When a regular garden hose won’t do, consider a pressure washer for outdoor projects that require high-power cleaning. Nothing works faster or more effectively than a professional pressure washer when it comes to heavy-duty outdoor cleaning projects.
You can use a pressure washer to clean surfaces such as debris-ridden sidewalks and driveways. You can even use a pressure washer's powerful stream to strip peeling paint from a deck or house prior to resealing or painting.
For outdoor cleaning, a gas pressure washer is especially fast and efficient. Specifically designed for heavy-duty jobs, large professional pressure washers use comparatively less water than a garden hose.
Even smaller models with lower ratings for gallons per minute, or GPM, and pounds per square inch, or PSI, are fully capable of tackling many common outdoor cleaning projects.
Knowing how to interpret GPM and PSI ratings will help you choose the type of pressure washer you need for your cleaning project.
Consider the following questions:
• What types of projects do you want to accomplish with your pressure washer?
• How often do you perform these types of projects?
Things to Consider
Most pressure washers work the same. A gas engine or electric motor powers a pump, which increases pressure on water fed by your garden hose. The pressurized water is then delivered through a hose and released through a wand. The spray pattern delivered by the wand is controlled by differently shaped interchangeable nozzles.
The pump is the most important component on your pressure washer. If you plan to use it frequently, a heavy-duty model with a triplex pump will ensure years of quality performance.
Cleaning power is measured by the pressure washer’s PSI rating and GPM rating. Both are important. Make sure you choose a pressure washer that delivers the minimum PSI levels required to clean specific items or surfaces.
PSI: Pounds per square inch measures the pressure of water created through the pressure washer. Use the PSI rating to help you determine how powerful the water stream will be.
GPM: Gallons per minute measures the volume of water delivered through the pressure washer. This number will help you determine how fast the pressure washer will clean, as well as how effectively the pressure washer will rinse away debris.
To determine what PSI/GPM rating is right for you, refer to the chart below:
Up to 1.5 GPM
Consumer electric motor
Up to 2.8 GPM
Consumer gas engine
Up to 4.0 GPM
Professional gas engine
|Residential Electric Grade: Light duty, less frequent, delicate jobs (car washing, shutter cleaning, spot cleaning, grills, lawn furniture, light mildew/mold removal)||Residential Gas Grade: Heavy-duty, more frequent jobs (deck and pavement cleaning, sidewalks, siding, tougher stains)||Professional Grade: Contractor, tough, very frequent, heavy cleaning jobs (industrial cleaning, concrete, pavement, siding, paint stripping, graffiti removal, stubborn stains, mold and mildew)|
To determine the cleaning power of a pressure washer, multiply the PSI x GPM. The resulting number will help you compare models to ensure you choose one that will handle all of your pressure washing needs.
• 2500 PSI is recommended for cleaning vehicles and other delicate applications.
• 2700 PSI is recommended for cleaning decks and other wood surfaces.
• 3000 PSI is generally required for effectively cleaning concrete and other masonry surfaces.
• 4000 PSI is generally required by professionals to clean graffiti and other persistent grime.
Features and Options
Before buying a pressure washer, you must first think about how often you will use it and the types of projects you want to complete. This will help determine the size and strength of the power washer, and how much you will spend. Also, consider the following options and features:
• When it comes to electric pressure washers, look for a pressure washer that has a ground fault
interrupter built into the cord. Note that some require a 20-amp circuit.
• Verify the flow rate of your water supply. Municipal water typically works fine, but well water may cause
• Check to see if the brushes, nozzles and tips match the types of projects you plan to tackle.
• Review pressure washer accessories and attachment options. There are many attachments that are
made for specific projects,including rotating brushes and extension wands for high cleaning.
• See if a multi-mode attachment or a multi-mode pressure washer like the 3-in-1 might be what you need.
These attachments and units are made to handle a wide variety of cleaning jobs.
• Professional grade gas pressure washers use triplex-style high-pressure pumps that are built tough
to withstand frequent use.
• If your cleaning needs are more demanding, consider a unit that includes Electronic Fuel Injection, or EFI.
This feature gives the pressure washer 50 percent easier starting, and better fuel economy.
• Consider units with the PWMA logo for products certified by the Pressure Washer Manufacturers’
|Turbo nozzles: Deliver up to 30 percent faster cleaning.|
|Surface cleaners: Provide constant, streak-free cleaning of large, flat surfaces while boosting speed by up to 50 percent.|
|Cleaning solutions: Using a multi-purpose cleaner or degreaser will dramatically improve your results.|
|Quick-change attachments: Allow greater cleaning flexibility.|
|Long hoses: Enable more reach for cleaning jobs in high places.|
|Replacement parts: Extend the life of your pressure washer when original parts wear out.|
Before starting any project, always remember to read your pressure washer owner's manual. When performing outdoor cleaning tasks, many manufacturers recommend wearing safety goggles, work gloves and ear protection.
Your cleaning surface may become slippery when wet, so wear shoes with slip-resistant soles. You may also want to consider wearing waterproof clothing or rainwear to keep your clothes dry.
Pressure washers become hot during operation, so use caution when handling. Also make sure the unit has completely cooled before returning it to storage. Also remember to never operate a gas pressure washer indoors.
Preparation and Cleaning Tips
Use the following checklist for basic cleaning projects outside your home:
• To prevent streaking, wet the entire surface before you begin.
• Hold the sprayer nozzle 4 to 5 feet from the surface.
• Use a wide spray pattern and move closer to the surface until you start to see results.
• Keep moving the nozzle and spray steadily with smooth, even sprays to ensure consistent cleaning.
• Do not stay in one spot too long, otherwise you will not have an even cleaning result.
• Try to keep the distance between the nozzle and surface steady throughout the entire job.
This will help you get a smoother, more even clean.
• If the surface is heavily stained, use a cleaning detergent for deeper stain penetration. Consider
G-Clean detergents; you can apply them at high pressure, and without harmful chemical runoff.
• For extremely grimy or dirty surfaces, use a turbo nozzle, or brush attachment.
• To prevent streaking when cleaning siding, fencing or other vertical surfaces, begin washing at the
bottom of the surface and work upward.
• For hard to reach areas, such as the upper-levels of your home, use a narrow spray to propel the
water upward and widen the spray as you move downward.
• Work in identifiable sections, such as two boards wide on a deck, or squares on a patio, to ensure
• When it’s time to store your pressure washer for any extended period, such as during the winter
months, you can extend the life of your pump by applying pump protector before storing. Also,
be sure to drain water through the hose and run the pressure washer until it is out of gas.