Pressure washers buying guide

Pressure washers (also known as power washers and jet washers) use a powerful jet of water to help lift dirt, grime and algae off a number of outdoor surfaces and provide a quick and easy solution to cleaning dirty patios, cars and even barbecues. Here is our guide to finding the right pressure washer.

Choose a pressure washer to suit your needs

The pressure washer’s pump forces a large volume of highly pressurised water through the end of a lance. The force of this water is up to 100 times more powerful than your garden tap, meaning you can blast away ingrained grime in a short space of time. Pressure washers are mains powered and can be connected to a mains water tap, a water tank or a water butt, via a garden hose.

Choosing the best make and model to suit your needs depends on what you are going to use the pressure washer for. Large areas or regular cleaning chores require pressure washers that deliver both high pressure and increased water flow – meaning less time and effort is needed to shift dirt and debris. But if you are only cleaning smaller items such as garden furniture or little patios, a machine with lower pressure and flow will be ideal and cheaper too. If you want the flexibility to switch between the two, you can choose a pressure washer that allows you to adjust the pressure.

Choose the pressure rating you require

The power of a pressure washer is measured in several ways.

The rate pressure is measured in ‘bars’. This tells you how much force is behind the water - the higher the bar pressure, the greater the pressure washer’s ability to shift stubborn dirt.

The flow rate is the volume of water (in litres) that the pressure washer uses in an hour – the average being 400 litres per hour. This may sound like a lot but, because you can get the job done more quickly, you’ll be using less water than if you tried to tackle the same job with a hose.

The wattage indicates the size of the motor in the pressure washer. A higher wattage gives you more cleaning power and better overall performance.

See below what bar pressure you’re likely to need for the different tasks:

Light tasks: 100 bar

Medium tasks: 110 bar

All of the above plus:

  • Cars and other vehicles
  • Fences
  • Guttering
  • Boats
  • Swimming pools, hot tubs and spa pools
  • Medium sized patio and decking areas

Heavy duty tasks: 110 - 130 bar

All of the above plus:

  • Roofs
  • Garden decking
  • Paths and driveways
  • Brick, stone and concrete walls
  • Medium to large-sized patio areas
  • Conservatories
  • Tough cleaning tasks such as removal of moss and tree sap on hard surfaces

If you’re still unsure about which model to buy, buy the best pressure washer you can afford.

Other things to consider before buying a pressure washer

  • Check how far away from the water and electricity supply the pressure washer will be, and that the cable and your hose combined will get you there. A retractable hose is a great storage solution.
  • Look for an ‘auto stop’ feature, which stops the pressure washer motor from running when you stop pulling the trigger on the lance, helping to prolong the life of the motor.
  • Optional attachments designed for specific tasks can also help you clean more effectively. By attaching a Dirtblaster, for instance, you can increase the cleaning power by up to 50 per cent.
  • Some pressure washers come with a vario lance. This gives you variable high to low pressure at a constant water flow, and low pressure when you're using detergent.
  • Look for a pressure washer with wheels and a handle so it’s easy to move around, and check how much space you’ll need to store the pressure washer between uses.
  • A detergent tank is useful for dispensing detergent as you wash. This can improve the cleaning performance of your pressure washer, especially when using detergents for cleaning your car or your patio.
  • A built-in storage compartment will keep trailing hoses out of the way, and cables tidy.
  • All pressure washers contain a filter for use with a water butt. These can run using either a garden hose or suction hose and filter.
  • Make sure there’s always plenty of water in the tank to avoid any risk of damaging your pressure washer.
  • Before you start a job, adjust the pressure and try a small area of the surface first to gauge the maximum amount of water needed for effective and safe cleaning.
  • Check that your chosen pressure washer is compatible with a range of accessories.

Use your pressure washer safely

Additional accessories will help you clean even more efficiently. These include wash brushes for vehicles and conservatory cleaning, high pressure extension lances for a greater cleaning radius, ground attachments for quick consistent cleaning of patios without splash back and many more.

Using your pressure washer safely

In the wrong hands, a pressure washer can be very dangerous. Here’s how to use it safely:

  • Never point the pressure washer at children or animals. The pressure is up to 100 times stronger than a garden hose, so it’s capable of causing serious injury.
  • Read the manufacturers’ instructions carefully before using your pressure washer for the first time.
  • Wear appropriate protective clothing, including non-slip footwear and goggles.
  • Only use the pressure washer for its intended purpose.
  • Keep the hose and cable tidy and in good order to avoid damage and accidents.
  • Keep the electrical cable away from water as much as possible.
  • Plug the pressure washer into a socket with residual-current device (RCD) protection; this will switch off the electricity automatically in the event of an earth wire fault.
  • If you use an extension lead, make sure it's a 13 Amp type.
  • Make sure the garden hose is unwound and more than 7.5metres (24.5 feet) long.
  • Make sure accessories and attachments are used for the jobs they’re intended for.
  • After use, run the machine dry for 10 seconds and store it away from frost.
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