There’s certain types of grease and grime which simply won’t budge when you use a normal hose on it, especially if you’re only using cold water. Water is capable of eroding rock given enough time, with The Grand Canyon being a perfect example of what a trickle of water can achieve over a timeframe of several thousand years. Unfortunately you don’t have several millennia when it comes to washing away dirt, old paint or ingrained grime, and even using a normal hose could take hours. A pressure washer can scour away the same dirt in a matter of minutes, and use less water at the same time.
|AR Blue Clean AR383||Karcher 5-Series K5.540||Generac 6882||Simpson PS3228-S Powershot||Powerworks 51102|
|Frame Type||Plastic & aluminum||Plastic & aluminum||Plastic & steel||Steel||Plastic & aluminum|
|Detergent Tank||Yes – detachable||Yes – onboard||Yes – onboard||Yes – detachable||Yes – onboard (2)|
|Power Source||Corded electric||Corded electric||Gas-powered (196cc)||Gas-powered||Corded electric|
|Warranty||1-Year Limited||1-Year Limited||2-Year Limited||2-Year Limited||1-Year Limited|
The very first pressure washer was invented in the United States in 1927, but it wasn’t until 1950 that Alfred Karcher invented the first hot-water pressure washer that they gained real popularity. The fact that they delivered around 70x as much pressure as the average garden hose also helped.
What most people don’t realize is that if you leave a standard water faucet running for 60-seconds that up to 8-gallons of water will be wasted as a result. Attaching a garden hose reduces that consumption to about 4-gallons, but a pressure washer will reduce that again to about 1-gallon of water per minute instead. In short a pressure washer gives you vastly more cleaning power, and they’re also more environmentally friendly too!
Our pressure washer buyer’s guide will guide you through the maze of options available in pressure washers today, helping you choose the right pressure washer for your particular needs.
Home Or Commercial Use
You need to decide well in advance whether or not you’ll be using your pressure washer for residential or commercial use, because that will help you eliminate certain models and types of pressure washer from your shopping list. All pressure washers function the same way in that they take water, put it under pressure and then release it through a cleaning wand, but the water pressure and flow you get with different types of pressure washer can vary an awful lot. Once you decide exactly what you need you pressure washer for you’ll then be able to make a far more informed purchasing decision.
Hot Or Cold?
Any pressure washer which can utilize hot water will clean more quickly, more thoroughly and with far less effort. Unfortunately models that use hot water tend to be the commercial/professional type, with a case of sticker shock to match. If you just need a washer for cleaning around your home, yard or workshop then you’ll do just fine with a cold-water washer instead. Again the more honest you are about the cleaning tasks you’ll be dealing with the better the chances are that you’ll make a sensible choice when it comes to buying a pressure washer.
Gas Or Electric?
Pressure washers are powered by either gas or electricity, and generally speaking gas-powered washers are better suited for commercial use. That being said we’re going to take a look at the features of each type here, so you can decide for yourself which will suit you best.
Obviously an electric pressure washer needs to be waterproof, because it will have water flowing through it, and the potential for it to get very wet while in use. The major advantages of owning an electric pressure washer is that they’re light, quiet, portable, require less maintenance and are ideal for indoor or outdoor use – just plug it in and go. Unfortunately the nature of the motors they use mean that an electric washer tends to lack power, so they’re simply not suitable for heavy-duty work. Obviously because water and electricity coming into contact with each other can have fatal consequences all electric pressure washers should feature a ground-fault interrupter, as well as double insulation.
This type of pressure washer has the instant advantage of being far more portable than an electric one because there’s no cord attached to it. In addition to being far more portable than an electric model there’s also the fact that a gas-powered washer is far more powerful, so they’re more suitable for heavy-duty cleaning work. The downside here is that because they’re gas-powered they’re not suitable for indoor use due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
There are a few different ratings you need to pay attention to when buying a pressure washer and GPM is one of these. GPM stands for Gallons Per Minute, and is basically an indication of how much water will flow through a pressure washer at any given point in time. Put in simple terms a pressure washer with a rating of 2GPM will clean far more slowly than a model with a rating of 4GPM. If you’re buying a pressure washer for home use we’d suggest that around 2GPM should be enough for you, but if you’re investing in a commercial pressure washer then 4GPM is the bare minimum you should be working with, but ideally aiming for a model with a rating of 6+ GPM.
This is basically the amount of pressure your washer can produce from the cleaning wand. At the lower end of the of the scale a pressure washer designed for home use will have around 1500 PSI to work with, whereas a commercial pressure washer will be in the 2000 – 3000 PSI range instead. Just bear in mind that if you intend using your pressure washer to clean your car, or motorbike, that 3000 PSI will remove the dirt, the paintwork and possibly other bits of the vehicle too. Boasting about having a 4000 PSI pressure washer is fine, just as long as you know how much power you’re actually dealing with.
To give you some perspective on this you’ll need around 1500 PSI to thoroughly clean a charcoal grill, 2500 PSI for cleaning decking, 3000 PSI for cleaning larger farm equipment, and 4000 PSI will be more than enough to strip old paint off walls, for example.
Cleaning Units (CU)
If you find yourself confused by the whole idea of GPM and PSI don’t panic, there’s another way of rating pressure washers which is the CU rating. This is a way of calculating the GPM combined with the PSI to give you a final CU figure. When you’re shopping for a pressure washer then the higher the CU rating is the better, generally speaking.
