What are the Pressure Washing Regulations in California?

By Lily Leung - Updated March 21, 2018

Pressure washing has the ability to take years off of a home, office building or parking lot without going through the arduous tasks of resurfacing and repainting. And high-powered streams of water blast gunk off of outdoor patio and furniture, making them look like new. This powerful process, known as pressure washing or power washing, can also remove pesky graffiti.

One obvious issue is that any sprayed-off substance, from oils to pesticides, can end up in storm drains and waterways. This could contaminate drinking-water sources and pose a serious danger to fish and wildlife. California, historically a leader in environmental reform measures, clearly outlines rules related to the practice of pressure washing. The state also offers best management practices for those who operate these pressure-washing businesses.

Tip

Before hiring a contractor to power wash your home, always check to see if they are licensed by the state to perform the work and follow industry best practices, especially when it comes to wastewater disposal. Any violations will end up hurting you, the homeowner.

Follow Regulations on All Levels

In California, it's against the law to allow wastewater from power washing to flow into storm drains and natural bodies of water. Doing so is not only a violation of state laws, but also federal and municipal regulations and could possibly result in fines. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces the Clean Water Act of 1972, fines violators several thousand dollars a day for offenses.

Get Licensed Before Doing Work

Before performing any power-washing jobs, companies in California must obtain a pressure-washing license through the state Contractors State License Board. The proper designation is Sand and Water Blasting Limited Specialty Contractor, Class Code C-61/D-38. To qualify for this license, you must be at least 18 and show four years of journeyman experience. Expect to pay around $300 for the application fee and an additional license fee of about $180. It's best to contact the license board to confirm specifics and fees before performing any pressure-cleaning job.

Follow Best Management Practices

Once you're licensed, always follow best management practices set by the industry when performing pressure-washing jobs. Following these guidelines helps to avoid environmental fines and negative impacts to the environment. Fines incurred from violations are also the responsibility of the property owner, so owners need to be equally aware of pressure-washing guidelines and make sure they are followed by contractors. Homeowners who want to pressure wash their homes themselves do not need to obtain licensing, but must follow the same guidelines that companies do.

Power washing best practices include:

  • Plan your job to anticipate potential issues, like runoff. Also, ensure you have the right equipment and tools.
  • Preclean the surface by using dry methods to reduce the amount of harmful matter that may come off while power washing. Dry methods include sweeping and mopping. It's also important to minimize the amount of water used and avoid using hazardous cleaning chemicals. 
  • Contain and collect wastewater for disposal in a manner that meets local, state and federal regulations. Dispose of debris and other residue using a broom, mop or vacuum. Discharge is typically disposed of into sanitary sewers, and contractors must sometimes get government pre-approval before disposal. In certain instances, contractors can release dirty water onto landscaped areas on the condition that there's no resulting runoff or hazardous-waste contamination.

About the Author

Experienced writer and editor based in Southern California.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article