Nothing is more frustrating as a homeowner than having a property covered in dirt, grease, oil, and peeled paint. Except for the times that we have to clean those messy spots. Cleaning by hand is back-breaking and sometimes not effective. Spraying down surfaces with a garden hose more often than not simply pushes debris from one point to another. This is when a pressure washer earns its keep as the premier tool for these types of jobs. In this buyers guide, we are running through the most important factors to take into account when choosing the best pressure washer for your needs.
A pressure washer forces water through a narrow nozzle with high pressure, creating a water stream that is quite powerful. Embedded dirt and grease stains can be removed with less effort and at a faster pace.
The following information examines what a pressure washer might be used for and how it can be applied to those jobs. Along the way, we will discuss what features to consider when contemplating purchasing one of these powerful cleaners.
Why would you need a pressure washer?
Tools are designed to assist in making a job easier, and a pressure washer can help with even the most difficult cleaning jobs. Removing dirt, graffiti, grease, oil, and paint by hand can be nearly impossible in some cases. A washer allows the water to do all of the work, even on deeply ingrained or-or soiled surfaces. The pressurized water will also cut down on time.
Driveways and patios collect tough stains, especially grease and oil. The best pressure washers can remove these spots from asphalt or concrete efficiently and quickly. Dirt will build up fast on fences or siding. These tools provide easy cleaning of brick, vinyl, and wood (even in hard to reach places).
Graffiti can be removed from all surfaces in a short period of time. Dirty lawn furniture can be made to look new or prepared for resurfacing by removing old paint. A pressure washer may be the ideal tool for washing a vehicle or rinsing off dirty lawn equipment, like a lawnmower. Using a washer to clean out gutters may have never been easier.
The water stream can also be used to remove spider webs or even a wasp’s nest!
Professional pressure washing companies charge a fortune for this service, but thanks to mass production and clever designs, there are quite a few residential or commercial pressure washers on the market that you can use and achieve the same results. Not just that, but home pressure washing can be very satisfying!
Types of pressure washers
Cold water vs hot water
One way to categorize pressure washers is cold water versus hot water. Washers that use cold water are more basic and compact in design. They are easier to maintain and come at a lower price point. Cold water washers excel at most jobs with superior GPM and PSI ratings.
Cold water will struggle with removing grease and oil, even at higher pressures. Hot water pressure washers take advantage of heat to easily remove these types of stains. These units are larger and more costly than cold water equipment. They maintain lower GPM and PSI ratings.
Light duty vs heavy duty pressure washer
Another way to distinguish pressure washers is by light duty compared to heavy duty. Light duty washers have a PSI rating up to 2800 and are able to handle most jobs with the exception of paint preparation or second story work. With PSI ratings of 2900 or greater, heavy duty pressure washers are able to tackle most jobs, including those that light-duty equipment cannot. Cleaning patio furniture or vehicles would be the only tasks that heavy duty washers would not be recommended for.
Electric pressure washer vs gas pressure washer
Electric versus gas is another way to categorize pressure washers, with electric equipment offering easy maintenance and portability. Comparatively cheaper prices are offset by less durability. Some electrics can reach pressures of 2000 PSI, making them a great selection for many jobs around the house. Gas-powered models require more maintenance but can go wherever the job is with pressures up to 4000 PSI for even the toughest jobs.
Commercial or residential
Finally, pressure washers can be classified as either commercial or residential. One major difference is a commercial pressure washer’s ability to produce PSI levels reaching 8000. Commercial units are often capable of operating in both cold and hot water mode, as well as steam. They are also more durable.
Features to consider
One of the most important features to look at on any pressure washer will be the pressure rating, which is rated in pounds per square inch (PSI). This is the pressure at which the water flows through the nozzle. A lower rating is still adequate for most jobs around the house and may be necessary for work like cleaning an automobile. Higher PSI ratings will get the job done faster.
Water pressure provides this equipment with the ability to penetrate cracks and surfaces with embedded debris. The higher the penetration power, the more likely that deeper grit and grim will wash away. Higher pressure cleaning will usually require fewer passes from the nozzle. This can cut down work time, especially with larger surfaces or multiple jobs.
Light duty washers will have PSI ratings of 2000 or less. Medium duty pressure ranges from 2000 to 2800 PSI. Heavy duty washers range from 2900 to 3300 PSI. Commercial units operate at PSI ratings of 3300 or greater.
Water flow rating
The other important measurement for cleaning power is the rate that water flows through the nozzle in gallons per minute (GPM). Greater cleaning power will be achieved with higher GPM ratings. With more water available to spray, pressure washing will be more efficient and will also cut down on time. It should be noted that the volume of water feeding the washer must be at the same rate as the equipment uses.
Portability is another consideration when looking into pressure washers. The weight of the equipment is important for jobs that will require lots of movement. Electric washers tend to be lighter. Gas powered models have more parts as well as on-board storage of gas and oil to think about.
