Understanding Pressure Washer Nozzles: A Guide for Everyone

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When you bought your pressure washer, chances are it came with a handful of colored nozzles, or tips, that you’re not quite sure what to do with. What do the colors mean? Which nozzle should you use for your project? And, do you have every nozzle you need, or should you buy a connector? In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about pressure washer nozzles. We’ll even solve some common nozzle problems that can make your cleaning project go much faster. 

How Do Pressure Washer Nozzles Work?

In order to understand what each nozzle does, you need to know how they work in general. Your electric or gas pressure washer can generate a high volume of water, but without the nozzle, it won’t be pressurized. The nozzle limits the flow of water so that it all must come out of a tiny hole. That’s actually what makes the “pressure” in a pressure washer. Have you ever put your thumb over part of the garden hose to make the water go further? Nozzles work the same way. 

So, the difference between the nozzles is the size of the hole they force the water through. The smallest holes (on the red nozzle) create the highest-pressure stream. The largest holes (the black nozzle) hardly create any pressure at all, and it instead is used for soaping surfaces. So, it’s critical to get your pressure washer nozzle right, or you might harm the surface you’re working on, or fail to clean it at all. 

The speed of your work may also be affected by the nozzle you choose. Smaller nozzles apply a smaller surface area of water onto your surface. So, if you were peeling the paint off a metal surface, the smallest tip would create a thin line, while large tips would create thicker lines. When you’re working with smaller nozzles, it’ll take you longer to cover the whole object or surface you’re cleaning. This is one reason that it’s wise to choose the lowest pressure you need to do the job (or use the rotary nozzle, read more about that below). That way, you’ll be finished faster. 

What Happens If You Choose the Wrong Spray Tip?

If you accidentally choose a spray tip that is too powerful for your surface, you can damage it. If you choose a spray tip that is too weak, it won’t make an impact at all.  It is best to start with a wider-angle nozzle and move up if it’s not doing the job. This way you limit the risk of harming your surface. 

Also, it’s important to note that there are different sizes of pressure washer nozzles, not just different sprays.

While most pressure washers intended for home use will come with a set of the right size pressure washer nozzles (and typically they are quick-connect tips) some may not. If you choose the wrong size nozzle for the pressure washer you could damage the tip or the washer. You might also end up with a significantly higher or lower pressure than listed on the nozzle. So, checking the size is paramount for your safety and the safety of your property. 

The Seven Types of Pressure Washer Nozzles 

There are seven main types of pressure washer tips. Please note that these types are not the size of the tips (read more on the size below). 

1. 0 Degree Red Tip

The red tip creates a zero-degree spray and is sometimes called the cutting nozzle. It is exceptionally powerful but using it takes a lot of time as it hardly covers any area at all. It is best for spot treatments of caked-on grime or rust on very tough metals. However, the red tip can also damage metals, so it is always best to start with a weaker tip. 

The red tip should also not be used on most concrete, tile, siding, plastic, vehicles, or essentially any household surface. If you are very confident in the quality of your concrete and your hold the and relatively far from the surface, you can use the red tip to remove concrete stains. That said, most homeowners will not ever have a use for this tip. It is most often used by those businesses that clean construction or industrial equipment. 

If you do find yourself with a use for the red tip, and you need to complete the job faster, consider a rotary nozzle (or a turbo nozzle), which we discuss below. 

2. 15 Degree Yellow Tip

The yellow tip is also a very powerful spray nozzle and is sometimes called the chiseling nozzle. It creates a thin 15-degree stream. It is capable of stripping paint, grime, and grease from hard surfaces. However, it should not be used on wood, siding, or relatively soft surfaces. It can be used on most metals and concrete safely and will do an exceptional job of cleaning them. In fact, you can use this nozzle to prepare hard surfaces for painting (think metal or concrete, not drywall). 

3. 25 Degree Green Tip

This tip, also called the flushing nozzle, is the most useful for most household projects. The green tip creates a 25-degree stream that combines powerful pressure with a reasonable surface area, so projects are finished much faster than with the two stronger tips. It can be used safely with most woods, thick kinds of vinyl (not pool linings), vehicles, boats, metal, driveways, patios, stone, decks, and many more surfaces. In fact, some people use the green tip like a leaf blower on their driveway.  

Still, the green tip can be dangerous for skin and sensitive surfaces, so you should use it with care. It is powerful enough to make gouges or chips in materials worse. You should always test with the white tip before using the green tip, especially on expensive items such as vehicles or siding.  

Also, you should not use the green tip if you are trying to wash a strong cleaning chemical off a surface. Rinse surfaces with the black tip, and then come back with the green tip. 

