By Brad Way
Browsing through the article archives of Cleanfax, we find excellent information on the use of pressure washers, but most of them focus on technical issues such as:
- How to use pressure washers,
- The types of cleaning agents needed for different cleaning situations,
- How these systems remove soil from surfaces.
However, what appears to be discussed less often are good, old-fashioned bread-and-butter issue like how to make money with these machines.
Pressure washing can prove very lucrative. Some carpet cleaning technicians have even gone beyond making pressure washing an “add-on service” and started entire second businesses, just offering pressure washing services. But before we discuss these opportunities, let’s get to know these machines a bit better.
Essentially, a pressure washer is a machine that pumps water through a wand at very high pressure. A “trigger” nozzle at the end of the wand helps control the amount of water released. Additionally, the speed of the motor, which is doing all the legwork, can typically be adjusted to regulate the flow rate.
About the machine
That’s the easy part. From here, pressure washers get a bit more complicated because there is a real “duality” to these machines. For example:
- There are pressure washers made for commercial use and others made for consumer use. Very often, the life of a consumer-grade pressure washer is measured in hours, whereas a commercial-grade system is measured in years. If you are planning to make this an add-on service or a separate business, it is far more cost effective to select a commercial-grade system.
- Most consumer-grade pressure washers produce high pressure, known as PSI, but have a lower water volume. This refers to the actual gallons of water going through the nozzle per minute or GPM. A commercial-grade system, on the other hand, will have a higher GPM balanced with high pressure. This produces the most effective cleaning results.
- Carpet cleaning techs have the optiowashersn of renting or owning a pressure washer. If just starting out and testing the “pressure washing waters,” so to speak, it might be best to rent a high-quality, commercial machine first. However, if these waters prove fruitful, it will be much more cost effective to purchase a system.
- Some pressure washers produce only cold water. These can be used for many purposes, for instance, washing soot off the side of a building. They also tend to be less costly than their counterpart, a hot water pressure washer. However, here is the thing technicians need to keep in mind. A hot water system can be used for many more purposes than a cold system. The hotter the water being released by the machine, the more soils and types of soils the device can remove from surfaces. This opens the door to a much broader number of job opportunities.
- Some pressure washers are electric powered, and others are gas powered. While both can perform admirably, in general, an electric system is lighter, more maneuverable, easier to maintain, and more compact, but it may be less powerful. A gas-powered unit, in contrast, is often heavier, less maneuverable, and possibly more complicated — but invariably more powerful. It’s possible that once you have determined what types of pressure washing services you want to offer you will be in a better position to determine which type of machine to select.
Where’s the business?
Now that we know a bit more about pressure washers, it’s important to look at where we can put these machines to use to help ring the cash register. There does not appear to be any “top ten” list of where pressure washers are most commonly used. However, the following are where technicians may find they have a good chance to make the most money.
Food manufacturing facilities. While many food manufacturing facilities, as well as bakeries, will have their own crews clean their cooking areas and equipment daily, they may outsource this work for more detailed pressure cleaning of walls, ceilings, floors, drains, etc.
Heavy-duty equipment. Industrial equipment used in construction, road building, farming, etc., often gets coated with soil after each job. Most companies want their equipment cleaned, which means pressure washing.
Exterior building walkways. In some cities, building owners are required to clean their sidewalks and exterior walkways on a regular basis. In major cities, this can be as often as every night. Pressure washers are also used to remove graffiti, gum, oil, and grease on exterior walls and walkways.
Parking lots. The only times many parking lots are cleaned is when they are pressure washed. Many customers ask for this service twice per year, right after the winter months, when parking lots may be coated with salt and soils from winter driving, and in the fall, before the winter season begins.
Drive-thrus. Most banks and quick-service restaurants want their drive-thru areas kept clean on a regular basis; pressure washing companies are called in to handle this task.
Home exteriors. Private homes, mobile homes, and apartment buildings are often pressure washed just to keep them clean or before painting. Additionally, these residential properties may call in pressure washers to clean driveways, sidewalks, swimming pools, wood, brick, and concrete walkways/ decks, drains, ducts, roofs, gutters, and even chimneys.
Restaurant kitchens. Pressure washers are often hired to detail clean restaurant kitchens. If your company is cleaning a restaurant’s carpet, the door is already open to discussing pressure washing the kitchen.
How to charge
Most carpet cleaning technicians charge for their services based on the square footage. This can work when pressure washing flat surfaces such as sidewalks, walls, and floors but probably will not work in other situations. Instead, your charges would likely be based on the following two things:
- Minimum drive and set-up fee for time and materials. When first starting out, an astute distributor can be a “blessing” when it comes to determining time and materials. In time, experience will be your guide.
- Profits. This will be closely determined by how much competition you have in your area — making it primarily a supply and demand issue — and the expectations of the customer.
When it comes to pricing, something technicians should know is that it is not a good idea to just give a customer a price on the spot or drop off a proposal. Many people do not understand pressure washing, what’s involved, and how it should be properly performed. A little “customer educating” can go a long way in securing new customers.
Brad Way is director of operations for Swish, a leading JanSan distribution house in Canada. He can be reached through his company website at www.swishclean.com