Can Pressure Washing Damage Concrete + Pavers + Bricks?

Hardscapes are the foundation of outdoor living. They provide the solid surfaces where we entertain our guests, where we walk between features in our yard, and where we park. Hardscapes are the reason we do not have to walk in the mud after rain, and they help save water while beautifying our landscaping. In some cases, they can even increase the value of our homes.

The durability and longevity of hardscapes allow us to enjoy our driveways, walkways, and patios long after they are installed. While there are significant differences between hardscape options when it comes to their longevity and in regards to how expensive it is to repair or replace them once damaged, hardscapes like paving stones, concrete, and bricks are relatively similar when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.

For the most part, cleaning this type of hardscape can be accomplished with a broom or a garden hose. Either of these options can be used to easily remove most dirt and debris and is usually enough when you do this regularly as part of your maintenance schedule to keep your outdoor living areas clean and functioning properly. Of course, some areas that are prone to drought do not allow rinsing down concrete driveways or paver patios unless there is a health or safety concern that requires it. This is usually fine, though, since sweeping your hardscapes with a broom is usually going to get the job done just fine.

However, there are going to be times when a broom is not going to get the job done – and neither is a garden hose. Oil stains, mold, algae, and grease are all things that cannot easily be removed by sweeping them away with a broom or rinsing them down with a hose. When this is the case, most folks are going to automatically turn to pressure washing pavers, concrete, or bricks for a fast, easy way to get hard surfaces clean.

There are pros and cons to opting for pressure washing for your hardscapes. First and foremost, pressure washers are effective. They are also appealing to folks who do not like to use soaps or detergents. You can use cleaning products with a pressure washer, but you can often achieve satisfactory results without them. This is a plus for folks who do not like to use chemicals.

Another benefit of using a pressure washer is that you can save water. While pressure washing does use water and might not be the best choice when we are trying to overcome severe drought conditions, you do save water when you go with pressure washing instead of a garden hose when cleaning hard surfaces.

pressure washing pavers

Can Pressure Washing Damage Concrete, Bricks, or Pavers?

Before we go into how to pressure wash hardscapes, we need to first address the downsides of choosing this cleaning method.

If you want to increase your home’s curb appeal quickly, easily, and without spending much money, cleaning your hardscapes is a great way to achieve this. You will see even more of a difference if your hardscapes have algae or mold growing on them or if it has been some time since their last cleaning.

Pressure washing pavers, bricks, and concrete is a popular method for cleaning them. Power washers are easy to find for rent or purchase, and almost anyone can figure out how to turn one on, aim it, and pull the trigger.

While it is easy to learn the basics, pressure washers are powerful machines that can easily damage property or cause bodily harm when used incorrectly. There are plenty of pressure washing horror stories that center on a well-meaning homeowner accidentally damaging their wood deck, stripping the paint off of their house, destroying the paint job on their car, ripping shingles off their roof or siding off the side of the house, and even causing serious injuries to themselves or others.

This is the main downside of using a power washer.

Pressure washing, on its own, is not the problem; the problem is that it is very easy for an inexperienced homeowner to choose the wrong nozzle, use higher pressure than they should, or not understand just how powerful the stream of pressurized water coming out of the power washer can be.

When pressure washing pavers, bricks, or concrete, these mistakes can cause visible damage, such as pitting, lines, or general surface degradation. Another common issue from improper power washing is damaging the mortar between bricks or dispersing the joint sand between pavers. When pressure washing concrete, you need to be particularly careful with slabs poured less than a year ago, since they are more likely to be damaged than older slabs.

pressure washing concrete

How to Pressure Wash Concrete, Bricks, and Pavers

Damage caused by pressure washers is usually the result of choosing the wrong nozzle, using higher pressure than the task calls for, holding the wand too close to the hardscape surface, or directing the spray at one spot for too long.

To avoid these issues, follow this step-by-step guide to help you clean your hardscapes without damaging them.

Step 1: Try Other Methods First

Before resorting to a power washer, try cleaning your hardscapes using methods with less potential for damage. If you are considering pressure washing, you are probably beyond the stage where a broom can help, so start with a garden hose. Use a nozzle to direct the spray and see if the stream of water is pressurized enough to clean the area in question.

If this does not work, it might be helpful to read some of our other guides that give step-by-step instructions for concrete, brick, and paver washing without using a power washer. Here are a few that offer tips for specific cleaning needs:


Step 2: Choose the Right Equipment

If the above tips do not work and you do need to use a power washer, make sure you choose the right equipment for the job. Choose a pressure washer with between three and four gallons per minute (gpm) at a pressure of 3,000 pounds per square inch (psi).

Choose a nozzle that allows for a wide angle and avoid nozzles that result in a narrow stream of water.

It is true that a different nozzle or a higher psi might help you get the job done faster, but the damage this can cause is not worth the time you might save.

Step 3: Practice

Before you go near your hardscapes with a pressure washer, you should first practice with it in dirt or another surface that will not be damaged. Practice using a sweeping motion, holding the nozzle at least one foot from the surface, and spraying at an angle.

This will allow you to get a feel for the pressure washer and how powerful the spray is before you start using it on your patio or driveway.

Once you feel like you have perfected your technique, try it out in an inconspicuous area on your hardscape surface before starting to clean areas that are more visible.

Step 4: Clean Your Hardscape

Hold the nozzle at least 12 inches away from the hardscape surface at all times. Never point the sprayer directly at the surface. Instead, always spray at an angle. Use a sweeping motion to clean the area, and do not linger in one spot for too long.

If you are using only water to clean the surface and there is no grease or oil being removed, you can direct the spray towards a natural grass lawn or flowerbed. If you are using detergents to clean your hardscapes or are using a pressure washer to remove grease or oil, direct the runoff to a dirt or gravel area and be sure to keep the runoff away from your lawn, plants, and storm drains.

pressure washing tips

Tips for Concrete, Brick, or Paver Washing Without Damage

To further reduce the potential for damaging your hardscapes, you may want to consider renting or buying a surface cleaner attachment, which directs jets of water to clean hard surfaces but does not have the same potential for causing damage as a pressure washer.

If you are power washing paving stones, avoid directly spraying the joints between the pavers as this can wash away the sand. If this occurs, you will need to replace the joint sand to maintain the integrity of the installation.

If your hardscapes are particularly dirty or you just feel strongly about using a pressure washer to clean them, the best course of action is to hire a professional who has experience power washing your particular hardscape. This is the surest way to avoid damage and the potential for costly repairs.

It is particularly important to avoid damage if you have concrete or brick hardscapes. Concrete can be repaired and sections can be replaced, but these repairs are always noticeable, since it is nearly impossible to match the color of new concrete to the color of existing concrete. A brick patio or driveway can also be repaired, but it can be costly to remove mortar and damaged bricks and can be very difficult to match the new section to what is already there.

If you happen to damage your paving stones with a pressure washer, the pavers that are damaged can be easily removed and replaced, due to the manner in which paving stones zip together during installation. Your installer can simply unzip the paving stones, replace the damaged pavers, and put your patio or driveway back together.