Regardless of their size, application or price, all pressure washers function in the same way. The only real difference between them is the power source they use. That’s why there are only three basic types of pressure washer: Electric, gas-powered, and professional pressure washers which use gasoline, diesel or even kerosene.
Electric pressure washers need to be hooked up to a power outlet, but are very light and portable. Gas powered units are more powerful, but portability (when they’re in use) is limited by the length of the hose. Professional pressure washers are often truck-mounted, but I’ve written a separate article on that so you might want to check it out. For now, it’s on with a general buying guide.
Pressure washer power doesn’t refer to the number of horsepower (or HP) the unit’s engine is able to produce as it is not a clear indicator of its real power. Perhaps a better term would be “cleaning power” which is usually expressed in pounds per square inch (PSI) and gallons per minute (GPM).
We use PSI to express the pressure the machine is able to deliver. Put simply, it is the pressure of the water jet coming out of the spray wand. GPM refers to water flow, or the volume of water delivered by the pressure washer. Both are important because pressure breaks the dirt down, and the water flow rinses it away.
Simply listing PSI and GPM ratings isn’t very indicative of what you can do with a pressure washer. That’s why I’m going to provide you with a rough guide that will let you know what to expect from the numbers.
For instance, 1300 to 1800 PSI and 1.5 GPM is what electric pressure washers usually deliver, and this is sufficient for light cleaning such as car washing, cleaning window shutters, outdoor furniture, mold, mildew, and even your grill. It’s also worth noting at this point that indoor use is something electric washers excel at since they produce no fumes.
2000 to 3000 PSI and 2.5 GPM are standard performance figures when it comes to gas-powered pressure washers. They are suitable for heavy-duty work like cleaning decks, patios, sidings, walkways and sidewalks.
Professional pressure washers deliver anywhere between 3000 and 4000 PSI. I have even come across some models that deliver up to 7000 PSI, and are able to cut through metal. These numbers tell you that professional pressure washers are designed for some seriously heavy-duty stuff like industrial cleaning jobs, oily stains, stripping paint and graffiti, cleaning concrete surfaces and a lot more.
Various bells and whistles can change the way you use your pressure water dramatically, and some accessories are essential in order to have the unit perform at its optimum level. First of all every pressure washer needs to be paired up with a high-pressure hose. Most pressure washers come with a 25-foot hose which gives you some decent range and the ability to clean rooftops, house sidings, and just about any places that’s close enough to your water tap.
Having an assortment of several different spray nozzles provides you with the ability to alter the amount of pressure coming out of the wand as well as the angle of the spray. This makes them more versatile in respect of the job they’re capable of undertaking.
Incidentally, I have written a separate article on nozzle tips, so be sure to check it out.
Onboard storage on a pressure washer comes in handy for putting away stuff like nozzles, extension cords and hoses. It’s wise to keep all of these pressure washer related items in one place so you don’t lose them.
Since it is very likely you will be moving your pressure washer from one location to another, it is useful to pick out a unit that comes fitted with transport wheels. I especially love those with big, off-road tires that are suitable for any kind of terrain.
Carrying handles also come in extra handy especially if they are telescopic.
Despite all that cleaning power, pressure washers often need some help in the form of a detergent that is mixed into the water. Many pressure washers are fitted with detergent tanks for this very purpose. However, always keep in mind to use a detergent that is designed for use with your particular pressure washer brand and model otherwise you may wind up ruining the pump. Read the manual of your pressure washer carefully before you buy the detergent.
As far as practicality goes, I advise you to you look for a pressure washer with a quick-connect capability. Being able to change nozzles and attachments in a matter of seconds will make every cleaning job a breeze.
All the information above boils down to one thing: ALWAYS buy a pressure washer according to your cleaning needs. You don’t need all that extra power if you’re never going to use it. If you really need to do some heavy-duty cleaning, you have to get a more powerful pressure washer. I hope you found this guide useful. Good luck!