Pressure Washing Tips – How to Pressure Wash an Airplane Correctly…

Airplane cleaning isn’t your usual power washing walk in the park weekend project. Even the surface of small sized planes like a Cessna 172/182, King Air or even a Helicopter represent a large bit of real estate to clean. Keeping your aircraft clean is vital not only for appearance but mainly for safety and efficiency. Dirt accumulates in crevices of the air frame structure and it can result in corrosion spots. Non-pressurized aircraft that fly at lower altitudes accumulate a great deal of bugs. Normal engine operation and reverse thrust upon landing results in exhaust build up on the sides and tail. Airplane pressure washing is not only safer but will also result in reduced drag and therefore higher fuel efficiency. You might wonder why it’s so important to keep the jets clean — aesthetics are important but there is also something else at play. Safety. The build up of dirt and grime causes drag on a jet in flight and that cuts into fuel efficiency.

Planes Get Dirty

While passengers expect company aircraft to be immaculate at all times, they have no idea the amount of work involved to accomplish that. Some probably think that the dirt is blown off while in flight or washes away in clouds and rain. But the sky is neither benign nor helpful. Air pollution, smoke, acid rain and the attack of ultraviolet radiation from the sun comprise constant attack on an air frame. Add to this assorted drips, leaks and goo from deicing operations, and even the most high-tech coating will suffer without corrective intervention. Actually, planes get very dirty and the dust that settles on the surface gets streaked by rain and bird excrement. The extensive hydraulic system often leaks oil as well. Many times during a landing, pilots reverse the thrust of the engines to slow down, blowing dirty exhaust loaded with carcinogenic particles onto the plane’s sides and tail. And we haven’t even discussed the bug problem yet. When a plane is in the air, it plows through a lot of bugs as it makes its way from point A to point B. When the plane lands, there will be a slimy veneer of bug goo coating the surface as it taxis up to disembark passengers.

For Small Planes

For smaller exterior airplane washing, we suggest an electric pressure washer which can effectively meet the cleaning demands a small plane poses. If you have to tackle larger planes such as a Falcon 2000, Gulfstream, Lear Jet or even the incredibly large, French manufactured Airbus A380, you may want to consider tow behind pressure washer. They’ll allow you to clean these massive craft in no time at all. Cleaning airplanes take time but you can cut it in half by using a pressure washer.

Housekeeping Rules for the Power Washer

When operating power washers, there are a couple of housekeeping rules you should keep in mind. Nozzles should be kept clean at all times — extremely important because clogged nozzles can increase pump pressure and eventually damage the unit. When a nozzle is clogged, simply clean it or replace it with a new one. Never use a ladder in order to pressure wash high points since the recoil from the pressure can knock you off balance. Work from the top toward the bottom and from the tail toward the nose. Due to the presence of the rudders, the most challenging part of detailing a plane is the tail section. Caution: DO NOT spray the windows of an airplane, especially the windshield. The windows are made from a fine material which scratches easily. Wash the windows, by using a soft cloth and window-approved windshield cleaner. Do not pressure wash an airplane in the sun while the surface is hot because a cleaning solution that sits too long may adversely affect the paint. Rinse the airplane with plenty of fresh water.
When aircraft washing, the best results are achieved when you compartmentalize your work – clean small sections at a time.


A plane presents unique cleaning challenges you won’t face on any other project — however, if you follow our tips and suggestions on cleaning airplanes, you’ll find it a breeze!

Pressure Spray, Inc. can help Facilities Mangers select the right pressure washing equipment for their needs. We can maintain and repair your power washing equipment to keep it running it’s best.

Contact us (513.874.4484) for more information!

PSI logoAbout Pressure Spray, Inc.

Pressure Spray Inc. (PSI) has been serving Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Southeastern Indiana as a distributor of pressure washers, parts cleaners, and chemical cleaners for over 30 years and service more than 3,500 customers.
>> Request a Free Consultation 

Some of Our Other Featured Products…