size equipment and industrial grade on your first purchase," he advises. "It will cost a little more up front, but the results in labor saving time will make up for it."

Exterior Walkways & Concrete Floors
To clean any concrete floors, you will need at least 4 gpm @ 2000 PSI and anything above and beyond this "will only speed up the job," Chappell says, adding that cleaners often use 5 gpm @ 3500 PSI units.

"There are surface cleaners you can add to your existing pressure washer to insure maximum efficiency," he said. "For instance with a 15 degree nozzle you get a 4-inch water fan, with a surface cleaner you get up to 36-inches, speeding up the cleaning process."

Graffiti Removal
A 3000 PSI or 3500 PSI pressure washer used with some of the industrial grade graffiti movers can reduce what once took hours to remove to just minutes. When using a chemical remover, first pre-spray the tagged area. This will reduce your chemical usage to about 20 percent of the chemical you would have used if it had been applied during the whole job.

With available add-ons, Chappell says, "You can hook a wet sand blaster up to your pressure washer and remove virtually any paint from any surface, vehicle or graffiti on concrete. You can also utilize detergents for small jobs on delicate surfaces."

Specific Attachments
Nozzles for cleaning - 0-15-25-40 degrees: You will use the 15 & 25 degree 80 percent of the time. Here, gpm is as important if not more important than PSI, Chappell says. "If you're washing a wall you don't need a lot of water."

" On the other hand, if you're washing the floor you need water volume to wash or carry away the dirt," explains Chappell. "PSI is important but water volume is more important." There are detergents that can speed up any clean up job, such as degreasers to remove heavy oils, non-ion surfactants to remove road film, and blended acids to remove oxidation from fuel tankers.

Environmental Concerns
Pressure washers do generate waste via the surfaces they are cleaning off. The key here is responsibility: The end user to use the correct equipment for the job, as well as the proper chemicals for the job and the correct equipment to clean up the finished job.

These products come in pads, blankets, booms and socks. The booms or socks can be pulled across the water path; the water will pass through the absorbent, which then traps all the hydrocarbons.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires soaps and degreasers to be biodegradable. Chappell suggests performing a simple test on your soap and degreaser to make sure it will allow oil and grease to come out of suspension.

  • Take a quart jar, fill it 2/3 up with warm water.
  • Add 1 tablespoon old used motor oil and 1/2 teaspoon of your soap or degreaser to the mix.
  • Close the lid, shake well for 15 seconds then let it set.
  • All the oil should come back to the surface in about 2 minutes. If it doesn't you need to contact your supplier and change chemicals.

    The Bottom Line
    A pressure washer is a diversified piece of equipment. In a commercial, industrial or professional facility floor care environment, it can be a handy tool able to cut the time needed for floor specific floor cleaning tasks.

    On the other hand, with the pressure washer's ability to handle a ranging set of other cleaning concerns, it's a tool the budget-minded cleaning professional should take a look at.