Also known as power washers, pressure cleaners are powerful tools which clean using water at high pressure levels. Depending on the type of pressure washer, the electric motor or the gas engine converts the low-pressure water to high pressure and pumps it out of the machine through the nozzle. Thus, pressure washers are useful for almost any cleaning job.
However, when you have to get a pressure washer, you may be overwhelmed by the variety and types that are available in the market. You may also come across unfamiliar acronyms such as HP, PSI and GPM. What do they even mean and how important are these terminologies when you purchase a pressure washer? To help you make sense of all these terms, here is the ultimate buying guide to help you choose the right pressure washer.
Types of Pressure Washers
There are mainly two types of pressure washers, the electric-powered and the gas-powered.
Electric-powered pressure washers are more affordable and quieter than their gas-powered counterparts. They are easy to use as you only need to press a few buttons to get it started and control the settings. As electric-powered pressure washers are usually less powerful, they are handy for light tasks, such as cleaning your vehicles, grills, and furniture.
The downside of electric-powered pressure washers is that you will need to keep it plugged to a power socket. Also, be advised to go through the instruction manual to understand their power cord settings as different pressure washers may have different settings. Certain electric-powered pressure washers can only be connected to an outlet directly. There are also variants that allow you to connect them to extension cords. Keep this in mind as it will help you gauge how far you can move the pressure washer from the outlet.
For larger and tougher cleaning tasks, gas-powered pressure washers are ideal. Due to their greater power and mobility, you can use them to clean exterior siding, sidewalks and storage tanks easily. However, they are heavier than electric-powered pressure washers. Some gas-powered pressure washers come with a pull-start which is activated manually. There are also other variants that come with an electric starter.
To ensure that you get the best performance from your gas-powered pressure washer, make sure that you follow the fueling instructions given by the manufacturer.
You might assume that looking at the horsepower (HP) of pressure washers is enough to determine the cleaning power. However, pressure washers descriptions often use terminologies such as PSI and GPM. Find out what they mean and why it is important to know below.
Pounds per Square Inch (PSI)
Pounds per Square Inch indicates the cleaning force or the pressure at which the water comes out of the cleaner. Higher PSI means that the water will come out at a greater force.
You may find, however, that in pressure washer technical data sheets that they are two classifications of pressure – maximum pressure and bar-rated pressure also known as working pressure.
This is the maximum amount of water pressure that your pressure washer can produce. However, it is not possible to maintain this pressure consistently as this high level of pressure can only be attained when the machine is first turned on.
The working pressure refers to the average water pressure of the machine. This is a more accurate measure of the pressure level, as the maximum level cannot be sustained for long periods of time.
Gallons per Minute (GPM)
Gallons per Minute tells how much water (in terms of gallons) will come out of the pressure washer within a given time frame (in terms of minutes). In other words, it indicates how quick the pressure washer is in cleaning dirt on surfaces. It also tells you effective the pressure washer is in removing debris.
For light tasks such as cleaning your grill, mildew, window shutters and vehicles, then having a pressure washer with a PSI of 1300 – 1800 and GPM of 1.5 is more than satisfactory. Most electric-powered pressure washers will have a PSI and GPM of this range, making them ideal tools for indoor cleaning.
A suitable model of pressure washer is the Makita 100 Bar Pressure Cleaner 1300W – HW102. It is one of the most affordable units and is also one of the best for use in home or small office projects. This easy-to-use model is great for anyone who hasn’t used a pressure washer before. It’s easy to set up and control while in use, which takes away a lot of the intimidation that come with using a powerful pressure washer for the first time.
This pressure washer has been equipped with the Total Stop System (TSS) which ensures that minimal maintenance is needed. Also, its specifications, as shown below, makes the Makita HW102 the perfect tool for light cleaning tasks.
|Flow rate||1.5 GPM (360L/h)|
|Pressure – Max||1450 PSI (100 bar)|
|Pressure – Working||1015 PSI (70 bar)|
If you want to use pressure washers for slightly more intensive cleaning tasks such as washing sidewalks and building exteriors, then a PSI of 2000 – 3000 and GPM of 2.5 would be required to do the job. They would be useful for outdoor cleaning. It is also equipped with a two-way closing valve to switch between different cleaning agents easily.
The Karcher 160 Bar High Pressure Cleaner, 3400W, HD6/16-4M would be suitable for the job. This pressure washer saves time and energy with its EASY!Force high pressure gun and EASY!Lock quick-release fasteners, which is five times faster than screws. The ergonomically designed washer is also able to stand upright and is easily movable.
|Flow rate||1.03 – 2.6 GPM (230-600 l/h)|
|Pressure – Max||435 – 2320 PSI (30 – 60 bar)|
|Pressure – Working||2755 PSI (190 bar)|
For professional work such as cleaning paint, oily stains, and concrete surfaces, you will need a high-powered pressure washer with a PSI of 3,000 or more and GPM of 4.0. In such cases, gas-powered pressure washers will meet your cleaning requirements.
For such a tough job, we recommend the Karcher High Pressure Cleaner HD1050DE. It features a hard-wearing, high-powered Yanmar diesel engine which makes it suitable for tough and rugged conditions in agriculture and construction. As it is petrol-powered, this pressure washer is ideal for use when power supply is not available. Despite its bulkiness, the large pneumatic wheels and handles allows you to move it anywhere with ease.
|Motor Type||Yanmar L100N / Diesel|
|Flow rate||1.7 – 4.1 GPM (400 – 930L/h)|
|Pressure – Max||3625 PSI (250 bar)|
|Pressure – Working||580 – 3335 PSI (40 – 230 bar)|
You need the right type of spray nozzle if you want your pressure washer to be effective while cleaning. If you choose the wrong spray nozzle, you may end up either damaging surfaces such as the windows or not having the cleaning done properly. Here are the different types of spray nozzles:
Red nozzles spray pattern is 0°, which is ideal for cleaning tough surfaces such as barbecue grills and driveways. As the water will come out at high pressure, you should use this nozzle only on hard surfaces such as concrete and metal. This nozzle shoots a direct jet of water onto the surface. It does not fan out the water spray at all. If you use it on plastic, glass, or any other type of delicate surface, the maximum blast of water from the nozzle will cause significant damage.
The spray pattern of yellow nozzles is 15°, which is good for heavy duty tasks such as cleaning drains, walls and garage floors. Avoid using detergent with this nozzle as it can penetrate deep into the surface and embed them with it.
You can use green nozzles for tasks such as cleaning your vehicles, brick walkways and furniture, due to its 25° spray pattern. This nozzle is useful for gentle lifting and cleaning tasks. You can use detergents with this type of nozzle.
To clean delicate surfaces such as stucco walls and sidings, you need to use the white nozzle, which has a 40° spray pattern.
If you want to clean a large surface area with minimal force, then use the black nozzle because its spray pattern is 65°. Its main objective is to remove chemicals and apply detergent on surfaces. As the force of the water is spread over a larger area, it is a very gentle spray.
If you want to clean difficult-to-reach surfaces, then you should invest in a pivoting nozzle. As it does come with the pressure washer as a complementary tool, you will have to make an additional purchase for this.
You can use the water broom spray nozzle for cleaning decks and floors. This type of spray nozzles helps to clean large areas quickly. They are highly practical and easy-to-use. An advantage of the water broom nozzle is that it is also less straining on the user when used for cleaning.