Pressure washers are excellent tools for getting cleaning jobs done fast (and effectively!). If the idea of doing tedious tasks, like de-griming the wheel arches of your car, has you running for the hills, you’ll love how much quicker they get done with a pressure washer.
The best pressure washers range in price, features and power; check out the tips below to help you make an informed purchase.
Benefits of Having a Home Pressure Washer
Pressure washers offer a range of benefits, making a lot of cleaning tasks easier.
Firstly, using a pressure washer with water alone is a great way to clean things; it’s non-abrasive and you can generally get away without using detergent or much elbow grease.
Additionally, some of the best pressure washer models let you 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 include cleaning bikes, lawnmowers, animal pens, tools, caravans and trailers, making portable pressure washers a good option.
Here are a few of the other, more unusual uses, for a pressure washer:
- Preparing outside surfaces for painting
- Cleaning kids’ play equipment
- Cleaning garden furniture
- Cleaning up garage or shed floors
- Cleaning mouldy fencing
- Collecting leaf fall
- Spot-cleaning mould
- Cleaning out wheelie bins
- Washing encrusted garden tools
- Clearing guttering and unblocking drains (with the right accessories)
- Cleaning the BBQ
And, more imaginatively, blasting a stuck football from a tree or peeling potatoes!
Electric vs Petrol Pressure Washers
The best pressure washer for home use will be an electric pressure washer. Electric pressure washers can have up to 150 bar pressure – more than enough for domestic jobs. Petrol pressure washers can have 300 bar pressure, or more, and are better for industrial use.
Should I Buy an Electric Pressure Washer?
Electric pressure washers are powerful enough to clean encrusted patios and driveways and tackle any domestic job.
Electric pressure washers are more lightweight and practical than their petrol-powered cousins. They simply plug into a power source and outside tap. Some will even draw water from a bottle or bucket.
The disadvantage of these 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.
This is where petrol pressure washers could have an advantage; however, a more practical choice would be a battery-powered portable pressure washer. These cordless pressure washers are only useful for lighter jobs, but they have sufficient cleaning power to wash cars and garden furniture well.
Should I Buy a Petrol Pressure Washer?
Petrol pressure washers are best for large-scale jobs and heavy-duty use. Farmers, landscape gardeners and other professionals may want 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, petrol pressure washers give the advantage of movement and power. On the downside they are noisy, smelly and often heavy – too much effort for normal domestic jobs.
How To Safely Use A Pressure Washer
First up, read the pressure washer’s instructions. This is important because pressure washers vary by brand. Here’s the standard way to use a pressure washer:
- Attach the pressure washer’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 the pressure washer 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 pressure washer’s 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 with the pressure washer’s widest setting for a final rinse down.
Troubleshooting: Connecting your Garden Hose to the Pressure Washer
This sounds simple, but it can be tricky. What makes things more complicated is that different pressure washers use different 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 blast out of the 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.
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. Equally, going overboard with an industrial petrol 440-bar pressure washer just to clean the car on Sundays will only lead to tears and shredded paint.
The best pressure washer will have suitable pressure for the jobs you have in mind, without being excessive. Consider the cleaning tasks 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
These are the best pressure washers for:
- Wheelie bins
- Garden furniture
- Car cleaning
These are the best pressure washers for:
- Guttering and facias
- Car cleaning plus caravans and boats
These are the best pressure washers for:
A lot of people use pressure washers for car cleaning AND patios – so, is this safe?
Well, you basically have two options. You can either choose a high-pressure washer, but use it on the lower settings for car cleaning (just be careful and always pay attention – too much pressure can strip paint). Or, alternatively, you could go mid-range and spend longer on the heavy duty cleaning jobs. The best pressure washer for car cleaning will be 80 – 120 bar. This will also clean your decking – it’ll just take longer than one with 130+ bar pressure.
How to Use a Pressure Washer with Detergent
In general, you won’t need to use much (if any!) detergent with pressure washers. The sheer force of water is usually enough to dislodge most grime.
However, sometimes you might want to give your car a good foamy wash down, or polish up the patio slabs. It’s a particularly good idea to use detergent on mouldy patios; in these situations, using pressure washers with only plain water can spread mould spores.
Detergent directions will differ between pressure washers, so always read the instructions. Some pressure washers have built-in detergent tanks, or a corresponding accessory. These might be worth looking 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 any 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. This is because normal soap, laundry liquid, or washing up liquid can foam up excessively and won’t wash away.
Useful 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. Some of the best pressure washers comes with various accessories included.
Here are a few pressure washer accessories currently on the market for completing different cleaning tasks:
- 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.
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. I
- 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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