Aluminum frames are lighter, stronger and don’t rust, unlike their heavier, less reliable steel counterparts. Obviously an aluminum frame can add to the base price of your pressure washer, but it’s money well spent in our opinion.
Your pressure washer will have one of three basic types of pump; the pump being responsible for getting the water from the pressurized storage tank to the cleaning wand. An indirect-drive pump has a very simple design, but doesn’t deliver a huge amount of power. An axial-cam water pump provides smoother performance and also requires no maintenance. At the upper end of the power scale are triplex pumps, but these are normally only found on commercial pressure washers so we’re not going to get into detail on them in this guide.
The cleaning wands on a pressure washer are color coded so you know what to expect when you attach them. A black wand is designed for dispensing soap or detergent, white wands are for gentle rinsing, green and yellow will offer more powerful cleaning and then red indicates the most powerful water jet available – be very careful when using this type of wand. Cleaning wands should be easy to install and remove, requiring no tools to fit or remove them.
Pressure Washer Features List
Here’s some tips on the features you should expect on most high-quality pressure washers.
Gas or Electric
Generally speaking an electrically powered pressure washer is more than enough for residential use, unless you need the raw power of a gas-powered model for some reason.
If possible your electric pressure washer should have a GFIC, to help prevent any electrical accidents. Most modern electrical equipment have this type of electrical short protection built in by default though.
For home or residential use a pressure washer with a rating of 2 GPM should be enough. Commercial use will require a pressure washer rated at 4+ GPM though.
A pressure washer capable of 1500 PSI is enough for home use, medium-duty cleaning will require around 2500 PSI and then heavy duty cleaning will need 4000+ PSI.
Ideally your pressure washer will have a separate tank for storing detergent to be mixed in with the water supply automatically. Whether or not you need this feature will be down to the type, and severity, of cleaning you’ll be doing.
Does the pressure washer come with all the nozzles, tips and other items you need for your particular cleaning project?
If you’re buying an electric pressure washer make sure the cord is long enough to suit you – you don’t want to get stuck with a model which only has an 8-foot cord for example.
Direct drive pump systems are a pretty common feature on most pressures washers you’ll find for sale today both online and offline.
Do you really need a pressure washer?
It might seem like a bit of a luxury but you should take into consideration that any pressure washer will use around 80% less water when compared to using a garden hose to clean anything.
Considering you can get a high-quality pressure, like those mentioned in the reviews below, for less than $200 it’s an investment worth making in our opinion.
Our Top 5 Best Pressure Washer Reviews
No doubt you’ve been looking forward to reading more about which models we think offer the best balance of performance and value for money, so without any further delay here are our pressure washer reviews:
1. AR Blue Clean AR383 1900 psi 1.5 gpm 14 amp Electric Pressure Washer Review
The AR38 is an electric pressure washer which is rated at 1900 PSI, with a water throughput of 1.5 GPM, making it a very effective pressure washer for home use. The water pump is a triplex type, so you’re getting more than enough cleaning power with this model. The Total Stop System means that the motor only runs when you pull the trigger on the cleaning lance, but shuts down once you release it – preventing you from wasting energy. Retailing at just under $160 the AR Blue Clean AR383 is a very complete pressure washer for the home user, with all the accessories and features you might need.
2. Karcher K5 Premium 2000 PSI 1.4 GPM Electric Pressure Washer Review
The team at Karcher basically invented the modern pressure washer, so you know you can rely on them to create a rock-solid reliable washer. The K5.540 is a 2000 PSI, 1.4 GPM model, which puts it firmly in the category of medium-duty home use – 2000 PSI is enough to scrub most things clean. The integrated detergent tank means that you don’t have to go messing around with lance-fed options instead, and the Quick-Connect system means you have can this pressure washer ready for use in just minutes. With a price tag of just under $350 you’re paying a little bit more than you might expect, but you’re buying Karcher reliability too.
3. Generac 6882 2900 PSI 2.3 GPM Power Washer Review
Now we take a jump into the territory of the more serious pressure washers with this Generac upright, gas-powered pressure washer. 2900 PSI and 2.3 GPM is enough to clean absolutely anything in your home, and puts it very close to commercial-grade power too. The entire washer is mounted on a wheeled base making it very easy to move, and has been designed to give you years, if not decades, of loyal use. Internally you have an axial-cam pump delivering all the pressure you need, but do bear in mind that this pressure washer is not CARB compliant. For less than $300 you get an awful lot of power in the form of the Generac 6882.
4. Simpson PS3228-S Powershot 3300 PSI Gas Pressure Washer Review
Another step up from the Generac model we just mentioned is the Simpson PS3228-S Powershot, pumping out 2.8GPM @ 3200 PSI. This makes it suitable for commercial use, or very serious residential use instead. The Honda engine inside this washer drives the triplex water pump, giving you all the cleaning power you could conceivably need outside of industrial use. $500 will buy you your very own Simpson PS3228-S, and all the accessories which come with it.
5. Powerworks 51102 1.4 GPM 1700 PSI Electric Pressure Washer Review
With 1.4GPM and 1700 PSI you know you’re already getting a very capable electric pressure washer, but it’s also nice to see that Powerworks have included a GFCI feature too. This power washer has not one, but two soap/detergent tanks making it very easy to just set up and keep using until you’ve cleaned everything in sight, well everything you own at least! Dozens of 5-star reviews and a price tag of under $180, combined with a great set of features, make the Powerworks 51102 a pressure washer worth owning.