By April Hirsch / Published May 2020
Flex makes the hose a great tool. Pipes and pumps keep liquids moving, but hoses get fluids to their final point of contact. However, that which bends also potentially tangles—and frustrates. Do without hoses? Never. Proper use and care of hoses is the way to go. They ensure a hose meets the longevity built in by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
Start with shunning harsh treatment. “It is important to realize that hoses almost always wear out from the outside,” says Jeff Theis, president of ProPulse–a Schieffer Co., which is located in Peosta, IA. “Abrasion is the number one cause.”
Reduce abrasion. “One simple first step that helps extend hose life is to wet any hard surface area where the hose will be dragged prior to unrolling or unreeling the hose for use in cleaning,” says Theis.
Because the “lubricity of the water helps reduce friction of the hose against the surface”—asphalt, for example—there is less cover wear, explains Theis. Beyond using best practices to reduce abrasion, a contractor can select a hose with resistance to abrasion built in.
“Our company offers a variety of hose cover materials, including UHMWPE (ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene), which are matched to very difficult cleaning applications such as stadium cleaning,” says Theis. “Such hoses have abrasion resistance of more than 10 times some standard rubber covers.”
There are a couple of tradeoffs with abrasion-resistant hoses. The hoses generally cost more and may be a little less flexible, explains Theis. But, they last longer.
Choosing a hose that matches conditions in which it will be used, as well as the preferences (maximum flexibility vs. maximum longevity) of the contractor, is the place where care and use approaches begin. Then, it’s important to never misuse a hose.
“Hoses are often driven over by vehicles,” says Theis. “They are dragged along sharp and/or highly abrasive surfaces. Often, in an attempt to get the spray jet to reach just a little closer to the cleaning surface, the hose is jerked or pulled.”
The “just this once” rationalization for a big tug is unwise. Damage can result from “even limited exposure” to such treatment, says Theis.
In some instances, there can be a cascade of less-than-welcome outcomes. “Tangled hoses are often pulled aggressively to the point of kinking while under pressure and even one kink of a steel-braided hose can cause issues with the hose immediately or in a very short time,” says Theis.
Concerns about ambient conditions, particularly air temperature, should not be serious as long as a contractor follows OEM guidelines. “Generally, pressure washer hoses are rated for internal temperatures much higher than ambient weather conditions,” says Theis.
“One thing a contractor must do is be sure the maximum water pressure and temperature of a machine do not exceed the maximum working pressure or temperature rating for the hose,” says Theis. “On the other hand, it is never a good idea to allow a hose with water in it to freeze while in storage.”
While contractors are “well aware of the damage freezing can cause to a pump or a heat exchanger coil,” says Theis, they “often forget about the hose.” He recommends allowing the water to drain by gravity or using compressed air to blow water out of the hose, as well as storing a coiled hose horizontally.
Also take care to follow the manufacturer’s advice on a cool-down period for hot water machines being taken out of use for an extended period, says Theis. “This cool down is especially important for hoses, as latent heat from the hottest part of the heat exchanger can result in exceedingly hot water migrating through the system.
“The cool-down practice is not only good for pumps, valves, and spray hoses, but also good for other hoses, such as those from ‘pump to coil’ or ‘coil to outlet’,” continues Theis, and it’s a good investment of time. “Taking just a couple of minutes on the front end and the back end of a job can have a meaningful impact on downtime reduction, increase the interval between hose replacements, and result in a safer working environment.”
Proper care and use of hoses begin with safety awareness, of course. Theis provides several reminders: Inspect the hose for damage prior to startup and during use. Stop using a hose immediately if it leaks or any reinforcement layer of wire or yarn is exposed. Do not try to repair a damaged or leaking hose.
The simplicity of a hose eases fundamentals of use and care. (Make that safe use.) Begin with ensuring the match between hose and machine is optimal. Distributors can greatly assist contractors to fine tune these pairings. Safe use and longevity of a hose both depend upon the correct match.
“One step contractors can take is to be sure that their hoses meet or exceed the working pressure and temperature ratings of the pressure washer they are being used with,” says Jeff Schultz, sales and marketing manager at Suttner America Company in Dubuque, IA. “Using a hose that has a working pressure less than the pressure washer can result in a blowout and injury. The same is true for the temperature rating.”
Paying close attention to ratings matters. “Sometimes hoses are exposed to heat exceeding the maximum recommended temperature rating,” says Schultz. “When this happens, the plasticizers and the elastomer that give a hose its flexibility break down, which results in failure.”
It’s not just outright failure that may stem from a mismatch, explains Schultz. If there is oxidative build up inside the inner tube of the hose, it can cause restriction.
OEMs provide hose ratings to simplify life for the users of hoses. “Both the media temperature (the temperature of the media conveyed through the hose) and the ambient temperature (the temperature around the hose where it is being used) need to be considered when selecting the hose,” says Schultz.
“Make sure that the temperature rating of the hose you are considering meets or exceeds the higher of the media or ambient temperature of your applications,” says Schultz. “Always check hose specification for temperature ratings.”
So much of what leads to trouble with hoses is wholly preventable that it’s worth a second reminder. “Excessive kinking, driving over the hose, and excessive abrasion are the main reasons a hose fails,” says Schultz. “Make sure the hose is properly stored…Overhead booms and hose reels are two great items that can help alleviate kinking issues.”
Situational awareness when operating a vehicle and proper storage of hoses prevents hoses from ending up under the tires of vehicles. Schultz also recommends making hoses more visible through color choice.
Because of the abrasion it causes, the dragging of a hose over rough terrain must be avoided to the fullest extent possible, says Schultz. “There are products available in the market that can greatly reduce cover wear, like our company’s Superballs and SST hose.”
When contractors use and care for hoses as they should, they do much more than protect the integrity of their equipment. They ensure there are no unintended consequences when they complete a project.
For example, a malfunction in a hose (clog or constriction) that is attached to a residential tap could cause a backflow. That backflow presents an issue with contamination if chemicals are being used. (Serious backflows, which are unlikely to be caused by a pressure washer, can lead to grave problems, as anyone who has ever been troubled by a sewer malfunction knows.)
Hoses must be coupled. The coupling plus the hose constitute a hose assembly.
When creating an assembly, always use the type of coupling or adjustable clamp recommended by the OEM. Whenever a change in coupling or clamp is made, test the assembly before using it. Again, distributors can help contractors with questions about hose assembly.
When visually inspecting a hose prior to use, it is possible to get some sense of the interior condition by using a flashlight to check the bore at each end. And although most wear will show from the outside first, it is probably a good idea to add this task to a periodic inspection list.
With the advent of synthetic materials, natural rubber has fallen out of favor as a material for hoses. Rubber hoses require attention in storage. No exposure to sunlight or fluorescent light is one rule. No storage near electrical equipment (tie to ozone production) is another.
The short of it is, degradation of natural rubber is a serious concern. But storage in well-ventilated, dry, and low-light places benefits hoses made from other materials, too.
Do take time to appreciate the synthetics that have supplanted rubber and made hose storage much easier: Manufacturers keep innovating.
Remember, however, that the integrity of the hose at a job site is the operator’s responsibility. The operator must be committed to making correct matches, inspecting regularly, and removing any damaged hoses from service.