This is where a pressure washer will come into picture. Think of a pressure washer as a high power hose. Where you point, there it cleans. A pressure washer lets out a stream of water at a high speed which washes away even the stickiest of dirt, which is especially useful for driveways, patios, lawn furniture and cars. Because of the time and energy it saves during the weekly dusting and spring cleaning times, buying the best pressure washer should be a priority for every homeowner.
In this article I will be explaining to you how a pressure washer works in simple words and the criteria to consider before buying. I will also give you a few of my washer recommendations for different purposes. Whether you are looking for an easy-to-use electric pressure washer or a powerful professional blaster, here are the things you should keep in mind.
How Does A Pressure Washer Work ?
The basic principle of a pressure washer is, obviously, creating a high pressured stream of water. As the water travels at a high speed and hits the surface hard, the dirt and grime is washed off easily. Moreover, water itself has a chemical property of sticking to other elements because of its molecules having opposite electrical charge.
This property of water of sticking to things combined with the high pressure created by a motor inside the washer makes cleaning a whole lot easier. Dirt is knocked off and washed away easily, and all you have to do is turn on the washer and point it in the right direction.
What are the Main Parts of A Pressure Washer ?
This is the hose which connects the pressure washer to a water supply. The inlet will be connected to a tap, and you will have to take care that you don't stretch out the hose. Chances are that the connection will limit how far you can move around with the pressure washer, so make sure that you find a water supply near to where you have to use the washer, or get a longer hose for connecting to the water supply.
The pump is perhaps the most essential part of the pressure washer. Driven by either an electric motor or a gasoline engine, the water pump takes in the water through the inlet and speeds it up, pumping it out through the high-pressure hose and letting you clean almost every surface within minutes. An average water pump can pump out a water flow of around 1-2 gallons per minute.
Electric motor or gas engine
The motor or an engine is the power source which makes the water pump work and drive out water at a high pressure. Usually, it is the smaller washers which have an electric motor, as they are designed primarily for home use. Gas engine pressure washers are great for heavy duty work or places where an electricity outlet is hard to find.
High-pressure hose (Washer Wand)
This is the output of the washer, the pipe from which the speeding water will come out. The end of the hose will have a cleaning attachment, which can be changed to suit your cleaning needs. You should make sure that the high-pressure hose you have on your washer has a pressure rating higher than that of your washer pump.
A hose not rated to withstand the pressure of your washer pump will break and may cause injury. Because the pressured stream of water has enough power to pierce even skin and soft plastic, the hose is made of high density plastic and is often strengthened by a wire mesh.
This is the final piece of your pressure washer. It's a nozzle that basically changes the way the water will come out. Some attachments create a wider fan of water, while some will change the direction of the water jet, letting you clean gutters and corners easily. For deeper cleaning missions, I would suggest that you get an attachment that lets you add detergent to the water stream.
Which Washer To Buy – Electric motor or Gasoline engine ?
When a garden hose just doesn't cut it, a powerful pressure washer will be your best bet. Because a pressure washer pump is powered by either electricity or gas, you should know which one will better suit your needs. Most home-use pressure washers use an electric motor, as they are cheaper and quite compact. Washers with electric motors also make less noise, and have adequate power for cleaning lawn furniture, grills and brick walls.
Advantages of a Pressure Washer with an electric motor
Compact, portable and requires less storage space
Makes less noise
Not as risky to use as gas engine washers because of the lower pressure generated and environmentally safer too
Provide less power
Cannot be used for long periods regularly
It is obvious that water and electricity do not get along much, so you will have to be extra careful to not let any water splash onto the washer itself (Although washers are sealed internally to eliminate such risk, you can never be too careful)
With an electric motor washer, you will have to take a few precautions. Make sure that the cable for the washer to connect to the outlet is long enough. Also, always check how much voltage the washer requires and if your outlet provides that much, otherwise the motor and the cable might get damaged. Additionally, if an extension cord can be used with your washer, check which type will be the best for that particular model. All such safety requirements can be found inside the instruction booklet, or you can even ask the vendor or the customer service of the manufacturer.
An electric motor might fulfill basic cleaning requirements, but it will not provide the extra juice for day-to-day usage. This is where a gas engine pressure washer will help you out, as such engines are designed to be used for heavy duty cleaning jobs on a daily basis. Almost like a small motorbike engine, these washers can create three to four time the pressure and are ideal for outside use, where an electric outlet will be hard to find.
