Pressure Washer Buying Guide
Pressure washers provide immense value for both professional and home projects. Used for everything from automotive cleaning to deep stain removal, these tools offer enough liquid power for all sorts of cleaning jobs. Their water streams range in strength; some wash away stubborn grime and others blast with enough power to strip paint. For this reason, it’s important to seek out how to buy a pressure washer that accomplishes you goals without damage to any target surfaces. Two things to keep in mind as you shop:
- Lower pressure models work well for simple cleaning jobs but may not provide the force needed to remove stains.
- The highest pressure washers offer tons of value on deep cleans, but they may dent or destroy lighter materials.
For cleaning power that refreshes surfaces without causing wear, you need to choose both the power source and pressure level that best serves your needs.
Types of Pressure Washers
Like other outdoor power equipment, different types of pressure washers use different power sources, primarily gasoline or electricity. Gas pressure washers offer much higher levels of pressure and require regular maintenance for effective use. Used for both home and commercial projects, gas-powered options range in performance. Because of their higher pressure capability, this style often makes the best choice for professional jobs.
Electric pressure washers come with their own benefits. For one, they are often smaller, provide enough pressure for everyday cleaning tasks and they run more quietly than other models. While they do not provide comparable pressure levels to their gas-powered counterparts, most electric models offer just the power needed for sidewalk and furniture cleanup. They do not create exhaust, either. This makes them a better choice for indoor environments and in spaces with limited airflow.
Pro tip: When choosing from the available types of pressure washers, consider your access to electrical outlets, the power needed for the job and the availability of adequate ventilation.
Consumer vs. Professional
Professional pressure washers withstand tougher environments and more frequent usage than consumer models. For gas-powered models, this often means a larger engine and more horsepower. There are electric versions as well. These professional pressure cleaners tend to offer higher amperage than consumer models, and they work with a range of professional accessories that allow you to do more with this tool.
Consumer pressure washers come at a lower pricepoint than professional models, but many still offer heavy duty power. These washers, depending on their pressure levels, effectively clean second story siding, outdoor grills, patio surfaces and more. Consumer models excel at basic home projects like seasonal outdoor cleaning.
Hot vs. Cold
Most types of pressure washers create cold water pressure. This works just fine in most applications. Cold washers allow the washer’s engine to focus on creating both pressure and force instead of heat, and they are by far the most common types of pressure washers on the market. That said, hot water pressure washers do exist. They offer the same benefits as traditional pressure washers with the added benefit of hot water for extra cleaning power.
Pounds per Square Inch = PSI
To determine the power of your pressure washer, look at the maximum Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) and Gallons per Minute (GPM). These two measurements determine both the force and how much water the tool releases on a given task. PSI remains the most important aspect in a pressure washer comparison, as it allows users to determine the most effective instrument to use based on the type of washing they need to accomplish. The best tool for the job should offer only the pressure you need. Additional force may distort or damage surfaces.
Modest Power: Up to 2,000 PSI
The smallest models of pressure washers available, those with up to 2,000 PSI, make ideal choices for everyday jobs. These instruments offer enough power to clean up the dirtiest outdoor furniture in seconds. Users also rely on them to spray off cars between washes and as regular window rinses.
Mid-Range Power: 2,000 to 3,200 PSI
The most versatile category of pressure washers, those ranging from 2,000 to 3,200 PSI effectively clean cars (including the most well-used off-road vehicles), home siding, fences, boats and grimy garage floors. Those closer to 3,200 PSI work effectively on tough stains, too. Professionals use these for tough cleanup jobs in the shop.
Maximum Power: 3,200 to 4,200 PSI
Reliable on all the toughest jobs, pressure washers with 3,200 to 4,200 PSI offer enough power to strip away paint and remove the toughest stains. They work well on solid surfaces, especially stone and brick. Because of their extreme power, these heavy duty models should rarely be used on cars and wood surfaces. Those using maximum power devices should expect top performance in all the most difficult wash jobs.
Adjustable Spray, Spray Tips and Accessories
Outdoor power washer accessories allow for wider reach and greater access to tough areas, and many models come with similar features built in. All the top pressure washers include adjustable water spray options. These may be on the tool’s body or on the nozzle itself, and they allow users to adjust water pressure based on the task they plan to accomplish.
Spray nozzles create wider streams that soften water pressure. This feature allows you to limit the pressure from heavy duty washers, while tighter streams maximize the pressure on a focused point.
- Use a focused stream to remove tough stains, but remember to stick with as wide a stream as possible for every task.
- Wider streams shorten the job, allowing you to clean more space with less effort. These streams also protect surfaces from any extra pressure.
Different angle tips come in different colors. While you will use a black tip to apply soap, those colored with red, yellow, green and white provide increasingly greater spray angles. These tips offer an alternative to adjustable spray nozzles, and they allow for the same control.
Once you know the power source and PSI that you need for your work environment, conduct a pressure washer comparison of your own. While several models may suit your needs, some features and accessories will be more appealing than others. The best value pressure washers offer a few distinct features. Because pumps age faster due to excessive heat exposure, some washers include self-stopping or self-cooling features to extend the life of the device. When paired with proper storage, these features provide some of the most valuable preventive maintenance available.
Top-Rated Pressure Washer Features
- Detergent dispenser: This feature should mix the detergent into the water for you. Professional and consumer models both include tanks for easy fill ups.
- Onboard storage: The best models allow you to store both the nozzle and the hose alongside the washer itself. Many include additional pockets for tips and accessories.
- Hose reel: A fast way to store the hose without causing kinks or snags, reels store the hose between uses and may extend the tool’s life.
- Large wheels: Most types of mobile pressure washers offer wheels for movement, and larger wheels allow for even easier control as you move it from place to place.
Consider each of these details when shopping for your next pressure washer. Whether you need a professional or consumer model, it helps to know all the ways you plan to use the device before making a decision. Determine whether you need gas or electric power, and remember the basic rules for PSI. Lighter PSI washers work well for light washes, high-power devices work well for jobs that require extreme force, and mid-pressure devices allow users to cycle between light and hard pressures as needed. Your choice should allow you to work comfortably on the job, as often as you need.