The best pressure washers blast through
outdoor grime quickly and reliably.
A pressure washer
(also called a power washer) can be the perfect tool for blasting through your
outdoor cleaning chores and saving you the time and hard labor of scrubbing. It's
far more effective than a garden hose on cars, boats, lawn furniture, play
equipment, decks, masonry and siding. Some can even remove algae, mold, mildew
and mulch stains. Pressure washers work by means of a pump powered by an
electric motor or a gas engine -- so your work is mostly confined to pulling
the trigger on the spray gun.
Types of Pressure Washers
Gas Pressure Washers
These are the most powerful type. If you have some big jobs to do, a gas power washer may be a good investment. They are more expensive than electric pressure washers and you'll incur additional expenses because they need oil and gas. They're also noisier and not as easy to use. However, if you regularly rent pressure washers for things like power washing your entire house, a big deck, cement driveways or pool decks, or do a lot of paint prep, the unit will pay for itself very quickly. And you can work at your own pace, without the stress of a rental return hanging over your head.Electric Pressure Washers
Electric pressure washers are great to have around for everyday cleaning. They may not be able to blast stains off the driveway (although some can), but electric pressure washers are affordable, easy to use and are great for a wide variety of tasks. Many owners say they use them to clean the inside of their barbeque grills, remove rust and dirt from bikes, and even refresh dingy outdoor toys.
How much power do you need?
washer's power is specified in pounds per square inch (PSI), which is the force
of the water, and gallons per minute (GPM), which is the amount of water the
unit uses. The pressure washer's cleaning power is calculated by multiplying PSI
by GPM. Keep in mind, however, that a higher PSI pressure washer isn't always
the best choice, as some surfaces and products can be damaged by high pressure.
You can vary the impact of the water by using fan spray patterns, changing the
angle at which the water hits the surface and other techniques, but experts
recommend that you match the size of your unit to your outdoor cleaning tasks
for the best results.
The best pressure washers use different spray
tips or an adjustable wand.
This lets you get
the right amount of water pressure for each job. The included nozzles should
allow the pressure washer to deliver anything from a fan-like spray that is
easy on painted surfaces to a high-pressure, high-water-volume blast for
scouring mold and grime.
Pressure washers have become more affordable
Years ago, it was
common for many homeowners to borrow a pressure washer or rent one for the day
when it was time for spring cleaning. Manufacturers now offer many highly
affordable consumer-grade models, making pressure washers a more popular
product to own. Prices start as low as about $80 for an electric pressure
washer and about $225 for gas models. More expensive models often use
high-grade components for a longer life span, but reviewers say reliability and
quality aren't always included with a high price tag. For heavier jobs, or more
regular use, commercial pressure washers can top $1,000, $2,000 or even more.
These commercial models feature the best build quality and higher water pressure
than consumer-grade pressure washers, up to as much as 5,000 PSI.
Pressure washer safety
No matter what pressure
washer you choose, keep in mind that, because of their ability to shoot out
water in an intense and powerful stream, pressure washers can inflict injury.
We read several reports of significant lacerations by owners who let their
fingers get in the path of the stream. According to ConsumerReports.org,
the danger is greatest if the wand tip or nozzle is set at its zero degree
setting, which focuses all the pressure washer's power into a "pinpoint
blast." Ed Perratore says that the danger of using a zero degree nozzle or
setting "outweighs the utility because the spray can cause severe damage
in a short amount of time," adding "And higher-degree nozzles can get
the job done." Because of that, ConsumerReports.org does not recommend any
pressure washer that will produce a spray of less than 15 degrees, regardless
of how well they otherwise perform. While we don't adhere to that guideline, it
goes without saying that extra care should be taken when using the highest
power nozzle or wand setting. And regardless of the nozzle setting, owners
should wear protective clothing and goggles and be sure to keep an especially
close eye out for children and pets, too, whenever using a pressure washer.
And while we're
on the subject of outdoor cleaning, now may be a good time to spruce up the
look of your home in other ways as well. If painting is on your list of chores,
be sure to check out our reports on exterior paint and interior paint.
A pressure washer is a great tool for pre-paint prep!
Finding The Best Pressure Washers
To find the best
electric and gas pressure washers, our editors scoured hundreds of reviews to find
what owners and experts have to say about each unit's performance, features and
ease of use. Along the way, we consulted with the professionals at
ConsumerReports.org, FamilyHandyman.com, YourBestDigs.com and others. User
feedback was collected from HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, Amazon.com,
PressureWashersDirect.com, and other sites. The results of our research are our
picks for the best electric and gas pressure washers.