Tires are often an overlooked component when considering mobility on a pressure washer. Pneumatic Tires will require inflation on occasion, but they provide better movement on terrain other than asphalt or concrete. Molded tires provide more durability at the cost of less flexibility. Plastic tires might be avoided, as they can become stuck more easily than even molded tires will.
Nozzles direct the water spray and come either with a set degree of opening or as a component that can be adjusted to different settings. Singular nozzles are designed with a quick-change coupler that snaps into place. We found that many electric pressure washers come with two or more of these nozzles. The tips are color coded for specific openings that are measured by the spray pattern in degrees.
Red = 0 degree spray pattern
Yellow = 15 degree spray pattern
Green = 25 degree spray pattern
White = 40 degree spray pattern
Black = low pressure spray pattern
Dial nozzles offer convenience, as they can be twisted to different nozzle spray patterns without having to replace the nozzle each time. There should be no noticeable difference in water output between single and dialed nozzles. While many washers use a standard coupling, make sure to keep an eye out for nozzles that use a proprietary coupling that will accept nozzles only from the manufacturer.
The dimensions of the spray pattern can force the water into either thinner or wider streams. The high pressure that the water is forced through the nozzle can be dangerous, damaging protective layers or clothing and causing injury to the skin. Ed Perratore released a safety alert from Consumer reports in 2016, recommending that consumers can use the less dangerous nozzles with higher degree spray patterns and still achieve proper cleaning. This safety alert can be found here.
Pressure washer hose
High-pressure water hoses can be difficult to work with. They are often stiff and may maintain their memory coil while in use. It would prove worthwhile to find a hose that is flexible and easy to use. Thinner hoses capable of handling the pressure tend not to maintain memory coil when they are undone.
A feature to look for would be a reel to store the hose on when the pressure washer is not in use. The reel not only aids with storage, but it can also keep the hose secure to help protect it. A reel or hooks to wrap the electrical cord onto for electric washers will function in a similar way.
Using soap with cold or hot water can help clean deeper and more quickly. Soap tanks are conveniently located in-line on some models, eliminating the need for extra bottles. They are harder to clean though. On units that lack these tanks, users must connect a soap container in-line to take advantage of the extra cleaning power.
Other features to consider
Other features to consider include a dial to adjust the pressure output on the washer. The location of the hose attachment might be important for those of us who have back or knee problems. Cord length or battery life on some models need to be accounted for.
Pressure washer maintenance and usage
Water pressure and consumption
An important factor to keep in mind when considering a pressure washer is the water consumption rate of the unit which is measured in gallons per minute (GPM). The output from the water source feeding the washer must at the minimum match the GPM rating. If the water source provides less than the pressure washer’s rating it will cause a loss of capacity. This will also cause a loss of efficiency as well.
Ideally, the water source GPM rating should be higher than that of the pressure washer. Even a small difference can cause cavitation. The build-up of bubbles might damage the pump. In severe instances, the pump might blow into pieces.
Always turn on the water supply first, before the power washer is switched on. Hold down the trigger and allow the water to spray for a few seconds until there is a constant flow of water without air pockets. Only then should the machine be turned on. Proceed to use the pressure washer.
Once finished, turn the pressure washer off. Turn off the water supply and then squeeze the trigger on the wand to drain any leftover water and pressure. After disconnecting all hoses, pull the wand’s trigger again to drain any leftover water from the wand as well as the hoses. The washer is now ready for storage.
Maintenance should include draining the water from the pump after each use. Leaving water inside the pump can damage it, requiring the replacement of parts (like the seals, for example). If a soap tank is used, make sure that it is rinsed out as well. Remember that the pump inlet screen will need cleaning too.
Gas powered pressure washers require a bit more maintenance than electrics do, thanks to a more detailed engine and the liquids that keep it running. Check gas and oil levels and make sure they are maintained at proper levels. Before the washer is stored over the winter, make sure to change the oil and oil filter. Disconnect any battery power to help prevent a trickle discharge.
Other long-term storage steps include removing any spark plug wires. If the pressure washer is being stored in extremely cold environments, consider adding a fuel stabilizer to prevent issues with the gas. Verify that all cords, hoses, and other accessories are stored securely to prevent damage. In the spring, the spark plugs can be replaced and fresh fuel added.
Conclusion and best pressure washer advice
It is our hope that the information provided will prove useful when looking into purchasing the best pressure washer. There are many reasons that a homeowner can justify owning a washer, including general cleaning and property upkeep. A good pressure washer can clean things that were next to impossible previously. The time that is saved can be spent on leisure or other projects.
Before buying the best pressure washer, it is important to consider the jobs that it will be tasked with beforehand. Smaller properties requiring only general cleaning might be served best by lower GPM and PSI ratings. A battery or electrically powered washer with those ratings could also clean vehicles and outdoor furniture.
Higher rated gas powered washers should serve larger properties with multi-level homes more efficiently. No matter which you decide, keep clean and stay busy!