As the weather starts to shift, many of us are looking for easy and affordable solutions to spruce up our homes.
For many people, that solution is the pressure washer — an underrated little magician that flash-cleans everything from bicycles to driveways, with next to no effort.
With the power to get your car, patio, barbecue, stone walls and more looking spick and span, the Best home pressure washer and the best pressure washer for cars options are not only better than they’ve ever been, but more affordable than you might expect. But before choosing the best one for you, it’s important to understand the basics.
Best home pressure washer
Nilfisk C135 pressure washer with patio cleaner
Bar pressure: 115
This great value, easy to use machine is an updated version of an older 135 bar model, with new features including a longer 8m hose and hose storage hook replacing the old hose reel, both responses to previous customer grumbles. We like the variable fan jet nozzle and power speed nozzle, both of which make anything from stonework and decking to patios come up like new. You won’t damage more delicate surfaces (a common problem) thanks to the soft bristled brush attachment that is ideal for the likes of greenhouses and vehicles. It is heavy but features a built-in trolley to help with manoeuvrability and it’s compact enough for easy storage. But it is quite loud.
Buy now £200, Argos
- Argos£170Buy now
- Amazon£364.99Buy now
Kacher K2 full control home
Bar pressure: 110
This great bit of kit shows that good things can come in small packages – and it’s nice and lightweight too. A mid-range model, it can tackle basic household tasks and makes particularly short work of cleaning flagstones. It’s versatile, so you can select the pressure you need for the job to avoid any damage on more delicate surfaces, and we love the dirt blaster feature that produces extra oomph via a rotary spray. You can use it with water up to 40C – handy if you need to sanitise the surface. And it’s a doddle to use and move around. But the 4m hose could be longer and it’s quite loud.
Buy now £110, Argos
- Amazon£99.99Buy now
- B & Q£105Buy now
- Argos£110Buy now
- Wickes£129Buy now
Bosch fontus cordless outdoor pressure washer
Bar pressure: 15
Unusually, this is cordless so no need to connect it to either electricity mains or outdoor water mains. The water tank is a decent 15l capacity and although it only comes with one battery, you can replace it with another one from any other 18v Bosch products you may have. It’s not that powerful and probably best thought of as a pressurised hose than pressure washer – but that’s enough for bikes, cars and windows. We found we got between 30 minutes to an hour of use from a full water tank and fully charged battery, depending on setting, and the battery only takes an hour to charge. But at 4m, the hose could be longer and it’s heavy and expensive for the pressure.
Buy now £209, Amazon
- Currys£209Buy now
- Amazon£269.99Buy now
Nilfisk premium 180 pressure washer
Bar pressure: 180
This top-of-the-range premium 2900W machine is Nilfisk’s newest offering and most powerful domestic pressure washer yet. It comes fully assembled with a power patio cleaner and the results are astonishing, even on large areas. It tackles other serious jobs well too, including large driveways, stonework and even swimming pools, blitzing engrained dirt at speed. Features of note include the extra-long 10m steel reinforced hose, a flow regulator to match the pressure to the task and internal detergent system that can also be regulated. But we felt it’s not quite as effective as the Draper (reviewed above) for large vehicles.
Buy now £398, Amazon
- Amazon£811.30Buy now
Draper 97776 total stop pressure washer
Bar pressure: 180
Another heavy-duty machine, this stands out for 4x4s, motorhomes, vans, caravans and horse trailers, all helped by the foam gun attachment which works a treat with snow foam detergents. The heavy-duty reinforced steel hose is a whopping 10m long – brilliant for getting around the side of your vehicle – and because it’s pressurised it doesn’t need further attaching. We like the quick release gun, five in one multifunctional nozzle and turbo nozzle. And with a powerful 2800W induction motor, it’s got no shortage of oomph, while the total stop valve helps reduce wear and saves electricity. It’s good at smaller jobs too and although it comes with a special attachment for patios, we felt the Nilfisk premium review below had the edge.
Buy now £390.93, Amazon
- Amazon£420.88Buy now
Karcher K5 premium full control plus
Bar pressure: 145
This is an exceptionally well-built, well-engineered, user-friendly and powerful bit of kit that tackles stubborn dirt, grime and algae on a grand scale, using water up to 40C. Filthy huge decking area? Tick. A driveway so long that you can’t see the end of it? Tick. Ridiculously dirty car? Tick. And all in record time too. We like the trigger gun to select different strengths of spray (the LED display shows you what you’ve chosen) and spray lance with three built-in nozzles. Both of these features make this machine hugely multi-purpose, tackling more delicate jobs just as well, while the dirt grinder nozzle provides rotary spray with extra oomph. This has a bar pressure of 145, but you could have told us it was 180 and we’d be none the wiser. But it’s heavy, loud and expensive.