Advantages of a Pressure Washer with a gas engine
Cleans almost any surface, from a concrete floor to tire marks on roads
No electricity required
Durability of such engines is longer, and you can make daily use of them
More expensive than the usual electric motor models
Refueling might get a bit annoying and even expensive
If you are a home-owner and require a pressure washer only for simple jobs like car washing and furniture cleaning, a basic electric motor model will do the job well. A washer with a gas engine is for professional use, where you need very high pressure almost on a daily basis. There are also more expensive electric models with very high power available, if you want both the convenience of an electric washer and the output of a gas one.
What You Should Know Before Choosing A Pressure Washer.
Pounds per square inch (PSI)
PSI is the unit for water pressure. A higher PSI will mean more pressure being generated, and therefore more cleaning power. An average pressure washer usually has a PSI rating of around 1000, while professional heavy duty washers can go higher than 5000 PSI.
Gallons per minute (GPM)
GPM is the unit used for measuring water flow. Higher the GPM, more the water being sprayed out of the pressure washer. A consumer washer has a rating of about 1 to 4 GPM, while professional washers consume around 10 GPM.
Amps (Ampere or simply 'A')
Ampere is the unit of electric current, and it will indicate how much electricity your motor will require. With a higher Amp, more power will be generated by your washer.
Cleaning Units (CU)
I know I may come off as a High School math professor, but this one unit you have to know. As might be easily apparent from the name, CU indicates how good your washer will be at cleaning. Cleaning Unit is the product of the PSI and GPM of the washer.
CU = PSI x GPM
So, if you and your neighbor have a washer with similar PSI setting, but yours has a higher GPM, it will mean that your pressure washer will spray out more water and thus clean more efficiently. Although both PSI and GPM affect the final cleaning power of the pressure washer, I would suggest that you try to get the washer with higher PSI, rather than focusing on GPM, because you do not necessarily need to use more water for cleaning purposes. Always try to conserve as much water as possible, and if you do need a larger water stream, you can always change your washer wand and nozzle.
Axial Cam and Triplex Pumps
An axial cam is the type of pump you'll find in most consumer grade washers. Even though not the most powerful in the market, these are very effective for home and garage use, and are also easy to maintain. On the other hand, a triplex pump category is designed for industrial use. Intended for constant rough use, a triplex pump is more expensive, but ensures a long lifespan of the machine and greater performance for a long time.
A Summary of the Different Grades of Washers
You might be thinking, “It's just a washer. Why does it feel like I am buying real estate?”. Do not worry. It's quite simple, and I have given you this extended introduction to buying the best pressure washer only so that you can make an informed decision. I remember me and my wife buying the first washer we saw when entering the store, only to realize that it was too weak to clean our patio.
Here is a small table to help you figure out which grade of washer will suit your needs.
Although you will have to check up more on the particular model of pressure washer you'll actually need, figuring out the overall category under which you will come under is a good place to start. It will also help you estimate your budget and help you decide on a washer when you go through some of my recommended washers later in the article.
500 - 4000
1000 - 4000
1000 - 7000
1 – 4.0
1 – 4.0
4 – 10.0
1560 – 16,000
2400 – 16,000
2500 – 30,000
What can you clean
Furniture, your car, grills (Weekly)
Brick walls, driveways, etc. (Constant use)
Almost everything, including concrete roads
For an average person, a compact electric motor washer of around 1000-2000 CU will do the job well. If your cleaning project does get more extensive, you can always update your washer wand and put in a cleaning attachment that reduces the stream size, making it even more forceful, or get a hose that lets you add detergent.
Gas engine washers and other professional washers are mainly intended for constant use in garages, farms, the automobile industry, airports and the military.
Now, coming to the main part of this article, have a look at some of my recommendations in both the electric and gas-powered pressure washer categories, ranging from cheap electric washers to powerful cleaners for industrial use.
Best Electric Pressure Washer for Low Budget
This one was my first washer, and I was not happy the day it broke down after years of successful use. The Sun Joe SPX3000 delivers 2030 PSI and 1.76 GPM of continuous flow, which is much more than many other washers with a similar price tag.
This washer comes with five different nozzle tips, which means you can change the size of the water stream according to your requirements. The few flaws I can think of are that the hose is just 20 ft, which means your mobility with the washer will be limited, and the washer making a little more noise than an average electric pressure washer.
This Sun Joe washer’s nozzle tips are of 0, 15, 25, 40 degrees and a special tip for soap water. This washer also has 2 separate on-body tanks for adding detergents to your water, and you simply have to push a switch to select one of the tanks. One thing, I would recommend that you do not use the 0 degree tip at all, because the water will hit you like a bullet if you are not too careful. And obviously, keep it out of reach of children at all costs.
