Pressure washers FAQs
What is a pressure washer?
A pressure washer (often referred to as a power washer) uses a high-pressure jet of water to clean a wide range of items, including patios, garden furniture and cars.
What can you use a pressure washer for?
Pressure washers can clean everything from decking, garden furniture and fencing, right through to vehicles, exterior paintwork, swimming pools, gutting and patios – while heavy duty machines can even clean large paths, driveways and stonework. A good machine should remove stubborn dirt and grime, mould, loose paint and even chewing gum.
How does a pressure washer work?
Pressure washers are mains-powered, and they also connect to a garden hose. In a nutshell? They’re water pumps powered by an electric motor. The water comes out of a part which is commonly described as either a nozzle or a wand. Pressure washers will usually come with different adaptors. These will typically be different, smaller nozzles which fit onto the end of the wand, or entire wands which can be easily attached and removed. These wands are often referred to as lances.
What type of pressure washer should I get (petrol or electric)?
Most pressure washers are electric, corded machines that run off mains electricity. They are quiet, affordable and easy to use. Petrol powered pressure washers are more powerful and expensive, making them more suitable for heavy-duty jobs and working away from home. They lack annoying cables but will need constantly topping up with fuel.
Are pressure washers bad for your car?
Most pressure washers can be used to clean cars – even prized motors with pristine paint jobs. This is because the average pressure washer will come with several attachments, and will have controls which allow users to alter the power of the water jet.
“Most pressure washers can be used on vehicles, but you should always carefully follow the manufacturer’s guidance and advice,” says Paul Hicks, product and marketing manager at Stihl, one of the top pressure washer brands. “Always keep the water jet a reasonable distance from the car to avoid damage and consider using a dedicated cleaning solution to help remove the dirt from the car too.”
The best pressure washer features to look for
If you’re going to be using your pressure washer on a wide range of surfaces, you’ll want one with settings which allow you to quickly tweak the water pressure, while multiple fixtures – such as pressure washer brushes designed specifically for patios – will come in handy, too.
“Two of the main things to consider when choosing a pressure washer is the water pressure and flow rate,” says Stihl’s Paul Hicks. “Look out for a pressure washer that provides both good pressure and a high water flow rate. It’s easy to get high pressure, but the holy grail is a combination of a high pressure and a high flow rate.”
Light duty machines are up to 100 bar, which is good for decking, fences and garden furniture. Mid-range machines are 110 to 130 bar – these can also tackle vehicles, exterior paintwork, guttering and small patios and driveways. Heavy duty machines are 130+ bar – these are more suited to large areas, plus stonework and really grubby 4x4s or caravans.
Length of hose
It’s also worth taking a second to consider how the pressure washer will attach to your water source. “Make sure the washer can be connected to a standard hose or includes a syphoning kit suitable for any fresh water source,” says a spokesperson at Ryobi, another leading pressure washer manufacturer. “And make sure the washer is portable. This will allow you to clean on the go anytime, anywhere.”
All machines come with a standard spray head, but some come with added extras, including:
- Specialist brushes (for cars and bikes, for example)
- Specialist lance (most come with a basic one, but you can get others for different surfaces)
- Patio cleaners (concentrates the power into a small area)
- Foam nozzle (a handy way of applying detergent – great for vertical surfaces like cars)
- On-board detergent tank that you can pre-fill with a cleaner of your choice
- Professional hose (adds length to your water supply hose)
Pressure washers with this feature use the trigger on the spray gun, as opposed to a switch on the main machine, to start and stop the flow or water. This can save quite a bit of water, especially for more fiddly jobs that don’t require a constant flow of water.
If space is at a premium, look for more compact machines with integrated storage, especially for cables and hose reel.
How to care for your pressure washer
In the same way you drain a hose before storing it, make sure you drain any excess water from the hose after using the pressure washer. Storage is important, too. “Always make sure you hang your pressure washer gun and hose so that the water will drain out of them,” says a Ryobi spokesperson. “It’s also important to avoid storing it in an area where temperatures will get below freezing level.
The verdict: Pressure washers
We love the Karcher pressure washer K5 premium smart control home, not just because it’s incredibly powerful and a joy to use, but because of the brilliant tech which can slash cleaning times – and getting to grips with it doesn’t require hours spent studying an encyclopaedic-like manual, either.
The Flymo easiclean li cordless pressure washer offers undeniable proof that battery powered pressure washers can provide just as impressive results as mains powered ones. While the Nilfisk core 150-10 150bar power control pressure washer is a fantastic option for anyone looking for a compact, lightweight pressure washer with some serious cleaning power.