Pressure Washer Nozzles 101: Everything You Need To Know

Today I’m going to show you how to match a pressure washer nozzle (also called spray tip) to your cleaning surface to ensure a fast, thoroughly clean with no damage. Read on or watch our video:

Choose the wrong nozzle and you could:

  • Peel the paint off your car
  • Damage your wood deck
  • Punch through the mortar of your brick driveway requiring costly repairs.

Choose the right nozzle and it almost doesn’t matter the PSI and GPM of your pressure washer – you’ll get the clean you desire – because the nozzle is what creates the pressure in pressure washer. Here’s how nozzles create pressure:

The Importance of Pressure Washing Nozzles

Picture being out in your front yard with the garden hose in your right hand and water flowing out the tip. Maybe you’re watering the garden and you want to reach the plants 15-ft from where you are.

The problem is the stream from the hose is weak and barely reaches 5-ft. So what do you do? You use your thumb to block off 3/4 of the opening. Now all the water is forced to exit through the smaller orifice.

What does the water do? Well, it speeds up. And because of Mr. Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, we know more velocity means more distance. Now the water reaches those plants 15-ft away.

This is the gist how a nozzle works. Restrict the flow, increase the velocity. And that increase is what causes the cleaning power and force of the pressure washer water spray.

Just like you use different grits of sandpaper when sanding down wood – you need to use different nozzles for different jobs. Here’s the types of nozzles to choose from:

The Main Types Of Pressure Washer Nozzles

Girl Pressure Washing
25-Degree nozzle creates this fan spray (Lines added to enforce angle created)

All power washers come out-of-the-box with 3-4 color coded nozzle tips.

  • The 0-degree shoots a direct jet of water onto the surface. When the jet hits the surface it hits with the area of a quarter coin. It does not sheet or fan out the water spray at all
  • The 15-degree creates a 15-degree wide sheet of water spray at the nozzle. Once the spray hits the surface the pressure is less because it’s force is spread over a larger area
  • The 25-degree is an even larger sheet or fan of water than 15-degree nozzle thus causing even less pressure on the surface
  • The 40-degree is the most gentle spray. Held at the right distance you would use a 40-degree nozzle to clean windows and other fragile surfaces.

It should be noted that backing away from the surface with a certain degree nozzle further reduces the pressure on it.

  • The general rule is that with a doubling of distance is a halving of force.

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Most Common Pressure Washer Tips

0° Red Nozzle Tip – Maximum Blast

0 degree pressure washer nozzle - when to use
  • Rarely used because its spray covers so little area (and force so high making it unsafe to use on many surfaces) that it would take forever to clean anything.
  • There are situation when it could be used for removing very tough caked on mud from construction equipment, or rust, or holding at the right distance remove tough stains from high strength concrete.
  • A turbo nozzle mimics a red tip force but is much more useful to use.
  • Do not use this nozzle on soft surfaces (wood, siding, cars).
  • Homeowners should rarely ever use this pressure washer nozzle.

15° Yellow Nozzle Tip – Medium Stripping

15 degree pressure washing nozzle - when to use
  • Used to preparing surfaces for painting.
  • Used from the right distance can be great at removing tough mud and dirt from 4x4s.

25° Green Nozzle Tip – Gentle Lifting and Cleaning

25 degree pressure washing nozzle - when to use
  • Probably the most common nozzle tip to use for around the home.
  • Great for boat, car, patio furniture and driveways.
  • Because it creates a nice wide sheet of water it cleaners a greater area faster.

40° White Nozzle Tip – Minimum Spraying

40 degree pressure washing nozzle - when to use
  • Low pressure and is great for fragile surface like windows and blinds.

~65° Black Tip – Soap Nozzle

65 degree pressure washing nozzle - when to use
  • The soaping tip nozzle is special because it not only has the widest degree (~65°) but also a larger orifice. It needs a larger orifice to decrease velocity thus increasing pressure in the hose. This increase in pressure pulls detergent into the line so you can apply soap to the surface for an easier clean.
  • Spray prior to cleaning with a lower degree nozzle and watch the grime fly off.

Special Use Nozzles

Special use pressure washing nozzles - turbo, adjustable, and foam cannon

Turbo/Rotary Nozzle

  • One of the most useful nozzles because it combines the force of the 0-degree nozzle with the spray area of a 25-degree nozzle and adds in a pulsing action by rotating the water jet at 1800 – 3000 rpm.
  • When the rotating nozzle hits the surface it creates a round cone shape (it rotates the jet so quick it appears as a cone like a orange safety cone coming from the nozzle tip)

Adjustable/Variable Nozzle

  • Ability to quickly change over 6 patterns – 0-degree, 15-degree, 25-degree, 40-degree, built in settings for soap and rinsing
  • Save time on common cleaning work like household grime and mildew from decks, concrete, and siding

Foam Cannon

  • Traditionally used for washing cars, boats, windows, siding, and more
  • Typically has stainless steel, plastic, and brass components
  • Adjustable spray nozzle to control foam output
  • For a detailed explanation, see our guide to foam cannons

How To Pick The Perfect Nozzle For Your Cleaning Job

Here’s 4 steps to follow before you begin pressure washing ANY surface:

  1. Use common sense when selecting a nozzle
  2. Start with a wider angle nozzle
  3. Keep your distance to start. Start long-range and slowly move closer
  4. Always test on a small area of the surface.

If it’s your first time pressure cleaning you’ll notice pretty quick how intuitive it is. You’ll naturally not want to damage the surface so keep the distance naturally. As you get comfortable move a bit closer and be sure to keep an eye that you’re not damaging the surface.

If the surface is stubborn, first move the spray closer to the surface because distance is the easiest way to adjust the effective pressure. If it’s still not working change to a more intense nozzle and when you start cleaning again be sure to start 4-ft from the surface moving closer as described above.

Nozzle Care

Use a pin to clear the nozzle before each use.

Changing the nozzles on the spray gun wand is easy:

  1. Lift the retainer upward to release the old nozzle if still in place
  2. Install the new nozzle by lifting up the retainer, inserting the new nozzle, and releasing the retainer to secure.
  3. Once installed, confirm that the new nozzle works properly.
pressure washing nozzle full infographic

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  1. Atlantic Pressure Washing resource page about pressure washers is extremely detailed and useful. I used to learn more about the soaping nozzle.
  2. Image of women above sourced from this Wikipedia page on sprayers.

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