Another nifty feature of this pressure washer is that it lets you choose between a spray wand holder and a trigger gun. The trigger is very easy to operate, and when it is disengaged, the pump of the washer is turned off automatically, saving electricity and protecting the pump from overuse.
I have personally found this washer to be powerful, compact and easy to use. The only flaws of a short hose and a little noise are nothing when you look at the value for money this device provides, and especially when you consider that with the Sun Joe SPX3000 comes with a two year warranty and five different nozzles.
2030 PSI and 1.76 GPM, which means very easy cleaning.
2 on-body detergent tanks.
Five replaceable nozzle tips, including one for using detergents.
Compact and portable design, which also includes 2 wheel for movement.
Hose is short with a length of 20 ft.
The electric motor makes quite a bit of noise, although I cannot say this is uncommon.
Including a 0 degree tip increases risk of injury, as there are very few cases where you will need to use such a nozzle.
Best Electric Washer with Adjustable Settings
The Karcher K5 is an electric pressure washer that might cost a bit more than usual electric models, but it has enough reasons for this. Giving an output of 2000 PSI at 1.4 GPM, it may seem very similar to the Sun Joe you have already seen, but the main feature and a significant advantage of the K5 Premium is its water-cooled motor. This cooling system promises to increase life of the motor by 5 times, which indicates that the washer should run smoothly for at least 3-4 years. Even the N-COR pump is an excellent example of Karcher's technology as it has a durable and non-corrosive polymer which should last long.
Another feature of this electric washer is its spraying wands and a dial for adjusting how much detergent will be used form the on-board tank. The K5 comes with 2 wands – one a variable power wand and another a special blaster for tougher cleaning.
The Vario Power Spray wand does work exactly what it sounds like. Turning the wand while cleaning will change the pressure, making a thin jet of water turn into a lower pressure stream. This comes in handy when you are cleaning both your driveway and your car and your patio in one go. The trademarked Dirtblaster wand, on the other hand, provides a fixed high-pressure jet and is designed for tougher cleaning jobs.
Another advantage the Karcher K5 has over the Sun Joe SPX3000 is its silent motor and long hose. The low noise levels make the washer perfect for indoor use. The hose is 25 feet long as is easy to store, as it comes in an integrated reel. However, the one flaw which did feel quite absurd was the design of the K5. The washer stands upright, and vibrates when turned on, because of which I have often seen it topple down or flip over. If you are using the K5 Premium on uneven surfaces and tugging its hose around, chances are that you might see it fallen on the ground, thanks to its awkward design.
Excellent engine and pump technology, which promises to increase durability.
Vario Power spray wand which comes with the washer is good for changing pressure as per your needs. The Dirtblaster wand is also good for cleaning tougher surfaces as it increase pressure of the water being pumped out.
Adjustable dial for changing amount of detergent used.
A very quiet motor.
Long and easy to store hose because of the integrated reel.
The awkward design makes the washer very wobbly and liable to fall on uneven surfaces.
The washer could have provided more than 2000 PSI given its higher than average price.
Best Electric Pressure Washer for Professional Use
For those of you who need lots of power without worrying about fumes of a gas engine, the Pressure Pro EE3530G is probably the best bet, although you will need to shell out more for this workhorse.
Made with a triplex direct drive pump manufactured by General Pump and a 7.5 horsepower motor that takes up 35A at 230V, this beast delivers 3000 PSI at 2.5 GPM. The engine includes a thermo sensor, which will protect the device from overheating.
The Pro EE model is made from a lifetime warranty frame of aluminum and weighs a total of 90 pounds, which seriously impairs portability. The wheelbarrow type of design with two pneumatic wheels is all the help you are going to get for lugging this around.
The Pro EE353 pressure washer comes with a 50 feet of steel-reinforced hose and a cord of 12 feet for electric supply, which should be barely enough for indoor use.
One thing I should explain is the difference between a direct drive pump and a belt drive pump. Even though both types are excellent and a lot better than the usual axial cam, they have their disadvantages too. A direct drive pump is best for those who use their washers regularly for tough jobs, but not constantly. Such a pump has a shorter life and is more prone to overheating when compared to a belt drive.
You may consider the Pressure Pro Eagle series of washers if your livelihood is using pressure washers. The Eagle series of washers use belt drive pumps, which are expensive but more efficient and long-lasting. You can also consider a belt driven gas washer, which I shall discuss here soon.
