Over time, the surface of your deck or patio can become dull and dingy. Harsh weather, debris, pollen and various other factors can all prompt an outdoor cleaning session. Pressure washers are made to forcefully spray water with enough power to remove tough grime on outdoor surfaces. They’re ideal for a variety of tasks, from cleaning your car to restoring your home's curb appeal. Read on to find out how to choose the best pressure washer to tackle outdoor projects.
How Do Pressure Washers Work?
Pressure washers use pumps to amplify water pressure. A pressure washer pump is the most important component of your pressure washer. Pressure washer pumps have two connection points for low and high pressure. The low-pressure connection (IN) is threaded to accept a standard garden hose. The high-pressure connection (OUT) accepts a pressure washer hose (typically M22 threaded or 3/8-inch QC) that connects to a hand-held pressure washer wand. Pressure washers come with the same kind of pressure washer parts such as an axial or triplex pump and interchangeable nozzles.
- Axial pumps are best used for small jobs around the house. They are easy to use and require little maintenance.
- Triplex pumps are ideal for daily or frequent use, need to be maintained and can be repaired to ensure years of quality performance.
- Interchangeable nozzles control the wand’s spray pattern. Most pressure washers include wands that use a 1/4-inch quick connect system.
Tip: It's recommended that you apply a pump protector after every use. Pump protectors will lubricate your pump's seals and prevent the buildup of corrosive minerals and ice.
Electric vs. Gas Pressure Washers
There are several types of pressure washers. Some are more for light to heavy duty such as what you’d use around a home while others are made for commercial use. Another key thing to consider when looking for a new pressure washer is deciding whether to go with a gas or electric pressure washer.
- Budget-friendly, lightweight and low maintenance, electric pressure washers are usually not as powerful as gas models. Battery-powered pressure washers offer even more convenience in this category.
- Gas pressure washers are usually more powerful, more mobile and last longer. They also require more of an upfront investment and require more maintenance.
Choosing Cleaning Power: PSI and GPM
Different pressure washer jobs require a different amount of cleaning power. A pressure washer's cleaning power is measured by a PSI (pounds per square inch) and GPM (gallons per minute) rating. PSI measures the pressure, or cleaning force, of water created through the pressure washer. Use the PSI rating to help you determine how powerful the water stream will be. The GPM measures the volume of water delivered through the pressure washer. This number will help you determine how fast the pressure washer will clean, and how effectively it will rinse away debris.
Tip: Calculate the cleaning power of a pressure washer by multiplying its PSI by its GPM (PSI x GPM). This will help you compare models so you can choose one that will be up to the job.
How Much PSI do You Need?
The best pressure washer for the project depends on the job at hand. Check this PSI chart to see which pressure washer is right for you. For example, the best pressure washers for cars will be different than the best pressure washers for driveways or sidewalks.
• Best for infrequent jobs
• Use for car washing, shutter cleaning, spot cleaning, grills, lawn furniture, light mildew/mold removal
• Up to 1.5 GPM
• Residential electric grade
• Consumer electric motor models
• Best for common jobs
• Use for deck, driveway and pavement cleaning, sidewalks, siding, tougher stains
• Up to 2.8 GPM
• Residential gas grade
• Consumer gas engine models
• Best for tough, heavy jobs
• Use for industrial cleaning, concrete, pavement, siding, paint stripping, graffiti removal, stubborn stains, mold and mildew removal
• Up to 4.0 GPM
• Professional grade
• Professional gas engine models
Pressure Washer Accessories
There are pressure washer nozzles, brushes and tips that match any type of project you plan to tackle. There are many attachments that are made for specific projects, including rotating brushes and extension wands for high cleaning. With the right pressure washer accessories and a little guidance, a pressure washer can make your outdoor spaces and furniture look fresh and tidy all year long.
Pressure Washer Tips
Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of your pressure washer:
- Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for operating your pressure washer.
- Remember to use safety gear such as safety goggles.
- Consider the flow of your water supply and double-check the amps required to power the model you plan to buy.
- Well water may be incompatible with most washers because of low water flow.
- Look for a pressure washer that has a ground fault interrupter built into the cord. (Note: Some require a 20-amp circuit.)
- For demanding cleaning needs, consider a unit that includes electronic fuel injection, or EFI. This feature gives the pressure washer 50 percent easier starting and better fuel economy.
- Pressure washers with the PWMA logo indicate that they have been certified by the Pressure Washer Manufacturers’ Association.
- Pressure washer detergent will vary by machine. If your project calls for detergent, be sure to check the instruction manual for recommendations.
Buying a pressure washer is a great way to make short work of cleaning everything from sidewalks and windows to outdoor furniture and home siding. Whether it's an electric pressure washer or a gas-powered one, this handy outdoor power equipment is a must-have for quick, easy cleaning. A pressure washer rental might make more sense if you only use a pressure washer a few times a year. You won't need to store it either.