Blast away outdoor dirt with a versatile power washer
Pressure washers make light work of many outdoor cleaning tasks; from cars to bikes, garden furniture to garden tools. They’re one of the most versatile garden power tools and are invaluable for keeping paving, patios and decking in good condition. Also known as power washers or jet washers, they use considerably less water than a standard garden hose when completing the same jobs - helping you to reduce your water usage.
With the wide range of models that are available, it can be difficult to pinpoint the right power washer for your home and garden needs. Thankfully, they all do essentially the same task, but some models are better adapted for certain uses. Let’s talk through the options to help you find the right pressure washer for you.
Before you begin
To help narrow down your search for the perfect pressure washer, it can help to better understand how you plan to use it.
What will be washed?
While their versatility is a massive benefit of pressure washers, it can help to pinpoint what kind of things you plan on cleaning with your new washer.
Most high pressure cleaners are suitable for washing cars, bikes and bins. They’re also great for removing dirt, moss and mould growth from decking, paths and patios and for cleaning sheds and other outbuildings. Though it’s important to remember that they can’t tackle every outdoor clean-up job, and aren’t recommended for cleaning brickwork or windows as the high pressure could cause damage.
To make the most of your pressure washer, look for accessories designed to help with different cleaning tasks. All pressure washers come with a standard spray head for general cleaning jobs, but specialist attachments will make all the difference, as will the detergents you use.
For example, a patio cleaner attachment will help to make light work of hard surfaces and textured paving, returning your patio to former glory. While car wash brushes are perfect, not just for cars, but also for bikes and motorcycles. Their soft bristles are gentle on delicate paintwork and help you to reach into nooks and crannies – ideal for wing mirrors, hub caps and bicycle spokes.
Finding the best pressure washer for you is all about getting the right combination of three things – power (supply and output), water pressure and water flow.
Pressure washer power
There are two choices for power supply – electric or petrol-powered pressure washers.
Electric pressure washers
Most pressure washers are electric powered. They’re suitable for light to heavy-duty tasks, ranging from cleaning sports equipment up to large driveways. All you need to do is plug the main unit into a outdoor power socket with RCD protection and away you go. Your pressure washer is always ready for use, provided you’re within reach of a power supply. And don’t forget that an extension lead suitable for outdoor use (and protected from water splashes) can increase your working area.
Petrol pressure washers
Petrol-powered pressure washers are less common, but come into their own if you have a larger garden or regularly need to use your washer away from home. You’re not tied to a power supply, ideal if you want to work in different areas of your property. There’s also a reduced risk from trailing power cables which can be a plus. Petrol-powered washers also tend to be high-powered and therefore suitable for some of the tougher jobs you might want to tackle. Naturally, you’ll need to have sufficient fuel to hand when you want to use it – invest in a sturdy fuel container to safely transport this.
Pressure washer power output
Measured in wattage (W) or horsepower (Hp)
Wattage (W) measures the power of an electric-powered pressure washer, while horsepower (Hp) measures the power of petrol-powered washers. The greater the wattage or horsepower, the more powerful the engine. Powerful machines will be able to cope with working at higher pressures and for longer periods of time.
Pressure washer water pressure
Measured in bar
Pressure washers are classified according to the maximum water pressure they generate – for example you might choose a 120 bar pressure washer. The greater the number, the higher the pressure.
As a general rule, the higher the pressure, the more suitable the tool is for cleaning stubborn dirt and harder surfaces – such as paving and concrete. Lower pressure cleaners generally offer up to 110 bar pressure and are ideally suited for cars, bikes and garden furniture where higher pressures aren’t needed and delicate surfaces like paintwork will come to no harm. Look for 120 bar pressure or more for high power cleaning.
Don’t forget that most pressure washers will allow you to vary the pressure, so a higher pressure machine doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use it for tasks requiring lower pressures.
Pressure washer water flow rate
Measured in number of litres used per hour (l/h)
Whilst the water pressure is critical in understanding how well a power washer cleans, the water flow reflects its performance when rinsing. So if you’re looking to speed up tasks like car cleaning, a higher water flow rate can be helpful.
Features & tech specs
There are a number of product features and technical specifications to look for when choosing your pressure washer.
