How to Choose The Best Pressure Washer
Pressure washers are excellent tools for getting cleaning jobs done fast (and effectively!). If thoughts of tedious tasks, like de-griming the wheel arches of your car, have you running for the hills, you’ll love how much easier a pressure washer will make your life.
If you want to take the plunge and buy a pressure washer, check out the tips below to help you make an informed purchase.
The Benefits of Having a Home Pressure Washer
There are several benefits to using a pressure washer. Pressure washers draw water from a tap or bucket and shoot it out at high speed to blast away dirt, dust, and grime. They also use less water than a standard hose to do the same job. What’s not to love!
Using water alone is such a great way to clean things; it’s non-abrasive and gentle on surfaces like car paint or the grouting between patio slabs. Some models also have a little compartment for detergent if you want to add some to the cleansing mix.
Some models allow you to use water from different sources, like buckets and water bottles. This is great because you can use them away from home, or use recycled water from your water butt keeping bills low!
The most popular uses for a pressure washer are cleaning the car, patio, decking, driveway and washing down brick or concrete walls.
Other uses are cleaning bikes, lawnmowers, animal pens, tools, caravans and trailers, making portable pressure washers a good option.
Here are a few other more unusual uses:
- Prepare outside surfaces for painting
- Clean kids play equipment
- Clean outdoor furniture
- Clean up garage or shed floors
- De-slip the front door entrance steps
- Clean mouldy fencing
- Collect leaf fall
- Spot-clean mould
- Clean out wheelie bins
- Wash encrusted garden tools
- Clear guttering and unblock drains (with the right accessories)
- Clean the BBQ
And, more imaginatively, blast a stuck football from a tree or peel your new potatoes!
How To Safely Use A Pressure Washer
First up, read the instructions. This is important because brand models vary, but here’s the standard way to use a pressure washer:
- Attach the machine’s high-pressure hose to the lance. Let your garden hose run for a bit to clear any debris in the pipe (you won’t want high-velocity gravel flying into your car paint!).
- Connect the hose to your garden tap or place the suction hose into a body of water such as a water butt. Check all the fittings are nice and tight – important!
- Plug it in, or in the case of a petrol pressure washer, start the engine. Turn the pressure washer to its lowest setting and let it warm up a little
- Squeeze the trigger handle gently. If water sprays out it’s time to clean. If it doesn’t, check your connections.
- Hold the nozzle at 45 degrees to the surface and begin cleaning. Start at the top of vertical surfaces and keep moving the lance.
- Add detergent now if you’re using it.
- Rinse with plain water and spray surfaces at the pressure washer’s widest setting for a final rinse down.
Connecting a Garden Hose to a Pressure Washer
This sounds simple, but it can be tricky. What makes things more complicated is that different models use varying methods! Here’s the standard method, but do check the manufacturer’s instructions:
- Fully unwind the hose so that kinks don’t prevent water flow. Let it run for a minute to clear out any debris. Turn it off and let water drain free.
- Now you need to attach the garden hose to the water inlet port on the pressure washer. It’s often colour-coded, or labelled ‘screw attachment’ or ‘free flow connector’. It basically a hole through which water can flow into the machine (and ultimately blasting out jet hose on the other side!).
- Screw it in tightly making sure the connectors are straight. If it won’t screw on, check to see if there’s a pull back valve. These clip the hose into place rather than screwing it in.
If you can’t get it working working, the manual is a good place to search for help. Some pressure washer companies, like Wilks, even have a customer service line to call so don’t hesitate to contact them if you’re having problems.
Choosing the Correct Power
It’s no good choosing a low-strength pressure washer with only 22 bars if you need to clean tough algae or a mould spotted patio. Equally, going overboard with an industrial petrol fired 440 bar washer just to clean the car on Sundays will only lead to tears and shredded paint.
Consider the jobs you will be using your pressure washer for, and use the following guide to help choose the best pressure washer power for your needs:
100 bars and below
- Wheelie bins
- Garden furniture
- Guttering and facias
- Car cleaning plus caravans and boats
A lot of people use a pressure washer for car cleaning AND patios – so, is this safe? If you need it for a mixture of jobs it’s about how much time you have to spare. You could choose a higher pressure but use it on the lower settings – just be careful and always pay attention; too high a pressure can strip paint.
Alternatively, you could go mid-range and spend longer on the heavy duty jobs. A 120 bar pressure washer will also clean your decking – it’ll just take longer than one with 130+ bars.
How to Use a Pressure Washer With Detergent
In general, you won’t need much (if any!) detergent because the sheer force of plain water is usually enough to dislodge most grim; however, sometimes maybe you’ll want to give your car a good foamy wash down, or polish up the patio slabs. It’s a good idea to use detergent on mouldy patios as plain water can spread mould spores.