At 3000 PSI and 2.5 GPM, it delivers amazing power.
I have always had great faith in products of General Pump.
Aluminum frames and the pneumatic tires add to durability.
50 feet of steel-reinforced hose and nifty features like a thermo sensor, low oil indicator and a mesh filter to protect the engine.
A very high price tag.
Very high power input required.
Best Gas Pressure Washer for Low Budget
The Honda gasoline engine in the Simpson Megashot MSH3125 washer gives an output of 3100 PSI at 2.5 GPM, which is enough to put a dent in your car if you use a nozzle that produces a very fine jet of water. And this power and durability of the Megashot comes at a very reasonable price for a powerful gas washer.
At first glance itself, the whole machine looks very durable. The heavy gauge welded steel frame construction, the Honda GC190 engine, OEM Tech axial pump and the 10 inch pneumatic tires give the washer a life of around 3-4 years of good use easily. What felt even more reassuring to me is the high-pressure hose with a length of 25 feet, which is abrasion and kink resistant, and flexible enough to not crack easily under stress.
Like the Sun Joe, the Simpson MSH3125 also comes with extra nozzles to attach to the hose, with degrees of 0, 15, 25 and 40. The one drawback to this great all-rounder is that there is no place for storing detergent like in the previous washer we saw. But given the advantages of the flexible hose, powerful engine, axial pump and the assortment of nozzle tips, the drawback seems negligible to me.
One thing I have to emphasize is the silence of the Honda engine compared to the usual gas powered models. Even though you can hear it pumping away, it does not become unbearable after 15 min of use like with other models.
Customer support is perhaps the main thing people have found to be a flaw in Simpson Cleaning, and I have heard many people complain about their slow service. However, I have also heard of pleasant experiences wherein damaged parts were replaced within a week. So, I would suggest that unless you live in a country where such products are completely unknown, you should not worry too much about this.
Excellent build quality. The welded steel construction will protect the parts of the washer.
Output of 3100 PSI and 2.5 GPM is excellent at this price.
The engine is surprisingly quiet, and it is a Honda. Expect a life of more than 3 years easily.
A long and well-made hose, with extra nozzle tips.
Chances of customer service being frustrating (although not a big problem if Simpson is a brand known in your particular country).
The washer would have been even better if it had a triplex pump instead of axial.
No detergent tank.
The obvious risk of noise and fumes if using the washer indoors or near animals.
Best Gas Pressure Washer with Adjustable Settings
The Generac 7019 pressure washer is a better-looking version of the Simpson Megashot, with a very unique feature. This 3100 PSI and 2.4 GPM gas washer comes with a power dial gun, which is basically an adjustable knob on the spray wand which allows you to switch pressure settings based on what you are cleaning. The 4 settings available are – Car, Wood, Concrete and Soap. Thus, this washer covers all your needs without the hassle of changing nozzle tips and moving around to change water pressure. Although, the washer does come with different nozzle tips like most washers at this price point.
I found the knob on the wand very easy to use, and it changes pressure from 2500 PSI to 3100 PSI, which should cover all your basics needs in one go. Another great thing about this washer – an advantage over the Simpson Megashot – is its design. The Generac 7019 is one of the most compact washers I've seen, and very easy to move around and store, although it's price seems a little too steep to me.
One great thing about Generac is that all their engines are of their own making. This washer features a 196cc OHV engine and an axial pump, which may not be the best for professional use, but it will certainly be a good choice for you neat freak DIY-ers. The 7019 OneWash has the usual set of accessories too. A 25 feet hose, half a gallon capacity detergent tank and over-sized never-flat tires.
Adjustable pressure at the push of a button.
Generac engines and axial pumps are quite efficient.
Perhaps the price is too steep, especially when the major difference is only a spray wand with adjustable pressure.
The consumption of gas felt a little too quick to me, although it might be an anomaly only with the piece I tested.
Best Gas Pressure Washer for Professional Use
It is no wonder Simpson is on this list again. They are one of the best and most famous brands in the market for a pressure washer. The Simpson Powershot 4240H is the bigger brother of the Megashot, with a power of 4200 PSI at 4 GPM and a Honda GX390 engine. This washer seems designed for the regular cleaners and garage owners, not only because of its silent engines and high power, but also because of the AAA triplex direct drive pump, which promises long life and constant efficiency.