Buy now £439, Amazon
- Amazon£339Buy now
- John Lewis & Partners£449.99Buy now
- Argos£450Buy now
- ao.com£450Buy now
Vonhaus compact high pressure washer
Bar pressure: 105
This no-frills, lightweight pressure machine is the cheapest in our round-up and just the ticket for basic jobs like bikes and outdoor furniture. It’s compact, which makes it easy to store, and both the hose and cable are flexible and good at reaching tight spots. Although at 5m respectively, we felt it could be longer. The instructions could be clearer too and the nozzle adjustment (which you use to switch from soft to higher pressure) less fiddly. Ditto for putting the attachments on and taking them off after use. But these are small niggles rather than deal breakers for this little powerhouse of a machine.
Buy now £79.99, Amazon
Stihl RE 110 pressure washer
Bar pressure: 110
New this year, this mid-range machine does a cracking job on garden furniture, bikes and small areas of decking and patios – and it’s quick too. The rotary nozzle works a treat with pressure regulation and the forceful pencil jets are good for more entrenched dirt. We loved the soft ergonomic handle and long sprayer, and it was simple to set up and use. It’s easy to move about on the wheels, and the side storage compartment keeps nozzles and the power cable neat and tidy, while the hose is a decent 7m long. But be sure to use the right nozzle or you could damage surfaces and be warned it is heavy.
Buy now £150, FR Jones and Son
Titan TTB669PRW pressure washer
Bar pressure: 130
This felt as powerful as some other machines we tested that cost twice the price, and the patio attachment and long hose came in useful, although the hose is a bit on the flimsy side. It takes just minutes to put together and the interchangeable nozzles and attachments are quick and easy to fix on and remove. It’s relatively lightweight and comes with a small detergent bottle, as well as accessory storage. The extendable handle could be longer, though, and the decking brush isn’t up to much. And perhaps not surprisingly for the cost, it doesn’t feel as well engineered as some of the others tested.
Buy now £84.99, Screwfix
Stihl RE120 high pressure cleaner
Bar pressure: 125
This all-new pressure washer does a sterling job on car cleaning, especially when combined with the vehicle cleaning kit, angled spray lance extensions and rotary brush (although be warned these all cost extra). The pressure is good for bigger jobs too, especially average sized patios and driveways (but again, accessories cost extra). It has all the same benefits as the earlier RE110 model (rotary nozzle, pressure regulation, pencil jets, soft handle, neat storage) and the hose is even longer at 8m. It has integrated wheels and robust handle – a good job as it is heavy. It does vibrate when in use and stops short of dirty block paving.
Buy now £279.99, Garden Machinery Direct
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Pressure Washer
Pressure washers have come a long way. Over the last ten years the quality has increased as prices have become more affordable. The cleaning ability of a pressure washer is great, removing dirt, grime, and algae quickly, efficiently and effectively. A pressure washer can greatly increase your ability to maintain and clean your property and equipment giving it greater value. If your time is valuable, a pressure washer could be a good investment, but if you get the wrong machine, you will be frustrated and you could waste a lot of time and money.
The goal of this buying guide is to help you understand what a pressure washer does and what you need to look for when deciding to purchase one. If you’re ready to start shopping, check out the pressure washers at kmstools.com. Or keep reading to learn more about the following:
- How a Pressure Washer Works
- Pressure Washer Pumps
- Direct Drive or Belt Drive
- Gas or Electric
- Pressure Washer Accessories
- Choosing the Right Pressure Washer
How a Pressure Washer Works
A pressure washer is actually a fairly simple piece of equipment. A motor or engine turns a pump, pushing water through an orifice (tip). The water accelerates as it goes through the small hole, much like a river flows faster in a narrow gorge, and that fast-moving water is very useful for blasting dirt and grime. The math is quite simple. Each time the pump turns over, a specific volume of water is pushed through the tip. The more water you push through the tip, the more pressure is developed, and therefore more power is required. The higher the pressure, the faster the water moves, and the harder it hits the dirt, removing it from the surface you want to clean.
What to Consider
The two most important considerations when buying a pressure washer are size, which determines how long it takes to do the job or how many jobs you can do in a day; and life expectancy, which determines how many hours of work you can do per dollar spent during the life of the machine.
Here are some basic ratings:
Horse Power (HP)
This is how much power the engine or motor produces. This rating is important because it directly relates to how much pressure and volume the pump can produce.
Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI)
The pressure generated by a pressure washer is measured in pounds per square inch or PSI. Pressure contributes to the cleaning force.
Gallons Per Minute (GPM)
The water volume produced by a pressure washer is measured in gallons per minute or GPM. Volume also contributes to the cleaning force.
Cleaning Power Units (CPU)
Cleaning Power Units quantifies a pressure washer’s cleaning ability. To determine CPU, multiply GPM x PSI. The greater the CPU, the greater the ability the machine has for cleaning deeply and effectively.
Often consumers are so focused on the PSI rating of the machine, they do not consider the CPU. For example, a pressure washer may have a rating of 2,800 PSI and 2 GPM, giving it a CPU of 5,600. Another pressure washer is rated for 2,400 PSI and 4 GPM. That’s a CPU rating of 9,600. In this example the lower PSI machine has more than 40% greater cleaning power than the higher PSI machine. The result is that the 2,400 PSI machine will be able to clean an area 40% faster than the 2,800 PSI machine.
Now consider this: A garden hose typically provides 6 GPM at 10 PSI giving it 60 CPU. With a standard spray nozzle attached to the garden hose you can get around 5 GPM at about 40 PSI generating 200 CPU. We all have seen the difference of how much more effective a simple spray nozzle is at cleaning dirt off surfaces. Trying to clean your driveway with your garden hose spray nozzle generating 200 CPU is fairly ineffective. However, if we take a mid-range pressure washer rated at 2.0 GPM and 2,500 PSI (5,000 CPU), the CPU rating represents a staggering 25 times increase over a typical garden hose spray nozzle.
A commercial pressure washer rated at 4 GPM and 4,000 PSI is an incredible 16,000 CPU. It is not difficult to see the difference in efficiency. However, this is all true within a range. If you have extremely high pressure and low volume, you can cut steel or concrete (water jet cutter), and if you have extremely high volume and low pressure, you have a river. Neither of these would be very good for cleaning your house or driveway.
Pressure Washer Pumps
This is the part of the pressure washer that receives water from your hose, and pumps it through a tip at high pressure. There are several common types of pumps that you will see in commercial and home-owner type machines. All pressure washer pumps have pistons and valves similar to a gas engine or an air compressor. On some pumps the pistons are driven by a plate on an angle (wobble plate), and in other cases the pistons are driven by a crankshaft. Crankshaft driven pumps are generally built better and will last longer.
Pressure washer pumps are equipped with bypass valves, so that when you let go of the trigger, or when the tip gets plugged, the water will bypass and go back to the inlet side of the pump. If left in this mode for longer than the manufacturer recommends, the water will get hot and cause damage to the pump. On a gas-powered pressure washer, the pump includes a thermal relief valve that dumps hot water into the bypass loop. Most bypass valves are adjustable so you can dial down the pressure when cleaning sensitive materials
Low-cost pressure washers have pumps with very low life expectancies—some as low as 60 – 100 hours. When buying a pressure washer, make sure you find out the life expectancy of the pump. If the information is unavailable, stay clear because it is very likely that the manufacturer does not want you to know how low it is.
Another very important factor to consider is parts availability. KMS Tools was a warranty/service centre for some low end brands, however lack of parts availability and unreliability of these machines were such a problem that we decided to no longer provide this service.
Before buying your machine, ask where you can get parts if you need them. KMS is often referred to by other retailers as a source for parts and repairs for numerous brands that are pretty much disposable. If you are buying a new machine for $200.00 or less, expect it to be a disposable machine that might last you only one season, and be prepared to spend a lot of time to get the job done.
Direct Drive or Belt Drive
The drive describes how the motor is connected to the pump. Direct-drive systems are most common. The pump is bolted directly to the motor or engine with a shaft coupler. Compared to a belt-drive system, direct drive requires fewer parts and space, resulting in a more compact design. Direct drive is also considerably more economical than an equivalently rated belt-drive machine.
Belt-drive systems are typically seen on industrial platforms. The pump on a belt-drive unit turns at a much slower speed. The belt absorbs vibration that would wear out a unit faster. Since the pump turns at a lower speed all the pistons and valves in the pump are larger. All this adds up to a cooler running machine that will last considerably longer than an equivalent direct drive version. However, there is slightly more maintenance and considerably more dollars involved (10 – 30% more). If you are using your pressure washer on the job, then you want to consider buying a belt-drive machine. However, an equivalent direct-drive machine will have the same performance for a lot less money.
Gas Engine or Electric Motor
On a pressure washer, the engine or motor powers the pump. The more powerful the engine or motor (rated in HP), the greater the PSI and GPM the pump produces. Gas engines are typically designed to last between 300 and 3,000 hours. The motors on electric pressure washers usually last longer than the pumps.
