Pressure Washer’s Guidebook

Pressure Washer’s Guidebook: Waste Transfer Stations: Removing the Residue

Contributor: James A. Lewis, President/CEO, Underpressure Powerwashers, Inc., Oak Hills, CA / Published December 2015


Photos courtesy of James A. Lewis, Underpressure Powerwashers, Inc.



eographical Considerations

Since America has turned green, the opportunities are overwhelming and will soon be everywhere. Homeowners sort their trash in many states, as they do in California, which has the toughest environmental regulations in the country. Waste transfer stations sort recyclables further (e.g., into cardboard, metal, plastic, glass). Because the recyclables carry at least residues of their contents, the transfer stations get dirty quickly.

Typical Job

We work for one of the largest waste transfer companies in California. Most of the jobs we do involve washing the beams or the ceiling of the transfer station. And we wash down the walls.

There is diesel residue on the beams because the hauling trucks pull into the underroof portion of the facilities. There are often rats walking around.

On the outside perimeter of the transfer station, the owner operates a rat-control program. But many rats come in with the consolidated waste. (Anyone who has lived in a multi-unit residential complex can attest to the rats that live in dumpsters on those sites.)

Waste-Transfer-Stations-photo1A waste transfer station is a dirty place. Few recyclables arrive that do not have something of their contents remaining on them or in them. They are loaded on conveyors, which carry them by sorters.

The residual material coming off the sorting conveyors sometimes becomes so dense that when it gets on the floor it is generally moved around by dozers and then lifted with front-end loaders onto vehicles that carry it to a disposal site for solid waste.

A transfer station also is a dangerous place. Sharp objects can be a hazard. And there are boards with nails that can puncture tires on contractor vehicles. We have had many flats. The frequency for washing waste transfer stations is set by the owner.

Techniques That Work Best

Use the washing process that would be used on the exterior of a building of the same construction. If the transfer station is constructed of sheet metal, use the technique you use for sheet metal. If it is made of concrete, use the process you use for concrete. We use hot water and a chemical.

You want to work after hours, or when the station is not in operation because when open, it is extremely busy with conveyors moving and trucks and heavy equipment coming and going. Try to arrange to work on the weekend to get the longest possible interval of uninterrupted time.


There will be hazardous materials in some waste transfer stations. To take on a job cleaning inside such stations a contractor will have to be hazmat certified and take all precautions related to cleaning around hazardous materials.

[Note: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSA) applies to the transport as well as the manufacture, fabrication, marking, maintenance, reconditioning, repairing, or testing of a package or container that transports hazardous materials. Clean-ing falls into the maintenance category. For a refresher on the scope of hazardous materials regulations, see www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hazardous-

Equipment and Supplies

I suggest a pressure washer capable of 3000 to 3500 psi, five to seven gpm and 200 F. I have the owner of the facility supply the water. 

The station will probably have a sanitary drain. If not, a wastewater collection system may be necessary, although that is usually not the case.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a must. You will need a breathing device, safety gloves, safety vests, and steel-tipped boots.

Good lighting is also needed. We ask the owner to leave the lights on, but we also bring our own lighting.

How To Bill

We set parameters and negotiate with the owner for a contract. Try to bill hourly. Most of the time we are right on target with hourly billing because we take a good look at the job before giving an estimate. If we are off by four hours—or less than half a day—we generally do not bill for the hours.


Waste-Transfer-Stations-photo2Cleaning the outside of the building and washing the roof are good add-ons to consider. We also ask if we can clean the interior working spaces used by transfer site managers.

The possibilities are endless. Just think about it and consider the services your company can offer. Washing the trucks that do the hauling is one possibility. Washing the heavy equipment used onsite is another. Cleaning conveyors might also be a fit for some contractors who are set up to work around the mechanical and electrical parts of the systems.

Problem Areas To Avoid

We have run into electrical issues. We are very cautious. Try to pinpoint all electrical connections before starting the job and make certain they are properly sealed. The owner’s on-site manager should be able to give the location of all electrical boxes.

We once shorted out a light for which we did not know there was an unprotected connection. It cost us $800 to make it right. Now we get a waiver for electrical mishaps.

Wastewater requirements are strict in California and must be followed. Meeting wastewater collection and recycling regulations will be necessary in many places, as they are in California. As a prerequisite to any job, know what the local, state, and federal regulations that govern the site are and plan accordingly. 

How To Fix Mistakes

We must meet the standards set for the facility by the inspectors from the regulating entities. The owners of the transfer station, the people we work for, understand that waste transfer stations get dirty. We work with the owner to understand needs and to get it right.

James Lewis heads Underpressure Powerwashers, Inc., a family-operated company since 1996, which incorporated in 2004. The firm takes on property cleaning jobs of a great number of kinds and it does a substantial amount of work under contract for a major waste transfer company.