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Pressure washer buying guide

Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

174 guides
Need to efficiently clean your car or bike, the front of your house, or your patio? With its rotating nozzle, rotary brush or patio brush, a nice slick pressure washer can do all three! Power, flow, pressure, petrol or electric power: let us clear it all up for you!

Important features

  • Flow
  • Pressure
  • Power
  • Energy source
  • Pump type
  • Accessories

Price

from £54.00 to £26,503.00

Which pressure washer to choose?

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If you don't have all day, read these 10 lines of whistlestop advice and you'll know what you need in no time!

Professional or intensive use


Generally speaking, if you're a professional, you'll want a petrol-powered pressure washer combining power, durability and autonomy.

Occasional to regular use

So, you're a proud homeowner and you want to clean your roof or the front of your house quickly and easily? Choose an electric pressure washer with ratings of 3000W - 600L/h - 160B.

If you just want to clean walls or remove foam from stairs and walkways, go for an electric pressure washer at 2100W - 500L/h - 140B.



Less frequent use

Just need to clean your car and your fence at home? A washer at 1800W - 420L/h - 130B will do the trick!

Smaller models with just 110B for 360L/h are sufficient for smaller cleaning tasks like getting the crud off your bike or garden furniture.

What pressure, power and flow rating to choose?

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Because physics lessons may be far behind you - and without some understanding you've no hope of finding the right pressure washer among the sea of figures!

Pressure

Pressure is the force which pushes the water out of the gun, expressed in bars (B). The higher the pressure, the better the jet breaks up dirt.

Flow

The flow rate is the number of litres expelled in a given amount of time. For a pressure washer, flow rate is usually expressed in litres per hour (L/h). The faster the flow, the less time you spend going over the same bit, so the faster you get the job done!


Power

Power, expressed in watts (W), is relative to flow and pressure. You'll never find a pressure washer at 1200W - 600L/h - 160B, it just wouldn't work mechanically or hydraulically!

Note for if you're not already confused enough: an important law of hydraulics is that at the same flow rate, the pressure increases or decreases according to the size of the outlet nozzle! So switch to a narrower nozzle, and you'll find yourself with a smaller but stronger jet on your hands.

How often?

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Don't be afraid to upgrade from your initial model if you find you need to use your pressure washer regularly for several hours a week over 6 months. Entry level washers aren't intended for such heavy use! The pump's only going to go and give up the ghost, you'll have to go through a whole warranty procedure and you'll regret your overcautious choice.


Make the right choice

Think about what kind of cleaning tasks you plan to do. Your pressure washer could be a lifelong workhorse or just another throwaway object for the shed, all depending on how much you're willing to invest. Of course, if you only plan to use your pressure washer once a year for the garden furniture and occasionally to clean the car, an entry level model will do the trick!

What material for the pump?

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Again, pumps should be chosen according to the frequency of use you expect from your pressure washer.

Composite pump


For occasional use, i.e. three or four hours here or there each month, a composite pump will be fine, no bother!

Aluminium pump


For more regular or sustained use, instead choose an aluminium pump, a little more expensive but much more robust.

Brass pump


Now brass pumps are really top of the range and only available on intensive use pressure washers.

Electric or petrol-powered?

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Petrol pressure washer


Petrol pressure washers can develop higher pressure, flow and power; they're ideal for sustained use, unconstrained by an electrical wire and can sometimes even be used with hot water to eliminate the most stubborn of stains.

However, all these qualities come at a price. The 4-stroke engine of a petrol washer obviously requires filling with oil and fuel - so it's a bit more of a job to maintain. It's also noisier, heavier (although it is on wheels) and emits exhaust gases from the combustion! It's fair to say that petrol models are only for professionals and the trigger happy!



Electric pressure washer

Electric pressure washers meet the vast majority of needs and are perfect for home use. They offer more limited flow and pressure, but the more powerful models are exceptionally easy to use.

Electric washers require minimal maintenance (just filter cleaning and winter storage) and are more lightweight in design.

What accessories can I have?

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Universal standards are dying out. If you want to have a wide selection of accessories for your pressure washer, you'd best choose a brand of washer that offers lots of extras - because these days nothing is interchangeable between one manufacturer to another due to competition law.


