Power washers are fun and effective ways to remove dirt, grime, moss, mildew and other materials from all your outdoor surfaces using pressurized water, but they can be difficult to use on large areas. All power washers, no matter how expensive or how affordable have this one drawback: the pressure nozzle used to blow off the dirt has to fire the water out in a very narrow band in order to clean effectively. This isn’t really a problem when you’re blasting the mildew off a deck chair, but the task of cleaning a large open area like a cement patio or large wood deck quickly becomes mindless drudgery when you can only clean away a three inch swath at a time. That’s where pressure washer surface cleaners come in: They are attachment accessories for your power washer that turn your single nozzle into two rotating nozzles that clean large surface areas quickly and easily.
After getting a new consumer grade Ryobi Pressure washer I soon discovered that it worked pretty well for cleaning off a three inch path at a time, but I didn’t really want to sweep back and forth three inches at a time with my 400 foot patio and my two hundred feet of sidewalk. I needed something that speed up the job, and that’s where surface cleaners come in. There are lots of different types of pressure washer surface cleaners available at lots of different price points. Lower priced consumer-level models are perfect if you’ll only use it once or twice a season, while more expensive professional units are great if you have a side business or a large area to clean on a regular schedule.
I bought and used the 12″ Ryobi Pressure Washer Surface Cleaner. It has a standard power washer fitting and will work with most brands of electric pressure washers up to 2300 PSI. Ryobi also offers a 15″ version of the surface cleaner that is designed for gas power washers. It can handle up to 3300 PSI and has a head that can be angled, but it also more than twice as much. The 12 inch Ryobi pressure washer surface cleaner only costs about $30 which makes it a good deal for the homeowner who only plans to use it once or twice a season.
Unboxing and Assembly
The surface cleaner itself is a pretty simple device: it’s a one piece unit that has the nozzle and the spray housing all assembled. The housing is made of strong hard plastic that has a small brush line around the bottom of it so that you don’t leave marks on your patio while it bounces and pushes along the surface. The interior trunk, the rotating arms, the nozzle connector and the two spray nozzles are all made of metal and seem sturdy enough. You can remove the individual spray nozzles to clean them out, replace them, or just remove any random debris that may have gotten caught in them as well. Making things that can be taken apart and repaired is a lost art, and I appreciate the ability to do so.
It comes out of the box assembled so there is nothing for you to do other than read the instructions and attach it to your power washer. That’s pretty much what I did. Within three minutes I had it attached to my power washer and was slowly walking across my sidewalk, power washing a 12 inch wide path clean off my dirty concrete.
Ryobi Surface Cleaner Cleaning Power
The surface cleaner doesn’t seem to reduce the effectiveness of the power washer much at all, even though it is essentially splitting one burst of water into two. The arm rotates very quickly and the spray nozzles seem to be similar to the high power nozzles that came with my Ryobi power washer, so it really does still clean dirt off surfaces fairly well. As long as you have a little patience and move it gradually (but not necessarily slowly) across your surface it won’t leave any swirling paths from the rotating heads.
And because it’s essentially two jets of water on a rotating axis point only a few inches above a surface it tends to push itself up and away. When you first use it you’ll find it’s a bit like trying to push down a flying saucer or an out of control garden hose, but once you get a feel for the rhythm of it you’ll be able to control it without a problem. The plastic housing is lightweight, maybe too lightweight, so you will need to make a conscious effort to keep it close enough to the surface to keep it cleaning.
Ryobi Surface Cleaner Video Review
Overall Impressions of the Ryobi Surface Cleaner
After using the Ryobi power washer surface cleaner I was pretty impressed with how quickly we were able to clean every cement surface on our property and clean it well! It definitely cuts down on the amount of time you spend going back and forth on large flat surfaces.
After using the surface cleaner I went back over a few areas with the spray nozzle attachment to get along the edges and corners and a few other places where the surface cleaner simply couldn’t reach easily. Most of the time the nozzle cleaning didn’t make the previously cleaned area “any cleaner” or brighter, so that tells me the surface cleaner did a good job.
The one problem I did encounter was not necessarily a problem with the Ryobi surface cleaner itself, but rather with how surface cleaners work. Namely, they spray downward and blow the dirt off cement surfaces, but they don’t necessarily push the water off the surface, so you end up with pools of dirty water. We have a stamped concrete patio and this was especially noticeable. After we had gone over the area with a surface cleaner there were still puddles of very dirty water everywhere. We had to sweep the water off the patio (which wasn’t very effective) or go back and use the single nozzle attachment on our pressure washer to blast the dirty water off the concrete and into the lawn. The surface cleaner still saved time, but we did have the added step of “removing” the dirty water from our patio at the end. On our sidewalks this wasn’t a problem because they naturally slope a bit and the dirty water just rolled off.