Detergent directions will differ from model to model, so always read the instructions. Some units have built-in detergent compartments, or a corresponding accessory, which you might look out for if you’re thinking about using detergent with your pressure washer more often.
Alternatively, you can use a spray bottle or sponge to apply detergent to the surface and then pressure wash it clean. You should always remove the majority of dirt before applying detergent so it can really get into the stains.
Its best to buy purpose-made pressure washer detergent as soap, laundry liquid, or washing up liquid can foam up into huge amounts that just won’t wash away.
Good Accessories For Specific Jobs
You may have a particular task in mind for your new pressure washer, such as cleaning a gutter – a job which needs a handy tool. Here are a few pressure washer accessories currently on the market for completing different jobs:
- Drain and gutter cleaning kits – helps you clean without ladders or opening up a drainpipe.
- Patio cleaner – These are fast, splash-free attachments that often have several rotating heads.
- Telescopic lance – Get high-pressure water to high places such as shutters, fascia boards and eaves.
- Extension Hose – An extension hose gives you more reach.
- Under chassis nozzle – this helps you clean the wheel arches beneath your car
- Soft Pressure Washer Brush – a large brush with an outer ring to prevent scratches on glass or caravans
- One Way Lance – for spot cleaning high-pressure areas.
Electric vs. Petrol Pressure Washers
Whether you buy an electric pressure washer or a petrol one depends on what you want to use it for.
Electric pressure washers are usually better for home use, as they require an electrical socket, whereas petrol pressure washers are noisy but can go anywhere.
Should I buy an electric pressure washer?
They are quieter than petrol ones and easy to start with the flick of a button. Electric pressure washers are now powerful enough to clean encrusted patios and driveways and can tackle any outside townhouse job.
They are more lightweight than their petrol-powered cousins, and simply plug into a power source and outside tap. Some will even draw water from a bottle or bucket.
The disadvantage of electric pressure washers is that they have to be plugged in. This is a problem if the object or area you want to clean isn’t near a socket.
There is one more choice for lighter jobs – a battery-powered pressure washer like the WORX model featured in the review above. This runs from an interchangeable lithium battery which is perfect if you have lighter jobs to do without a power supply nearby.
Should I buy a petrol pressure washer?
These are best for regular- to large-scale jobs and heavy-duty use. Farmers, landscape gardeners and other professionals tend to use petrol pressure washers as they are incredibly powerful and don’t need to be connected to a power socket.
If you have a big outdoor space, a petrol pressure washer gives you portability and power. On the downside they are noisy, smelly and often heavy.
Pressure Washer Safety Advice
As with all tools you must keep yourself safe. Always keep in mind that electricity and water are not a good mix so stay alert.
Poorly maintained cables
If you need to move your pressure washer, pick it up. Don’t drag it by the hose or cable – this leads to wear and tear on the power supply, and potentially electric shocks. If you notice damage to your pressure washer don’t use it. Whip out that warranty and get the problem sorted.
Power cables and hoses are serial offenders for ‘tripping people up’. When cables are trailing around, watch where you step and keep pets or children well away.
Water is slippery. So is detergent. Always use the right amount of detergent to avoid unnecessary soap suds.
You will get wet using a pressure washer so dress accordingly with sturdy shoes. Wearing eye protection is a good idea as it will protect you from any water and filth that splash back from walls, fences and patios.
Pressure washers blast out water so fast it can seriously hurt a person. The eyes, ears and mouth are particularly vulnerable, but even tougher body parts can get horribly bruised – it is not the same as a garden hose. Keep the lance pointing downward.
Never fire water at electrical cables, into open windows, or at living creatures.
A Handy Guide to Pressure Washer Terminology
There’s lots of terminology when it comes to pressure washers. It can make it hard to understand what you’re looking at.
Here’s a quick guide to the main terms:
- Bar Pressure: The higher the bar measurement, the more force the water sprays out with. The numbers – for example ‘220’ – mean its 220 times more powerful than the air pressure around you. It’s also called PSI which is ‘pounds per square inch’.
- Water Flow L/h: Water flow in litres per hour. This indicates how much water the pressure washer can deal with. It’s usually measured in litres and hours but sometimes per minute and on occasion gallons per minute. The more water flows the quicker and more forceful the pressure washer is. A higher litre per hour means less time cleaning.
- Detergent Intake: This is the container or pipe that soap travels down before spraying out.
- High Pressure Hose: The hose that runs from your machine and holds the nozzle and attachments. A standard hose would explode from the pressure so don’t use one there. If you need to replace a high-pressure hose get one that can withstand more pressure than the machine pumps out.
- Water inlet: A hose that connects the pressure washer to the main water supply
- High Pressure Outlet: This is the connection for a high-pressure hose.
- High-Pressure Pump: The pump is the part that pushes water from the washer. It’s driven by the electric or petrol motor, so the more powerful the motor the higher the pressure.
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