This is the workhorse of your pressure washer, allowing you to control and direct the flow of water. Look for an ergonomically designed handle with easy to use trigger switch that you feel comfortable holding.
Lances are attached to the trigger gun to provide additional control over the water flow. Depending on the model, they can be used to increase or decrease the water pressure without increasing water usage.
Measured in metres (m)
The hose which connects the main unit to the trigger gun is a vital piece of kit. It’s worth considering whether the length supplied with the pressure washer is suitable for the jobs you’ll be tackling most often. If you have a large car, patio or paved area, a longer hose will be helpful as you’ll need to move the main unit less often.
Specialist brushes for washing cars and bikes can help you get the best finish and make light work of hub caps, wheel arches and more.
Handles and wheels
If you plan to tackle larger tasks, such as patio and deck cleaning, or will be storing your pressure washer away from where you’ll be using it, look for a handle and wheels. This will make it easy to move around before and after a job as well as manoeuvre mid-task.
A useful feature to reduce water usage. Auto start/stop machines use the trigger on the spray gun to start and stop the flow of water, rather than using a switch on the main machine. You can move into the position where you want to begin working before you start using water – saving water and detergent.
Cleaning paving, concrete and paths can be a messy task, but using a patio cleaner attachment can help to reduce mess. This tool concentrates the power and water flow onto a small area to really deep clean, and can be easily manoeuvred as you clean, reducing the time taken and mess made.
If storage space in your home or garden buildings is at a premium, consider a model with integrated storage for lances and spray guns. Not only does this reduce the amount of space you'll need to store the washer, it will also mean all your tools are to hand – speeding up your cleaning task.
Detergent tanks and systems
Using the right detergent with your pressure washer will make cleaning quicker and easier, with longer-lasting results. Some models come with a detergent tank which allows you to pre-fill with the cleaner of your choice. Others use more sophisticated cleaning systems with interchangeable detergent bottles that allow you to quickly switch detergent as you move from one job to the next. Either way, look for a system that is compatible with the cleaners you’re most likely to use, and a control mechanism (usually a dial) so you can use just the right amount for the job.
These are a great way to reduce your home water usage, as they allow you to draw water from a water butt or tank rather than a tap. These are ideal for homes with a rainwater collector in place, or occasions when a tap may be a long way off – such as larger gardens. Using a suction hose to run your pressure washer with rainwater also means that you can continue to use your washer during a hosepipe ban.
You might need
Pick up a few accessories to get cleaning with your power washer.
To operate any pressure washer, you’ll need a garden hose to connect your washer to the mains water supply. Whilst no specialist products are required, the hose does have to be the right diameter and long enough to reach where you’ll want it. If you’re going for a longer hose, consider one supplied with a hose reel – it’ll keep things neat and tidy when working and make storage easier.
Pressure washer detergents
Your pressure washer will deliver reasonable success without any detergents, though we recommend using them to help speed things up and ensure more efficient cleaning. They can also be invaluable when cleaning hard-to-remove substances, such as oil and grease from driveways or bicycles. And they’re designed for use outdoors, so are safe to use in your garden.
Power washer cleaners are usually applied under low pressure and rinsed under higher pressure, after being left to work for a short time. We offer a selection, so find the right one for the surface you’re cleaning.
- For decks and wooden garden furniture - choose a woodcare detergent that's formulated to remove moss and other vegetation that tends to build up on wood, as this will help to make light work of their removal. Some products also contain ingredients to care for the wood, protecting it from deterioration.
- For driveways, paths and patios - a cleaner designed for use on these surfaces will help with moss and algae removal, returning your paving and surfaces to their original finish
- For cars, bicycles and motorbikes - a specialist car cleaner is best. Not only is this gentle on paintwork, it will help to dissolve oily and greasy marks as well as muck and mud.
Electric pressure washer accessories
To work safely with an electric pressure washer, a RCD (residual current device) is essential. Also known as a residual-current circuit breaker (RCCB), this safety must-have immediately turns off the electric current in case of faults, preventing an electric shock.
And if you’d like to increase your work space or work further away from your power source, consider an extension lead suitable for outdoor use.
Petrol pressure washer accessories
If you’re choosing a petrol-powered jet washer, you’ll need to be able to safely transport and store fuel as well as fill your machine. A sturdy petrol can and funnel help to make this task easier.