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Is Pressure Washing a Driveway Illegal?

Is Pressure Washing a Driveway Illegal

As a new homeowner, you may be looking for pointers for how to properly maintain your new house, and one of the most frequently asked questions is whether it is legal to pressure wash your driveway.

It may seem like an easy and quick fix to hose down your dirty driveway with a pressure washer, but the question remains: Is pressure washing a driveway illegal? The quick answer is that yes, it might be, as local authorities set their own rules. However, it is not pressure washing itself that can be illegal, but the way wastewater is handled.

This article contains everything you need to know about pressure washing, legal alternatives, and how to properly comply with rules and regulations when washing your driveway.

What Is Pressure Washing and Why Would it Be Illegal?

Pressure washing is a procedure where high-pressure water is used to remove dirt, mud, mold, dust, and more, and it is commonly associated with businesses and professional workspaces. Below are a few examples of where pressure washing and power washing are used:

  • Driveways
  • Sidewalks
  • Parking lots
  • Rooftops
  • Decks

The process removes anything from sticky gum to loose paint, and the pressure usually needs to be somewhat adjusted to suit a specific surface. Pressure washers are used for cleaning areas, but also to remove allergens such as dust and pollen.

Pressure Washing vs. Power Washing

If you have already started your research, you might have noticed that these two terms are often used interchangeably, but the truth is that pressure washing and power washing are different things. Similar, yes, but not the same. 

There are two main differences between cleaning with a power washer and a pressure washer: Heat and pressure. A power washer uses very hot water, and it is ideal for getting rid of mold, cleaning gutters, removing gum from the street, and more. It is an effective way of cleaning, but the hot water could damage some surfaces and materials.

Pressure washing, on the other hand, uses regularly temperature water, and significantly more pressure than a power washer. A pressure washer has either an electric tank or a gas tank, which applies pressure as water passes through it.

Commercial vs. Home Pressure Washers

A residential (home) pressure washer is not the same as an industrial (commercial) pressure washer, but they are similar. Purchasing a home pressure washer tends to be cheaper and a little easier on your wallet, but a commercial pressure washer, on the other hand, is often more powerful. Which is right for you depends on what you plan to use it for.

Our favorite pressure washer is the Greenworks 1500 PSI 13 Amp 1.2 GPM Pressure Washer. It has a 35 foot electric cable, and is very lightweight and portable. At 1500 psi, it runs at about 1.2 gallons per minute which will easily cut through dirt and grime.

Safety Precautions

Many homeowners opt for hiring someone to come use a pressure washer as needed, but if you opt for using one yourself (make sure you check rules and regulations in your area) – these safety tips are important to keep in mind.

  • Wear appropriate protective equipment.
  • Avoid enclosed spaces with gas-powered pressure washers.
  • Be mindful of nearby people and your surroundings.
  • Work on ground-level to avoid losing balance.
  • Choose your nozzle carefully.
  • Watch out for electric outlets and power sources.

This is a powerful tool that could become dangerous in the hands of someone inexperienced, unless you have taken proper precaution. Pressure washers have a powerful kickback due to the high pressure, which is why you don’t want to use it standing on, for example, a ladder.

Why is Pressure Washing Problematic?

The biggest issue that comes with pressure washing your driveway or surface in your home is the left-over water. The water needs to go somewhere, and unless you have a sophisticated drainage system that catches the water and stops it from leaving your property – it is going to continue down the road and potentially contaminate the surrounding environment.

It doesn’t matter if the water you are using is clean and free of chemicals, as it will be picking up pollutants from the dirt on the road, which could cause serious damage to the environment and potentially also people’s health. 

As you can see, it is not the pressure washer itself that is problematic, but the water coming out of it and where it ends up after your driveway is washed clean.

Is It Illegal to Pressure Wash Your Driveway in, for Example, California?

To better understand the problem, we will have a look at a big state like California. In California, it is legal to own a pressure washer and – in theory – legal to pressure wash, but it is illegal to let the left-over water reach the ocean or any other natural water gatherings, as well as allowing it to go down the drain.

For the average homeowner, controlling what happens to the water once it leaves the nozzle is close to impossible, unless you have a system that allows you to gather up the water before it reaches a drain pipe or leaves your property.

So, is it illegal to pressure wash your driveway in California? No, but it is very difficult to do so in a lawful way, and failure to contain and dispose of the water properly could lead to hefty fines.

Water Restrictions

Something else you will need to consider is the possibility of there being water restrictions. Water restrictions are common during the summer months, and especially in some states, which could prevent you from washing your driveway at all.

You don’t want to get caught using more water than you are allowed to use, and to reuse the example of the same state as above – California will fine people for overusing water, and you could receive fines of $500 per day for your water usage.

Final Thoughts

There is some debate going on online about whether pressure washing your driveway is legal or not, and the confusion likely comes from the fine print in the written laws. Someone might hear that it isn’t illegal, but they fail to see how complicated it is to pressure wash following the additional restrictions.

You can legally pressure wash your driveway in most of the United States, but only if you have a system that stops the wastewater from leaving your property. It may not go down the drain or in any other way make reach open bodies of water. 

Very few people can collect wastewater and dispose of it in accordance with the law, which is why it is easier to say that pressure washing is, in fact, illegal, even though it technically is not.

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