What to Look for in a Pressure Washer
One of the most important factors to consider when buying a pressure washer is how much force it creates. After all, more pressure equates to more cleaning power.
This pressure is measured in psi, or pounds per square inch. Generally speaking, lower psi means less pressure. However, that doesn’t mean you should simply buy the highest psi machine you can find. Depending on how you intend to use your pressure washer, a lower psi may be perfect for your needs.
Consumer pressure washers often start at around 1,300 to 1,800 psi. This type of light-duty machine is great for small residential jobs, such as washing cars, cleaning shutters, washing lawn furniture, and spot-cleaning light stains. The next step up is around 2,000 to 3,000 psi. These machines are often considered heavy-duty, as they can be used to clean house siding, driveways, decks, and other tough stains.
Finally, machines with 3,000+ psi are considered professional-grade and are used for industrial cleaning, paint stripping, graffiti removal, and more. These high-end pressure washers are the most expensive, and in general, most homeowners don’t need this much power.
Gallons per Minute
The other key factor that goes hand in hand with psi is GPM or gallons per minute. This measures the volume of water that goes through the pressure water. Models with a higher GPM will clean faster and more effectively because they’re using more water.
Gpm is directly correlated to psi; the higher the pressure, the more water the machine will use per minute. Light-duty machines may only use 1.5 GPM, while professional-grade models can reach up to 4 GPM. When shopping for a pressure washer, you’ll want to look at psi first, but keep an eye on GPM, as well. Depending on what you’re using for a water source, you might not be able to support a high-GPM machine.
You’ll also want to look at how different pressure washers are powered. There are both gas and electric models available, and each of these styles has its pros and cons.
Electric-powered pressure washers are typically less expensive, lighter, and easier to maintain. Additionally, they run quieter and don’t create harmful air pollution. However, electric models are generally less powerful than gas ones, and you have to use them near an electrical outlet. This type of pressure washer is often best for small jobs around the house, such as cleaning cars, patio furniture, and grills.
The other option is a gas-powered pressure washer. These machines are much more powerful, and because you’re not confined by a cord, they’re more portable and versatile. The downside is that gas machines require regular maintenance, and they’re louder and worse for the environment due to the gas combustion engine.
Do pressure washers need to connect to a water tap?
You’ll need to connect your pressure washer to a water source. Most often, that source will be an outdoor tap, and you’ll use your garden hose to connect the tap to the pressure washer. Most pressure washers require a garden hose that’s less than 50 feet long and with at least a ¾-inch inside diameter.
If you don’t have access to an outdoor water tap, you still have options. One is to use the water tap for your washing machine. Those taps are threaded the same as an outdoor hose tap, so you’ll be able to hook up the hose without the need for an adapter. You can also use a kitchen or bathroom sink. But as these are not threaded for hose attachments, you’ll need a threaded adapter sized for the tap as well as your hose. When using an indoor tap, you’ll need to run your garden hose inside through a window or door, so plan accordingly.
Which spray nozzle should I use?
Most pressure washers come with a variety of nozzles, each color-coded to a particular spray pattern. Here are general guidelines:
- The red nozzle creates a very focused, powerful stream of water. It’s best used for spot-cleaning very tough stains or dried materials on hard surfaces, such as concrete or steel.
- The yellow nozzle creates a 15-degree angle of spray, which is a narrow fan suitable for removing dried mud, tough stains, rust, mildew, or paint off sturdy surfaces, such as concrete or metal.
- The green nozzle creates a 25-degree angle of spray. This is the general-use nozzle and is suitable for blasting away mud, leaves, and other grime from decks, walkways, siding, fences, and driveways, as well as for cleaning boats, automobiles, and outdoor furniture.
- The white nozzle creates a 40-degree angle of spray, which is gentle enough for use cleaning delicate items, such as flower pots, windows, blinds, and automobiles. It’s also very useful for quickly rinsing objects.
- The black nozzle creates a large, 65-degree fan of water. This nozzle is typically used with detergents.
What detergent do you use for a pressure washer?
For many simple cleaning jobs, you don’t need detergent; the water blasting out of your pressure washer is enough to get the job done. But for many tasks, particularly those involving dried or tough grunge, you’ll get the best results by using a detergent.
Some pressure washers have built-in tanks for detergent, while others require you to set a tube into the bottle of detergent so the pressure washer can suck it directly from the bottle. Either way, your best option by far is using a detergent specifically formulated for pressure washers. These detergents cut through grease and grunge yet don’t get soapy or foamy, leave a film on whatever you’re cleaning, or make the ground slippery. There are formulas for a variety of purposes: cleaning cars, siding, wooden decks, concrete, and driveways to name the most common. There are also many general-purpose pressure washer detergents, which are a good choice if you expect to use your pressure washer for a variety of cleaning jobs around your property.
While some people use dishwashing detergent, this isn’t recommended, as there’s a good chance you’ll end up with an overflow of suds. And pouring dishwashing detergent into your pressure washer’s tank could destroy or damage the machine.