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.
power do you need?
A pressure 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.
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, a commercial pressure washer
might be worth considering. 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. At the same time, these models can be relatively pricey;
figure on at least $1,000, and some can cost $2,000 or even more. If you use a
pressure washer regularly, they can very much be worth that kind of investment,
but, on the other hand, they can be overkill for typical homeowner use.
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 this
free-to-the-public article in Consumer Reports, 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, Consumer Reports does not recommend any pressure washer that
will produce a spray of less than 15 degrees, regardless of how well they
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
Finding The Best Pressure Washers
"The Best Pressure Washer"
"The Best Pressure Washers, Tested"
To find the best electric and gas pressure washers, our editors first
turned to testing-based expert reviews. Among those, we found the most helpful
feedback at Consumer Reports, Popular Mechanics, Family Handyman, Your Best
Digs and others.
Next we scoured thousands of user reviews covering hundreds of pressure
washers to find what owners say about each unit's performance, features and
ease of use. The results of our research are our picks for the best performing
and best value electric and gas pressure washers.