Accessories for your pressure washer 

Depending on your model you can choose between:

  • Straight jet, sprinkler and rotary nozzles. The rotary type are particularly effective at removing dirt. Remember: the narrower the jet, the stronger the pressure (assuming an equal flow rate).
  • Hand brushes for dirty surfaces. With a bit of water, they'll help you no end in your cleaning work;

  • Patio brushes - triangular-shaped and mounted on a hose attachment, they're sometimes equipped with sprinkler arms for improved removal of dirt;
  • Extensions to let you clean in tricky corners and avoid unnecessary manoeuvring!
  • Detergents for tougher cleaning tasks (some models only). Detergents for pressure washers can be attached to the appliance itself (in the form of a disposable bottle) or added to a separate container (like a bucket) on washers with a suction pipe.
  • Telescopic extension pipes for cleaning at a height and avoiding walking the tightrope;
  • Outlet pipe for more hygienic emptying and cleaner hands!
  • Gutter cleaners for drainpipes and gutters;
  • Sandblasting kits for the toughest cleaning tasks - that's hydrosanding, to be precise;
  • Powdered water. What? Never mind!...

As for spare parts, O-rings and other bungs and fittings, it's the same deal in terms of the price / quality trade-off.

Often it's only trusted brands that offer decent customer care so you can get the most out of your washer... the cost of repairing a basic entry level washer is often prohibitive! Damn consumer culture, eh!?

Brand comparison

 

Entry level / occasional use

Mid-range / regular use

High-end / frequent and sustained use

Pressure washer brands

Alice’s garden; Cleaner wash; Einhell; Ribimex; Silverline

Hyundai; Bosch; Black and Decker; Karcher; Skil

Campeon; Karcher; Kranzle; Lavor; Makita; Nilfisk; Honda

Summary of purchase advice

ManoMano

The power, pressure and flow ratings of a pressure washer should be chosen according to your intended level of use.

Choice of accessories will also depend on your requirements for use - importantly, the intensity and regularity with which you plan to use your washer.

It's important to note that using a pressure washer can damage certain surfaces (patio, house walls, car bodywork etc.) by removing the surface protection of the materials or by causing paint or plaster to flake.

Also think twice before using detergents with your pressure washer, since they can also be corrosive - especially if insufficiently rinsed.


I want to clean...
Energy source
Minimum Pressure, Power and Flow
Recommended accessories
House frontage / walls
Petrol, or electric if occasional
160 B - 3000 W - 600 L / h
Long flexible hose, telescopic pipe, straight and rotating nozzles, detergent
Car
Electric

120 B - 1600 W - 400 L / h
Straight and rotating nozzles, hand brush, detergent
Roof and gutters
Electric
140 B - 2000 W - 500 L / h
Gutter cleaner, long flexible hose, straight, sprinkler and rotating nozzles, detergent
Bike
Electric
110 B - 1400 W - 360 L / h
Straight and sprinkler nozzles
Patio and tiles
Electric
140 B - 2000 W - 500 L / h
Extension pipe, patio brush, straight nozzle, detergent

A few final handy tips...

ManoMano

If you're still reading then maybe what we've said so far has washed right over you... But anyway:

If your water contains impurities, make sure you install a filter on your pressure washer and / or water supply.

Over winter, if you know what you're doing, you'll drain your pressure washer and keep it free from frost, otherwise the joints and plastic parts will give you a shocking reminder that water is incompressible and freezing increases its volume!

If you add extension hoses to your pressure washer, don't be surprised if you lose pressure at the end of the gun. It isn't your fault - again, it's just down to the laws of hydraulics!



Certain features are very useful indeed: a roller attachment; a detachable detergent tank and of course the gold standard - a brass pump.

Hot water pressure washers can be effective for intensive cleaning, but be careful not to damage the surface you're working on!

If you area has hard water (hence risk of limescale), check out our guide on descaling your pressure washer.

Think you might go the whole hog and get a petrol pressure washer? The noise level (in dB) can be an important factor, but you can always get hold of some noise-canceling headphones in case a bit of noise is unavoidable. Still, think about your neighbours!... 

For sustained use, you're strongly recommended to take breaks: one, to keep yourself hydrated; two, to minimize the risk of your washer overheating.

If you're pumping water from a well, rainwater collector or any kind of outside storage vessel, a mechanical or even chemical filter is essential. And to avoid problems with your washer, make sure you maintain constant flow and pressure at the water pump outlet.



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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter 174 guides écrits

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.
Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.
Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.
Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check.

The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job!
What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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