4. 40 Degree White Tip

The white tip sprays a 40-degree stream that is gentle compared to other pressure washer tips. This tip is called the washing nozzle, but it is still capable of harming skin and very sensitive surfaces. While the white tip doesn’t have much power, its huge spray pattern is very convenient. With it, you can quickly clean your blinds and other soft items. Consider it for your sensitive patio furniture, curtains, other fabrics, aluminum siding, vehicles, and even windows. As with other tips, the white tip will make faults in the item worse. If your window is chipped, the white tip could make it worse. If your blinds have loose threads, the white tip could pull them and make the problem worse.  

5. 65 Degree Black Tip 

The black tip is also called the soaping tip. It creates a large 65-degree spray that allows you to quickly soap up virtually any surface. However, before you use this tip you should make sure that your pressure washer can be used with soap or detergent, or whatever cleaning solution you’re using. Some pressure washers are damaged by soap, while others have dedicated soap attachments that make the process much simpler. 

6. Rotary Nozzle (Blue or Black, Large)

The rotary nozzle is pretty ingenious. It takes the power of the zero-degree red nozzle and places it on a rotating head. That way, the nozzle covers a much larger surface area, with the high pressure of the red tip. Most pressure washers will not come with a rotary or turbo nozzle, simply because it is a dangerous tool that few homeowners have need of. 

However, if you run a pressure washing business and part of your work is cleaning industrial, construction, fishing or farming equipment, you may want to purchase it. Just remember that this tip is powerful and, though it works faster than the red tip, it is still relatively slow. When possible, using a less powerful tip is ideal. 

7. Adjustable Pressure Washer Nozzles 

Adjustable nozzles are just what they sound like, a single tip that can be adjusted to different sprays. Most can be adjusted from 0 to 65 degrees, even while the pressure washer is running. Typically, all you need to do to change the spray pattern is to turn the nozzle, but you should read the instructions carefully before you use them. Most pressure washers do not come with an adjustable nozzle, but you can purchase one to fit most pressure washers. 

Does Anything Else Affect the Nozzle Stream? 

While you choose your nozzle based on the pressure it will create, it’s important to know that moving the stream closer to the surface will create more pressure while moving it further away will lessen the pressure. Keeping a consistent distance from the surface you’re cleaning is an important skill to develop when you are pressure washing. 

Are Pressure Washer Nozzles Interchangeable? 

Many nozzles are interchangeable, and many are not. If your pressure washer came with a set of quick-connect pressure washer tips, then you can safely use them all on your machine. If you are going to purchase a new nozzle or a new set, you need to make sure that it’s size, or the size of its connection is correct for your machine. For example, two common quick-connect sizes are ¼ inch and 3/8 inch. You can check with your user’s guide for your pressure washer to see which size you need or look at the nozzles that came with your washer. The nozzles should have their size listed on them. 

If you use a tip that is too small you can damage the engine of your pressure washer. You’ll also find that the stream will be stronger than you expect. If you use a nozzle that is too large the steam will be weaker than you expect.  

What is a M22 Fitting? 

It’s an additional coupler needed to connect nozzles to some pressure washers. Like this M22 coupler on Amazon.

What is a Swivel Fitting? 

A swivel fitting is an additional fitting you can add to pressure washers. They allow the hose to move, or swivel so that it is less likely to kink or become deformed out of shape. This is a great long-lasting swivel fitting.

What About Nozzle Materials?

There are several materials that your pressure washer nozzles may be made out of, including:

  • Plastic: Most pressure washers intended for home use will come with sturdy plastic nozzles. They are not as strong as other materials but are also cheaper and will not rust.
  • Brass: Brass is more expensive than plastic, but it is also stronger. It is cheaper than stainless steel but also weaker and without chemical resistance. You can find some brass adapters here.
  • Stainless steel: Stainless steel nozzles are strong, and they offer additional protection to chemicals, which is useful for commercial pressure washers who need to use chemicals in their units. You can get a set of stainless steel nozzles here.

How to Care for Your Pressure Washer Nozzles

Once you’ve made the investment in the right pressure washer nozzles for you, it’s important to maximize your investment by maintaining the tips. Occasionally, debris and dirt may get stuck in the nozzle and need to be cleaned out. If so, you can clean it. Detach the tip from the pressure washer to start. Then use a small wire brush, intended for use with spray nozzles, to clean out the tip. Then, run a bit of garden hose water through the tip, in the opposite direction that water runs through it when it is in use. 

Now that you know which pressure washer nozzle you should be using for your project, look through our blog for guides on how to get started, whether you’re cleaning your pool or getting rid of weeds. 

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