The welded steel frame, steel axle and engine plate with 13 inch pneumatic tires give the washer a robust feel, and I would not hesitate a second to put the washer in my truck and drive, and then use it for cleaning my whole shed. Even the hose is steel braided and abrasion resistant, and comes equipped with quick connectors for easy change of the nozzles. The washer also comes with 4 different types of nozzles, a downstream soap injection system and a soap applicator to make different cleaning jobs easier.
All in all, the Powershot 4240H is an excellent deal, but only if you know what you are getting into. Even though this pressure washer is perfect for tough jobs and regular cleaning, it is a gas-powered machine, and will consume gasoline quite quickly. There is also a chance of gas fumes becoming a problem, and you should keep in mind that the noise and fumes might not be appropriate near animals or indoors.
Excellent power at 4200 PSI at 4 GPM, which is perfect for cleaning walls and boats.
Silent Honda engine with low oil alert and a triplex direct drive pump.
50 feet of steel-reinforced hose and the regular accessories like different nozzles and a storage place for the hose and wand.
A better engine and pump will require a better supply of fuel too.
The usual problem of noise and fumes which is present in every gas pressure washer.
Although the price of the MI-T-M is set higher than the Simpson Powershot, the washer is excellent if your job depends on a pressure washer. Made for the niche group of professional cleaners, the MI-T-M 3004 delivers 3000 PSI at 3.5 GPM, with the help of the 389cc Honda engine and a belt drive pump, which is even better than the already-good direct drive.
This whole machine is designed to be more efficient and clean while saving energy. Apart from using a belt drive design, which absorbs vibrations and keeps the pump operating at a lower temperature for longer times, the Honda engine itself comes with an oil alert and an internal filter to keep out dirt and dust.
Like the Simpson Powershot, the body of this washer too is durable and includes a steel base plate and steel axle. The reinforced hose of length 50 feet is also built with durability in mind, and has a swivel head and bend restrictors, which prevents entangling.
Ultimately, it should be your cleaning requirements and budget which decides you need this washer or not. It does have any cons, unless you buy it for the wrong reasons.
The belt drive pump and a Honda engine is the best combo you can get for a gas pressure washer.
Small bonus accessories like a filter, oil alert, steel body, water bypass system to prevent overheating and a professional grade wand with different nozzle tips.
3000 PSI may not be enough for every job, especially if pressure washing is your livelihood.
The high price and a pressure of only 3000 PSI makes this washer a confusing choice.
Other Honorable Mentions
The Greenworks GPW is the perfect tool for those who are looking for the cheapest and lightest washer in the market. This 1500 PSI washer is amazingly portable, and will work as a good backup washer, or something you can just toss in your boat or farmhouse in case you might need it. Even with the super low price, Greenworks has not skimped out on extras. The washer comes with a 35 foot electricity cord, two quick-connecting nozzles, a 20 foot hose and a soap applicator for tougher jobs. The washer cuts corners on power and durability, so do not expect the washer to clean your old driveway with consistent pressure.
The AR Blue Clean is a steal. At 1900 PSI and 1.5 GPM, and accessories like a 20 foot hose, extra nozzle tips, spray gun and a hose reel, the washer does feel value for money. The washer's main advantage is its portable design and the quiet 11 Amp engine. The only real flaw of this cheap all-rounder electric washer is its tendency to wobble and trip on uneven surfaces. But if you are looking for a super cheap washer for simple home cleaning and car washing, the AR Blue Clean will serve you will.
The Ryobi RY80 is very similar to the Simpson Megashot MSH3125, both price-wise and specification-wise. At 2800 PSI and 2.3 GPM with a Honda GCV160 engine, the power and durability of this washer is respectable. The 3 year warranty also will keep you content and feeling secure. Apart from the noise created by the engine, there is no real flaw in this contender to the Simpson Megashot washer.
Because of the time and energy it saves during the weekly dusting and spring cleaning times, buying the best pressure washer is a priority for every homeowner. Washers are divided into two basic types – electric and gas-powered. An electric pressure washer will be more silent and portable, and is better suited for home use. A gas engine pressure washer will provide you more power, but at a higher price and with the risk of noise and fumes, along with less mobility. In short, if you need more cleaning power – a product of PSI and GPM – look for gas-powered washers, but keep their flaws in mind.
For those of you who are regular cleaners, I recommend the Sun Joe SPX3000 along with the Karcher K5 if you want easily adjustable settings for cleaning different things in one go. For those of you looking for some extra power, the best pressure washer with value for money would be the Simpson Megashot MSH3125 gas washer. If you are a professional cleaner and need the best and the most rugged, you should consider the Simpson Powershot 4240H and the MI-T-M CW3004.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.