Electric motors are very low maintenance and fairly quiet. There is also no exhaust so they can be operated indoors or in poorly ventilated areas. A typical electric pressure washer that is 115 Volt and 15 Amps will be fairly light duty because it is built for the low-price market. The motor is not strong enough to generate much pressure or volume. While electric pressure washers are compact and usually portable, most jobs take longer with a light-duty electric pressure washer.
HP is rated differently on electric motors compared to gas engines. A typical low-price electric pressure washer is rated around 1 to 1-1/2 HP and would be equivalent to a 3 HP gas pressure washer. (Electric motor HP has to be doubled to equal gas engine HP.)
Heavy-duty electric pressure washers are available for applications where power is available and portability isn’t a factor, and exhaust from a gas engine would be a problem.
Gas pressure washers are larger and heavier and mounted on a cart with wheels. Some are better balanced and easier to maneuver. Gas engines can produce more power and are a lot more mobile as they do not need to be plugged in to an electric power source. Since gas engines can be more powerful, the pump can generate considerably more PSI and GPM so that they can clean faster and deeper than any 115 Volt rated electric pressure washer could. However they do take a little more maintenance and cost more to operate. They must be used in well-ventilated areas because of the emission of carbon-monoxide fumes.
Pressure Washer Accessories
Without accessories, your pressure washer is fairly useless. It would be like having a drill without any drill bits.
Pressure Washer Hoses
You probably want a 50 ft length hose. If you go shorter, you will have to keep moving your machine. Make sure you get a quality hose with the proper PSI rating to match your machine. A poor quality hose will break down faster, is more susceptible to leaks and kinks, and will usually be less flexible and harder to work with.
Pressure Washer Wands and Tips
The wand includes a handle with a trigger valve, and different lengths and angles of wands are available for different applications. You can change the spray pattern by changing the tip at the end of the wand. Most pressure washers come with a selection of tips—from a very narrow spray to generate higher force at the tip for deeper cleaning to a wider spray that has less force but covers more area. Most tip sets also include a low pressure tip for applying cleaning solutions.
In addition to tips, other, very useful attachments are available:
A dirt blaster or rotary nozzle attaches to the end of your wand. It has a very narrow spray that spins in a circular motion very rapidly. Dirt blasters are effective because they can quickly clean hard surfaces very well and, when used properly, avoids the tiger striping effect on your driveway that happens with conventional spray tips.
For cleaning out-of-reach areas, look for an extension wand that’s adjustable up to 24 feet in some cases. Extension and telescoping wands are beneficial if you need to reach up high. They can save you from trying to pressure wash while standing on a ladder.
A gutter cleaner is a simple hooked extension that affixes to the end of your wand. It lets you get into your gutters to clean them out.
A Whirl-A-Way is an accessory that looks a little like a lawn mower and has two rotating nozzles inside. They are available in sizes from 12” to 24” and excel at cleaning large flat areas.
Hot Water Pressure Washers
Hot water pressure washers are commercial machines with built-in water heaters. The cleaning effect of the machines is considerably better than a cold water machine with comparable PSI and GPM because hot water simply cleans more effectively than cold water. Hot water pressure washers break down and remove dirt and grime faster than cold water pressure washers, and often eliminate the need for expensive chemicals. Do not feed hot water into a normal cold water pressure washer pump. The heat will damage seals and o-rings.
Detergents can greatly increase the speed of cleaning and help remove tough stains. Most pressure washers come equipped with a venturi tube that will draw in the detergent from a bottle or pail and add it to the water stream. The detergent should be first applied with a low pressure spray, given some time to do its work to break down the dirt, and then washed off with a normal high pressure spray.
Choosing the Right Pressure Washer
When it comes right down to it, you need to buy a pressure washer that fits your application. There are many different types of pressure washers—from very low-end machines to extremely powerful industrial machines. Before you buy a machine you need to sit down and ask yourself these questions:
- “How will I use a pressure washer?”
- “How often will I use a pressure washer?”
If you are a home owner, you will probably use a pressure washer less than 50 hours per year. In this case getting a machine rated for 500 hours will last you up to 10 years if properly maintained. However, if you are using it on the job, you will want something rated for 2,000 hours or more. If time is important to you, buy as big a pressure washer as you can justify. A 13 HP gas pressure washer will clean your driveway about 10 times faster than a small electric unit. It will also last longer because it doesn’t have to run nearly as long to do the job. Finally, plan in advance what attachments you will want in the future and make sure that the pressure washer you buy has enough power to support them.